Our Favorite Things to See & Do in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands
A friend who will be going on a girls trip next month recently asked me for recommendations on our favorite things to see, do and restaurants in the U.S. Virgin Islands. It's been 32 years since our first trip to St. Thomas and more times than we can count since then!
Back then, Charlotte Amalie to me meant exciting shopping: as in "Duty-Free Shops" in very large, flashing capital letters! We explored the best of a long tradition of merchants shops as one of the Caribbean’s first duty free ports since 1724.
But that was before we got serious about sailing on crewed charter yachts. Learning about sailing led us to a complete change in our career paths, followed by 18 years of living in the USVI as the owner/operators of a 72' monohull. One little taste of the island of St. Thomas led us to explore all the way down the Caribbean chain of islands!
Today, the U.S. Virgin Islands is where we have a strong connection to people whom we love. Every 'ting Irie means more than just a phrase. It's the strength of the people that overcame hurricanes, covid and shutdowns and came out better for their efforts.
Yes, you’ll be impressed by the bustling duty-free shops, excellent restaurants, fun bars, and stunning beaches characterized by white sand and warm, sapphire waters. Charlotte Amalie, the red-roofed town at its center, welcomes charter yachts and cruise ships daily, keeping all the local businesses busy!
Some of Our Favorite Things to See & Do:
Drive over the island’s crest to the North Side, pausing to take Instagram perfect pics from the scenic overlook known as Drake’s Seat. I can imagine Sir Francis Drake keeping a watchful eye for Spanish ships approaching over the horizon. Below Drake’s Seat lies idyllic Magens Bay, with its stately palm trees, pure white sand and shimmering blue water. Yes, the water really is "that" blue! Drive the winding road down to the Magens Bay beach, where you can sink your toes into the soft sand and wade into the calm, turquoise water. This long crescent beach has always been popular with both tourists as well as locals on the weekends. After swimming, feast on lunch at Magens Bay Bar and Grill to fortify yourself for your next adventure!
An hour or two before sunset, hop on the Skyride to Paradise Point. The gondola lift has been a long time favorite for watching the harbor and its islands unfold before you and is very special silhouetted by the sunset’s rosy hues. At the top, dine at newly opened Prime restaurant on aged prime steak, locally caught lobster and chicken that’s smoked in-house.
Depending on the number of cruise ships in town, Saturday can be a great time to shop downtown Charlotte Amalia. It is market day in the U.S. Virgin Islands and much of the rest of the Caribbean, so soaking up the atmosphere and history and shopping is fun! Rothschild Francis Market Square’s open-air bungalow is filled with local vendors. Don’t be shy to ask about the local produce and try Virgin Islands delicacies like beef or salt-fish pates (savory fried turnovers) and coconut-flavored dumb bread baked in a skillet “dum” style — an ancient technique that originated in India.
Helpful Local Tip: Greet everyone with a smile and a pleasant "Good Morning" or "Good Afternoon" to open a new door into learning more about local foods as well as island culture. And definitely try a Beef Pate! I can't resist either a Pate or the Dum Bread if they are hot out of the fryer! They are simple and OH so Good!
Charlotte Amalie’s Main Street shops are tucked into massive stone buildings that were once used as Danish warehouses for sugar and other goods. Be lured inside by sparkly gems, heady perfumes and designer fashions. Stay away from any business that feels too pushy.
Buying Jewelry in St. Thomas: Yes, you do get extra value on jewelry. Typically, you save on no sales, custom and duty taxes. Do your research stateside so you know the price range of the item you want. We suggest you work with the most reputable stores in the islands such as Okidanokh in Palm Passage. They are European-trained master goldsmiths & designers that oversee the creative process. You'll find them in the studio working with gold and platinum from its raw form into a finished piece with textures and designs unattainable through modern-day mass jewelry manufacturing. Their designs are rare and beautiful!
Speaking of Palm Passage, if we had to choose our favorite historical shopping street or as the Danish would say, "gade" (pronounced Ga-Da) in St. Thomas, it would have to be this one! While you are there exploring the eclectic shops, you'll certainly need to take a break at Amalia Cafe, a Spanish restaurant known for its great drinks, tapas and fine cuisine. It's a family owned business whose cornerstone is based on its great relationships with it's customers.
For a bit of history, explore the red brick Fort Christian Completed in 1678, it’s the oldest structure still standing in the territory.
