Winter in the northeast can be difficult for many people. Dangerous driving conditions, slippery sidewalks, and never-ending gray skies seem to make the season last forever. It’s why so many people, including myself, escape to warm-weather climates during the cold season of the northeast. This time, I visited St. Thomas, a tropical destination ideally suited to melt away the icy chill of winter.
When planning a trip to St. Thomas, it can be a challenge to sift through the options and choose the right activities, which is why I put together this roundup of favorite things to do when vacationing in St. Thomas.
The heart of St. Thomas is in the waterfront town of Charlotte Amalie. It’s where the cruise ships dock and tour & taxi operators can be found. From romantic sunset sails and adventurous snorkeling excursions - to day trips touting white sand beaches with sparkling turquoise-blue water and tax-free shopping - there are many things to do in St. Thomas.
Noted as one of the world’s most beautiful beaches by both Conde Nast and National Geographic, Magens Bay Beach’s natural beauty, with its billowy palms and powdery sand stretching for nearly a mile, is perfect for sunbathing and relaxing. The calm cerulean water makes it ideal for kayaking, paddle boating, or sailing and rentals can be found beachside. There’s also a lively restaurant and bar should you work up a thirst. Their painkillers, the cocktail, not the prescription medication, is a concoction of cream of coconut, orange juice, pineapple juice, nutmeg and of course, rum and puts anyone who drinks it, on “island time.”
St. Thomas is known for its strikingly beautiful vistas that rise high above the rambling coastline. In 1933, when the hills were traveled by horse and foot, Drake’s Seat, an actual bench, was built as a place to rest. It was named after Sir Frances Drake who’s said to have watched over the harbor from this vantage point. As I settled down on Drake’s Seat gazing at the expansive vista, dotted with cruise ships and yachts lazily navigating Charlotte Amalie Harbor, I found myself daydreaming about pirate ships, the ones Drake might have spotted during his time.
Another famous lookout, at an impressive height of 1,500 feet above sea level, is appropriately named Mountain Top. A souvenir shop and bar, known for its world-famous banana daiquiri, affords visitors stunning panoramic views of Magens Bay, the island of St. John, and the British Virgin Islands from its expansive observation deck.
I like to shop, and St. Thomas has long been known around the world as a premier shopping destination. In downtown Charlotte Amalie I strolled along the harbor and wandered Main Street, stopping in the myriad of duty-free shops and boutiques, many of which have been converted from old warehouses that stored goods from the days of the pirates. My favorite, Fish Face, with its array of handcrafted jewelry and beach apparel is where I found a unique ring, patterned after a sea fan, to commemorate my trip.
I always recommend that visitors taste the cuisine of the region because it's a wonderful way to experience the culture. Off the beaten path restaurants utilizing locally grown produce, prepared from time-honored recipes, cooked by someone's grandma, and frequented by locals is a sure sign of an authentic experience. Kallaloo (or callaloo), is a colorful bright green soup/stew made from fresh leafy greens, okra, meats, or fish (or a combination of those things) and a bit of hot sauce that packs just the right punch. When visiting the island, ask a local, and they'll be sure to direct you to their favorite restaurant.
From St. Thomas it’s possible to island-hop by ferry. Various routes traverse from St. Thomas to St. Johns, Water Island, Tortola, and Virgin Gorda. Explore Honeymoon Beach on Water Island or the unusual rock formations called The Baths in Virgin Gorda. Take a journey to Trunk Bay Beach in St. John’s with its marked underwater trail for beginner snorkelers or hike the trails in Sage Mountain National Park in Tortola.
There’s no shortage of things to do in St. Thomas. I dream of going back. I can almost feel the warm surf as it gently laps onto the beach, and in my mind, I see it slowly melting away the icy chill of the cold northeast winter.
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