St. Thomas Shore Adventures Close to Port

St. Thomas is a relatively small island, so all of its attraction lie within an easy walking or driving distance for cruise passengers arriving at either of the island’s two cruise ship ports. Outdoor adventure activities, historical sights, breathtaking observation points, sweet beaches, wildlife encounters and fun family attractions are all within a 10-minute drive. Some require only a short walk.

Outdoor adventure includes kayaking, snorkeling, biking, beaching and the new Tree Limin' Extreme Zipline. The zipline, which launches you over estate St. Peter and treats you to magnificent views of Magens Bay, is about 2 miles up the hill from Charlotte Amalie. The beach at Magens Bay, also on this list, is the top choice for families looking for some down town in the sand and surf.

History buffs can get their fill on a self-guided tour of Blackbeard’s Castle or on the Water Island Adventures Bike Tour, which transports cruise ship passengers via ferry and bus from the docks to the harbor island’s highest point for a gentle descent.

This list scopes out the top choices you should consider when planning your shore time itinerary. It gives precedence to those that are easily accessible to cruise ship passengers, but also to those that require a short drive and should not be missed.


One of St. Thomas' newest attractions, Tree Limin' Extreme consists of a series of eight cables and two rope bridges that crisscross down verdant St. Peter Mountain, one of the island's highest peaks. Visitors cop stunning views across the Caribbean Sea, with Magens Bay in the foreground and the islands of St. John, Tortola and Jost Van Dyke in the distance. The eighth and final zip line is the only "yo-yo" zip in the Caribbean: instead of a simple point-to-point ride, this type of zip line allows the rider to travel to the far end of the line, pause briefly, then yo-yo back to the middle of the line. The entire zip line tour takes about two-and-half to three hours.

Recommended for Attractions near Cruise Port - St. Thomas because: This is the only canopy zip line facility in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Chelle's expert tip: Children must be at least 5 years old to tandem zip and 8 years old (and at least 70 pounds) to solo zip.

Read more about Tree Limin' Extreme Zipline St. Thomas →

Magic Ice Gallery
Photo courtesy of Karen Elowitt

A spinoff of an Oslo, Norway, ice sculpture gallery, Magic Ice localizes its inventory with Virgin Island themes such as Blackbeard, local marine creatures and other works carved by specially trained Lithuanian artists and illuminated with changing colored lights. The sculptures, which include an ice chapel, change up a few times a year. It is a great place to truly "chill" on a hot downtown day. Kids love the ice slide. Admission includes a chilled shot of your choice of local Cruzan rum at the ice bar and use of a deluxe parka and leggings and gloves.

Recommended for Attractions near Cruise Port - St. Thomas because: Magic Ice is a one-of-a-kind experience that combines Caribbean and Scandinavian influences in a chill-out setting.

Chelle's expert tip: The temperature remains at 35 degrees, so make sure your toes are covered.

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Blackbeard's Castle / Skytsborg Tower
Photo courtesy of Karen Elowitt

Although the pirate Blackbeard most likely never set foot on St. Thomas, he is something of a patron anti-saint. The center of this attraction, Skytsborg Tower, was used as a military lookout in colonial times, but has come to be called Blackbeard's Castle in the middle of an inn with that name. You can visit it, along with a knot of historical structures on Blackbeard Hill, by a self-guided tour ticketed at the inn. The tour begins with an entertaining pirate re-enactor at the watchtower, which you can climb for great photo opps. Docents are stationed along a trail that leads to downtown. Circa-1860 Villa Notman showcases antique Caribbean furniture. Built in 1822, Haagensen House features gardens, five 19th-century exhibit rooms and a Pirate's Gallery of sculptures depicting the Caribbean's most infamous. The trail ends at Hotel 1829, another 19th century home with an impressive 20-foot amber waterfall.

Recommended for Attractions near Cruise Port - St. Thomas because: This one tour takes in many of the island's historic treasures with a bit of spice.

Chelle's expert tip: The pathway along this historic self-tour trail is uneven, steep and stepped.

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Great for families and anyone who loves sea creatures, Coral World boasts a number of activities and attractions for watching and interacting. Its central circular tower like aquarium provides windows onto the coral reef at several levels with more than 20 viewing stations. One of the most popular activities are its sea lion interactions, complete with wetsuits and wet kisses. There are also sea turtle and shark encounter programs. Other add-on activities include snuba (a scuba-snorkel hybrid sport), a Sea Trek Helmet Dive and the Nautilus Semi Submarine. At the touch pool, you can handle starfish, stingrays and even a baby shark.

Recommended for Attractions near Cruise Port - St. Thomas because: This is St. Thomas' largest and most popular man-made attraction.

Chelle's expert tip: Plan on some time on adjacent Coki Beach after a visit to Coral World.

Read more about Coral World Ocean Park →

St. Thomas' foremost touring company takes you to see mangrove swamps, nurse sharks, tropical fish, barracudas, snowy egrets and other natural wonders during three- or five-hour kayak tours. Most tours ply the waters of St Thomas Marine Sanctuary, but the company also offers tours in Caneel Bay on St. John and to historic Hassel Island just offshore downtown Charlotte Amalie. Experienced naturalists lead groups of two to 50 participants, providing informed commentary on the indigenous flora and fauna of the area. The trips include about an hour's worth of easy kayaking, a half-hour walk and a half-hour stop for snorkeling and underwater exploration. It may sound strenuous, but the tours are easy enough for young children and fit elderly folks to participate.

