Greetings Internet Stranger! This itinerary for 24 hours in St Thomas is a little different from some of my previous 24 hour itineraries. Usually I follow the method traditionally followed by travelers. I book a hotel, I choose my own restaurants, and I select what activities I want to do on a particular day. Also I typically actually spend the night in the places I am visiting.
But this trip was a bit different. On this trip, I was finding the best things to do in St Thomas on a Royal Caribbean cruise. For a week, my home away from home was the Jewel of the Seas.
So for the morning and afternoon portions of the itinerary, we will, of course, be exploring the islands. For the evening, we will be left to our own devices on the cruise ship. But don’t worry! We’ll still have an amazing 24 hours in St Thomas. There will be beaches, shopping, and rum, which I assume is everything you want in a Caribbean vacation! If you want skiing, hot chocolate, and misery, you’ll have to find some other blog post.
24 Hours in St Thomas: Things to Do
What to Pack and Where to Stay?
You’ll need comfy shoes for all the walking we’re going to do today. If it’s summertime, I love my special pink Birkenstocks. These aren’t your grandpappy’s Birkenstocks anymore. They come in every shade, and I always get compliments on my electric magenta shoes.
The Caribbean can get very hot, so don’t forget the sunscreen. My favorite is the Neutrogena spray bottle because it’s so easy to apply. And as a solo traveler, I can actually use it myself on my own back. I just put it in my purse and re-apply throughout the day.
Finally, since we’re going to be out all day, you’ll want a battery for your cell phone. I always use the Anker charger. It’s light enough to fit in even a small purse. Plus the Anker lasts for several full charges of a phone, so I’ll never run out of juice!
And if you want to find great deals on hotels in St Thomas, click here.
24 Hours in St Thomas: Things to Do
Morning: Explore St Thomas
Every American should spend at least 24 hours in St Thomas. St. Thomas. Of course, everybody should visit St. Thomas because it’s a beautiful island with a fascinating history. But in particular, every American should visit St. Thomas because it’s part of the United States. Like Puerto Rico, it’s a US territory. You don’t even need a passport to get to it if you are American! There are actually many islands in the US Virgin Islands, but St. Thomas is the largest. It’s also home to the capital city of the US Virgin Islands, Charlotte Amalie. (We’ll meet Charlotte a little later.)
If you are spending 24 hours in St Thomas as part of a cruise, like I did, I recommend choosing a shore excursion that will take you around the natural wonders of St Thomas in the morning and then give you time to explore Charlotte Amalie in the afternoon. I had such an amazing time that I’d definitely like to come back on a later trip and stay in the US Virgin Islands for a few days. But my shore excursion was enough to teach me more than…
approximately top 5: st thomas edition
1) see the Hurricane Irma Recovery
This wasn’t a scripted part of the itinerary, but our driver/guide wanted to show us some places that had been damaged when St Thomas was devastated by Hurricane Irma in the autumn of 2017. As you can see from my photo, some houses on the mountainside were demolished by the storm. Our guide said some people haven’t been able to afford to rebuild, so they’ve simply relocated.
My mother’s family is from New Orleans, and I remember this process of relocation and rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina. The people from the US Virgin Islands are resourceful and resilient, and I’m sure if they get the support they need, they’ll be able to make their home even better than it was before.
2) see the cyril e king airport
Our guide also pointed out to us where you can spot planes landing at the Cyril E King Airport near Charlotte Amalie. He wanted to draw our attention to the fact that St Thomas is open and ready to receive visitors of course! Tourism is the number one industry in St Thomas.
This is the case for most of the islands in the Caribbean, though there are some exceptions like Puerto Rico and Trinidad and Tobago. On some islands, tourism makes up more than 75 percent of the economy. This is one thing I love about travel. You can have an amazing vacation or exploration and also help support the economy of a wonderful community like St Thomas.
3) Visit the world famous mountain top
The World Famous Mountain Top is a spectacular place from which to get panoramic views of the entire island of St Thomas. There’s no better place to appreciate its undulating blue waters and tree-topped mountains that curve into the ocean like a giant baby stroking its fingers through the sand. Also, unlike most viewing points, admission is free. There’s a duty-free shop and a bar inside, so they try to lure you in with the promise of a gorgeous view!
24 hour tip
Just keep in mind that you’re high up and the weather can change every five seconds in the Caribbean. It can be quite windy, so bring a jacket and umbrella with you just in case.
Also, the World Famous Mountain Top is home to the banana daiquiri. This was apparently invented here by a British sea captain in the 1950s. I didn’t even know that British sea captains were doing things like inventing banana daiquiris in the 1950s. I watch The Crown a lot, so I just assumed they’d be going on pointless voyages with Prince Philip while he attempts to assert his masculinity.
In any case, I did not order a banana daiquiri here and I truly regret it. I told myself I “shouldn’t have a rum cocktail at 10 in the morning”, but this is the Caribbean! We can drink rum morning, noon, and night if we wish!
