When you step off the plane at Cyril E. King airport (STT) in Charlotte Amalie, it hits you; the heat, the humidity–you’re in the Caribbean! Arrival is open air, you take the stairs from the plane to the tarmac, follow the sidewalk around to baggage claim and on the way you’re offered samples of Cruzan rum. It’s produced on the USVI in St. Croix. There are many flavors; I decided citrus and coconut are my favorites. A good place to sample multiple flavors is at Havensight Mall. There’s a hut outside the shops and the server has most of the flavors so, you can discover your favorite. While you wait for your luggage, you can pick up plenty of printed visitor information or have a drink at the bar. They’re right across from the baggage carousels.
To leave the airport there’s the usual choices: cab, rental car, and hotel shuttle. A crucial point here is that they drive on the left; the roads can be very steep with twists and turns so driving yourself can be tricky.
Whatever kind of lodging experience you’re looking for it’s here, you can stay at a big or small resort, an inexpensive hotel, private rentals or even camping. I’ve stayed at a big resort on the water and a private rental on a mountainside; the views are great either way.
Because of the rocky steep terrain and two lane roads, it will take longer to get around. The roads in Charlotte Amalie get backed up especially when cruise ships let their passengers leave their ships. St. Thomas USVI is one of the busiest cruise ship ports so we’re talking about a lot of people. When you’re walking in town, cabbies will often ask if you need a ride back to your ship.
Activities and Eats
In town there are lots of shops with fine jewelry, perfume and liquor all sold duty-free. A couple of my favorite little restaurants are in this area, Gladys’s Café for lunch in the Royal Dane Mall and The Pie Whole in nearby Frenchtown. Gladys’s serves local fare and her great hot sauces which you can buy to take home. Whole Pie has Italian fare with gourmet brick oven pizzas and an extensive selection of Belgian beers.
Water activities are plentiful. If you like beaches, Magen’s Bay is a great one. There is a fee so you may want to spend the day. You can bring your own picnic or eat at the restaurant/bar close to the entrance. On the way there or back, stop at the St. Thomas Dairy’s Udder Delite Dairy Bar. They serve spiked milkshakes in flavorful combinations with liquors as well as non-alcoholic ones and ice cream. Besides beaching it, there’s scuba diving, charter boats for fishing and sailing and snorkeling. If you’re staying in St. Thomas long enough, take the ferry over to St. John. It leaves from Red Hook at the East end of St. Thomas. There are passenger and car ferries; take a car if you want to explore the Virgin Islands National Park, which encompasses the majority of the island and shoreline. Check out Cinnamon Bay off Rt. 20. It has facilities, a campground and a beautiful beach. From there you can continue on Rt. 20 east to Rt. 10 to Coral Bay for the best burger at Skinny Legs. Also, without a car, there are shops and restaurants within walking distance of the passenger ferry.
Flora and Fauna
Resident wildlife includes iguanas and geckos that tend to blend in with the lush green surroundings, also frogs that love to sing in the evening. The frog song can be quite loud depending on where you’re staying, usually at places up in the hills. There are lots of beautiful tropical plants, flowers and trees. Ones that you can only keep as house plants or summer annuals grow outside as landscaping here.
Like most tourists, I like to bring back souvenirs; the more unique the better. From St. Thomas it was the locally popular bug swatter. Just so you know, yes, the biting insects can be very bad if you visit during the rainiest times of the year. Normally it’s September through December, unfortunately this year it ran later than usual, into January when we last visited. Previously, we were there in May, it was sunny, warm and not at all buggy!
For more information on the web about the USVI go to http://www.vinow.com/.