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St. Thomas
St. Thomas

8 Things to Do in St. Thomas for Cruisers

St. Thomas
St. Thomas
Carolina Pirola

Last updated
Mar 11, 2024

Read time
7 min read

If you have never been to St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands, you might imagine it as a laid-back island home to beautiful beaches and mysterious shipwrecks deep in the azure Caribbean waters. While there’s certainly no shortage of those, the list of things to do in St. Thomas doesn’t end there.

Historic sites, stunning peaks offering panoramic views and a varied marine life are only some of the things you’ll find as you step off your cruise ship.

Shore excursions can be an excellent way to see the island’s highlights, as is to explore independently. Taxis are readily available everywhere you go, and since the island is just 13 miles long, you can get anywhere within 25 minutes from the St. Thomas cruise port.

Cruise ships typically spend eight to nine hours in Charlotte Amalie before continuing on to other Caribbean destinations. However, this time frame includes the time it takes for everyone to get off and on the ship, and traveling to and from the places you wish to visit. Planning your time there will be crucial if you want to do more than just one thing.

To help you figure out what not to miss when calling this port, we have put together a list of eight things to do in St. Thomas, U.S.V.I., even for those who have visited before.

1. Hitting the Beach Is One of the Best Things to Do in St. Thomas

The Paradise like US Virgin Islands, St. Thomas Showcasing a Turquoise Ocean and Lush Landscapes (Photo: Achim Baque/Shutterstock)
St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands (Photo: Achim Baque/Shutterstock)

With over 40 major beaches and a number of smaller coves, St. Thomas is a beach-lover’s paradise. You’ll find one at every turn, each one more beautiful than the next, making exploring the island’s many stretches of sand one of the best things to do in St. Thomas.

Our favorite beaches include Magen’s Bay and Lindquist Beach, both about a 20-minute drive from either of the cruise ports.

With its white sand and good services, Magen’s Bay is the perfect spot for a relaxing day in the sun. Waters are clear and calm enough for families with young children, and there is a large shaded area with picnic tables and bathrooms. If you need a break from the sun and want to refuel, you can get a bite at the beach bar located on the eastern end of the bay.

Magen’s Bay is also known for its water sports, including paddle boarding and kayaking. If a lazy swim is right up your alley, make sure you swim out a little bit -- the area is home to sea turtles that tend to stay away from the shallowest waters and the crowds.

Set within a 12-acre protected park, Lindquist Beach is for those seeking some peace and quiet. You won’t find as many services as in Magen’s Bay, but the expansive views of Smith Bay and St. John are worth the park’s small entrance fee. Pack your lunch, though, as there are no restaurants or bars here.

2. Snorkeling Should Be High on Your List of Things to Do in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands

Two Women Snorkeling (Photo: Dudarev Mikhail/Shutterstock)
Two Women Snorkeling (Photo: Dudarev Mikhail/Shutterstock)

No list of things to do in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands is complete without snorkeling in its gorgeous turquoise waters. You’ll find something interesting to see close to the shore anywhere you go, including sea turtles, corals and sea urchins.

There are plenty of places where you can rent snorkeling and diving gear close to the cruise port and near almost every beach. However, we recommend always bringing your own -- at least the mask and snorkel -- for hygienic purposes.

Sapphire Beach, Secret Harbor Beach and Coki Point Beach are great spots for snorkeling in St. Thomas. However, Buck Island National Wildlife Refuge is one of the best places in the U.S. Virgin Islands to see marine life. Located two miles south of St. Thomas, the island is surrounded by coral reefs and is home to the famous Turtle Cove, known for its sea turtle sightings.

3. Fort Christian Is One of the St. Thomas Attractions You Can’t Miss

History buffs should not miss Fort Christian, a striking red-and-white fort built in the 17th century. The former defense building is a U.S. National Historic Landmark that currently houses a small museum with rotating exhibitions about colonial times in the heart of Charlotte Amalie. The building’s storied past makes it one of the top St. Thomas attractions, and it is a must for those interested in learning more about the history of the island.

Just a short walk away you will find the famous 99 Steps, built in the 18th century by the Danes. Originally constructed to connect the lower areas around Fort Christian to higher ground near the now-closed Blackbeard’s Castle, this St. Thomas landmark has been renovated over the years and currently has 103 steps. Grab some water and a hat before you start climbing.

4. What to Do in St Thomas if You’ve Been There Before: Zipline Above the Trees

If this is not your first Eastern Caribbean cruise, chances are you have already called this port. If you are wondering what to do in St. Thomas this time around and are looking for something different, check out the Tree Limin’ Extreme, a zip line course located high above the island.

From there, you’ll have panoramic views not only of St. Thomas but also of the surrounding islands, including as far as the BVIs and beyond.

You will be met by an instructor and taken up the mountain in a six-wheel drive. The minimum age is 5 years old, but parts of the course are fast and are better suited for older kids. Younger children can also tandem zip with an adult.

5. Taking the Skyride Is One of the Most Unique Things to Do in St. Thomas, USVI

If you are looking for something unique, make sure the Skyride to Paradise Point is on your list of things to do in St. Thomas, USVI. It’s the only gondola in the Virgin Islands and the views from the top are simply amazing. On clear days, some have reported seeing as far as Puerto Rico.

The entrance is right across the street from Havensight (a.k.a. WICO) cruise port and you’ll reach the top of Paradise Point in less than 10 minutes. If your ship departs in the evening, make sure to visit at sunset. There is a restaurant, a bar, and some souvenir shops at the top.

If you’re afraid of heights or are claustrophobic, you can also enjoy sweeping views of the archipelago from Drake’s Seat and the Charlotte Amalie Outlook, each just a short drive away.

6. Discover the Local Flora at Phantasea Tropical Botanical Garden

A visit to Phantasea Tropical Botanical Garden makes for a pleasant break from the sun and the crowds. It’s a small, shady garden about a 15-minute drive from the harbor, full of local plants and flowers and a stunning selection of orchids. Tours are available but you can also explore it on your own in about an hour.

Even if you’re not particularly interested in plants, the views of neighboring islands are also worth the visit. It’s generally closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, but cruise ship passengers can email or call the gardens to request a visit on those days as well.

7. Learn All About the USVI’s Buccaneer Past at Pirates Treasure Museum

Long before cruise ships dotted the harbor of Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas was known as the playground of many well-known pirates. While the buccaneers have been replaced by tourists and locals, the stories of the island’s pirate past have been preserved in the Pirates Treasure Museum.

This small exhibition center is just a 10-minute walk from Havensight cruise pier and a popular St. Thomas attraction among cruise passengers. Its permanent exhibition showcases items recovered during the Odyssey Marine Exploration and from shipwrecks around the island. Interactive exhibits provide information on the technologies used to recover sunken treasures.

8. Shop for Duty-Free Goods in Downtown Charlotte Amalie

The generous duty-free allowance available for U.S. residents makes shopping a favorite among cruise passengers visiting St. Thomas. Charlotte Amalie’s Main Street is a lovely road lined with duty-free shops selling everything from chocolate to jewelry. The adjacent streets also offer a good array of stores, including souvenir shops and clothing boutiques.

Once you’ve tired of shopping -- or fear your suitcase will burst at the seams despite having packed light when you left home -- stroll over to any of the restaurants in the downtown area, where you’ll find a variety of cuisines.

If you simply want to buy a souvenir or a small duty-free item before boarding the ship, the Havensight Mall, located right by the Havensight cruise pier, is a good option. There are plenty of shops to choose from, and prices are comparable to those you would find in the downtown area.

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