St. Thomas, USVI
St. Thomas, located about 50 miles east of Puerto Rico, is the second-largest U.S. Virgin Island. When cruise ships slip into dock (up to 11 at a time!), the narrow streets look as though pillaging pirates have truly found where X marks the spot. (Don't worry: When frenzied spending starts to weigh heavy on your conscience, you can cleanse yourself in the quiet and regal natural beauty of nearby St. John, just a short ferry ride away.) Also ready for exploring are a variety of excellent restaurants, champagne-hued beaches, and colorful sightseeing beneath the sea.
Before You Go: Need-to-know info
Passport, or photo I.D. and original birth certificate
3 1/2 hours from NYC; 11 hours from Los Angeles; 8 hours from Chicago; 7 hours from Dallas
Taxi, bus, rental car (keep left!), ferry
When To Go: St. Thomas at its best
February to August. Year-round temperatures range from 69 (winter evenings) to 84 degrees Fahrenheit. Rainy season runs from September to January.
Best prices: Mid-April to mid-December; exact dates vary by hotel. Hurricane season swirls from June to November (September is trickiest).
What To Do
Stroll on sugary beaches:
Magens Bay, once named one of the world's most beautiful beaches by National Geographic
, is the island's most famous stretch of sand. (Be sure to stop in at nearby Udder Delight, where you can buy a Cruzan rum-splashed milk shake.) Coki Beach, Sapphire Beach, and Morning Star Beach are also alluring escapes.
The recently renovated, George and Tom Fazio-designed, 18-hole Mahogany Run Golf Course boasts a distracting view of the islands and a tricky 3-hole "Devil's Triangle" in which you must clear a slice of Caribbean Sea that lies between the green and your tee. Call (800) 253-7103 to make reservations.
Divers and non-divers alike will love the aquatic sights off St. Thomas. Those who prefer to stay dry can sightsee in the Undersea Observatory or at one of many aquariums and pools -- where you can also pet stingrays and sharks. Certified divers will revel in the island's many wrecks -- including the Cartanser Sr.
, a World War II cargo ship, and the Major General Rogers
, an intentionally sunk Coast Guard ship with a resident barracuda -- and reef-encrusted tunnels at Thatch, Grass, and Congo Cays.
-- Lori Seto