Discover the best things to do in St. Thomas, an island paradise filled with sublime beaches, intriguing history, lush, hilly landscapes, and a lifestyle dedicated to fun in the sun. Days here pass in a happy haze of reggae rhythms, iced rum punch, conch fritters, and carefree days on the beach. Yet there’s much more to this idyllic spot.
The U.S. Virgin Islands were once a Danish colony, and you’ll find plenty of examples of the Danes’ legacy as you wander around Charlotte Amalie. Delicate wrought-iron balconies, grand mansions, leafy gardens and Danish street names are everywhere, with the colors of the Caribbean brightening the old houses in yellows, greens and reds.
Here are 11 of the best things to do in St. Thomas.
Drink Daiquiris With a View
You can spot the scrub-covered hillocks of 15 islands and white sand cays scattered across the sparkling aquamarine of the Caribbean from the lookout point of Mountain Top. Some 1,500 feet above the sweep of Magens Bay, on top of St. Peter Mountain, this bar, restaurant, shopping emporium and observation deck claims to be the home of the banana daiquiri.
This famous Caribbean cocktail was allegedly invented here some 50 years ago by British sea captain George Soule. A happy combination of ripe bananas, lime juice, sugar cane extract, locally made Cruzan rum, and a secret banana liqueur create the iconic drink, and this is the perfect place to try it and take in the views.
Kick Back at Magens Bay
A mile of sugary white sand framed by steep green hills, Magens Bay, is one of St. Thomas’ most gorgeous beaches. A day here is, without doubt, one of the best things to do in St. Thomas.
You’ll find everything from food vendors to water sports concessions for the perfect day in the sun. Splash around in the glass-clear water, try your paddleboarding skills, or just unwind under a palm tree with an iced rum punch.
Play Castaway at Smith Bay Beach
Smith Bay Beach, on the eastern side of the island, is completely undeveloped, and the waters here are protected as a marine park. This is the place to head for a real off-the-beaten-track day, basking on sugary sand and snorkeling among shoals of brightly colored fish. Children will enjoy exploring the tide pools at the western end of the beach, where you might encounter small craps, fish, and shrimps in the warm, shallow water.
You won’t find bars and restaurants here, so pack a picnic first and bring your own water. There’s some shade from palms and sea grape trees where you can spread your towel on the sand and relax, gazing across the water to lush St. John and the hazy outlines of the British Virgin Islands.
Explore Charlotte Amalie Historic District
Pretty Charlotte Amalie has an enchanting historic district, filled with narrow alleys, leafy squares, elegant old buildings, and cozy bars. You’ll see colonial Danish architecture with a Caribbean twist in the bright colors of the old facades.
The town was founded in 1672 and named after the then Danish Queen. It quickly became known as a lair of pirates and other suspect characters, and in the early 19th century was, for a spell, occupied by the British.
There’s much to see of historic interest, and a good guide will help you peel back the layers of time. The oldest Danish fortification is the red brick Fort Christian, built in 1672. The fort served over the years as a jail, the governor’s residence, and a church, and was restored in 2017.
You’ll also see the small but poignant Emancipation Garden, which commemorates the end of slavery in the islands on July 3, 1848.
Skytsborg, better known as Blackbeard’s Castle, is a five-story tower built by the Danes in 1678. Legend has it that the ferocious Edward Teach, aka Blackbeard, a feared pirate, used the tower as a lookout.
The tower is located on top of Government Hill at the top of a flight of 103 stone stairs, created in the 18th century out of ballast brick from ships. The Danes built several of these “step streets” as a more convenient way of negotiating the steep hills of Charlotte Amalie. The 99 Steps, as they’re inaccurately known, are lined with leafy palms and tropical gardens.
Embrace Romance on Honeymoon Beach
A short hop across the water by ferry, Honeymoon Beach fringes one side of Water Island. You’ll soon see how it got its name; this is as dreamy as a Caribbean beach comes. Tall palms wave in the breeze, while turquoise water laps the pale gold sand. Just offshore, you’ll find coral reefs teeming with fish—and sea turtles may join you on your swim.
There are rustic beach bars offering fish tacos for lunch, stand-up paddleboard rentals, and umbrellas to complete a blissful, lazy, and undeniably romantic day. Just don’t miss the last ferry back.
Sample Creole Cuisine
Explore the culinary culture of Charlotte Amalie on a guided walk to local restaurants. Strolling through the old town, characterized by its Danish colonial architecture, you’ll wander through old “gadas”, or alleyways, to off-the-beaten-track spots.
