Being a Wisconsin girl, the word "vacation" always meant a trip north. I would obsess over island photography and pray that one day I would get to go on a tropical trip!
My wish had finally come true and it was everything I had hoped it would be and more! It was my first time in the Caribbean and I was hooked!
I spent so much time researching EVERYTHING Caribbean before finally deciding on St. Thomas! To me, it seemed that it was the best bet for a first timer! We didn't need passports, which also meant it was English speaking and USD currency (we didn't want to overcomplicate our first time leaving the main land), it was relatively cheap to fly there, it was relatively cheap to STAY there... AND there's so much to do! From beaches, to sights, to the food, there's TONS to do for one island! It also has a cruise ship port, so if your cruise ship is heading here and you can only see or do a few things... make sure to check out my St. Thomas MUST DO post!
In this blog post, I'll recap our entire week there along with tips for those who want to go there! I spent so much time researching every little thing to do in St. Thomas, I figured why not share the info to save you some time! ;)
My preferred way to travel is getting a rental home and a rental car! We ended up finding an AMAZING rental house that was on a cliff overlooking the sea, COMPLETE with an infinity pool. Yep, AMAZING! Our house had a full kitchen, 5 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms, which was ample space for the 9 of us! One of the things that I had read about was the "goings-on" after dark and the theft to travelers from locals. Our house was on a good part of the island (situated very secluded) and it was gated, which made us feel extremely safe. So Tip #1, if you are looking to rent a house I would make sure it meets those two criteria!
This was the first morning at our house!
I thought THIS sunrise was stunning... and they just got better every day. Since opening my cupcake shops I've grown to love mornings and I wanted to take complete advantage of that and watch the sunrise while we were there. I was the only one up, so I sipped my Advocare Spark and enjoyed my morning solitude :)
Now let me back up 12 hours to let you in on tip #2. This is a long story, but learn from my mistakes! The BEST way to see the island is to rent a car. Definitely do your homework and read reviews about the car rentals before committing. From past experience, we always just looked for the best deal. Here, however, I think it's worthwhile to pay a little extra to feel secure with the rental company! Our car rental company told us to call them when we landed and they would send a shuttle to come pick us up. Unfortunately for us, our layover flight was delayed and we had no way to contact the rental company. By the time we landed and RAN to baggage claim while trying to get cell service once again, it was 6:01pm and the car rental company CLOSED at 6:00pm. A few HOURS later, we finally got ahold of the property manager of our rental house and got her to come to the airport to lead a van taxi to the rental house. Not only was this an additional unexpected cost right out of the gates, we lost money by not actually getting our rental car that night AND we still had to trek all the way back across the island the next day to pick up the rental car. LESSON LEARNED.
Tip #3... PACK A COOLER WITH DRY ICE AND MEAT to bring with you from your local grocery store! This sounds weird, but meat prices on the island can get pretty high. We knew our rental house had a grill (plus the whole kitchen), so we brought steaks with and it worked like a charm! You just carry the cooler onto the plane!
On the REAL first day there, we spent a lot of time by the pool at our house before venturing out to Mountain Top, which offers an incredible view and you can sip on one of their world famous banana daiquiri's! This is also a great place to find souveniers!
Tip #4... The trip is NOT complete without Cruzan! With the distillery being on St. Croix, you can get Cruzan for a really good price just about anywhere and there are so many delicious flavors! PRO TIP: We brought vacuum insulated water bottles like these(2 for each person) 1 for water and one for drinks! They kept the drinks cold ALL day long in the hot sun AND didn't have to worry about drinks spilling in our beach bags!
While on our drive back to the house from Mountain Top, we pulled off at another overlook for another perspective of the same view. There were two men also taking in the view and asked us to take their picture. It turns out that they were brothers, one of them lived on the island and one lived on the East coast and was visiting. It was their first time seeing each other in years! The one brother was visiting because the one living on the island was working on the renovation of Fort Christian. At the time we were there, it was closed to the public for the construction to be done. We hadn't known this until we got to the island but turns out we got the ultimate hook up! He invited us to come to Fort Christian while we were there and he would give us a tour!
