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Categories: Caribbean > Us Virgin Islands > St. Thomas















St. Thomas


Of the three U.S. Virgin Islands, St. Thomas is certainly considered the busiest. Abuzz with activity, attractions, duty-free shopping, and miles of sandy beaches, this island is the most popular among travelers to the USVI. Though the island only measures about 32 square miles, it's packed with plenty of opportunities and scenic beauty for its visitors from snorkeling and diving to shopping and exploring.

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The capital city of both the island of St. Thomas along with the three U.S. Virgin Islands is Charlotte Amalie, named after the wife of Denmark's King Christian V. Charlotte Amalie is home to nearly half of the island's 50,000 residents and is considered the downtown city hub for the island. St. Thomas is one of the busier Caribbean cruise ports and thus is a bustling seaport city with plenty of duty-free shopping, restaurants, bars and charming colonial Danish architecture to keep the hordes of visitors entertained. The east end of the island is home to Red Hook, a city with a harbor, small town and the major marina for sport fishing tours and sail boats to depart. The rural rainforest areas of the island are quite desolate with a hilly terrain and are mostly home to residential neighborhoods, resorts and agricultural areas.










Quick Facts




  • U.S. travelers:

    No passport needed for entry



  • Official language:

    English



  • Official currency:

    U.S. dollar







  • Climate:

    Average yearly high is 87° F and average yearly low is 75° F



  • STEP Program















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Categories: Caribbean > Us Virgin Islands > St. Thomas

Overview

Introduction

Lively St. Thomas is the duty-free mall of the Caribbean—take along your credit cards and an oversized shopping bag. Aside from nearly 400 duty-free shops and boutiques that sell everything you could possibly want to buy, you'll find spirited nightspots, good restaurants and luxury resorts around St. Thomas' main city and port, Charlotte Amalie (pronounced ah-MAHL-yeh).

St. Thomas is the most developed of the U.S. Virgin Islands—in fact, it's one of the most developed in the entire Caribbean. Steep green hills run across the middle of the island and beautiful beaches ring its shores. Hotels, villas, resorts, small inns and private residences, each on their own piece of paradise, mix with public and commercial structures. Consequently, traffic is a major problem on St. Thomas, especially in downtown Charlotte Amalie.

Some areas of St. Thomas were hit extremely hard by Hurricanes Irma and Maria in September 2017, while others received only minor damage. Luckily, this means that tourism did not take as hard a hit as other islands in the region. Historic Charlotte Amalie fared relatively well and was one of the first areas to be restored to full power. The island's stunning beaches and colorful tropical foliage have regained their natural beauty. However, some attractions and resorts are still recovering. Investigate current conditions prior to planning a visit.

Must See or Do

Sights—Multicolored fish along the reefs while scuba diving; the view from one of the mountains; seeing the island from the water on a sailing or kayaking tour.

Museums—The French Heritage Museum; St. Thomas Historical Trust Museum; the restored Fort Christian.

Memorable Meals—Eclectic comfort food with a Caribbean edge at the Twisted Cork; authentic West Indian dishes at Gladys' Cafe.

Late Night—Poolside jams at Iggies Beach Bar and Grill; hanging out with the locals at Duffy's Love Shack; late night cocktails at XO Bistro.

Walks—A stroll along Magens Bay Beach; through Main and Back streets of Charlotte Amalie for the Danish architecture; a walk through Frenchtown for the traditional fishing market and atmosphere.

Especially for Kids—Underwater life at Coral World Ocean Park; Pirates Treasure Museum for legends of the high seas and high-tech exploration simulators.

Geography

Just 13 mi/21 km long and 4 mi/6 km wide, St. Thomas' volcanic origins make it quite hilly. Its highest point is Crown Mountain at 1,556 ft/482 m above sea level. The island has an east-to-west ridge of hills running through its center with smaller ridges surrounding the crest. Its capital city and main port is the protected bay of Charlotte Amalie on the south coast. St. Thomas is rimmed with picturesque bays.

History

Archaeological evidence shows that some of the earliest inhabitants on St. Thomas were of the Taino tribe. Christopher Columbus came to the island in 1493.

St. Thomas remained largely uncolonized with the exceptions of stopover pirates and a few small settlements until 1671, when the Danish took possession of the island. Not long after the occupation, the island's harborfront town (present-day Charlotte Amalie) became known for its taverns and was named Taphus, which means "beer halls." It became a den for seafarers and pirates in the decades that followed, which gave life to the pirate lore about infamous characters such as Blackbeard and Bluebeard.

St. Thomas' capital was later renamed in honor of the wife of Danish King Christian V, and Charlotte Amalie became a major port in the slave trade. The English briefly seized the island twice in the early 1800s, but it remained under Danish rule until the U.S. purchased the Virgin Islands in 1917. Since then, St. Thomas has established itself as one of the Caribbean's top tourist destinations and the top cruise-ship port of call.

Potpourri

If you hear talk about "blue bitch," it's nothing rude. The term refers to a kind of local stone used in building and is probably short for blue bitumen.

Coral World Ocean Park on St. Thomas has an underwater post-office box.

If the name Lovango (a cay between St. Thomas and St. John,) resembles "love and go," that's apt. Lore says it was once a brothel stop for pirates.

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton and his family visited the territory twice in the late 1990s, staying at the Sand Dollar vacation villa near Magens Bay. He played golf at Mahogany Run golf course.

The Virgin Islands Lottery is the oldest under the U.S. flag.

Iguanas can reach 6 ft/2 m in length and live to be 100 years old, losing their bright-green skin color as they age. You're more likely to see 2-ft-/0.5-m-long ones, which roam freely even in populated areas such as the port at Crown Bay.

The year 1867 was a bad one for St. Thomas. It was struck by an earthquake, a hurricane and a 27-ft/8-m tsunami.

Location

Pretty Charlotte Amalie is the busiest port of call in the Caribbean. Cruise ships can tie up at either the West Indian Company Dock at Havensight (2 mi/3 km across the harbor, east of town) or at Crown Bay (1 mi/2 km west of town).

Mega-ships such as Royal Caribbean's Oasis-class vessels dock at the Crown Bay terminal when calling in St. Thomas. Crown Bay has two berths. Of the two ports, Havensight is the busier one. The dock can accommodate three ships, but there are times when it still isn't enough. Ships sometimes have to anchor in the harbor and tender passengers to and from shore when the pier is full.

The Yacht Haven Grande Welcome Center offers tourist information and is located at the west end of YHG by the Charlotte Amalie Harbor in Havensight. It's open Saturday-Wednesday 9 am-5 pm. There is another office across from Vendor's Plaza in Charlotte Amalie (Monday-Saturday 8:30 am-4:30 pm). There are plenty of restaurants within walking distance of all port facilities, as well as access to the internet and a few remaining public phones.



Shore Excursions

Shore excursions may include sightseeing in historic Charlotte Amalie or more active adventures such as biking on the island, kayaking to outlying cays, scuba tours or helicopter rides over the islands. Check with your travel agent for additional information.


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