Walk off a few calories while you are downtown and take in the views from the 99 Steps, a Danish step-street built with bricks that were used as ballast on tall ships arriving from the old country. Fun fact: There are actually 103 steps!
Wander around Frenchtown, settled generations ago by fishermen from the Caribbean island of St. Barts. Spot French names on colorful fishing boats in this working village, then take your pick of restaurants and bars tucked into brightly colored buildings.
For dinner in Frenchtown, sample the octopus bruschetta or grilled local tuna at Oceana Restaurant and Bistro. Sip fine wine and feel the breeze that gently blows through this airy dining room by the harbor. If you know you are visiting during a full moon, definitely book a table a month in advance. Its the perfect spot for a beautiful moonlit dinner with great cuisine. The main house is thought to date from the 1850's; however, there is evidence of foundations dating to the early 18th century. It was built with thick rubble walls, brought from Scotland as ballast, to withstand hurricanes and earthquakes. I've often wondered how many fascinating people have stepped across the decorative tile work on the outside staircase entrance which dates to the early 1900’s. The surrounding galleries are typical of West Indian architecture, designed to protect from the intense tropical sun and catch the fantastic trade winds that whip through the Haulover Cut.
Another fun option would be to view the luxury yachts from the public walkway and visit the shops & restaurants at Yacht Haven Grande, a 4 time award-winning Superyacht marina.
Restaurants at Yacht Haven Grande Marina:
Enkai Sushi has been a favorite of ours since 2009: Our "must-have" on the menu is the Baconator. It's a speciality roll with coconut encrusted jalapeño bacon (yes, it's cooked!), tempura lobster, jerk seared tuna, avocado, scallion cream cheese, Bourbon street sauce & onion crunchies. Definitely save room to share a Tempura Doughnut: a tempura glazed doughnut stuffed with Chef Steve's choice of homemade ice cream, drizzled with house made caramel or Nutella sauce. It's the best!
13 Restaurant is owned by Barbara & Eddie Jackson from Nashville Tennessee , Eddie a long time CPA wanted to open a restaurant in his favorite vacation spot, to bring a little southern style food to the island. Chef Tully Wilson a Culinary Institute of America alumni, is excited to present his vision to you. He is a Nashville native who moved to the Virgin Islands 8 years ago bringing a twist to his roots presenting Southern Cuisine with an Island Flair.
Allow the chef and staff at Indigo 4 Restaurant to further pamper you with steaks and seafood cooked with a tropical twist. For instance, the grilled salmon is prepared with a mango soy sauce, while the New York strip steak is draped in coconut-ginger mushrooms.
Now let's check out Red Hook:
Another day might find you enjoying the activities around St. Thomas’ East End, from breakfast to a beach day and dinner. This is where you’ll find Red Hook and American Yacht Harbor Marina, the “second city” on the island, a spirited center of dining and shopping, as well as the spot where ferries to St. John dock.
Dig into a hearty breakfast at the Hook’d USVI Restaurant, located in the American Yacht Harbor. Chow down on blueberry pancakes, steak and eggs, or shredded pork belly and gravy over buttermilk biscuits.
Drive a few minutes north to spectacular Sapphire Beach. Relax in the shade of coconut palms and watch windsurfers zigzag across the impossibly blue water. Rent one and join them or snorkel on the reef at the end of the beach. Have lunch at Sapphire Beach Bar, which serves casual eats like fish tacos, hot dogs and burgers.
For a special seafood dining experience offering everything from oysters to fresh ceviche to wood-fire grilled local fish and lobster — The Easterly in Red Hook is a can’t miss. It has been really popular as the new "it" restaurant! The kitchen creates dishes using locally sourced island ingredients, such as tamarind rum glaze.
One of our personal favs is a visit to picturesque Water Island. It's an outdoor lover's paradise that's just a 10-minute ferry ride away. This peaceful, 500-acre islet is nestled just outside Charlotte Amalie Harbor. Take the ferry to Water Island from Crown Bay Marina in St. Thomas, just east of Charlotte Amalie. Rent equipment on the island and spend the day snorkeling, kayaking or paddleboarding. Afterwards, have lunch and a cold drink at Dinghy's Beach Bar on pristine Honeymoon Beach.
