St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands is a beautiful island destination known for smooth, white-sand beaches and clear, turquoise waters perfect for swimming and water sports.
Situated east of Puerto Rico and south-east of Miami in the Caribbean Sea, the island’s 32 square miles offer a lively and exceptional family friendly getaway.
If your family is on an Eastern Caribbean cruise, there’s a high probability you’ll stop in St. Thomas – it’s a very popular port for many cruise lines. Two cruise ports serve the island, Havensight and Crown Bay. The docks are located on the south side of the island near Charlotte Amalie, the territorial capital.
Below is our guide to cruising to St. Thomas, USVI with kids. We’ve divided our list into family friendly attractions and kid friendly beaches to make it easier for families to maximize the limited time they have in port.
Family Friendly Attractions & Points of Interest
Coral World Ocean Park
The 5-acre Coral World Ocean Park enchants visitors with its exotic aquariums, outdoor marine pools, and up-close sea lion encounters. Watch marine life thrive on a coral reef from the comfort of a 360-degree Undersea Observatory. Pet a shark, feed stingrays, and stroll through the extensive outdoor nature trails for a great day of family fun.
Butterfly species from around the world flourish in this indoor tropical garden just steps away from the Havensight cruise dock. Dress the kids in bright colors and watch the butterflies dance around them. Guides provide a fun and educational talk about the different species and their life cycles. Include a stroll through the outside botanical garden and you have an unbeatable location for family pictures.
Paradise Point offers panoramic views of Charlotte Amalie, Water Island, and Puerto Rico from its overlook. Visitors and locals recommend driving or taking a taxi to the top in the late afternoon for the most amazing sunset you’ll ever see. There is also the St. Thomas Skyride, a tramway that brings you 700 feet above sea level to the top of Paradise Point.
If you’re looking for free breathtaking views of Charlotte Amalie, Magen’s Bay Beach, and the British Virgin Islands, then head to Drake’s Seat. This is a very popular stop for tour groups so if you’re on a sightseeing excursion, you will most likely spend a few minutes here.
Magic Ice, located along the waterfront in Charlotte Amalie, is the largest permanent ice gallery in the world. Constructed entirely of ice, the exhibits at Magic Ice range from intricate organic ice sculptures, to furniture, to a complete ice bar. And don’t visit without taking the ice slide!
Located in Charlotte Amalie in Skytsborg Historical Park, Blackbeard’s Castle is a 17th century lookout tower built by the Danish. Visitors are greeted by Blackbeard the Pirate himself who provides an entertaining story and history of the area. The view from the top is spectacular. Bring swim suits and enjoy the magnificent pool – changing rooms are provided.
The historic 99 Steps lead to Blackbeard’s Castle, and line one side of The Hotel 1829, another must-see destination for families with older kids. The 99 Steps are made from ballast bricks from the early Danish settlers and are a popular destination for history buffs and photographers.
Havensight, also known as The West India Company Dock, is the larger of the two cruise ports on St. Thomas. The Havensight dock area features one of the best shopping destinations in the U.S. Virgin Islands – Havensight Mall. It’s the place to take the kids for souvenirs, and is ideal for a late afternoon break and snack before re-boarding.
Kid Friendly Beaches in St. Thomas
Magens Bay Park offers a one-mile stretch of white-sand beach and calm waters perfect for swimming or lazing on a kayak. Take an open-air safari truck from the parking lot at the docks. The beach is crowded on days when several cruise ships are in port, but a short walk from the concession area yields ample space if you arrive before midday. There are bathrooms and changing rooms, and a bar and grill in the concession area. There is a small fee for beach access.
Sapphire Beach is a beautiful white-sand beach served by the safari trucks and cabs. When multiple ships are in port, beaches in St. Thomas can get crowded very quickly. Sapphire Beach is a bit further from the cruise terminal so there’s a higher chance you’ll be able to start your beach day later in the day after a few sightseeing activities. Snorkeling is good when the water is calm, and visitors can reach the coral reefs directly from shore – perfect for family snorkeling. Rent snorkel gear, kayaks, and chairs at the local water sports booth. Food and drinks are available at the open-air grill, and bathrooms are available.
Coki Beach is next to Coral World, making it a great choice for a day’s family outing. Take a cab or safari truck. Servers bring food and drink directly to your chair on the beach, and the food is highly recommended. The beach can get crowded on cruise ship days, so plan to arrive early. It’s an excellent choice for snorkeling, with an abundance of tropical fish that can be seen even in the shallows.
Lindquist Beach (Smith Bay)
Lindquist Beach at Smith Bay is one of St. Thomas’ most beautiful beaches. It’s not crowded on weekdays, as it isn’t well known despite its captivating views. Part of the 21-acre protected Smith Bay Park, its beaches offer great swimming and easy to reach tidal pools that show off the marine wildlife. A lifeguard is on duty here, and there are ample picnic tables and bathrooms making it a great and quiet place for a family outing.
Morningstar Beach is perfect for lounging or enjoying water sports. Watch the cruise ships sail in and out of the harbor in the early mornings and late afternoons. The soft sands and clear water offer a nice, quiet beach experience for the whole family. Good wave action makes it great for body surfing. The best way to reach Morningstar Beach from the ports is to take a cab to Frenchman’s Reef & Morning Star Marriott Beach Resort.
Beach Day Passes are available for purchase which gives cruisers access to Morning Star’s private beach, swimming pool, sports equipment (table tennis, volleyball) and complimentary WiFi.
Read what we thought about spending the day at the beach at Frenchman’s Reef & Morning Star Marriott Beach Resort.
Visit St. John
St. John, nicknamed “Love City” and the smallest of the three U.S. Virgin Islands, is 4 miles east of St. Thomas and is also known for its stretches of sandy white beaches. St. John is just as family friendly as St. Thomas and is a delightful way to escape the heavy cruise ship crowds.
Ferries leave from St. Thomas every hour and land in Cruz Bay, making it an easy to reach destination. Cruisers taking the ferry from the Havensight cruise port to St. John can expect a 35 minute ride. There’s also the option to drive/taxi from Havensight to the Red Hook ferry dock which is about a 15 minute ride to St. John.
Most cruise lines offer excursions to St. John so if you’re worried about the logistics of getting the entire family to the island, it may be easier to leave the planning to a tour operator than coordinate it yourself.
For cruisers who love hiking, you’ll be glad to know two-thirds of the island is a national forest. There’s even an underwater nature trail at Trunk Bay beach – perfect for a family snorkeling adventure.