Cruise and Beach Destinations
in the Caribbean, Mexico & Beyond
U.S. Virgin Islands

St.Thomas Beach Vacation Tips

Magens Bay Beach
Magens Bay Beach is the most popular on St. Thomas. Credit: © USVI Economic Development Authority
The U.S. Virgin Island of St. Thomas offers a comfortable choice for anyone who takes a Caribbean beach vacation for the first time.

U.S. citizens don't need a passport, the shopping is plentiful and the beaches are great.

USVI ranks seventh among the most popular Caribbean destinations for hotel and resort vacations with more than 700,000 visitors a year, according to the Caribbean Tourism Organization. Three times that many or about 2 million people visit there by cruise. The majority of them visit St. Thomas.

St. Thomas is also the most popular Virgin Island for hotel visitors, especially shoppers. For U.S. tourists, the duty-free shopping exemption of $1,600 is twice as much as other islands.

The capital of Charlotte Amalie is well known to tourists who stay at the island's hotels and resorts. It's also well known among passengers on eastern Caribbean cruises for the large number of duty-free shops, the quality of the merchandise, the aggressive pricing, but also the aggressive employees.

However, we have experienced more aggressive selling on some other islands, especially by the extremely poor residents of Haiti.

Hotel and Resort Tips

St. Thomas hotel and resort visitors will fly into Cyrus E. King Airport, which is about three miles east of Charlotte Amalie.

Hotels are clustered in two areas. One is near Charlotte Amalie in the island's center on the southern coast. The other is at the far east end.

Prices are mostly in the range of $200 to $300 a night with a few exceptions such as the Ritz-Carlton at $800 a night. All-inclusive plans are common.

Shoppers will find decent opportunities in Charlotte Amalie's city center. Quite a bit more shopping is available at the Havensight Mall area by the cruise port.

Virgin Islands Attractions

Havensight Mall
Havensight Mall. © 2020 Scott S. Bateman
The most popular attractions on St. Thomas are the Havensight cruise mall and the Charlotte Amalie shopping district.

Fort Christian is the oldest building on the island, dating back to 1762. It is still in use today as a museum. Coral World Ocean Park is another major attraction on St. Thomas.

Unique attractions on St. John include the historic town of Christiansted.

St. Thomas beaches include Magens Bay, the island's most popular beach and one of the most famous in the Caribbean. Other beaches include Coki Beach, Lindquist Beach and Bolongo Bay.

The islands have four golf courses -- one on St. Thomas, three on St. Croix (two 18-hole and one nine-hole) and none on St. John.

St. John has fewer man-made attractions, but it does have many natural attractions including Virgin Islands National Park. The park has more than 9,000 acres including an underwater reserve that is popular for snorkeling and scuba diving. Cruise and stopover visitors to St. Thomas can take a 20-minute ferry ride to reach St. John as a day trip.

Tourism / When to Go

U.S. citizens do not need a passport unless they are flying there via another country. Cruise visitors simply need to have their ship IDs available when leaving the ship and returning.

The number of stopover or overnight visitors is steady from December through August except for a spike in March during spring break for many colleges and schools.

March is the favorite time to go, followed closely by April. September is by far the least popular time to go, followed by October, because of hurricane season. The plunge in visits during September and October is typical for many Caribbean destinations.

St. Thomas Weather

St. Thomas average rainfall
Average monthly rainfall for St. Thomas. © 2020 Scott S. Bateman
St. Thomas is one of the warmest islands in the Caribbean despite being more northern than most destinations.

The average high temperature reaches about 90 in the summer and the mid 80s in the winter.

Rainfall averages about two to three inches from December through early August and then climbs to an average of about five to six inches from September through November during the annual hurricane season.

The climate is subtropical, tempered by easterly trade winds and has relatively low humidity.

Currency / Tipping / Taxes

U.S. currency is standard. Most hotels add a 10-15 percent service charge. Prepare to offer the same at restaurants and to taxi drivers. Hotels have an 8 percent room tax.

Culture / Geography

The dominant language is English with some Spanish. Tourism accounts for 80 percent of the economy and employment.

The geography is mostly hilly to rugged and mountainous with little level land. Several hurricanes have hit in recent years; there are frequent and severe droughts and floods; occasionally the islands experience earthquakes.

Sources / More Information

Scott S. Bateman is a professional journalist who has traveled widely throughout the Caribbean and the Americas.

St. Thomas Hotel Map

 > Category: Travel Tips   

October 14, 2020