We’ve been in the Virgin Islands for nine weeks! Incredibly grateful that we’ve been able to call the VI’s “home” for the remainder of our second cruising season. To think back, 7 months ago this was just a goal, a dream, a plan we’d hoped to achieve. It wasn’t easy getting here, which is why we decided to slow down and explore all that it has to offer before going any further. Making that decision has allowed us to lesiurely explore the 80-plus islands of the US and British Virgin Islands aboard our sailboat home.
St. Thomas is often referred to as “Rock City” because it is essentially one big mountain – its highest point being 1,550ft and as the capital, its only 32 square miles in size but has a million miles worth of things to do…just be prepared to brave the cruise ship crowds.
Home to the cruise port with Danish colonial architecture and pirate legends. We climbed the historic 99 Steps, constructed from the ballast bricks of 18th century Danish ships. However, we never anchored in Havensight. We took the Safari ($2) in from Red Hook and Compass Point to run errands, check out the Carnival festivities and swap out boat guest. Uhh, safari? Safaris are trucks that has been outfitted with bench seating in the back. Its open air but covered. Basically public transportation offering dollar rides.
The Smoking Rooster – If the cruise ships aren’t in, I highly recommend this waterfront BBQ joint. After picking up two friends from the airport, the four of us enjoyed a family style lunch ordering a little bit of everything; the Mac and cheese with jalapeños and biscuits with honey butter were incredible. Along with the pulled pork, brisket, chicken, and cole slaw. Perfect amount of food.
Kmart – Yes, they still exist here, to my knowledge all Kmarts were slowly left to rot back in mainland USA and then offically closed. BUT this Kmart is very nice! Home goods, apparel, furniture, and even a booze section. Nice assortment of necessities, we did some provisioning here.
Plaza Extra Supermarket Tutu – Most markets on the island are great for picking up items here and there. But Plaza Extra is the best for legit provisioning. They offer several aisles of bulk items and its huge. Great quality, selection, and price.
Frenchtown deli – This was a great find on our last day in St. Thomas! Its a unique set up. You walk into a grocery looking area, order at the deli, walk to the next room over to find a spot to sit and wait for your food. Then you can order coffee/drinks separately at the coffee bar – dirty chai latte was fantastic! Low key yet perfect spot to grab lunch. It’s located right in Frenchtown (hence the name).
Hook line & Sinker – We’re “hooked” 😉 We had a great dinner at Hook, Line & Sinker with sailfriends SV Sparidae. The almond crusted yellowtail snapper was delish and the grilled tuna was cooked so perfectly! Service was “Caribbean slow” haha. However we were in no rush. ($$-$$$)
STT – Cyril E. King International Airport, West of Charlotte Amalie and one of the busiest in the eastern Caribbean. Operating one main runway and 11 gates. We had 3 sets of guest fly in/out of here. Our personal experience here was interesting. So many lines for everything – bags (Carry on and checked), tickets, security and customs even though your technically in the US. Just plan to arrive early! Oh, and no AC. However, if you’re landing in St Thomas you will be greeted with a free shot of local Cruzan rum.
Just off St. Thomas, beautiful anchorage with about 20 mooring balls that offers an abundance of sea life. The perfect stop to hop in the shallow blue water. Provides excellent wind protection but beware of the nearby ferry traffic. It can get a bit rolly certain times of the day.
Pizza Pi – Serving classic New York Style Pizza from a floating boat! Pi is 100% custom built and serves 60+ pizzas a day to hungry cruisers. We ordered here twice (meat lovers & carbonara) both delicious. A little on the pricey side for your average pizza – $30+ but we enjoyed it, along with the inside tour and watermelon shots. Gluten free pizza options available too!
a.k.a “The Lagoon” is said to be the best hurricane hole on the island of St. Thomas since the bay is protected by a large chain of small islands.
Compass Point Marina – We made the short hop over from Christmas Cove to restock, refill, and provision before our 4th and final boat guest arrives for the season. Don’t expect any 5-star treatment or amenities, there are none, not even showers, laundry, or dock master. Its just a place to GTS (get shit done).
They close at noon on Saturday, and closed Sunday. We had a difficult time reaching anyone by phone (we got through once). A couple on a charter boat (SV Lucky Me) with a permanent slip answered us over the radio and were so nice to help us onto the dock. They informed us that the marina does not have a VHF radio.
- $1.00 a foot per night
- $.10 cents a gal water
- $.64 cents KW electric
Short dinghy ride through the marina you can tie up to a very tiny dock located near Carigas Island Cafe. From there its a 3-minute walk to the Food Center, they have a good selection of produce, meats, and seafood. There’s also an on-site bakery and deli with hot and cold prepared foods.