Local dishes you might try include curried chicken, an island classic, or rice ‘n’ peas, a tasty combination of rice cooked in stock with kidney beans and spices. Creole fungi is nicer than it sounds—it’s actually cornmeal, not some kind of fungus. And nobody will be able to resist banana rum flambé for dessert.
But wherever you are on the island, there are opportunities to eat like a local from food trucks and roadside shacks. You could try anything from spicy curries to souse, a soup using up various body parts of the pig (possibly not one for the squeamish), or Johnnycakes, cornmeal pancakes drenched in syrup.
Snorkel Off Sapphire Beach
Pure white sand and glittering, deep blue sea are part of the allure of this blissful beach in Red Hook, on the eastern side of the island. You can rent paddleboards and kayaks from the beach concessionaires, or bring your own snorkel and head for the reef to the right, off Pretty Klip Point, to admire electric-blue tang, rainbow-colored parrotfish, and sunshine-yellow butterflyfish.
There’s a bar and grill under the trees here for snacks and cold beers. On weekends, you’ll be joined by locals enjoying picnics and gatherings with friends and family.
Shop in Charlotte Amalie
The downtown area of Charlotte Amalie is devoted to eating, drinking, and above all, shopping. The vast Havensight Mall stretches along one side of the bay, crammed with retail opportunities including perfume, jewelry, watches, cameras, and cosmetics, all at duty-free prices.
In town, shops line Main Street on both sides, spilling over into the narrow alleys that connect the two. Amid all the duty-free stores, you’ll find designer fashion, surf gear and quirkier establishments selling anything from old ship models to spicy rum cakes.
Head Up to Paradise Point
There are gorgeous views everywhere on hilly St. Thomas, but one of the best has to be from Paradise Point, at the top of Flag Hill. You’ll ride up 700 feet on the St. Thomas Skyride gondola, with seven minutes during the ascent to admire the lush scenery, lavish villas and the rooftops of Charlotte Amalie below.
At the top, there’s a nature trail and an assortment of souvenir shops, as well as a restaurant and bar. Take time to absorb the view; you’ll see yachts bobbing on the turquoise water, floatplanes buzzing back and forth, and on a clear day, the distant outline of Puerto Rico.
While at Paradise Point and in need of refreshment, there’s only one thing to do. The signature cocktail served up here is the Bushwacker, an innocuous-looking but boozy concoction of coconut rum, chocolate, Kahlua, amaretto, and Baileys, over ice. It’s refreshing, like a milkshake, but with a kick.
Island Hop on a Catamaran
There’s no better way to admire St. Thomas’s lush coastline than by boat; a day on the water is one of the best things to do in St. Thomas.
Board a 63-foot turbo-cat, a fast catamaran with the feel of a private yacht. You’ll speed along St. Thomas’ southern coast and drop anchor in the pristine waters of Buck Island Cove, a marine reserve where there’s a good chance of spotting green turtles gliding over the colorful corals. You can jump straight in from the cat’s swim platforms.
Next, you’ll head to idyllic Honeymoon Beach on Water Island for an afternoon of basking on the sand and cooling off in the turquoise shallows of one of the best beaches in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The rum punch flows to a soundtrack of tropical tunes as you head back to port after a blissful day.
Get Back to Nature on St. John
The smallest of the three US Virgin Islands, sleepy St. John is a world apart from its busier neighbor. National park occupies more than two-thirds of the island, and as such, the beaches here are completely unspoiled.
Here, long swathes of white sand are backed by bottle-green shrubs and palms with coral reefs offshore. You’ll still find rustic restaurants and beach bars, but St. John attracts a more outdoorsy, nature-loving crowd than its chic neighbor.
One of the loveliest beaches is Trunk Bay, named after the leatherback turtles which are endemic here and are known locally as “trunks”. There’s great snorkeling, following a self-guided coral reef trail that stretches 650 feet through shallow water. Signs embedded in the rock tell you what you’re looking at, so this is an educational experience and fun for all ages.
Take time away from the beach and try out some of the Caribbean hiking trails while you’re here. You’ll spot green iguanas draped across branches in the trees, and you may encounter wild donkeys on your hike. Turtles lay their eggs on the beaches here, so follow the advice of the rangers when it comes to avoiding turtle nests.
If you’re already dreaming of basking on sugary beaches and swimming in the warm, turquoise Caribbean, make your fantasy a reality on a luxury cruise to St. Thomas. Browse Caribbean cruise itineraries on our website and start planning the perfect vacation.