Like a Local: US Virgin Islands
LIKE A LOCAL
Livin’ in the USVI
By Carol Bareuther
Sure, there are guidebooks that list every restaurant and attraction in destinations around the world. But Porthole’s “Like a Local” department goes straight to the natives, who truly know the way to go.
I’ve lived in St. Thomas since 1986, when an opening for a nutritionist at the then St. Thomas Hospital enticed me to give up snow and Philly cheesesteaks in favor of sun, sand, and plenty of seafood. Of course, meeting my future husband, a New York City transplant who visited the island for a week and never went home, and subsequently the birth of our two children, sealed my stay and turned St. Thomas into my home. I love it. Only 31 square miles, this second largest of the U.S. Virgin Islands has it all: white-sand beaches, fine dining, plenty of shopping, and tons of hidden treasures.
Don’t follow the crowds. Island tours always start in Charlotte Amalie and end at the beach. Do the opposite. Go to Magens Bay, St. Thomas’ most popular beach in the morning. Then, head into Charlotte Amalie mid-afternoon for some duty-free shopping. But first, right after your leave the beach, stop about a mile up the hill for a rum-spiked milkshake at the Udder Delight Shake. In town, when you’ve finished shopping for gold, diamonds, and rubies, check out the Native Arts Cooperative. This little shop opposite Vendor’s Plaza sells truly locally made handicrafts like dolls, brooms, and tropical fruit preserves.
Off the Beaten Path
Go west. The western end of St. Thomas is the least populated. Yet, there are two great reasons to go. The first is Brewer’s Bay Beach, which is the “hangout” beach for west-end locals (think men playing dominos under the palms) and University of the Virgin Islands students. You won’t find water sport rentals, beach chairs, or shops, but you will find a gorgeous virgin beach with sugar soft sand where endangered sea turtles nest in the fall.
Second, drive out to Estate Bordeaux at the end of Route 30 on the last Sunday of each month. The makeshift wooden shacks here will be bursting with just-picked produce. The Rastafarian farmers also sell ready-to-eat “Ital” or vegetarian foods. Be sure and ask for the pumpkin soup!