4) Magens Bay Beach
Magens Bay Beach is arguably the most popular beach in St Thomas. It was named after a former governor of St Thomas, Jacob Jorgenson Magens. (Remember that St Thomas used to be a Danish colony.) I’m sure you don’t need a long-winded explanation of why this beach is so popular, do you, Internet Stranger? Apparently Sir Francis Drake used to keep his boat docked here while he waited for ships to pillage.
I think the water here is the same color as a great jewel that Sir Francis Drake pilfered from a group of Spanish smugglers. Perhaps Drake hid the jewel underwater, expecting to come back for it, but he was murdered before he could return. Eventually the jewel turned the entire beach this perfectly, sparkling blue. Making up historical facts is fun!
Just sit back and relax for the next couple of hours as you let the jewel’s hypnotic power lure you into a peaceful slumber. Or you can just read a mystery novel. That’s what I do when I go to a beach solo.
5) Magens Bay Beach Bar, Cafe, and Boutique
If you follow the timetable of this itinerary, you’re going to get hungry while you’re on the beach. The only place to get lunch in the area is at the Magens Bay Beach Bar and Cafe. They serve any kind of fast food, but my order here is the chicken sandwich. I like the vinegary marinade they use on the chicken. Unlike pizza or chicken, it’s a light and refreshing choice for a beach day lunch. Just keep in mind that the service can be a little slow. Go order your lunch as soon as you get to the beach so you don’t run the risk of missing your tour group, if you came with a group.
24 Hours in St Thomas: Things to Do
Afternoon: Explore Charlotte Amalie
As I mentioned earlier, Charlotte Amalie is the capital of the US Virgin Islands. Because the US Virgin Islands is a US territory, they do not have a separate President. They operate more like a state does, so they have a governor. Their recently elected governor is a native St. Thomasian named Albert Bryan.
You should definitely visit Charlotte Amalie during your 24 hours in St Thomas. Unfortunately, many of Charlotte Amalie’s historical attractions have not reopened since Hurricane Irma. When they do reopen, I’ll update this post to add them. However, the shops and restaurants are definitely open for business and are more than happy to take your money. Every time I’d purchase something in one of Charlotte Amalie’s plethora of establishments, I’d chortle, “Supporting the local economy!”
(Many of Charlotte Amalie’s stores are chains, but the chains do employ local residents. And there are an increasing number of stores selling goods made by locals, which is always encouraging.)
Allow me to share with you…
The approximately top 5: Charlotte Amalie Edition
1) Diamonds International
So the number one thing to do during 24 hours in St. Thomas is shop until you drop…or the store cuts up your credit card in front of everyone and makes you cry. This is because shopping in St. Thomas is both duty free and tax free. I personally hate shopping for gorgeous jewelry and beautiful clothes, but I am willing to make sacrifices just for you, Internet Stranger! And one thing I tried to do is figure out how to get the best deals jewelry shopping in St. Thomas.
I don’t know how it works on all cruise lines, but I imagine most have a similar set-up to Royal Caribbean. On the first day of the cruise, the shopping director will have a presentation explaining to you how you can get deals and discounts on jewelry and other items. He or she very likely will not direct you to off the beaten track locations to shop, but don’t worry. You have me for that!
Royal Caribbean has a relationship with Diamonds International, so you can get discounts (and free drinks) there if you have a card from the shopping director. I wanted to buy these Korite Ammolite earrings pictured above. They’re a gemstone made from a fossil. What’s so spectacular about them is that each gem is multi-colored: naturally green, red, and blue. (The color came out rubbish in my photo and I can’t figure out how to fix it. Just look on the website to see what they actually look like in person.)
The clerk at Diamonds International who helped me was Josie from Dominica. We talked about how the island recovery had been going both on St. Thomas and on her home island, which was devastated by Hurricane Maria. Like everyone else I spoke to on St. Thomas, she emphasized that tourists help the economy recover. So go visit St. Thomas and visit Josie and buy something pretty! It’s literally the easiest way possible to do some good.
2) Little Switzerland
I’ve spent 24 hours in St. Thomas more than once, and naturally I buy a different piece of jewelry each time. It’s all so I can give you proper advice! For myself I hate jewelry and would prefer to wear a simple flower behind each ear and a potato sack for clothes. But my cruel and demanding audience forces me to adorn myself. Little Switzerland is also a reputable jewelry chain operating at St. Thomas. You won’t be able to get the same deals through Royal Caribbean as you do with Diamonds International, but you can probably get a solid discount.
On this trip to Little Switzerland, I got a pair of diamond earrings in a miracle setting. My helpful salesperson Angela told me that the crimping on the miracle setting makes the diamonds look bigger and more sparkly. She was absolutely right. Each time I wear the earrings, I get compliments on how big and shiny they are, even though the actual diamonds are not that big. I looked the earrings up online afterwards and I paid 50 percent what I would have paid for them online, not including the money I saved by not paying sales tax.