Harbor Shoppers is on-site. Marketplace for the consignment of new & used marine products. We stopped in, chatted with a nice lady working there, and also bought 3-ft of hose for our AC.
The hub of the East End of St. Thomas and this place packs in a lot! There’s a marina, boating excursions, ferries, shops, restaurants, bars, offices, banks, etc. We stayed at American Yacht Harbor, full-service marina with 123 fixed slips made up of mostly mega yachts. Fantastic hot showers and laundry facilitiy on-site. We stayed for a week in between boat guest to restock, relax, and check out the East End. Super easy car rentals available.
Tap & Still (Red hook) – First place we ate after landing in St. Thomas and we absolutely LOVE it! We’ve returned here more times than any other place in USVI, a great causal spot to grab a bite and drinks. Simple menu and all the food is served in take out bags. The awesome burgers, fries, and wings kept us coming back!
Lattes in Paradise – Popular coffee shop thats locally owned and overlooks the marina from the second story patio. The white chocolate latte was heaven. Daily breakfast specials are available, the $5 quiche is fantastic! CASH ONLY.
Senor Pizza – If you can’t make it out by boat to Christmas Cove for Pizza Pi then make sure you go here.
Saki House Thai – You know top of the list was finding a good hole in the wall sushi joint. Great place for a casual inexpensive lunch or dinner, we went for both and found that we enjoyed the Thai dishes more than the sushi. However Raw Sushi and Sake Bar did not disappoint on the tasty edamame or unique and delicious rolls. Its a little more expensive and has more of a hip scene very sleek and modern interior.
XO Bistro – Super cute + cozy. Food was excellent, service was wonderful. The portions are large so you can share. Highly recommend. Happy hour is from 11-6pm daily and 10p-2am nightly. First come first serve at the bar, they recommend table reservations for dinner. Do your self a favor and order the spinach and artichoke dip, you won’t regret it!
Slice VI – So much more than just pizza and located poolside at Sapphire Village, which is open to the public. The laid-back location and open-air dining are really nice but as night falls watch out for the misquitos.
Moe’s Fresh Market – Amazing! Well supplied, well staffed, and exceptionally clean. Prices are a bit high, but it’s the islands. Theres a wine cellar/wine attic on the second floor. Walk upstairs (or take the elevator) for a fabulously unexpected selection of wines. Including one of my favorite Pinot Noirs.
Duffy’s Love Shack – An unexpected gem and literally just a shack – but a nice shack. Offers a good food and drink happy hour daily. Conveniently located in the center of Red Hook.
Urman Victor Fredericks Terminal – This is where you go to take the ferry to St John or any of the British Virgin Islands. The car ferry is also out of Red Hook, it runs on the hour, for vehicles you can purchase a round trip for $50 or $35 each way. Smooth operation.
Located on the Northside of St. Thomas and hailed as one of the world’s most beautiful bays. The water is so clear and the bay makes the water very calm. We anchored here for 4 blissful nights and enjoyed lot of swimming!
The only downside is that nearly all the cruise ship visitors seem to make their way to Magens Bay, too. It provides all the conveniences of parking, lifeguards, equipment rental, freshwater showers, restaurants and bars. It’s a bit of a tourist trap, so we just made sure to check if any cruise ships were in port before going ashore. The ships are HUGE! Carries 3,128 Passengers, to give you an idea of how much traffic is flowing through St. Thomas in a day.
However, as cruisers you’re anchored out far enough that the tourist were nowhere close to us. The beach is cleared out by 4/5 pm as the crowds make their way back to the cruise ships. To gain entry into Magens by car you must pay the $5 fee, since we were anchored and gained access via the beach we did not.
Magens Bay Trailhead – It’s a great workout! Includes a number of wood staircases, ropes, and rock retaining walls, all of which make for a great trail experience. About a mile up theres a wooden look-out deck with a million-dollar view. Things are greening up and the beaches are as beautiful as ever, despite the hit that the greenery has taken from the hurricanes in 2017.
Other nearby and popular look-outs are Drakes Seat and Skyline Drive. This was too far for us to access but heard they’re generally more crowded and offer a parking area for large groups.
Overall, St. Thomas is a necessary evil. There are places located through out that we enjoyed and its definitely a place to get things done (grocery, hardware, marine, diesel) and have some nice meals, its just not 100% cruiser friendly. If you really want to island hop and experience beauty. The island of St. John is the place to be! The best part is its only a short hop over from St. Thomas.
Cheers from the Virgin Islands!