Situated between the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean, St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands is the perfect gateway. Although known for its duty-free shopping, there's plenty more to see and do. Take home a heart full of memories instead of a suitcase packed with trinkets. You can book a tour guide or plan your own itinerary to spend your time as you like it. Here are a few suggestions.
Heavenly Days Sail
Bolongo Bay Beach Club offers a day sail to St. John Island's Honeymoon Beach for snorkeling. The daylong outing includes an all-you-can-eat lunch, plenty of rum punch, beverages for the kids, and all the needed gear. Lessons for first-time snorkelers are also provided.
Paradise Point Tramway
View the island from 700 feet in the air. You can see all the way to Puerto Rico and St. Croix on a good day. Before the ride back down, stop by Paradise Point Cafe and try the Bushwhacker, a cool tropical drink.
Named one of the 10 most beautiful beaches in the world, it's known for its heart shape and crystal-clear water.
The Green House
Get your groove on at this downtown Charlotte Amalie hot spot. On Friday nights a live reggae band plays as locals dance the night away.
St. Thomas Synagogue (circa 1796)
Formally named The Congregation of Blessing and Peace and Loving Deeds, this, according to locals, is the second-oldest Jewish house of worship in the Western Hemisphere. Curiously enough, its floors are covered with sand. Legend has it, during the Spanish Inquisition, congregants hid in the basement; the sand on the floor muffled their footsteps.
Stand 15 feet below sea level in the undersea observatory, where you can see marine life in its natural habitat. Outfitted in water shoes and a 70-pound helmet, you can trek the bottom of the ocean floor.
This artists colony--complete with a theater, pottery studio, gift shop, restaurant, and candle store--was the brainchild of textile designer Jim Tillett. Visit the silk-screen print shop known for its Caribbean maps. Call in advance, and Sonny, the in-house mapmaker, will show your youngsters how to screen print a T-shirt.
This is the only place where you can sip world-famous banana daiquiris while viewing the entire island.
Why come to an island if you can't stay on the beach? Your best bet is Bolongo Bay Beach Club, which offers Caribbean food and entertainment, such as King Herin and his flame-eating, glass-walking feats, on Wednesday nights. Rates start at $145 (summer) or $195 (fall) per night for a beachside room. Call 1-800-524-4746.
In downtown Charlotte Amalie, Cuzzin's Caribbean Restaurant serves delicious island cuisine such as conch fritters and stuffed lobster at affordable prices. After a day of sightseeing, eat lunch at Marisol Restaurant, whose menu blends Pacific Rim and Caribbean foods.
In the know
To get a jump on all the tourists, pick up a copy of St. Thomas This Week, and check out the cruise-ship schedule. Save your exploring for days with the fewest arrivals.
For more information: Contact the Department of Tourism at 1-800-372-8784 or www.usvitourism.vi.
This article is from the June 2002 issue of Southern Living. Because prices, dates, and other specifics are subject to change, please check all information to make sure it's still current before making your travel plans.