Drive up to Mountain Top, an overlook just north of Charlotte Amalie near the highest point in the U.S. Virgin Islands (1,556 feet). Savor a famous banana daquiri, made with or without local Cruzan Rum, and shop for locally made souvenirs. The stunning views to the north and east encompass Magens Bay and a string of cays and islands beyond.
Check off another fun & educational spot by spending the afternoon at Coral World Ocean Park and Coki Beach on the island’s East End. Don special equipment and go walking on the sea floor with Sea Trek helmets or swim underwater with SNUBA gear among schools of tropical fish — no training necessary. Coral World also offers the rare chance to swim with playful bottlenose dolphins.
Wrap up your week with a classic favorite, the aptly named Old Stone Farmhouse, the food shares top billing with the ambiance in this 200-year-old plantation fieldhouse with graceful arches and walls of exposed brick and stone. The food is based in classic French cooking, but includes conch chowder and a grilled pork chop sided with mashed plantains and Cuban black beans. A native of Northern Virginia, Chef John-Michael Hamlet was awarded a coveted 2-week stint at Le Cordon Bleu, in London, England by Careers through Culinary Arts Program (C-CAP). His extraordinary talent, coupled with his fervor and dedication, ultimately earned him a degree from the prestigious Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York in 1996. His stellar cuisine at Stone Manor Inn earned him critical acclaim and a slew of accolades, including a spot on Washingtonian Magazine’s “The 100 Very Best Restaurants” list. Chef John-Michael is thrilled to be on the Island. He is proud to be heading up the kitchen and looks forward to sharing his mouthwatering dishes with its returning guests & first timers at Old Stone Farmhouse.
From the moment you arrive in the U.S. Virgin Islands, you’ll find yourself falling naturally in rhythm with it's heartbeat. Your visit to St. Thomas will lead to visiting St. Croix, St. John and beyond! Our hope is that after experiencing the rich culture and storied history, pristine beaches, turquoise waters, natural diversity and smiling, friendly people, you'll return again and again!
About Us: Your Charter Yacht Brokers: Capt. Randy & Shelly Tucker!
If you want to experience a luxury yacht charter vacation first hand and up close, there is no better way than on your own privately crewed yacht with a full-time professional Captain and Chef/First Mate. We've been sailing and chartering for well over twenty-five years. The U.S. Virgin Islands and British Virgin Islands were our "backyard" which we came to love and cherish. So much so, that we sold everything in 1997 and moved to Charlotte Amalie, USVI as owners & operators aboard the 72' sailing yacht Three Moons. We do know the ins and outs of this special place & the people who live there. That's what makes us an official Caribbean "Yacht Charters Guru”! Never been on a chartered yacht vacation? We will help you personally design your charter yacht vacation. Imagine being able to sail into small bays with beautiful white sands & fantastic snorkeling. Chartered yacht vacations are a great way to spend time with your friends or family. Choose from an extensive list of yachts, including our spacious and stable catamaran charters, power catamarans, traditional monohull sailboat vacations, or high-end luxury motor yacht charters in the U.S. Virgin Islands, British Virgin Islands, Bahamas, Belize, Croatia. Greece, and the Mediterranean.
We do not sell yachts like many other agencies so there is no conflict or distraction in our focus for your yacht charter. Our service is free to you. We travel extensively to boat shows and yacht charter shows year-round to personally view and inspect as many of the yachts as possible.
6 Reasons Why We are Qualified: 1. As Members of the Charter Yacht Brokers Association and the Virgin Islands Professional Charter Yacht League, we maintain contact with the yachts to keep abreast of the very latest information on crew/yacht conditions and new yachts entering the arena. 2. We stay on top of local and Federal Governments to keep informed about changes in our industry, as well as involve ourselves with the changes in the environment in which we offer charters. 3. We engage in open dialogue with local publications to help keep the government and the public aware of this important industry in our islands. 4. We attend multiple charter yacht industry shows in the Caribbean and Mediterranean, go aboard each of the yachts, meet the crews, attend association meetings and seminars. We'll happily share our notes about changes to the boats and crews and confirm any newly added features and upgrades as well as re-fits to the boat’s decor like new carpets, interior and exterior soft goods & fun new water toys. 5. As a seasoned charter yacht Owner & Crew, we have access to the "inner circle" and know all the insider facts. 6. We've developed a longtime friendship with vendors of services such as local taxi drivers, ferry companies, good places to stay on land, great restaurants, and much more. Contact us for more info! Yacht Charters Guru is Accredited by the Following Professional Associations: