From One Island To The Next

Ahhhh…Island Hopping. Everybody who dreams of the Caribbean dreams of hopping from one island to another checking out the scene without a care in the world. Carl and I have lived on St. Croix for almost two years and take every opportunity we can to explore other islands. Until this past weekend, we had not made it to our sister island, St. Thomas, so when the opportunity arose for us to visit some friends on St. Thomas, we jumped on it and booked our seaplane tickets and a place to stay.

Although St. Croix is about 34 miles south of St. Thomas and St. John, it is easy to hop on over. Everyone who comes to St. Croix should spend a day and go over to St. Thomas and St. John. They are different in their own way from St. Croix. St. Thomas is a bustling cruise ship port and St. John is nothing short of gorgeous. However you get to St. Thomas, you must then take a short ferry ride to St. John.

There are a few different ways to hop:

During season, the Virgin Islands Fast Ferry runs out of Gallows Bay, St. Croix to Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas. It takes roughly 1-2 hours depending on the seas, but for the most part it is smooth sailing all the way over.

The ferry is a large passenger-only ferry and serves snacks and drinks for the short voyage. Virgin Island Fast Ferry runs from November through May.

Seaborne Airlines offers two ways to get to St. Thomas in style– their motto is Feel Good Flying! Seaborne’s fleet consists of seaplanes and airshuttles operating 5 deHavilland Twin Otters on Wip-line floats. Translation: The seaplanes are 17-seater pontoon planes, which means they land and take off from the water! This is an experience in itself. The seaplane flies up to 60 times a day between Christiansted and Charlotte Amalie, and the airshuttle, which operates out of the Henry E. Rohlsen Airport flies to St. Thomas, San Juan, and Vieques several times throughout the day.  Whatever your schedule, you can go and make it back in time to catch a sunset on the balcony of your hotel! I would suggest reservations in advance because the planes do fill up fast. During season, Seaborne and the Fast Ferry team up to bring you great deals. Seaborne gets you to St. Thomas early and the ferry brings you back late…better known as Go Early, Lime Late.

Also out of our airport is Cape Air. Cape Air has been flying planes in the northeast since 1989 and began their Caribbean operation in 1998. Their Cessna 402′s make 120 flights a day to Caribbean islands, so there is no excuse for not catching a flight. I would also suggest reservations in advance.
Back To The Trip…

Although we were only staying in St. Thomas for the night- we knew we had lots to see and do. But whatever we didn’t get to see or do- would be our excuse to come back! Carl and I took over an early morning seaplane at 7:15 and arrived on St. Thomas close to 8:00. What a beautiful ride over! Bluebird skies, white puffy clouds…I knew it was going to be a relaxing weekend. After we landed in the harbor in Charlotte Amalie, we wandered through the streets and open air markets until our friends arrived to pick us up.

Charlotte Amalie is filled with shops, restaurants, bars, open-air vendors – all waiting for the crowds from the cruise ships to de-board their floating paradise and spend some money! This is a very different scene from St. Croix. We have all the shops, restaurants and bars you need…and enough room for you and five of your friends! No crowds…very laid back. But it is nice to experience it, see the difference…and of course shop in new stores.

Our friends picked us up and we headed west of town, into French Town, where we had an incredible tasty and filling breakfast at an interesting little deli. We then toured around the island, stopping at all the appropriate moments to take pictures. You could either rent a car for the day or take an open air taxi tour of the island..

It didn’t take long to realize St. Thomas is much hillier than St. Croix. There were some pretty steep inclines and sharp turns. But it was all worth. Beautiful vistas waited for us around each corner.

Along one bend, far below us, lay the most beautiful white sand beach you could imagine, Magen’s Bay. Magen’s Bay is one of the most famous beaches in the world and now I know why!

We started our descent eastward towards Sapphire Beach, where our condo was located, to drop our bags off and relax at the pool before lunch. During off season (April-November) it is a little easier to find a place to stay last minute, but I would recommend you make reservations in advance if you are traveling during season.

