St. Thomas' Best Attractions above and below Water

St. Thomas gives visitors so many options for spending leisure and recreational days both on land and on (or under) its clear, sparkling waters. This list puts Magens Bay at the top because it is one of the Caribbean’s best beaches, and because the beach is often the first destination of vacationers. So start at the beach to get into the “limin’” mode, as they say here in the U.S. Virgin Islands. From there, use this list as your priority guide for picking the best from all of St. Thomas’ varied and alluring attractions and activities.

Get on and under the water both with a combo kayak and snorkeling tour with Virgin Islands Ecotour. Some of its excursions also include exploring trails and historic sites. The rest of the attractions and activities included here revolve around the manmade, but yet they almost always bring you in contact with the islands’ rich world of flora and fauna or their intriguing history peopled with pirates, sea captains, traders and soldiers. St. Thomas’ past pops up everywhere in downtown Charlotte Amalie, where each building seems to tell a story. Check with the St. Thomas Historical Trust for walking and ferry tours of downtown’s historic sites.


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 and Carnival-type games and activities throughout the year.

Recommended for St. Thomas' Best Attractions because: Paradise Point gives you the best of St. Thomas: great views, drinks and music.

Chelle's expert tip: The cable car only operates when cruise ships are in port, but you can drive up to Paradise Point to drink in cocktails and the view.

Read more about Paradise Point St. Thomas Skyride →

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 whose fairways 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. Green 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 St. Thomas' Best Attractions because: St. Thomas' only golf course is gorgeous and challenging with mountain and sea views.

Chelle's expert tip: The club has its own restaurant, but if you are looking for a special dinner in the vicinity, reserve a table at the Old Stone Farmhouse.

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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 each year. It's 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, from the 40 foot bar made of ice, and use of a deluxe parka and leggings and gloves.

Recommended for St. Thomas' Best Attractions because: This is a perfect escape from the heat and throngs along downtown Charlotte Amalie's waterfront.

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

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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 typical 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. The entire zip line tour takes about two-and-half to three hours.

Recommended for St. Thomas' Best Attractions 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 →

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 eponymous inn. You can visit it along with a knot of historical structures on Blackbeard Hill by a self-guided tour the inn offers and tickets. The tour begins with a dramatic and entertaining pirate re-enactor at the watchtower, which you can climb. Docents are stationed strategically along a trail that leads to circa-1860 Villa Notman, which showcases antique mahogany furniture from Trinidad and Barbados. Built in 1822, Haagensen House features restored outbuildings, gardens, 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 a 20-foot amber waterfall.

Recommended for St. Thomas' Best Attractions 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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St. Peter Great House and Botanical Gardens
Photo courtesy of Karen Elowitt

A restored colonial plantation great house originally built in the early 1800s lies at the heart of these 11 lushly landscaped mountain top acres above Magens Bay. The 2,000 square foot structure, open ofr touring, exemplifies West Indian colonial architecture with exquisite detail. Allow about 45 minutes to tour the grounds, which include the botanical gardens' nature trail, waterfalls, fish ponds, a tropical bird aviary and more than 20 species of orchids and 150 varieties of Caribbean plants and fruiting trees. An observation tower expands your view to encompass at least 15 other U.S. and British Virgin Islands.

Recommended for St. Thomas' Best Attractions because: St. Peter Great House combines the island's history with its nature for the best of what St. Thomas offers.

Chelle's expert tip: Do NOT forget the camera. Besides the lovely vegetation, St. Peter Great House affords some the island's best views.

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St. Thomas' foremost touring company takes you to see mangrove estuaries, 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 Mangrove Lagoon Wildlife Sanctuary & Marine Reserve, 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 includes about an hour's worth of easy kayaking, a half-hour walk and a half-hour stop for snorkeling and underwater exploration.

Recommended for St. Thomas' Best Attractions 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 →

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 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 St. Thomas' Best Attractions 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.

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St. John Ferry
Photo courtesy of Chelle Koster Walton

The quick ferry ride to the island of St. John whisks you away from St. Thomas' bustle to a quieter, more natural island. The Virgin Islands National Park occupies about two-thirds of the island, insuring it remains as lightly developed as it is. The ferry ride from Red Hook is air-conditioned and comfortable with TV cartoons airing to keep the kids occupied. It lands some 20 minutes later at the docks at Cruz Bay, the island's main town. From there you can walk to a number of fun shops and good restaurants and bars as well as the national park visitors center. Or hop aboard one of the safari surreys that await in the town plaza for transport to St. John's gorgeous beaches. The most lauded, Trunk Bay has an underwater snorkeling trail. Along the island's climbing road you'll see breathtaking views, donkeys, sugar mill ruins and mongooses.

Recommended for St. Thomas' Best Attractions because: No trip to St. Thomas is complete without a visit to its little brother island.

Chelle's expert tip: Ferries also depart from downtown Charlotte Amalie, but less frequently.

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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 watersports, picnicking, sunbathing or just people-watching. Concessions feed appetites for beach food, beer, kayaking, beach lounging and other sandy pursuits. Sea grape trees and plenty of picnic tables line the fine white sand. On weekends, the locals come to party, so head early to the fringe areas if you are looking for peace.

Recommended for St. Thomas' Best Attractions because: Magens Bay's beach offers an outstanding all-around beach experience, with lifeguards, a snack bar, restrooms, picnic areas and watersports.

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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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