Monday, August 8, 2016

St. Thomas - I could live this way most of the time!

I had the opportunity to spend a whole week in beautiful St. Thomas and all I can say is WOW - I want to go back!  It was so relaxing and fun, the people are so nice, but bring a lot of cash - that was probably the downside.  Here's what I learned:

1.  Flying in to St. Thomas can be a bit intimidating.  From your window, you wonder how this really fast plane is going to land on that really short runway.  And, as the wheels are almost down, all you can see from your window on the plane is water, giving you the feeling you should have those floats on the bottom of your plane.  Finally, the airport in St. Thomas still offers you the traditional walk down the stairs onto the tarmac, followed by a walk into the airport to find your luggage one of the two (yes, 2) luggage carousels.  Enjoy the welcoming music by the band of local musicians (some kids) and the friendly porters.  Welcome to St. Thomas!

2.  The nicer hotels/resorts are not near the airport, nor downtown.  Be prepared for a bit of a drive through crowded, winding roads.  But the taxi drivers are friendly, polite and safe.  I recommend Kelly Taxi or VIP Taxi.  Speaking of taxis, it is really expensive to license your car and be a legit taxi driver.  There are many who will offer you a "taxi" ride, but if they don't have a sign, or a license in their car, they are not a true taxi driver, which means they are also non-insured, so don't be afraid to say no and walk away.  FYI - real taxi drivers will run the fakes off if they see them trying to steal their business.

3.  The Ritz-Carlton is an amazing resort.  Upon arrival at this resort, you will be greeted with a rum punch, a cold towel, a friendly face to greet you and check you in, and a nice cart ride to your hotel room.  The rooms are fantastic, with large balconies, beautiful bathrooms, comfy beds, and friendly staff.

4.  The views from the Ritz Carlton are amazing.  This beautiful picture is from the top floor of the Ritz, taken in the evening of the beautiful pool, and in the distance the lights of St. John. 

5.  The food is so yummy - great restaurants in St. Thomas.  Our first night we visited a restaurant on site called Caribbean Fish Market.  Some of us had lobster tail with the rest of the lobster stuffed with a shrimp mixture.  The Chicken Roulade was stuffed with spinach and cheese and was mouth watering.  We also had to try the Mango Crème Brulee - mmmm!  My mouth is now watering.

Another of my favorites was in downtown St. Thomas called Greenhouse.  They had the best BANG BANG shrimp, BANG BANG chicken, and more.  Wow!  It was so good - I want some NOW!!!

We also visited Red Hook (5 minutes from the resort) and enjoyed eating at Fish Tails - three times (that should tell you something).  Great food - lobster, Mahi Mahi, happy hour fish tacos, and the Fried Banana Cheesecake (OMG)!

Don't forget to visit the X Bar either - super friendly bartenders and fun atmosphere!

6.  Fun activities abound at this resort - feel free to kayak, snorkel, paddleboard, windsurf, lie around on the beach, soak up the sun in the infinity pool, eat at Sails beachside.  All of these options are free.  They also offer a few tours such as snorkeling with the turtles, evening sail around the bay, and others.  We spent time doing many of these, as well as just relaxing and people watching.  Oh, and when they bring the Catch of the Day in right in front of you, and you can see those live lobsters up close and personal, as well as those large fish, you are ready to hit the restaurant for dinner.


7.  The fishing in St. Thomas is so great.  We booked a full day fishing charter, and met Captain John on the pier at 8am.  We brought our own lunches, he stocked the cooler with beer, water and soda.  He had live bait as well as lures.  We headed out 25 miles offshore and started our 10 hours on the ocean.  The weather was so perfect, the water was smooth, the clouds kept the heat down and we had a great day.  As usual when you are out for a fishing day, things can start out really slow, and they did.  We went about 2-3 hours with not a bite, but then, we found a school of Mahi Mahi and our captain was amazing - he knew how to keep one on the line to bring in the school, and we just kept pulling them in one after the other.  The day continued much in the same way.  Our final count was 17 Mahi, 16 Tuna and 1 reef shark.  It could not have been any better.

8.  If you visit St. Thomas, you should plan to spend a day in St. John.  We took the ferry from Red Hook to St. John ($7 each way) - about a 20 minute sail.  Once you arrive, take a taxi to one of the beaches on the island - the two best from what we heard are Honeymoon Bay and Trunk Bay.  We thought it would be great to get there, have lunch, and then spend the day on the beach.  Well, the biggest lesson we learned was EAT BEFORE YOU GO TO THOSE BEACHES!  The birds (not so lovingly referred to by the locals as Sea Rats) will chase you down in order to steal the food from your hands.  So, that $8 hamburger will possibly cost you $16 because you will have to go back for another when they snatch it immediately from you.  We finally found a place to hide, eat quickly and then spent the rest of the time in the beautiful clear-blue water, snorkeling and watching others on the beach try to escape the heathens.  After our day at the beach, we hung out in the downtown area near the ferry, which had several cool shops, and some restaurants and bars.  By the way, the beaches right near the harbor aren't too bad, there are restaurants close by, and I didn't see too many birds attacking.  Next time, I might save taxi fare and just hang out by the boats there.  But it was a good day and worth a visit.

9.  Even a bad weather day can be a great day.  Our final day in St. Thomas was stormy and rainy, but we actually really enjoyed this day as it turned out to be so peaceful and relaxing.  We visited the pool, the hot tub, the beach, and then found some rocking chairs on the boardwalk where we watched the snorkelers, the windsurfers, and the paddleboarders trying to fight the waves.  We had a few drinks before ordering pizza (yes, we actually had pizza delivered to the resort) from Senor Pizza and at on our balcony.  We watched a movie in our room, and then hit the hay for our final night on the island. 

10.  The most important lesson I learned from my visit in St. Thomas - everyone needs time to just relax, enjoy time away from everyday life, and be grateful for the opportunities you have in life to visit amazing places such as this.

If you are planning a real getaway, please let me know if I can help.

Michelle - Travel Adventures by Michelle