St. Thomas travel tips and postcards from Ashley
While visiting Michigan over the Fourth of July weekend, I caught up with Ashley, my friend since childhood. She recently traveled to St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands for a week-long vacation with her husband, Bryan; her stepson, Jake, and their large Armenian family.
These are her St. Thomas travel tips …
Activities and sightseeing
What was your favorite activity or place visited?
My favorite activity was snorkeling at Coki Beach. They sold dog biscuits on the beach — four (biscuits) for $1. You take them into the water, soak them and break them apart. Then you are swarmed by fish. Just being surrounded by fish was the coolest thing. They even took the food right out of your hand.
How was the charter fishing?
The charters offer shark fishing at night. It rained the night we planned to do that. So we switched to a day trip. We went deep sea fishing with Capt. Alvin Fishing Charters.
It was my first experience. I had a lot of fun. It was actually harder to reel in the fish than I thought it was. There were no harnesses or chairs. You had to do it all yourself. We used the billy club to knock out the fish, so it didn’t bite you. I got to whack every fish that came into the boat.
I caught a gar fish. It’s not an edible fish — there are too many little bones. It’s more of a trophy fish. We did catch some yellowtails and a king mackerel, which we ate. We also caught a barracuda – that was the biggest fish caught. Six of us went on the charter, and I was the only girl.
Where did you go shopping?
The best shopping is in the stands, pop-up tents. There is an outdoor shopping area near the airport on the main road, where vendors sell their goods, like knock offs, shirts, license plates, jewelry, sunglasses, toys and souvenirs. The jewelry is way overpriced out there. You are most likely able to haggle your way down 75 percent off the ticket price. Use your smartphone to check on the price on Amazon. Most shops carry the same stuff, so you just need to be willing to walk away and find another shop. And if they won’t haggle, you don’t need to buy it from there — because there is another shop that will.
There are three main shopping areas. At Red Hook, they have the Red Hook dive shop – that’s where you should get your (scuba) dive gear. I had the best luck shopping in the historical part of town near the police station. There is more shopping where the cruise ships dock (Charlotte Amalie), and that’s where Señor Frog’s is at. I didn’t think the shopping (near the cruise ships) was that great.
Did you go to Señor Frog’s?
We ended up going to Señor Frogs. That place was really fun.
Which activities did the kids like?
The kids went to the aquarium at Coki Beach. Some of the older adults and the kids found it entertaining. The little kids can’t snorkel, so the aquarium was a way for them to see the fish up close.
Click here for directions to Coral World.
Where did you stay?
Marriott’s Frenchman’s Cove, which is strictly condos. You can book them, but most of them are timeshares. Bryan’s uncle has a timeshare, and he took care of booking the condos.
Was there a pool or beachfront?
There was a big pool with a volleyball net and a water slide overlooking their beachfront area.
Were there restaurants on site?
There is a hotel bar and grill, where we ate breakfast for a couple mornings. It was a bit overpriced, but the food was fair. It was a small menu with 10 items or less to choose from. Jake ordered chocolate chip pancakes, which came with a little bit of potatoes and bacon, and it was $14. We had a full kitchen (in the condo), so we cooked our breakfast and made our own lunches almost every day.
Describe the best meal of your trip:
The last night we went to Mim’s Seaside Bistro. That was right on the water. They had mainly pastas, but they had a good plethora of other things, like surf and turf. But, most of the group ate pasta. The cool thing about that place was they had this teeny, tiny kitchen and they fed everyone out of that kitchen for the whole restaurant.
How did you travel to St. Thomas?
We flew Delta — it was two flights out, two flights back — Detroit to Atlanta to St.Thomas.
Did you eat at the airport?
On the way back, we ate at Sweet Water Draft House & Grill in Atlanta. It was a small menu, hole-in-the-wall bar and grill, maybe 10-15 things on their menu. Bryan and I had a chicken sandwich with fries — the fries were excellent. Jake got wings. Those were excellent, too.
How did you travel around the island?
We got a rental car at the airport. I had been to St. Thomas before, so it wasn’t really hard — as long as you follow the water. The roads are cut into the side of the island, so the water is always to your side.
You drive on the left side of the road, and the steering column is on that side of the car, too.
Advice to future travelers
- Coki Beach is a great beach to visit, but it’s not the safest. You don’t want to leave any valuables visible in your car. We had one of our group’s cars broken into and a smartphone stolen. Keep your valuables on your person or locked in your hotel safe.
- Spray-on sunscreen was not the best idea. The sun is really hot there. You want good sunscreen. We had 80 SPF spray-on sunscreen and still got burned. And, this is an Armenian family.
- You need to wear a dive shirt when you snorkel there. Otherwise, you’ll just get burned.
- I packed too many clothes. You only get dressed to go shopping and out to eat. Otherwise, you are in your bathing suit the whole time.
- Iguanas are like stray cats — they are everywhere! The flowers that they eat are red, so stay away from painting your fingernails or toenails red!
For more travel tips, check out my new travel + lifestyle blog, The Epicurean Traveler!