You will definitely feel the Caribbean vibe in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The warm ocean breeze, gently swaying palm trees, colorful homes, amazing food and friendly locals will make you never want to leave. Visiting this beautiful Caribbean paradise is more reasonable than you might think. We flew from Orlando to St Thomas for around $200 a piece, round trip, on Jet Blue. Spirit Airlines will have good deals too. I found our perfect condo through VRBO for around $1,200 for an entire week. That’s pretty reasonable for 5 people and a perfect Caribbean vacation.
St. Thomas USVI
Our flight left Orlando for Puerto Rico where we had a couple of hours to kill at San Juan Airport before the whopping 30 minute flight to St. Thomas. The airport is small but nice, and there are plenty of options for shopping and dining. As you can see we found Hardees and apparently some comfy benches to relax, and/or stare at our phones. We could hardly contain our excitement even though you can’t tell by the picture below. My nephew Brad joined us on our Caribbean adventure, this was a first time for all of us and we couldn’t wait to get there.
After landing in St Thomas and picking up our rental car, which was included with our condo, we headed off to find our home for the next week. Remember that in the Virgin Islands everyone drives on the left side of the road. This takes a little getting used to. We had just finished discussing this right before we almost had a head on collision and we hadn’t even left the airport parking lot.
We arrived safe and sound to this wonderful place with this wonderful view. The accommodations worked out perfectly even though one of us got volunteered to sleep on the air mattress….sorry Brad. Actually he didn’t mind at all except for maybe a couple mornings when Neal thought it would be fun to let the air out…while he was still on it sleeping.
Our condo was located in Red Hook, which is on the east side of St Thomas. In Red Hook you will find the marina, restaurants, bars, offices, banks and red tile roofed houses everywhere. It’s coastline overlooks Pillsbury Sound and St.John and the British Virgin Islands can be see from here. It’s so close to the British Virgin Islands, in fact, that it took several calls to dispute my cell phone bill. Apparently my signal was “pinging” (their words not mine) off of a tower over there and they argued with me about what country I was in. Although I would’ve loved to visit the BVI I’m 100% certain that I didn’t.
Our condo was on Sapphire Beach which we were told was the best place for snorkeling. The owner had provided some snorkeling gear but not enough for everyone so we made a trip to Kmart. And yes, Kmart is alive and well in St Thomas.
They were right, the snorkeling was amazing. It was my first time and I loved it although I still have the fear of getting eaten by a shark. I risked my life anyway and it turned out alright. Make sure you wear water shoes though because the Sea Urchins are unforgiving.
The food was great but the best meal we had, without a doubt, was at Hook Line and Sinker.
The colorful Caribbean style houses on the island are beautiful.
One thing you must do is “The Skyride to Paradise Point”. Ride 700 ft up Flag Hill, above the capital city of Charlotte Amalie, for the best views of the city and the cruise ship harbor. Try a “Lime in da Coconut” while you are up there, it tastes like key lime pie with a little bit of Rum.
At the top of the Skyride is a restaurant, bar and some unique Caribbean shops with sunken ship treasures. There are real finds from shipwreck dives, not cheap touristy junk. Not that you will have any trouble finding cheap touristy junk, there’s plenty of that too.
Don’t pass up a photo op to be a pirate. Do pirates wear sunglasses?
Below is Charlotte Amalie. Here you will find the one and only cruise ship harbor and everything that goes with it. The capital city is a bustling place full of tourist, high end shops, jewelry stores, restaurants, bars and open street markets. Be mindful in these areas and aware of your surroundings because they do have a high rate of petty crimes.
The views from the observation deck at the top of Fag Hill are simply breathtaking. The 14 minute ride up will cost you $21 round trip but the scenery alone is worth it.
We spent a good amount of time just relaxing on our beach behind the condo. They provided lounge chairs and even had beachside service. There was also a food truck area where you could walk up on your own and buy meals and drinks. Just laying on the beach, doing nothing was probably my favorite part. Watching Neal laying on the beach while Alex and Brad covered him with potato chips in an attempt to get the birds to land on him was entertaining as well. They did get pretty close but none of them fell for it.
And then there’s this. As we were driving to dinner one evening we spotted this sign below. Windows up everybody! I hadn’t even thought about snakes until now but after seeing this they were definitely on the forefront of my mind.
St Thomas is an amazing place to visit and rich in pirate history. Visitors come from all over the world to take in the beauty of this lovely island in the Caribbean Sea.
If you love to boat, snorkel, dive, shop (it’s duty free you know), eat or just lay on a glorious Caribbean beach and relax, then you will love St. Thomas USVI.
Taking the Ferry to St. John
We took the car ferry from Red Hook on St. Thomas to Cruz Bay on St. John for a day trip.
There are two “people ferry” routes, one is from Red Hook and the other is from downtown Charlotte Amalie. The trip from Red Hook is the shorter one and takes approximately 20 minutes. The cost is $6 each way and the ferries leave every hour from 6 am to midnight.
The trip from downtown Charlotte Amalie takes about 40 minutes and costs $12 each way. There are only three scheduled trips daily to St. John and back from downtown. My suggestion would be to use the Red Hook ferry which will allow you more flexibility, you’ll get there faster and it’s half the price.
If you want to take your car over to St. John to explore the island you will have to go to Red Hook, as this is the only “car ferry” port on the island. The cost will run you around $50 round trip. The trip over is a 30 minute ride, a little slower than the people ferry but it is hauling a few tons more and it’s a barge. The “people ferries” seemed to fly by us while we were just inching along.
We had no complaints though, it just gave us more time to enjoy the beautiful scenery along the way.
St. John USVI
St. John is 20 square miles of natural untouched beauty. It is the smallest of the 3 islands and two thirds of it is a protected national park. You won’t find an airport or a cruise ship dock here so the only way to get to this magnificent place is by small boat, ferry or car barge.
When you arrive on St. John you will be in Cruz Bay, also referred to as “Love City”. Cruz Bay is a lively town square with quaint little shops, restaurants and bars. It is within walking distance from the ferry docks and is surrounded by a blend of Spanish architecture and Caribbean flavor.
After browsing some shops we stopped for a light lunch and refreshments before heading to the beach.
There are so many beaches on St. John but we chose Cinnamon Bay, which at a mile long is the largest beach on the island. I’m not sure why we picked this one but it was most likely the first one we found.
Once you park you will have to walk down a trail to the beach, there are clean public bathrooms and water fountains along the way.
We had found our spot for the rest of the day.
After being gone on a bathroom trip long enough to have us wondering where Brad might be, he nonchalantly returned, only he was carrying a giant paper plate full of Caribbean food. There are no restaurants on the beach. What the heck?
Apparently he had ran into some friendly locals in the pavilion behind us. They were having a family reunion, and invited him to grab up a plate of food. Too funny! Needless to say we were a little jealous but we figured it may be a little much for all of us to show up looking for food. I almost guarantee they would’ve welcomed us with open arms.
Cinnamon Bay is a beautiful beach with fluffy white sand and warm turquoise colored water. It’s perfect for swimming, snorkeling, boating and just plain relaxing. If you’re lucky you may end up with a random plate of food.
We didn’t make it past the beach but if you are looking for other things to do on St. John here’s a few. Aside from the many beaches, snorkeling, water sports, eating and shopping, you can visit Annaberg Sugar Mill Ruins, explore the Virgin Islands National Park or experience a banana grove. There’s so much more to do, you may want to spend more than one day here.
Any thoughts, tips or questions?