Lifestyle

Relaxing Week in St. Thomas USVI

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My husband and I took a trip to St. Thomas last week, and it was such a life refresher!  Our lives are constantly busy, and even when we take breaks to travel, it’s usually sight-seeing and jam-packed.  This is the first vacation we’ve taken in awhile that just about relaxing and spending time at the beach.  Every so often, it’s great to take vacations like this and unwind.  We did get some activities in, but we spaced out everything between chill time at the airbnb and beaches.  If you are looking to take a similar vacation in St. Thomas, keep reading for tips and our favorite spots!


Where To Stay

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There are plenty of nice resorts on the island, and the prices aren’t unreasonable for being beachside.  Some are still damaged and closed down from the hurricane, but most are up and running.  However, Ryan and I like to save our pennies when it comes to accommodations, so we prefer Airbnb’s.  We had some nice ones to choose from, but we ended up with the “Omajelan Castle” up in the hills.  So glad we chose this one!  The hosts were super friendly, greeted us at our arrival, drove us to their friend with the rentals when our car got canceled, and had great beach amenities provided in the room.  Highly recommend you stay there if you are looking for an Airbnb on the island.  Perfect for a couple, it’s set up like a studio with a small kitchen, sofa, small dining set, full sized bed and private bathroom.  There are two stories, each with a unit to rent.  Clean, tropically decorated, great amenities and perfect air conditioning.

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Getting Around

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St Thomas is a very steep, hilly island, so a car is essential if you aren’t staying at the bottom of the hills.  The downtown area is located at the bottom of the hills by the ocean.  There is a bus line, but it mainly runs through there and not throughout the hills.  There are also “cabs,” which are essentially large trucks retrofitted with bench seats and an enclosure for approx 20 people.  They loiter around the downtown area and beaches to pick up passengers.  They are easy to jump on and the fares are decent, but they are per person rates.  Also, they are only reliable for catching in person, the phone lines for these companies aren’t really answered to schedule a pick up (at least in my experience).  Having a rental car is really the way to go.

The only snag we ran into with renting was our car was given away when we didn’t make it the first night.  Wouldn’t have too big a deal if the reservation we made after that one wasn’t unexpectedly canceled too.  Our Airbnb host told us that rentals had been scarce lately because of all the FEMA workers there renting cars for their stay.  Luckily our host knew a lady who did car rentals and booked us up super fast!

Another factor to consider is driving on the left side of the road.  It’s something to get used to, but isn’t terribly hard. What was more difficult was the bold drivers, crazy roads, and literally no street signs in the neighborhoods.  You definitely need GPS everywhere you go. My husband Ryan  is a great (and confident) driver, so he drove the whole trip, which I was thankful for.


Beaches

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Emerald beach

This was our first beach we visited, per a recommendation from a friend.  It’s near the airport, which made it one of our closer choices.  The beach is part of a resort, but open to the public.  It’s small, but pretty, and has the hotel bar right there with nice restrooms.  I’m not sure if you can just park yourself on the sand with a towel, since I did t see anyone doing so, nor was there much room for it.  It was all chair rentals with tree shade or umbrellas.  They were affordable and nice to have for lounging.

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Water Island

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With a short ferry ride over you can enjoy this beach ($10 each round trip).  Depending on the time of day it’s more crowded, since party boats dock there, but it has fun vibes.  There is a beach bar if you want drinks. ACS_1310 Saint John Bay

This is another beach connected to a resort, and a mix of families, older couples and party groups.  Crowded, but very chill. It has chair rentals, but also lots of people lounging on towels.

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Magen’s Bay

This was my favorite beach!  It was crowded at the front entrance, but thinned out as you walked down it’s long stretch.  It was super relaxing, great for swimming laps and lounging in the shallow water.

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A Little Sightseeing

ACS_1255Though there is a couple historic places with tours, we opted out of doing those this time and took it real easy.  The only attractions we participated in were nature oriented.  We took a FANTASTIC tour with Virgin Island Eco Tours.  We did a 3 hour kayaking, hiking and snorkeling excursion where we learned so many cool facts about the island and saw some interesting sea creatures.  Highly recommend doing one of their tours. ACS_1265

We considered doing a sailing/snorkeling excursion but either couldn’t find one to book for just a couple or was too expensive for our budget.  I’ve heard they are pretty fun though!

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Something super touristy we did do was go the Mountain Top.  It has beautiful views of the bays below, with their crystal blue waters.  They are known for their famous banana daiquiri, which I of course had to try!  Very fresh, just the right amount of rum, but a tad overpriced.  This is also a place to get your souvenir or beach clothes, tons of options!ACS_1323 2

ACS_1342Our last day we took the ferry over to St John and has quite the adventure.  Most people go there to relax on the beaches or explore the town, but we decided to do the Reef Bay Trail.  We hopped on one of the cabs and winded up though the hills to this nondescript nature path on the side of the road.  It was a very steep but beautiful hike.  Along the way there were historic, abandoned structures from when people lived there working at the rum distillery.  The rum distillery itself was so neat to explore, with its 1800s machinery and apocalyptic vibes of crumbling stone and nature growing within.  At the end of the shorter trail was a secluded beach.  Gorgeous but hard to lounge or swim in.  The water was full of seaweed and large shells, and the sand crawling with ants and sand gnats (I got quite a few bites).  So we just took a short break there and at our lunch on the rocks.

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The problems didn’t arise until after we finished the trail.  Exhausted from hiking uphill, we are trying and trying to call a cab company to pick us up.  Either the lines has the busy signal or no one picked up.  Essentially stranded, we started walking the 2.5 hour walk back down the hill to town.  About 30 minutes in, a cab drove by and stopped for us, whew!  I don’t know what I would have done, my feet hurt so much.  If you want to do this trail, I highly recommend having a better plan of action for getting back!


Food On A Budget

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ACS_1288 2Dining in St Thomas is pricey since it’s an island and food has to be shipped there.  Half of our meals we made at the Airbnb or brought with us to the beach.  We just grabbed groceries at a local market.  The groceries are also pricier than back home, but near as much as eating out for each meal.  We also bought rum and juice to make our own drinks.

ACS_1287My favorite place we dined at was Hook, Line and Sinker.  I had a delicious tuna steak with mango rum sauce and we shared a yummy cheesecake.  A St Thomas staple is the Green House, with a great, varied menu and yummy tropical drinks.  Supposedly they have a good happy hour, but we missed it.

If you are craving great Asian food on the island I recommend Buddha Sushi (it’s a local favorite).  If you are looking for bbq, the Smoking Rooster was delicious and has good specials.

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Cash Is King

We discovered our first day there that cash was king, when our car rental lady couldn’t accept card.  From then on we constantly ran into scenarios where we needed cash.  The ferries, cabs, some shops, etc…all cash.  So be prepared!


Shopping

ACS_1276.JPGWe did venture downtown to the main shopping area.  Charming with its historic buildings.  Many of the stores were jewelry, with pushy salesman, so we ventured into quieter clothing and art stores.  Plenty of pretty prints and ornaments as mementos, which we got as our purchases.

There were a few affordable shops, but most of the shopping there is high end. ACS_1273

Forgive my very practical guide to St. Thomas, it doesn’t do the island’s beauty justice.  Currently writing this at 1:30am and a bit sleep deprived.  Visiting St. Thomas was a wonderful experience, and I recommend it to everyone!  Let me know in the comments if you’ve ever been!

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