St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands
By Lissa Poirot
One of the most popular island destinations for boating enthusiasts is the Virgin Islands. St. Thomas, which is the largest of the U.S. Virgin Islands, is not only a water paradise, but also a bustling stop with picturesque beaches, outstanding duty-free shopping, and its historic center, Charlotte Amalie. While a visit to the bustling Charlotte Amalie is not to be missed, it is the island's east end that provides a more intimate look at the island. Referred to as Red Hook, the east end features an unofficial "town" of red-tiled roof homes and businesses dotting a rolling coastline that overlooks Pillsbury Sound and the island of St. John in the British Virgin Islands. Red Hook is more relaxed than other tourist destinations on St. Thomas, but that doesn't mean there isn't an array of activities to keep you busy in the sun.
Water, Water Everywhere
The Pillsbury Sound is the perfect playground for those seeking to romp in the turquoise-blue waters of the Caribbean. Snorkeling, scuba diving, kayaking, windsurfing - you name it and Red Hook's marinas and beaches have got it. Visit the American Yacht Harbor to join a fishing charter, rent sailing equipment or tour the depths with a scuba team. The calm waters make St. Thomas the center of charters where you can cast for large fish like mahi-mahi, tuna and marlin. Adventurous windsurfers can catch a breeze to the island of St. John, or scuba the sound and explore one of its many shipwrecks, including the more than 400-foot W.I.T. Shoal.
For those who would rather play in the surf and relax on the shores, the Red Hook area is also home to some of the island's most beautiful beaches, including Bluebeard's Beach, a palm tree-lined beach overlooking St. John on Great Bay; Vessup Bay, a curvaceous and rocky beach popular among hikers; Sapphire Beach, home to 35 acres of crystal-sand beaches and a family-friendly destination ideal for seashell hunting; and Secret Harbor Beach an intimate and romantic destination on Nazareth Bay.
When looking to get away from the sparkling seas, one of St. Thomas' featured activities is duty-free shopping, where travelers can purchase up to $1,200 of tax-free merchandise - twice the amount than any other Caribbean island! Near the American Yacht Harbor is Red Hook's Havensight Mall, which provides a shopping Mecca of more than 60 shops decorating alleyways and selling island goods, clothing, perfume, fine china, liquor, and jewelry and watches of gold and silver, as well as arts and crafts and leather goods.
Another must-see on St. Thomas is Coral World Ocean Park, just a stone's throw from Red Hook. This aquarium park features more than 150,000 gallons of exhibits - in case you don't want to get wet to catch a glimpse at what's found in the depths below - from the Caribbean Reef Encounter complete with sea anemones, sponges and conches, to the Deep Reef Tank with its predatory swimmers, such as sharks and eels. An underwater exhibit takes visitors below the sea in the air-conditioned comfort of a glass walkway, and smaller pools house baby sharks and sea turtles and opportunities to "pet" these sea creatures.
R&R - Rest and Refuel
You can't play in the surf all day without refueling, and Red Hook offers a host of casual dining opportunities, many found at the American Yacht Harbor. Enjoy lunchtime sandwiches at Sopchoppy's Pub, or get a bit of the BVI with some fish and chips at Molly Mallone's Irish Pub. Catch the sunset over the harbor at Whale of a Tale Restaurant or the Caribbean Saloon. Enjoy some Chianti and pasta at the East End Café or head to "the coolest parking lot bar in the Caribbean" and grab some grub at Duffy's Love Shack in Havensight Mall. For more upscale dining options, the Ritz-Carlton just outside of Red Hook on Great Bay, features Caribbean, French and American fare in one of four restaurants, or try the Blue Moon Café, located right on the water and serving delicious steaks and seafood.
When looking for a place to lay your head each night, villas and home rentals provide excellent home-away-from-home accommodations, or select one of Red Hook's resorts for a bit of luxury. The Ritz-Carlton is a 200-room resort on 30 secluded acres featuring a spa, fitness center, infinity pool, traditional pool and aquatic center. While not as upscale as the Ritz, Secret Harbor Beach Resort is a refined-if-more-intimate resort providing guests with private balconies, patios and decks in studios to two-bedroom suites - choose a beachfront location for fantastic sunset views. Or if traveling with a family, try the Sapphire Beach Resort and Marina, which leaves pretense aside and provides a variety of activities to keep the kiddies busy.
For More Information
© Copyright St. Thomas Traveler -
Contact Us -
Visit our other Traveler websites: St. Croix · St. John · British Virgin Islands