If you’re wondering about the best things to do in St. Thomas, USVI, you’re not alone. St. Thomas, nestled between the Atlantic and Caribbean Sea, is one of the most popular cruise destinations in the entire Caribbean.
Deciding what things to do in St. Thomas with only one day in port can be a bit overwhelming. There are so many activities to pick and choose.
From relaxing on the white sugar-sand beach at Magens Bay, duty-free shopping (some of the best prices in the Caribbean) in Charlotte Amalie, to a white-knuckle zipline or a helicopter adventure, there’s a ton of options to choose for your day in St. Thomas.
What follows is a list of some of the 16 best things to do in St. Thomas in only one day. Make sure to pack your sunscreen, sun hat, maybe a daypack and get ready for a visit that includes relaxation, adventure, shopping and a bit of pirate lore.
Best Things to Do in St. Thomas
St. Thomas – A Little Pirate Background Info
Let’s take a quick trip into the past. Understanding the history of St. Thomas and the surrounding islands will give you better insight into what’s offered today.
Piracy and privateering were happening here in the 1500s, when Spain was running shiploads of gold and silver looted from the Aztecs and Mayans.
By the 1600s, Dutch, French and English pirates were still battling the Spanish. In 1672, St. Thomas became part of the Danish settlement where pirates and their plundering flourished.
The Danish allowed pirates to create bases on the islands and even encouraged trade among the pirates. Unfortunately, some Danish government officials were killed due to their involvement with pirates.
Among the most famous and feared pirates in the Virgin Islands included Anne Bonny, Blackbeard, Captain Kidd, and Bluebeard.
Throughout much of this time, the U.S. kept its eye on the Virgin Islands. In 1917, the United States purchased St.Thomas, St. John and St. Croix from Denmark.
Where Do Cruise Ships Dock in St. Thomas?
It’s important for planning your day to know in advance where your ship will dock in St. Thomas.
The main docking piers for St. Thomas are on the south side of the island; Havensight Cruise Pier and the adjacent shopping mecca, Havensight Mall or Crown Bay, located just west of Charlotte Amalie.
Cruise lines that dock at Havensight include Carnival, Celebrity, Norwegian and most Royal Caribbean ships except for their Oasis class ships.
Ships docking at Crown Bay are usually those with a deeper draft like Royal Caribbean’s Oasis class ships, Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 and several Holland America and Princess ships.
If Havensight Pier is too busy, your ship may end up docking in Crown Point Marina, despite being a smaller ship.
On busy port days, some cruise ship will have to drop anchor just offshore and guests will ride a tender (lifeboat) into port. This procedure usually goes fairly smooth and your ship may even distribute tender tickets to time your departure and avoid overcrowding at peak times.
Because Havensight is such a large pier, be prepared for crowds. This is especially important if you travel during peak cruise season or the winter holidays.
Transportation to Town
There are tons of taxis to hitch a ride between the main Havensight Mall area and Charlotte Amalie. It’s also walkable, though not in the heat of summer. It’s only a 15-minute ride between the two spots, and your taxi ride will cost about $15 each way. Taxis can be found outside of the dock gates.
Trolleys also run between the industrial port (Crown Point Marina) and Charlotte Amelie. Usually there’s a small fee. On occasion, luxury cruise lines will cover the cost.
Consider renting a car for the day if you want to go sightseeing on your own. There are several car rental agencies on the island and will pick up at the port. Budget has a car rental location at Havensight Cruise Pier.
What to Do in St. Thomas
1. Spend the Day at Beautiful Magens Bay
Magens Bay is probably at the top of nearly everyone’s list of the best things to do in St. Thomas. Or at least close to the top of the list.
Whether you want to dive into crystal-clear waters or take tropical Facebook photos, you’re in for a treat at Magens Bay. This beach is an escape like no other with the soft sand and gleaming turquoise water.
Magen’s Bay is located on the north side of the island. There’s a small fee to visit the beach. Children under 12 are free, but it’s reported to be $5 per adult. Your cruise ship is sure to offer half- or full-day shore excursions.
If your stomach starts to growl, head to Magens Bay Beach Bar and Café. Here you’ll find everything from grilled sandwiches to pizza plus pre-made salads and sandwiches.
You’ll quickly forget about your worries of paying to be on the beach once you set eyes on the area. Visitors have reported their visit to Magens Bay is worth every penny and more.
Many local private companies offer boat tours of the area. Check with your cruise line about their shore excursions to Magens Bay, too.
2. Stop by Blackbeard’s Castle
Unfortunately, due to Hurricane Irma, this attraction is currently closed off from the public. But even if you can’t go inside, see if you can still get a peek at the outside. Serving as one of the most popular St. Thomas tourist attractions, this castle takes you deep into a pirate-packed past.
