Month Visited: January
We are a family that enjoys being active and spending time outside, but we also enjoy comfort and luxury at times as well. We look for adventure and activities that are exciting, and we are willing to sacrifice comfort to go off the beaten path and experience out of the way places that are not part of the usual tourist experience. We try to balance educational activities with fun attractions that everyone enjoys and leisure stops where we can all relax. Our children at the time of this itinerary: 6 children-Girl age 15 years, Girl age 15 years, Boy age 15 years, Girl age 10 years, Boy age 7 years, Girl age 3 years.
Special information about this trip: After spending several days at the beautiful beaches of St. John my children, especially my teens, decided that it was time for some serious shopping. St. John does not have a very large shopping area compared to St. Thomas, so we decided to head to St. Thomas for the day. On the road from our rental home in Coral Bay heading to Cruz Bay we ran into a herd of goats in the road.
Description: Charlotte Amalie is the capital city of St John and also the largest city on the island. There are over 300 stores, shops, and boutiques within a fairly small area so the shopping opportunities are incredible. Many cruise ships stop at this city so that passengers can shop and enjoy the local culture, and the St. John beaches. Visitors will find numerous jewelry stores as well as shops carrying many other types of items, and this city is where many go in order to spend a few hours or even the entire day shopping and relaxing.
We took the car barge from Cruz Bay in St. John to Red Hook in Saint Thomas. We drove to the downtown area which is filled with many stores, including jewelry stores, souvenir shops, and many others. The kids knew that we were not going to buy anything expensive but they just loved to browse. We stopped first at an area called Vendors Plaza right by Fort Christian. Basically this is an outdoor flea market, and it had just enough color and local flavor for my kids to really enjoy themselves. A big part of our vacations usually involve the kids trying to find the more local markets rather than the big touristy shops. After browsing for a while, and buying some assorted trinkets and souvenirs, I was ready for a caffeine fix. My Starbucks app showed that there were no Starbucks anywhere near me on my cell, even though I was willing to swim in the ocean to get there. We came across a cute little coffee shop called Island Latte. The woman behind the counter was very pleasant, and answered all of my Starbucks neurotic type of questions. Our drinks were well prepared and the service was nice. From there we continued shopping for a little while at some of the souvenir shops and other stores. The kids had now finished shopping and they were ready to head to the beach. We decided that there wasn’t enough time to go back to St. John Beach so we decided to go to the beach on St. Thomas instead.
Description: Magen’s Bay offers one of the top St. John beaches, with white sand and normally calm waters. This bay does have deeper water, and it has a sandy bottom. Cruise ships do visit Magen’s Bay on a regular basis, and the beach can become somewhat crowded at certain times of day. The clear water allows visitors the opportunity to see tropical fish or even spot a turtle at times, and some people snorkel here but there are other spots in the Virgin Islands that are rated better for this activity.
Our Experiences: This beach is known as one of the most beautiful beaches on St. Thomas. Truthfully, this was not our favorite beach at all. The view from the beach to the water is indeed quite nice. We went later in the day which means we missed a big chunk of the cruise crowd, but it was still fairly crowded. Also we did not like the fact that the parking lot was pretty much right next to the sand. I could definitely understand the appeal of a beach that is convenient, with parking right next to the beach so that you don’t have to hike to the beach as we did sometimes in St. John.
I can also see why many people like it because there are more varied water sports available, including kayaking. In addition the water is extremely calm and terrific for young children. However our taste in beaches is for more remote beaches, with fewer people and very little commercial activity visible. We arrived at 3 o’clock but we were still charged the full price of about $22 to enter. They charge $4 a person for anyone 12 and over, unlike Trunk Bay which only charged for 16 and over. All in all for the small amount of time that we spent on this beach I do not think $22 was a fair charge. I can definitely see how people really enjoy this beach but it was not for our family, especially when compared to the many other beautiful beaches we had seen on this vacation so far.
We rented a car (actually 2 cars) for this trip on St. Thomas from Discount Car Rental. We found them to be pleasant to deal with, and their rates were competitive. We chose to rent on St. Thomas, because it was more economical to rent on St. Thomas than St. John (based on prices we were quoted at the time), and if we had to take cabs from the airport in St. Thomas to the ferry or car barge, that also would have cost more money. So all around it made sense for us to rent on St. Thomas. and we were pleased with our choice of Discount Car Rental. I would definitely recommend calling them for a quote. At the time we traveled, they advised us that they do service the cars that go to St. John (not all St. Thomas rental companies do that). Confirm this with anyone that you rent with.