There were good and bad things about St. Thomas.
My fiancee and I traveled here in March 2010. We were attracted to St. Thomas because of the beautiful beaches and the great rate we received on our villa. We do not like big crowds and major tourist attractions. Both of us do not like the idea of cruise ships. If you're like us, then I hope you find this review useful. If not, I hope there is at least something you will be able to take away from this.
One of the first things we noticed about St. Thomas is that it is crowded. You have to pay attention to the cruise ship schedules when planning your vacation. Our experience was that the days when there were more than two ships in port, the island was extremely crowded. All the major beaches, at least in March, were crowded every single day. There are a couple of beaches that are hidden gems like Secret Harbor and Hull Bay. These beaches are highly recommended for snorkeling. Nobody is ever there and the wildlife is amazing.
If you are staying on the island for more than a couple of days, I would highly recommend renting a car. The safari taxi drivers are crazy and not to mention expensive. We rented a car for our 10 day trip and it was extremely convenient. Make sure you rent from a company like Budget that lets you take the vehicle on the car barge over to St. John. You will want to do this.
Buying food and eating out at restaurants was extremely disappointing. The grocery stores are absolutely horrible. We visited several of them. The prices were a bit more expensive than the states but the selection was extremely poor and the quality was mediocre at best. As far as eating out, our experiences seem to be consistent with the majority of people who visit the Virgin Islands. If your diet consists of alcohol, than you will be a happy camper. If not, be prepared to be sorely disappointed or have a huge chunk taken out of your wallet. There are probably 5 restaurants on the island that have decent food and acceptable service. Be prepared to spend over $100 for two people at those restaurants. As for the rest of the restaurants, be prepared to spend $50-$60 for two people with average food and sub-par to downright rude service. If your are staying in a place with a kitchen, use it. Cooking with mediocre food is better and cheaper than the restaurants and you won't have to worry about bad service. If you have room in your bag, I would pack pre-prepackaged and canned food. If you have any favorite snacks or specialty foods, bring them along also. If you are coffee snobs like we are, finding decent coffee is a major issue. There are no Starbucks or Peets around and the coffee in the grocery store is not any good. Bring your favorite beans and possibly a coffee grinder. With the leftover money you saved from bringing your own food and eating at home, you can use it to go to St. John.
If you came to the Virgin Islands for the shopping, stay on St. Thomas. There are over 100 jewelry stores on St. Thomas. If you are like us and want to explore and dabble in activities, then St. Thomas will be poorly suited to your needs. We liked St. John much more than St. Thomas. While still crowded, It was less crowded than St. Thomas, the people seemed friendlier, and the beaches were much more spectacular. If you are staying on St. Thomas like we did, you can take a ferry or car barge from Red Hook. When coming back after a long day, be sure to arrive at the car barge loading dock at least a half hour early or you will be stuck on St. John for the night, oh darn......
As far as other activities in the Virgin Islands, I would highly recommend bringing your passport if you have one. If you don't have your passport, you will want to apply for one ASAP. The British Virgin Islands are spectacular. We took a day trip to "The Baths" on Virgin Gorda with stops to snorkel off of Norman Island and the 'park and swim' into White Bay to visit world-famous 'Soggy Dollar Bar' on Jost Van Dyke. If we had the time and money, we would have spent a day at each place. In the future, we will plan separate excursions for each destination.
We did not have an exact idea of what to bring, but now that we have been here, this is the list of recommended items for both sexes. For women, tevas and flip flops are the footwear of choice. Flip flops for around town and the beach. Tevas for the excursions that you will want to take part in, (ex: the 'Baths' on Virgin Gorda). Longer "bermuda" shorts for when you get out of the water and to wear around town. Leave the blow dryers, flat/curling irons and hair spray at home. I have long thick curly hair and my hair was a fuzzy nightmare. The only thing that helped was anti-frizz creme (Moroccan Oil and Curly Sexy Hair creme). The use of anti-chafe creme is highly recommended (in the ladies' feminine products isle). Bug spray is a must. Buy an underwater camera in the states because it is impossible to find one here. I am a makeup goddess and believe me, only minimal makeup is needed - mostly because it melts right off and you'd look ridiculous wearing it to the beach anyways. Bring several levels of SPF sunscreen and lots of it. We went through 5 bottles in 10 days. We went tanning at a salon for 2 months before we left and it was the best thing we did. We still used SPF 50 and 30 and applied it at regular intervals, especially after swimming and snorkeling. Lots of cotton tank tops, bermuda shorts (so you don't chafe if your wet swimsuit is still on) and cute sun dresses. Nothing more than a light sweater is needed because it is always very, very warm. A minimum of two swimsuits are needed.
For the men, all you need are tevas, 2 pairs of swim shorts, a couple of shirts, a hat, a pair of sunglasses and a beer in you hand at all times :)
In addition to beer, you will want to double-fist with water. Do not get dehydrated. It will lessen your ability to participate in activities and makes your hangover from the night before even worse.
It is very easy to get around if you have an iphone because GPS is a MUST here. AT&T is the only carrier that gets reception on the island, so if you have Verizon, Sprint, T-mobile, etc... you might as well shut your phone off when you land.
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