You’ll find this landmark in the city of Charlotte Amalie at the highest point of Government Hill. It’s hard to miss due to its high vantage point and size. Almost all motorcoach tours of Charlotte Amalie stop for a photo op at Blackbeard’s Castle.
Blackbeard, formally known as Edward Teach, was rumored to have used the castle as a lookout point for his pirate plots.
3. Explore Coral World Ocean Park
St. Thomas sightseeing is a great way to get a feel for the island, but you can cool off by diving deep into the waters of Coral World Ocean Park, located on the east side of the island by Coki Beach.
Guests can purchase general admission tickets to explore the five acres of land. There are extra excursions available to purchase. These extra excursions include dolphin kayak tours, a shark encounter, and a sea trek.
If you aren’t interested in purchasing additional opportunities, you’ll still have plenty to do with the sea animal touch pools, stingray lagoon, and the underwater observatory tower.
Are you with your kids and/or grandkids? This park offers educational opportunities that teach visitors more about local sea creatures and underwater habitats.
4. Stroll Through Downtown Charlotte Amalie
Stroll through the island’s capital city on the south side of the island, and lose yourself wandering through the cobblestone alleyways and take note of the interesting architecture.
Luckily, the city’s historical landmarks aren’t too far of a walk from each other. Make sure to check out the St. Thomas synagogue with its sand floor, try to climb the steep 99 Steps, and the Three Queens statue.
If you become hungry, there’s no shortage of good food in the city. Check out the Stone House Cafe, Amalie Cafe, Rum Island Pub, and Virgilio’s.
Downtown Charlotte Amalie is the place to shop. Your cruise ship will of course offer their “guaranteed” shopping guide. And some of the offers are good. Whether you want to buy liquor or jewelry or simple souvenirs, you’ll find everything you need in the shops along these narrow alleyways.
5. Relax at Sapphire Beach
Located on the east side of the island, Sapphire beach is a beautiful escape from the busier hubs of the island.
Head over the beach for a clear view of St. John, and dive deep into the waters for a snorkeling adventure you’ll never forget. You’ll also notice quite a few windsurfers during your visit.
Want to go kayaking? Pop by the watersports booth to rent a kayak or snorkeling gear.
If you don’t feel like getting wet, sit on the rocky ledge and just dip your toes in the water.
6. See the Sea with Caribbean Buzz Helicopters
Do you want to see St. Thomas from above? Schedule a ride with Caribbean Buzz Helicopters, located on the west side of Charlotte Amalie.
This company specializes in helicopter tours of the islands and even provides private airport transfers. Talk about showing up in style.
How daring are you? Choose a doors-off option to feel the cool ocean air blow past as you explore the islands from the sky. Just imagine your family’s reaction to the pictures you’ll be able to take.
If your cruise is making a stop during a full moon, check out their Full Moon tour. Visitors have the chance to view the islands in the romantic moonlight.
7. Try the Tree Limin’ Extreme Zipline
If you’re an adrenaline junkie, one of the best things to do in St. Thomas for you could a ride on the famous St. Thomas zipline. Anyone between the ages of 5-95 years can experience the thrill of a zipline ride!
Tree Limin’ Extreme Zipline starts high up in St. Peter Mountain. You’ll catch amazing views of Magens Bay on your way down. Soak it all up as you soar through what looks like a National Geographic ad.
Do you need a break after your zipline experience? Relax at the da Lime in da Coconut bar that features flavors of Caribbean rum you’ve probably never tried.
8. Visit Phantasea Tropical Botanical Garden
If you’re someone who enjoys slower moments at each cruise stop, then one of the best things to do in St. Thomas is to make your way to a beautiful botanical garden just south of Magens Bay.
At the Phantasea Tropical Botanical Garden, you’ll discover dozens upon dozens of tropical plants and colorful blooming flowers.
The gardens are educational for those interested in plants and flowers such as orchids, succulents, and palms. Garden staff also enjoy teaching others about the importance of conservation.
Luckily, besides being one of the most beautiful attractions, it’s also one of the most affordable. Adults above the age of 12 must only pay $10 to visit the gardens.
9. Skyride Up toParadise Point
Hop on the Skyride up to Paradise Point. The Skyride is directly across from the Havensight cruise port in Charlotte Amalie.
Every 7 minutes, the Skyride shuttles passengers 700 feet to reach the top, Paradise Point. Use your moment in the sky to take awesome pictures or simply relax.
Once you reach the top, check out the observation deck overlooking the city and shore. The view is incredible. Feeling hungry or thirsty?
