International travel US travel

St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands – The Duty-Free Shopping Capital of the World

“From the deck at the Mountain Top, daiquiri in hand, we soak up the sunshine and the beautiful view of Magens Bay, with it’s tri-colored water. Spectacular!”

St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands

Our second port of call on our Caribbean Cruise was St. Thomas, known as the “duty-free shopping capital of the world.” We were in port from 8:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m., plenty of time for shopping (which Carrieanna loves) and wandering (which I love) and sight-seeing, which we both love!  St. Thomas, US Virgin IslandsSt. Thomas, US Virgin IslandsSt. Thomas, US Virgin IslandsIn an effort to see as much of the island as we could, she and I signed up for the “St. Thomas Island Tour,” a three-hour excursion with this description: Learn about the history of fascinating landmarks as you travel through the island of St. Thomas in an open-air vehicle. Enjoy the panoramic views from Beacon Point, along Skyline Drive, and to Drake Seat.

From my journal:

“An early meet-up time (9:30 a.m.) made for a slightly challenging morning, but Carrieanna was determined to get the most out of the trip, and we thoroughly enjoyed our St. Thomas Island Tour, with our driver, Connor, a helpful and very personable guide. Plus, the open-air bus was a pleasant balance to St. Thomas’ warmth.” St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands“After stops at Beacon Point, St. Thomas, US Virgin IslandsSt. Thomas, US Virgin Islands Drake’s Seat, St. Thomas, US Virgin IslandsSt. Thomas, US Virgin IslandsSt. Thomas, US Virgin Islandsand up to “the World Famous Mountain Top” St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands(all shopping stops, with an intoxicating Banana Daiquiri at the last) we returned to the shopping center near the ship.”

St. Thomas, US Virgin IslandsSt. Thomas, US Virgin Islands “Lunch at Delly Deck was spicy delicious, St. Thomas, US Virgin Islandsand then I left Carrieanna to shop in Havensight Mall while I walked into the downtown / historic area of the St. Thomas’ capitol city, Charlotte Amalie (rhymes with “tamale”).

“There I found and walked up the ’99 Steps’ to get to the remains of Blackbeard’s Castle. A long trek in the heat, with a view of the harbor that made it well worth the exertion!” St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin IslandsSt. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands “Along the way I stopped to take many photos of the harbor, the architecture, and the rich colors that say ‘Caribbean’ to me.” St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin IslandsSt. Thomas, U.S. Virgin IslandsSt. Thomas, U.S. Virgin IslandsA few St. Thomas facts:

St. Thomas is the second-largest and the most populated of the U.S. Virgin Islands.

From the ship’s daily newsletter, “Celebrity Today”

St. Thomas is currently known as an idyllic vacation spot, but its history was not quite as peaceful. In the 18th century, the island was at the center of a bustling pirate culture, as swashbuckling pirates such as Blackbeard and Drake traded stolen wares.

Today, St. Thomas is home to amazing beaches, gorgeous landscapes and still remains the commercial trade capital of the Caribbean, offering unbelievable duty-free shopping, mainly in its capital city – Charlotte Amalie.

St. Thomas is called the “duty-free shopping capital of the world” (U.S. Citizens get a $1,600 duty-free allowance here twice as much as on other Caribbean islands) and the major shopping area is downtown Charlotte Amalie. Numerous shops line the small alleys between Main Street and Waterfront Highway.

From “Spree“( the onboard magazine)

The most lively of the U.S. Virgin Islands, St. Thomas is 32 square miles packed with near-endless things to do, see and explore. White-sand beaches, world-class shopping, calm aquamarine waters, even more shopping, green mountain peaks, historic sites and … did you hear about the shopping?

The island boasts glorious, duty-free, tax-free shopping for everything from gemstones and jewelry to crystal and china to linens and fragrances, with prices up to 60% less than retail prices on the U.S. mainland.

St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin IslandsMagens Bay, a heart-shaped beach (sometimes called “one of the planet’s most exquisite beaches”) is known for being one of the most beautiful in the Caribbean. St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin IslandsAlong the waterfront to the south sits the oldest-standing structure in the U.S.V.I., Fort Christian (a Travel + Leisure Must-See). The rugged red fortress with a centuries-old clock tower now houses the Virgin Islands Museum, holding artifacts and early maps that trace the islands’ history. St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin IslandsClimb the 99 Steps [there are actually 106] to Government Hill to see Blackbeard’s Castle (a National Historic Landmark). The former Danish watchtower, circa 1679, now features the world’s largest collection of life-size pirate statues. It’s surrounded by thriving gardens and the same breathtaking views enjoyed by the island’s first watchmen.

Wheelchair Accessibility

Although there was one high step to get into the open-air tour vehicle, with assistance Carrieanna was able to get out to explore each of the stops. Her foldable wheelchair was strapped into a secure area in front when we drove from one stop to the next.

She could easily navigate the streets and shops at Havensight Mall, and while the restroom at Delly Deck was not accessible there was a nice (clean) public restroom nearby which was.

Curb cuts in the sidewalks made a trip into town a possibility.  St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin IslandsOpen grates at the edge of the curb cuts, and cracks in the cement, would require care and diligence to make sure a wheelchair user wasn’t inadvertently tipped out. St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands

6 replies on “St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands – The Duty-Free Shopping Capital of the World”

Hello, Carolan.
We were on a tour, so I cannot tell you exactly where Beacon Point is located. However, I am sure that a St. Thomas tour guide would be able to give you that information.


Magnificent photos of the harbors. Many years ago Becky and I stayed several days at a resort called Blackbeard’s Castle. The location is obviously near where you walked up the “99 Steps.” I confess we walked no steps, but took the hotel jitney instead. Thanks for making your trip so real for the rest of us.


I’m glad you are able to enjoy the trip through my eyes, Ted!
While walking into town, I passed the Ron D Lugo Federal Building, US Courthouse, and thought of you. Were you trying a case in St. Thomas during your visit? If so, I’m sure you enjoyed the wonderful view of the harbor directly across the street!
~ Jeri


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