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Travel Guide to St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands

The shopping and nightlife capital of the USVI

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Travel Guide to St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands

Paradise Point Tram on St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands.

© U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Tourism
Though not the largest of the three U.S. Virgin Islands, St. Thomas is the most metropolitan, with a population of 51,000 on 31 sunny square miles. It's the abode of myriad upscale restaurants, hotels, and nightclubs, and for the American traveler, probably feels the most like home. Its capital, Charlotte Amalie, is the undisputed shopping hub of the West Indies.

But while Charlotte Amalie is a great place to burn through your $1,600 duty-free exemption at hundreds of clothiers and jewelers downtown and at the cruise port, the charms of the shopping district (and the accompanying persistent onslaught of cruise ship passengers) are best kept at arm's length. Many of the better hotels and inns -- scattered across the island rather than clustered together on a single beach -- are at least a couple of miles away from the city -- quiet enough that it feels like the Caribbean from the tourist brochures, but typically no more than 10 or 15 minutes from the action.

And there is action. Red Hook, on the east end of St. Thomas, has several hopping pubs and nightclubs, from Irish-themed bars to Caribbean fusion dance nights that cater to the tastes of both the comfortable and the cosmopolitan. Havensight is where most cruise-ship passengers disembark, so there are plenty of shops and bars here. Neighboring Yacht Haven is home to the popular Fat Turtle nightclub, while Frenchtown -- on the outskirts of Charlotte Amalie -- has several excellent restaurants.

This is not to say that Charlotte Amalie is just another American city, nor St. Thomas a mere extension of the mainland. In addition to the usual bevy of watersports, eco-tours, and excursions, the island boasts attractions that range from the fun (a sky ride to Paradise Point) to the kitschy (a tour of Blackbeard's castle) to the delightful (the botanical gardens at St. Peter Great House). If the hustle-and-bustle threatens to overwhelm, not to worry: St. Thomas is just a short boat ride from the bucolic island of St. John, whose domain is two-thirds national forest.

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