Recommended for Attractions near Cruise Port - St. Thomas because: It regularly wins kudos as the U.S. Virgin Island's best eco-tourism attraction.

Chelle's expert tip: The ecotours are suitable for paddlers and snorkelers of all ages and skill levels.

Read more about Virgin Islands Ecotours →

Mahogany Run Golf Course
Photo courtesy of Don Hebert

The only golf course on St. Thomas, the very hilly Mahogany Run course is declared "spectacular" by golfers. Designed by George and Tom Fazio, the par-70 course boasts its famous "Devil's Triangle" – holes 13, 14 and 15, which stretch along dramatic cliffs and cross the Caribbean Sea. Set into a coastal valley, the greens have hosted celebs and dignitaries as diverse as Tiger Woods and Bill Clinton. Club rentals are available at the pro shop. Greens fees vary by season and include a golf cart; twilight and off-season rates are available. Cruise ship passengers may opt for a ship-golf package.

Recommended for Attractions near Cruise Port - St. Thomas because: St. Thomas' only golf course is gorgeous and challenging with mountain and sea views.

Chelle's expert tip: If you don't have time to do the course, you can opt for a bucket of balls at the driving range.

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Magens Bay
Photo courtesy of Karen Elowitt

The most highly awarded and flaunted beach in St. Thomas, it attracts locals and tourists alike to its coved, sandy shores within the verdant embrace of St. Thomas' famously scenic hillsides, below the Drake's Seat overlook. It is also one of the island's most developed beaches. Complete amenities make it an all-around perfect spot for water sports, picnicking, sunbathing, or just people-watching. Concessions feed appetites for beach food, beer, kayaking, beach lounging and other sandy pursuits. On weekends, the locals come to party, so head early to the fringe areas if you are looking for peace and quiet. Sea grape trees and plenty of picnic tables line the fine white sand.

Recommended for Attractions near Cruise Port - St. Thomas because: Magens Bay is the top rated beach in St. Thomas.

Chelle's expert tip: The beach bar features wait staff who will come to take your order from you on the beach.

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The Butterfly Garden is one of the top cruise ship attractions for families with small children, thanks to its convenient location right on the Havensight cruise ship dock and its population of hundreds of different species of butterflies. More than 1,000 of the brilliantly colored winged beauties inhabit the small 10,000-square-foot, mesh-enclosed, walk-through garden, including species from every continent. Tour guides and breeding boxes teach guests about the process of metamorphosis from egg to caterpillar to butterfly. Photographers may want to arrive in the afternoon, when the insects are more sluggish and easier to capture on film.

Recommended for Attractions near Cruise Port - St. Thomas because: It is conveniently located in Havensight Mall, requiring no travel time or fares to get there.

Chelle's expert tip: Early morning visitors can witness butterflies emerging from their chrysalises.

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Water Island Bike Adventure

Just off St. Thomas in Charlotte Amalie Harbor, quiet Water Island has fewer than 200 residents and virtually no automobile traffic. A narrated ferry ride transports tour participants from the cruise ship port to Water Island. Upon arrival, a bus transports them to the island's highest point at Fort Segarra to mount their Cannondale mountain bikes. A five-mile ride travels over paved paths and dirt roads, past an old hotel site (inspiration for Herman Wouk's novel Don't Stop the Carnival) and a historic plantation, plus lovely scenery and wildlife such as red footed tortoises, iguanas, lizards, hermit crabs and a large variety of birds. The ride finishes up with a swim at Honeymoon Beach and a complimentary cold juice. The fee also includes helmets, water, experienced guides and the services of an escort vehicle.

Recommended for Attractions near Cruise Port - St. Thomas because: This attraction offers an attractive package of exercise, history and nature.

Chelle's expert tip: A ferry picks up cruise ship passengers from the docks on a regular schedule.

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Paradise Point St. Thomas Skyride
Photo courtesy of Courtesy of TripAdvisor

For visitors without automobile transportation, the best way to score one of St. Thomas' legendary views is this gondola, located across the street from the Havensight cruise ship dock and shopping center. It whisks visitors high above Charlotte Amalie harbor to an entertainment center at the top of the 700-foot peak. From here you can see all the way to St. Croix, Vieques, and Culebra on a clear day. At the bar, sample a famous Bailey's Bushwhacker (be prepared to open your wallet wide), hike the quarter-mile nature trail, catch an entertaining bird show, or shop for souvenirs. Paradise Point features live music in the evenings.

Recommended for Attractions near Cruise Port - St. Thomas because: Paradise Point gives you the best of St. Thomas: great views, drinks and music.

Chelle's expert tip: You can take a taxi to Paradise Point less expensively.

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Meet Chelle Koster Walton

Chelle Koster Walton – the Local Expert for Naples, Florida and the Caribbean – has been covering the destination for 30 years. Her top-selling Sarasota, Sanibel Island, and...  More About Chelle