Paradise Point offers a delicious restaurant and a highly rated bar famous for their Bailey’s Bushwacker or bananas daiquiris.
10. Take a Food Tour
Why not incorporate a walking tour with a taste of the local culinary and cultural scene? There are several food tour operators in St. Thomas.
Your cruise ship will most likely offer an excursion. The advantage of booking that type of tour with your ship is that the tour will begin and end at the port.
Some food tours have a designated meeting point in Charlotte Amalie. This means you’ll have to find your own way to the meeting point and back to the ship.
If you decide to take a food tour on your own, be sure to leave plenty of time to get back to your ship after the food tour. The short 15 minute drive can take over 30 minutes where there are many ships docked at Havensight.
11. Grab a Bite to Eat at Glady’s Cafe
Enjoy one of the best things to do in St. Thomas – lunch! If you’re hungry, head over to Glady’s Cafe.
This delicious eatery is located in the middle of Charlotte Amalie’s historic district. You can reach it either by walking, taking a taxi, or riding a local Vitran bus.
This restaurant is an inexpensive, casual eatery that serving local cuisine. Try their conch in butter sauce or jerk pork. You can even grab a bottle of Glady’s famous hot sauce to go!
Their menu also includes a variety of delicious sandwiches.
12. Frenchtown Brewing Company
Do you enjoy cooling off from the heat with a cold brew? Make your way into the fishing village, Frenchtown, to give this business a try.
The brewery opened in 2015 and offers authentic island beer. Give yourself plenty of time during your visit to tour the brewery and sample some of their most popular brews.
Buy one of their steel growlers to go to have a few drinks on the beach.
13. Airbnb Experiences
Not many people know Airbnb isn’t just for finding a place to stay for the night. The platform now also offers the chance to hang out with locals.
Download the app before going on your cruise. Once your know your cruise itinerary, see what unique AirBnB experiences are available in the area on the day of your visit.
Many hosts of the experiences create walking tours, food tours, boat tours, etc. They offer their views of the city and typically know a thing or two about the rich history.
Not only will you walk away with memories, but you’ll walk away with a new friend on the island!
14. Pirate Treasure Museum
Head to Havensight Mall (maybe your ship will dock there) and explore more of the island’s pirate history by visiting the Pirate Treasure Museum.
You’ll quickly lose yourself in the two floors of exciting exhibits and interactive learning opportunities.
Exhibits offer the chance to learn more about deep-sea technology, ancient artifacts, and ruins discovered by marine exploration. Don’t forget to grab a souvenir in their gift shop on the way out. You can even buy old coins found on one of the many nearby shipwrecks plus other pirate memorabilia.
15. St. John’s Fragrance Company
If you love perfume and fragrances, this could be the best thing to do in St. Thomas for you. Located in Warehouse 1 of Havensight Mall, this classic company is a popular spot for tourists. Be prepared to discover your new favorite fragrance.
The secret ingredient is bay leaf oil, an oil that comes from the bay rum tree. This oil is blended with different mixtures of Caribbean spices to create intoxicating scents.
Stop inside to sample smell the different perfumes and colognes. They also offer an array of aftershave and shower products.
16. Drake’s Seat
For this one, you might want to rent a car or it might be included on an island tour.
To check out one of the best scenic overlooks, visit Drake’s Seat on Mullbay Road, south of Magens Bay. This lookout area is one of the must-see St. Thomas tourist attractions offering views you can’t find anywhere else.
As you sit on the bench, travel back in time in your mind. It’s said that Sir Francis Drake used to sit on the bench to use as a vantage point.
No one knows if he used the bench to watch over his own ships or if he plotted to invade the others as he sat. The mystery is part of the fun.
A Day in St. Thomas: Make the Most of Your Time
If you’re reading this, you already know that a cruise is a wonderful way to relax and unwind. To discover the ultimate Caribbean escape, find a cruise that includes St. Thomas.
Once that’s done, remember to use the above guide to choose the best things to do. There’s a lot to pack in, in only one day.
St. Thomas offers beautiful beaches, delicious food, and an exciting look into the life of pirates. Whether you like to lounge on the sand or something more exhilarating like a zipline ride above the treetops, there’s something for everyone.
Do you need help with booking your next adventure? Check out the rest of our site today for travel guides, trip planning tools, and insider tips you won’t find anywhere else. There are even tips for solo travelers!
What travel tips do you recommend for the best things to do in St. Thomas? Please add in the comments below!
I’m the editor and creator of CruiseMaven.com, a solo traveler cruising the world on waves and wheels, collecting recipes along the way. I hope my articles and photos entertain, advise and inspire you to travel the world without flying. Take a breath…stop for a local meal and a glass of wine along the way.