With the cold weather on the horizon, now is the perfect time to cruise to one of the many Caribbean islands and enjoy their colorful culture, famously flavorful food, renowned beaches and crystal-clear waters. After the hurricanes, some of our island family were hit hard, but they have come a long way thanks to relief efforts and restoration partnerships with local governments. What’s more, one of the best ways to continue helping these countries is with the tourism dollars that your vacation brings into the local economies.
Several of our favorite islands have reopened for travelers, including the beautiful St. Thomas. Our Crew Ambassador Kayla Watson, who hails from Canada and documents her travels on board Harmony of the Seas at @girlwithagypsysoul, was able to give us the scoop on St. Thomas, its culture and stunning natural beauty. Here she shares all the reasons why she loves and recommends this U.S. Virgin Island as one of the top stops on your vacation:
A Beautiful Bay (And Beaches)
It’s not surprising one of the biggest draws of this Caribbean island is its gorgeous beaches. In St. Thomas, the recently reopened Magens Bay is a must-see, just a short drive from where the ship docks in the capital Charlotte Amalie.
Kayla is a huge fan of this local gem, where you can gaze out on white sands, tree-covered mountains in the distance and the quaint, white homes dotting the surrounding coastline.
Of course, Magens Bay is perfect for swimming in turquoise waters and lounging on the beach, but if you are looking for an incredible, panoramic view you can trek up the scenic Skyline Drive—which offers a prime viewpoint overlooking your ship in Charlotte Amalie’s harbor—to the highest point on the island known as Mountain Top. From this peak, you can look down on all of Magens Bay below you, as well as the British Virgin Islands in the distance, before you explore some of the shops perched atop this mountain.
Local Flavors & Specialties
One of the most appealing parts of this island, Kayla says, is the vibrant and friendly culture of its people. “As soon as we get off the ship, they have wonderful music and dancers to welcome us back!” she said of her most recent visit, “You could feel their happiness and hospitality straight away.”
As a frequent traveler, Kayla notes that some destinations give you a certain feeling as soon as you arrive, and St. Thomas instantly gives off friendly vibes. It doesn’t hurt, of course, that she’s found delicious local food right near the dock –super flavorful Caribbean chicken wings are a particular favorite.
Another local attraction she says you can’t miss is the shopping; Charlotte Amalie is known as the “duty-free shopping capital of the world” after all. Here you can bring home $1,200 in goods without paying duty, twice the limit of other Caribbean islands. Kayla recommends keeping your eyes peeled for great deals on jewelry, watches, liquors and more in the ample shops near the port or in the downtown area a few minutes away.
While the sights on land will leave you in awe, Kayla is also a huge fan of underwater excursions. She assures us the snorkeling and diving are fantastic—and she has plenty to compare it to since she frequents other islands so often as a crew member.
Whether you’re looking to snorkel and stay atop the surface of the water or dive beneath it as a beginner, or even a certified SCUBA expert, you can explore the intricate coral reefs filled with a colorful, vibrant marine ecosystem. Practiced divers can even visit a shipwreck, perfect for spotting stingrays, which Kayla has seen herself while diving there, along with sea turtles.
If a more controlled (or drier) environment is your thing, you can head to Coral World Ocean Park for a semi-submersible ride through coral gardens to see the underwater locals, and then visit more than 20 aquariums showcasing the most colorful sea creatures, sharks and seahorses.
No matter your preference, there are plenty of breathtaking sights and experiences to be had on St. Thomas.
You can follow all of Kayla’s travel adventures on her Instagram and see where she’s headed to next while on board Harmony of the Seas.
And if her recommendations have inspired you to experience the Caribbean culture and beauty of this island yourself, look for your next cruise to St. Thomas and other Caribbean islands we travel to here.