So you're headed to St. Thomas, but your ship's only in port for a few hours? No problem. Or, as they'd say on the island, "everyt'ing good." St. Thomas is small enough (14 miles long by 3 miles wide), that it's fairly easy to see a lot of the island's top attractions in a single day.
Here are three sample itineraries, each aimed at different types of interests. Naturally, you can "mix and match" if you want.
Beaches and views:
It's never to early to head to the beach in St. Thomas. So even if your boat arrives at 8am, hop in a taxi and make your way to Magens Bay or Hull Bay, two of the best on the island. On your way to either beach, you'll pass by Drake's Seat, a lookout point that boasts incredible views of St. John and the British Virgin Islands.
The view from Drake's Seat — Photo courtesy of Karen ElowittBoth beaches have calm turquoise water, a huge expanse of palm-shaded white sand, excellent amenities, and kayak/paddleboard rentals.
After a couple of hours frolicking in the surf, you'll no doubt be hungry. Magens is very close to the funky Udder Delite Dairy Bar, which offers snack foods and legendary liquor-spiked milkshakes. Hull Bay is adjacent to the laid-back Hull Bay Hideaway, a casual beach bar with burgers, fish dishes, pool tables and even a small library.
After lunch, head up to Mountain Top, the gift shop/snack bar complex located at the highest point on the island. Shop for souvenirs, then check out the observation deck, which offers even more spectacular views toward the BVIs. And don't forget to order a banana daiquiri – they are to die for.
In the afternoon, how about a spot of snorkeling? Lindquist Beach, Coki Beach and Secret Harbour all have excellent offshore reefs with an abundance of tropical fish. At Coki and Secret Harbour you can rent equipment, but at Lindquist you'll have to bring your own (or beg, borrow or steal). When the hour draws near, jump in a taxi or safari bus and you'll be back at the ship within 25 minutes.
History, art and culture:
Catch a bus (or taxi) into Charlotte Amalie for some AM window shopping and historical sightseeing. Around the perimeter of the downtown area you can trace a path through a half-dozen colonial historical landmarks, starting with the Legislature building, Fort Christian, Government House, the 99 Steps, and the fascinating sand-floor synagogue. The Camille Pissarro Gallery, birthplace of the famous French impressionist painter, features hundreds of works by Caribbean artists, almost all of which are for sale. While you're wandering around, peer into the hundreds of jewelry shops, clothing boutiques and souvenir stands that offer all manner of trash and treasure.
St. Peter Great House — Photo courtesy of Karen ElowittIn the PM, take a 10-minute taxi ride up the hill and tour the St. Peter Estate and Great House. This lavish former plantation features a restored colonial-era house, 11 acres of botanical gardens, an aviary, and stunning views over Magens Bay. It'll take about 45 minutes to stroll the whole grounds, which should leave you plenty of time to get back to your ship before it leaves.
Thrills and chills:
How about streaking across a zipline or surging above the sea with a jet pack for a morning pick-me-up? Both sound great, but if you have limited time in St. Thomas you should choose just one and really commit to it!
Water-bound adventurers can head down to the Adventure Center at the Marriott hotel, and blast out of the water with St. Thomas JetRiders. These water-propelled jet packs, which are strapped to your back, propel you 30 feet above the surface of the ocean and allow you to do all sorts of maneuvers. In in all, it's about a two-hour experience.
Those who prefer to stay on dry land can head up to Tree Limin' Extreme Zipline, where a series of eight cables and two rope bridges whip visitors down St. Peter Mountain, one of the island's highest peaks. From every angle visitors get stunning views over the Caribbean, weather permitting. This excursion takes about three hours from start to end.
Whichever option you choose, you'll want to eat, then decompress before heading back to the ship. My recommendation: grab a fish sandwich or some baby-back ribs at The Greenhouse in Charlotte Amalie, then walk over to Magic Ice Gallery for a one-of-a-kind experience. Dozens of intricately-carved ice sculptures with both Caribbean and Scandinavian themes are on display in a sub-zero environment, which also features an ice bar and free shots of rum.
Viking ship at Magic Ice Gallery — Photo courtesy of Karen Elowitt