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St. Thomas Travel Guide

  • Photo: Sasha Buzko/shutterstock
  • Photo: Sasha Buzko/shutterstock
  • Photo: SeanPavonePhoto/shutterstock

Plan Your St. Thomas Vacation

If you fly to the 32-square-mile (83-square-km) island of St. Thomas, you land at its western end; if you arrive by cruise ship, you come into one of the world's most beautiful harbors. Either way, one of your first sights is the town of Charlotte Amalie. From the harbor you see an idyllic-looking village that spreads into the lower hills. If you were expecting a quiet hamlet with its inhabitants

hanging out under palm trees, you've missed that era by about 300 years. Although other islands in the USVI developed plantation economies, St. Thomas cultivated its harbor, and it became a thriving seaport soon after it was settled by the Danish in the 1600s.

The success of the naturally perfect harbor was enhanced by the fact that the Danes—who ruled St. Thomas with only a couple of short interruptions from 1666 to 1917—avoided involvement in some 100 years' worth of European wars. Denmark was the only European country with colonies in the Caribbean to stay neutral during the War of the Spanish Succession in the early 1700s. Thus, products of the Dutch, English, and French islands—sugar, cotton, and indigo—were traded through Charlotte Amalie, along with the regular shipments of slaves. When the Spanish wars ended, trade fell off, but by the end of the 1700s Europe was at war again, Denmark again remained neutral, and St. Thomas continued to prosper. Even into the 1800s, while the economies of St. Croix and St. John foundered with the market for sugarcane, St. Thomas's economy remained vigorous. This prosperity led to the development of shipyards, a well-organized banking system, and a large merchant class. In 1845 Charlotte Amalie had 101 large importing houses owned by the English, French, Germans, Haitians, Spaniards, Americans, Sephardim, and Danes.

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Top Reasons To Go

  1. Shopping 'til you drop Find great deals on duty-free jewelry, timepieces, and electronics along Charlotte Amalie's Main Street—but don't forget to pick up some locally made crafts as well.
  2. Telling fish stories Go in search of magnificent blue marlins and other trophy-worthy fish in the waters around St. Thomas from June through October.
  3. Getting your sea legs Charter a yacht (or just take a regularly scheduled day sail) to cruise between the islands any time of year or join the International Rolex Regatta in March. It's also a short hop over to the British Virgin Islands from St. Thomas.
  4. Hitting the links Play through the "Devil's Triangle," an intimidating cliff-side trio of holes at Mahogany Run Golf Course.
  5. Taking a dip Swim at Magens Bay, considered by many to be one of the most beautiful beaches in the world.



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