When Christopher Columbus encountered the island of St. Thomas on his second voyage, it had already been inhabited for close to 3,000 years. The arrival of Europeans decimated the local population, and in 1657 a Dutch colony was established on the island. Shortly thereafter, the island came under Danish control, and became a center of sugar production and of the slave trade. Economic decline throughout the 19th century led to the purchase of the island by the United States in 1915.
Today, St. Thomas is one of the Virgin Island’s most popular destinations, a stopover for cruise ships known for its shopping and its residents’ laid-back demeanor. With fabulous beaches, a relaxed atmosphere, and plenty to do and see, St. Thomas is a prime candidate for an extended getaway by private jet. The island has two major cities: Charlotte Amelie (known as “downtown”), where the majority of the island’s open-air shopping is located; and Red Hook (the “east end”), which contains more in the way of nightlife. But be sure to venture outside the cities—the island features fantastic snorkeling, hiking and other outdoor activities.
Must see: Coral World Ocean Park, located on the northeastern shore of the island, features exhibits with sting rays, sharks and other sea creatures, as well as an underwater observatory that allows visitors to watch life in a coral reef. The marine park was awarded the EPA Environmental Quality Award in 2000.
Lodging: Frenchman's Reef & Morning Star Marriott Beach Resort–This resort, the largest in the Virgin Islands, features spectacular views of Charlotte Amelie across the harbor. With amenities like spa facilities, a private beach, and fine dining restaurants, your stay here is sure to be as luxurious as the flight in on your private jet.
Cuisine: While most high-end restaurants serve American-style food with a tropical twist, the Virgin Islands have their own distinctive cuisine. Fungi is a traditional dish that consists of boiled cornmeal and okra, often served with boiled or salt fish.
Ground Transportation: St. Thomas is quite small and easy to get around in by cab. Most trips need to be arranged in advance, particularly later at night.
Packing Tips: You’d be remiss if you didn’t take advantage of the many opportunities to hike and explore the outdoors. Sturdy walking shoes and outdoor clothing are a must.
Recommended Books: The Caribbean Writer is an annual literary journal published by the University of the Virgin Islands. While it publishes authors from around the world, its focus is on fostering local voices and Caribbean literature.
Currency: The U.S. dollar is the local currency.
Calling Code U.S. Virgin Islands: 1 340
Best Travel Dates: Summer can be oppressively hot, not to mention at risk of hurricanes, so the peak travel season is in the winter, especially February. January, however, experiences a post-holiday travel slump, so the island may be less crowded if you choose to visit then.