How to maximize 36 hours in paradise, aka St. Thomas, Virgin Islands

Photo by Steed Media Service

St. Thomas and the adjacent U.S. Virgin Islands are considered America’s paradise. While the islands are a great escape during the winter months, the weather is actually great year-round and another perfect (and budget-friendly) time to go is during the summer. The crowds are less thick and there are many deals to be had across the island. With some of the world’s most beautiful beaches, delicious food and adventurous excursions, you can fit a lot into a short amount of time.

After landing, food is a top priority and there are great choices not too far from the airport. Yacht Haven Grande is a shopping center with a nice selection of upscale retailers like Gucci, as well as smaller local stores, but there are also some great eateries like Fresh Bistro. Grab a big salad made with locally sourced ingredients or the daily fish special. Fresh also has a picturesque view of the water for its al fresco dining experience.

Local events such as music festivals or comedy shows are always on tap for evening festivities and can be found on the tourism website.

For breakfast with a local flourish, check out Gladys’ Cafe located in the Royal Dane Mall Shopping Center. the food is so nice you could visit twice — for breakfast and lunch. Traditional items include pancakes, omelets with grits and some nontraditional items like lightly fried grouper with grits and toast. Lunch includes a selection of sandwiches and larger entrees like whole red snapper with Caribbean sauce that you can purchase in travel bottles to bring home. Be sure to say hi to Gladys before heading out to do more shopping with some of the local entrepreneurs whose stands featuring earrings, hats, T-shirts and other trinkets line the shopping mall area.

For places to stay, if you just want to lay your head down and don’t plan to be in the room for long, try the no-frills Windward Passage hotel — it’s centrally located and not far from the airport. For a great island experience, the Bluebeard Castle Resort, an historic site dating back to the 1600s situated in the mountains, offers sweeping views of the island. Bluebeard also has one of the best restaurants in St. Thomas, the Banana Tree Grille. Not for the faint of wallet, the greatest hits on the menu are the 8-ounce grilled lobster tail, the fresh wild mushroom truffle pasta and for dessert, the Godiva brownie squares with vanilla ice cream are totally worth the indulgence.

For the spa warriors, there are several great spots for massage and facials, including the Prana Spa but a great deal is to be had at Lazule Sea Spa & Salon at the Marriott Frenchman’s Reef. If you book any service, you have access to the private spa pool and lounge area all day. Grab a mani-pedi and then get your chill on.

St. Thomas is a perfect place for beach time and water activities for the recreation-eers. You just may need more than 36 hours to get the excursions in. There’s always the next trip.

St. Thomas hit list:

Lazule Sea Spa & Salon

Banana Tree Grille

Gladys Café

Marriott Frenchman’s Reef

Bluebeard’s Castle Resort

Fresh Bistro

Yacht Haven Grande

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