It's now open to the public again and I would highly recommend going! There was so much history to see here. We truly had an incredible experience with the tour that we were able to get! **Also, if anyone remembers the awkward Bachelor one-on-one date on Nick Viall's season with Danielle, this is where it happened ;)**
Since we were venturing into Charlotte Amalie, we figured we would make a day of it! There is tons of architecture and beautiful colors throughout the city. There's tons of shopping, places to grab a bite to eat (or a drink)! You can drink while you walk, shop & explore! Sounds like a fun afternoon to me!
It's worth going off the beaten path because you come across cute little courtyards like this one!
This one had a bar right in the middle of it! And we all stopped for a Pina Colada! If you happen to stumble across this courtyard, this bar and this guy... YOU HAVE TO HAVE ONE! He even has his own signature drink, but you'll have to ask him about that one ;)
We were also celebrating my parents' 25th wedding anniversary on this trip, so that was his celebratory drink of choice for my parents-- I can't even tell you how many types of liquor went into it!
Tip #5... If you have any major purchases, whether it be a new purse, watch, OR a ring to pop the questions-- SAVE the purchase for this trip! Jewlery store are a dime a dozen here, they all have competitive prices AND it's duty free! My dad surprised my mom with a new ring and got down on one knee all over again! It was so precious!
Tip #6... Plan ahead and check out cruise ship calendars to make sure you don't head into Charlotte Amalie while any ships are in port! Everywhere will be FLOODED with people! We took advantage of this thought process and enjoyed no crowds :)
Alex & I were having our engagement photos taken while we were on this trip, so after we headed back to the house, we drove a little bit further to scope out prospective beaches for our session! We came across Lindquist Beach aka Smith Bay Beach, which is drop dead gorgeous!
Once we saw it, it was pretty much settled that this was our engagement session location! Fun fact: this is where Corona shoots a lot of their ads!
The next morning we took the ferry over to St. John's. I HIGHLY recommend the day trip! I'm dying to go to St. John now! The beaches are PRISTINE! We first started out at Francis Bay beach which was entirely empty when we got there. It had the most incredible view, clear shallow water for quite a while and we saw sting rays, iguanas, swam with TONS of fish and had the most relaxing morning! Don't forget those water/drink bottles! ;)
Once we got hungry, we packed up and drove into town. We had lunch at a Mexican restaurant and explored Mongoose Junction! More shopping!
Next up, we were off to find Dennis Bay beach (which 1 of 2 of our rental cars found)! We got separated and the group in my car couldn't find it and we stumbled upon another beach instead... not even mad about it! This beach was magazine quality! I wish I could remember the name of it, but I DO know that you get to it from a hiking parking lot! It was about a 15 minute walk to get to... you will come across some very large hermit crabs along your way! The water was as blue as my brother's swim trunks! None of these photos are edited whatsoever. This beach is what my dreams are made of!
The next morning we headed to Magen's Bay! This is where a lot of people coming off of cruise ships head to. This would be another place to go on a no-cruiseships-in-port day! We ended up coming to Magen's Bay twice. It's huge! We relaxed, we played catch with water bouncy balls(yes, we are all adults who are kids at heart-- I know this sounds crazy, but we all had so much fun with it!), we ate at the snack shop, and snorkeled!
PRO TIP: Pack a floaty! I'm not a HUGE fan on laying out in the sun but I'm all about that floaty life... might have been my best packing decision ;) I may or may not have gotten some looks from other adults but I was definitely living my best life here!
Magen's Bay is known for it's drink called the "Pain Killer." Some loved it, some didn't care for it. So you'll have to see for yourself! If you're not up for that, you can choose from anything else at the bar at Magen's Bay too!
Later this night, we got to go pick up Karleefrom the airport! We ordered pizza and headed back to the house to watch the Packer game!
The next morning we got up bright and early for our photoshoot with Karlee! I swear, if you're not a morning person, you HAVE to wake up to watch the sunrise while here at least ONCE!
We ended up getting back to the house that morning and EVERYONE was still sleeping! We got 'em up and went out for breakfast at Fish Tail's Bar & Grill-- and it was amazing!
Next, we hopped on a water taxi and headed over to Honeymoon Island.
This beach was a favorite in our group-- and we even came across some Wisconsites!
There were so many things that I loved about our trip. There's so much more I want to share, but maybe that will have to be another post!
Until next time, St. Thomas!