Explore St. Thomas: Couples, Families and Solo Cruisers

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As one of the Caribbean’s major cruise hubs and the most popular cruise port in the U.S. Virgin Islands, St. Thomas has a well-oiled and highly commercial tourism infrastructure. Undiscovered corners can be tricky to find on the island, but the tried-and-true vacation experiences satisfy every type of tourist.

Best for Solo Cruisers

Tree Limin’ Extreme Zip Line

Credit Tree Limin Extreme

Sure, people arrive at this zip-line park in families and social groups. They might climb up to that first aerial platform together. But when it comes time to whooshing through the canopy at dizzying speeds, every person is on his or her own. Six separate zip lines comprise the full system. If you’ve done zip lines before, note the extra features at this park: a “Yo-Yo Zip” (you can guess how that works), a Swiss Army Pinzgauer truck to transport guests to the mountaintop, and a rum bar at the base for celebratory drinks once you’ve successfully zipped down.

Jet Boat Ride on the Screamin’ Eagle

Credit Captain Nautica

Spoiler alert: You’re going to get soaked on this Captain Nautica excursion. The captains drive their turbo-charged boats fast, make sharp turns and stop abruptly — all with the goal of making this ride a “roller coaster on the harbor,” while still remaining safe. For adrenaline junkies, this is the best fun on St. Thomas; though you might wish the ride could last a little longer.

Best for Couples

St. John Island Tour

Credit USVI Department of Tourism

Warm weather, blissful blue sea and tropical scenery are the most special aspects of the USVI, and the best way to enjoy it all, ironically, is to get off St. Thomas. If you can devote a whole day to an excursion, the self-guided day trip to St. John (a nearby island that’s part of the USVI) is a great way to see the unspoiled part of the islands. Just keep in mind that the sun will probably be strong, the boat trip choppy, and food service informal. The 45-minute ferry ride affords some photo ops, and you can opt for an additional coastline tour. Alternatively, board a bus for the Virgin Islands National Park tour, or take a cab to Trunk Bay. Note: Bring cash in small bills. You’ll need it for transportation, park fees and snacks.

Skyride to Paradise Point

Credit USVI Department of Tourism

The big question in the age of Instagram: If you didn’t snap some epic vacation selfies from a panoramic overlook, did the vacation really happen? For those who would answer “no,” this aerial tram is where you get proof of your adventures. The tram terminal is an easy walk from the cruise terminal, across from Havensight Mall. Get photos of you and your significant other as the car makes its 700-foot ascent. At the top, capture gorgeous harbor views from waaay above before grabbing a table at Paradise Point and toasting each other with frosty cocktails.

Best for Families (With Young Children)

Coral World Ocean Park

Credit photo by Greg Heartsfield | CC BY

One of the most popular excursion destinations, this sea-life park typically sells passes to specific activities, so pick the ones that are right for your littles in advance. Small children who aren’t great at swimming can get a whiskery kiss at the sea lion encounter or pet a ray at Stingray Lagoon. If such big creatures intimidate, they can meet the smallest park inhabitants at the touch pool. Tweens, meanwhile, will be begging for a SNUBA underwater exploration or to do the popular sea lion swim.

Magic Ice

Get out of the heat and humidity for a little bit while your kids enjoy an attraction straight out of the Arctic Circle. This permanent gallery located in Charlotte Amalie features sculptures made of ice, snow and sand — plus an ice bar, which parents appreciate. Everything’s lit in pinks and blues, with people wandering through in winter parkas. It’s a whimsical sub-zero escape from the Caribbean sun.

Best for Families (With Teens)

B.O.S.S. Underwater Adventure

Vacation like a boss, and shut down any complaints that “snorkeling is for babies,” with the B.O.S.S. (Breathing Observation Submersible Scooter) underwater exploration excursion. You’ll each get your own device, which looks like a cross between a cartoon scooter and an old-time astronaut helmet. Once submerged, you can steer it in the general direction you want. Air is provided via an actual scuba tank that auto-feeds into the helmet.

Doubloon Pirate Ships

Sailing excursions are the most popular in St. Thomas, with many companies to choose from — and Cool Boats USVI is one of the originals. It offers a great balance between family-friendly and “yo-ho-ho, let’s have all the rum.” The fleet has sailing schooners, motor-powered FastCats and sleek catamarans. The most recognizable is certainly the pirate schooner Bones, with its distinctive black sails. The classic Doubloon excursion includes a snorkeling stop and a couple of hours at a beach usually St. Johns or Buck Island. 

Best for Retirees

Butterfly Garden

Tucked behind Señor Frogs, just a few steps from the cruise terminal, this quirky little patch of paradise seems like a different world from the crowded streets of Charlotte Amalie. Graceful butterflies and gorgeous tropical flowers galore make it a macro photographer’s delight. The butterflies, which are regularly fed tropical-fruit treats, are quite bold and will often flutter up to perch on humans. A narrated tour can be part of the experience, but many people end up self-guiding.

Island Sightseeing Tour

Whether aboard an open-air bus or by private driver, people generally have a good time sightseeing the best of St. Thomas. Tours average four hours and stop at a couple of scenic photo-op spots, point out landmarks like Bluebeard’s Castle, and make time for souvenir shopping before the drive up to Mountain Top lookout (with a rum stop on the way). Generally, a tour will also have an hour at the beach. Sunny Liston is one of the favorite sightseeing-tour providers.

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