Our condo, Ocean Vista, was a large, air conditioned studio, nicely furnished and fully equipped for anyone’s vacation style on St. Thomas. But the best part was the incredible view of the marina and the beautiful boats below! It was perfect for our get away weekend! We dropped our bags and faster than you can say Rum Punch, changed into our swimsuits and headed to the pool. True to Caribbean style, we got a few passing showers- just enough to make us head to lunch.

We had lunch down the street at Sapphire Beach Resort, and were joined by an unexpected guest! As you approach the beachside restaurant, you notice the place is very popular with IGUANAS! One iguana decided he was hungry and joined us tableside for scraps.

We stayed and played at the beach for a while. It was all about no schedule and just relaxing and enjoying life. So we did…but time did pass and before we knew it, it was getting close to dinner time. We headed to Red Hook, which is a large marina for fishing boats, sail boats and ferries. There is a plethora of boutiques and specialty stores, bars, restaurants, delis, etc, that could keep a person busy for days! Not to mention the beautiful boats in the harbor.

Red Hook is a good place to rent a power boat for the day, go on a sport fishing charter and even parasail. This is also where you can catch a ferry to St. John.

Dinner time was now upon us so we headed into the Caribbean Saloon, which is a large air conditioned restaurant, very similar to a sports bar in the states. Great food, great prices, great service, and lots of fun! What more can I say- I was on vacation! St. Thomas has many dining opportunities from “no shirt, no shoes, no problem”, to maybe you should wear that tropical print shirt or pretty linen sundress you bought today.

After dinner, we did a little “bar-hopping” to the infamous Duffy’s Love Shack, XO’s and Slopchoppy’s. At each place we received a warm reception and people were so glad to here that we were neighbors from St. Croix. It was fun to compare the two islands, likes, dislikes and share some of our favorite spots.

The next morning, we grabbed a quick breakfast at Marina Market in Red Hook and headed to Coral World! This was my chance to really play tourist. Coral World is perfect for families and just about anyone who enjoys marine life.

There are indoor aquariums where fish swim all around you, shark tanks, touch tanks where you can hold a REAL star fish, a sting ray tank and even a turtle tank! You can even “Walk With The Fishes”. This is where you put on a helmet with an air tube and follow an underwater trail with marine life all around you!

After Coral World, we went right next door to Coki Beach for some sun, sand and snorkel. Coki Beach has everything a person could need to spend the day at the beach. There is beachside service for food and drinks, lounge chairs, umbrellas and water activity rental equipment.

The ocean floor is sandy and waters are filled with friendly, curious yellow tail snapper, angelfish, blue runners and much, much more!

This is truly one of the most amazing things about visiting (and living) in the Caribbean. You can put on a mask and fins and stick your face into an entirely different world. You see all sorts of life living together like they have no care in the world. Well, they don’t, except for that “trying not to get eaten by bigger fish thing!” The fish, corals, sea fans, starfish and colors were beautiful! Not something you want to pass up.

After lunch at the Grateful Deli we were off to the seaplane. As we boarded, I felt relaxed and rested from my short little vacation. That is the beauty of island hopping- it is quick and easy and fun! Island hopping is all about finding new adventures, exploring new places and making new friends.

For me, a girl who lives on a tropical island in the Caribbean, a quick escape to our sister island allowed me to escape the perils of my “busy” life. Imagine what it can do for you!
The Caribbean Islands hold mystique, romance, fun and adventure. You have made the journey this far so why not check out more than one island? Pick your favorite island (St. Croix!) to stay long term, but take advantage of last minute deals to hop on over to St. Thomas, St. John or even the British Virgin Islands. You will have a different experience at each location, but no doubt you will have a true Caribbean experience if you travel to more than one island. It is easier than you think and an experience that will last a lifetime.

Don’t forget you can go Puerto Rico, Vieques, St. John, Tortola, Jost Van Dyke, Virgin Gorda, and many more of the other islands that make up the Antilles. Just check with a travel agent to get you the best deals.

Passports are required for travel into the British Virgin Islands. The American dollar is accepted on almost all of the islands.

Text and Photos © Anna Eason & www.gotostcroix.com

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