A QUICK GUIDE TO ST THOMAS, USVI

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There’s nothing better than an island vacation but if I’m honest, St Thomas was never really on my must visit Caribbean island bucket list but with over 7000 individual islands, it’s easy to see how one can end up exploring unheard of places and hiking through lush emerald green nature.

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Where is St Thomas?

The Caribbean islands form a pretty big archipelago located southeast of the Gulf of Mexico, east of Central America and north east of South America in what is popularly known as the Caribbean Sea. These islands can be broken down into four main regions – the Lucayan Archipelago, the Greater Antilles, the Lesser Antilles and the ABC Islands with St Thomas forming part of the US Virgin Island territory in the Lesser Antilles chain. Popular countries of the Caribbean include Cuba, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Bahamas and they Cayman Islands to name a few.

Map of St Thomas

Before you go

Book a rental car. While there are taxi’s running on the island, it can get pretty expensive. It’s a good idea to book a small rental car. The smaller the better as the roads here are pretty narrow and steep with lots of sharp turns.

Plan your inter-island transfers. There are three main islands in the USVI so island hopping is a common activity. Plan your island hopping day trips, booking either the sea ferry or sea plane. It’s a good idea to book these tickets in advance as prices fluctuate with season.

Pack plenty of sunscreen and bug spray. The USVI are situated so close to the equator that you’ll be getting sun burnt without even realizing it. The tropical climate also means there are lots of bugs so be sure to pack a decent amount of bug spray.

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Getting there

St Thomas is the main island of the USVIs so if you’re flying in, you will land at the Cyril E. King Airport and if you arrive by cruise ship, you will sail in to the Charlotte Amalie harbor. If you’re catching an international flight to the island bear in mind that you may have to connect via mainland USA first and then catch a connecting flight to St Thomas.

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When to go

It can get pretty hot in the USVIs with not much of a difference between winter and summer temperatures. Even though summer maximum’s range between 30 – 32 degrees Celsius, the geographical location of these islands means it gets pretty hot! December to March is the peak season as many tourists head to the islands to escape winter. Hotel, food and entertainment prices can increase by as much as 50% during this time while temperatures reach around 26 degrees Celsius.

April to June is some of the best months to visit ST Thomas as average temperatures range between 22 to 30 degrees Celsius with fairly little rainfall.

July to November is peak hurricane season so while you many find really good travel deals, it’s also the most dangerous time to travel here.

What to do

Road trip around the island

Hire a car and drive around the narrow windy roads of the island. Be sure to stop at Drake’s Seat which offers panoramic views of the entire USVIs and the BVIs.

Snorkeling

The beaches of the Caribbean are known for its endless undersea life that you see simply by walking into the ocean! You don’t have to wade deep in to the ocean to see fish, corals and even sea urchins!

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Sailing

You’re in the Caribbean so how can you not sail around the islands? Hire a boat and sail to marine parks, dive spots and snorkeling trails. Or just spend a day out on the water, relaxing, sun bathing and reading.

Scuba diving

The marine life in the Virgin Islands is breathtaking with beautiful corals reefs, sunken boat wrecks and caves! Popular dive sites include Carval Rock, Congo Cay, Mounds at Mingo, Arches and Tunnels of Thatch and Lovango Cay but rough seas can make it any dive experience pretty scary. It’s always a good idea to contact well-known local dive operators.

What to eat

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Conch

Ever seen those big pretty shells that play back the sound of the ocean? That’s a conch and this dish is made from the meat of this marine creature. Served in a variety of different ways, conch is a delicacy that should be on your must-try foodie bucket list. It can be eaten deep fried, steamed or fried in butter and onions.

Pate

Made from flaky flour dough filled with spicy ground beef, conch, salted codfish or vegetable, pate is one of those delicious filling snacks you get on the go. The dough is wrapped around the filled and then it is deep fried.

Roti

In the USVI, roti consists of a tortilla flatbread, filled with either with curried meat, seafood or vegetables. It forms a pretty large folded over sandwich-like dish that is both filling and delicious.

Johnny cakes

Hand-sized rounds of freshly fried bread, Johnny cakes are usually sold hot and by themselves or together with fried chicken. They are best when served fresh and hot with a little butter.

Beaches to visit

With over 40 major beaches, it’s going to be pretty hard choosing the perfect stretch to relax on. Try one of these must visit beaches:

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Coki Point

Coki Point is actually my all-time favorite of island destination beaches. I have honestly never seen so many shades of blue merging into one before! The water hear gradually deepens and don’t be alarmed if you see a fish or two in knee deep water! There is a nearby reef area for snorkeling, a beach side shack for food and drinks, Jet Ski rentals and beach gear for hire. Coral World Marine Park is also located nearby for a full on underwater experience with marine life.

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Cowpet Bay

Lined with coconut trees, cowpet bay offers complete rest and relaxation. Pull one of the many beach recliners into the shallow waves and bask in the sun as the crystal clear water laps at your feet, snorkel among the rocks or just simply read a book while taking in the beautiful scenery.

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Magen’s Bay

Regarded as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, Magen’s Bay is a popular stop on many traveler’s itineraries.

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Hi World! I'm Shal - an environmental microbiologist, writer, teacher and artist from Durban, South Africa. I've spent the last two years traveling and teaching Chemistry and English to young kids in Asia. Life of Shal was founded as a way to share travel experiences, tips and other worldly magic with you! Join me on my journey!

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