Also, Little Switzerland was giving out free tastings of Cruzan rum, which is the local rum in the US Virgin Islands. (It’s owned by the Japanese spirit company Suntory, but it’s made on St. Croix. You can visit the distillery if you wish. The distillery also runs an island recovery fund that has good ratings from charity watchdog groups.) I guess Little Switzerland was thinking that drunk people are more likely to buy things, and I think this is a sound business strategy.
3) Waterfront Trading Company
OK, I promised you some more off the beaten track shopping locations during our 24 hours in St Thomas, and here’s my favorite. The Waterfront Trading Company only sells art, jewelry, and crafts from local artists. I purchased an old-fashioned map that I assume Francis Drake used to stalk his victims. Now it hangs on the wall in my apartment, but sadly I am not a pirate and so it’s useless to me for practical purposes.
I also purchased a lovely sea glass necklace made by an artist from St. Thomas. The jewelry here is much more affordable than the goods at places like Little Switzerland and Diamonds International, and just as memorable.
4) Mr Tablecloth
Mr Tablecloth is also a unique store to Charlotte Amalie. It’s not a chain; it’s run by one lady name Jeannie. They’re well known for their linens, but my item of choice here is a Jeannie Jacket. The Jeannie Jackets are elaborately decorated, sometimes sheer pieces of outerwear. They’re perfect for a cruise or resort because you can just drape one over yourself in the evening and look like you made a bit of an effort without actually doing anything. I am all about lazy glamour.
When you’ve finally had enough shopping and would prefer a little sitting, you can stop in for a snack at Bumpas. This local-run store has sandwiches and more substantial meals. But if all you want is a snack, just get some of their creamy ice cream. Rum raisin is always my flavor of choice in the Caribbean. In the USVI, they don’t skimp on the rum! Then you can take your ice cream out to the cafe’s balcony and enjoy this disgusting view! If you’re American, remind yourself you can move to St Thomas and experience this loveliness whenever you want.
6) explore the history of st thomas
Seeing the old Danish buildings is one of my favorite things to do with 24 hours in St Thomas. Unfortunately he historic Danish part of Charlotte Amalie is the least recovered since Hurricane Irma. Remember that St Thomas was a Danish colony until the United States purchased it. It might be quite some time before the historic tours of this section are operating again. But nothing is stopping you from learning a little of St Thomas’s history on your own!
There are statues to noted St. Thomasians all over Charlotte Amalie. One important figure in the history of the US Virgin Islands is Jose Antonio Jarvis. He was one of the first people to write a history of the US Virgin Islands. He also founded a newspaper on the island and served as the principal at one of the public schools for many years. I think it’s important to remember figures like Jarvis who worked to educate people and not only people like Sir Francis Drake who stole jewels from Spanish ghost pirates and buried them under the beaches of St Thomas.
6) Havensight Cruise Port
We still have a few minutes left in our 24 hours in St Thomas. Before you get back on your ship, you’ll likely stop in at the Havensight Cruise Port. This is the busiest cruise port in the world. It’s full of shops, but many of them were not open yet after Hurricane Irma.
What was open was a bar serving “Hurricane Irma” cocktails. I wasn’t sure if this was in good taste or not. But I figure the people of St. Thomas are better equipped than I am to make that kind of judgment! So I decided to order one so I could review it for this blog.
It looked to me like the ingredients of a Hurricane Irma are pretty much the same as the ingredients of a Hurricane cocktail from New Orleans. The main difference is that they used Cruzan rum, since this is the Virgin Islands. But just like with a regular Hurricane, you get both light and dark rum and lots of fruit juice. It’s a combination that will definitely knock you on your tuchus if you’re not careful. Fortunately, my ship was a very short distance away, so I could scoot to it on my tuchus if I needed to.
24 Hours in St Thomas: Things to Do
Evening: Enjoy Your Ship!
After your 24 hours in St Thomas, kick back and relax on your ship! I have absolutely no idea what cruise ship you’ll be staying on, so it’s hard for me to give perfect advice. But I will absolutely try my best to give you good counsel! On Royal Caribbean, the ships often have a special Cocktail of the Day. I definitely suggest giving the Cocktail of the Day a shot. It sort of makes every day a fun drinking adventure!
You can also enjoy dinner at the main dining room. The food is also included with your ticket. I suggest ordering whatever the waiter or the menu recommends. It’s not like you pay more for certain dishes, so there’s no motivation to steer you wrong. My favorite dish on the night we visited St. Thomas was the carrot cake. It was moist and not too sweet.
My favorite thing about sleeping on a cruise ship is the little stuffed animal your room attendant makes out of your towel. I take a picture every night so the creations will be preserved for all eternity. Now the world can know of the wonders of this towel puppy!
That’s 24 Hours in St Thomas: Things to Do
What would you do with 24 hours in St Thomas? Are you ready to start booking your hotel in St Thomas? Does drinking Cruzan rum make you more inclined to buy jewelry? And what should I name my towel puppy? Please leave your thoughts below!
Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Keep in mind that while each article is about how to spend 24 hours in a place, that doesn’t mean you should ONLY spend 24 hours in St Thomas. If you want to see some of the other itineraries from my cruise, check out St Kitts, Antigua, Barbados, and St Lucia.