I might regret this, but I’m going to put it out there… the secret great beach to hit when you’re in St. Thomas: Honeymoon Beach on Water Island. Okay, it’s not a secret. There are many, many web sites out there proclaiming the awesomeness of Honeymoon Beach. I’m just one more person testifying to its greatness. Now, that said, don’t everyone all go RUSHING over there and mucking it up, okay?
Our first day, and first port, aboard the Carnival Victory found us at Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI). DH and I had been there before, and taken a tour around the island, so this time we wanted to make sure we got in some beach time, and we wanted to make sure we were not at a crowded resort beach. The resort beaches have their merit and their place, but this time it wasn’t what we were looking for. DH did some research and came across some sites talking about Honeymoon Beach.
How to get there? There is a ten-minute cab ride from the West Indies Trading Company Dock to the Crown Bay Marina, plus a five-minute water taxi/ferry ride over to Water Island. The ferry stop at Crown Bay Marina is right outside Tickles. Once you arrive on Water Island, you have a 5-10 minute walk up a large hill (steep! you’ve been warned) and back down that hill (make a turn at the sign just past the crest) and ending up at the beach. The beach is about as perfect as they come in a populated area. We arrived at the beach while a couple was being married at the edge of the shore. There were about 20 other people spread out along the stretch of sand and Heidi’s Honeymoon Grill (a lunch truck) was set up for a catered lunch for the area “Booze Cruises” that the tourists take (yes, I’ve been on them – good times). DH and I grabbed a spot on the beach and laid out our towels and got into the water.
We’re avid snorkelers, donning our snorkel gear every opportunity we get (everyone looks silly in snorkel gear), and this was no exception. I was hoping to see both turtles and sharks this venture out into the water. Surprisingly, there wasn’t an abundance of fish in the water considering how few people were there. I didn’t get to see any sharks, but we did, however, get to see a sea turtle, some urchins and some small damsels; for those of you who are shell hunters, there was a plethora of shells (mostly pieces, though I didn’t look too hard for shells this time) in the sand.
There were some nice “beach neighbors” as well. We had a nice conversation with a couple who were on the Princess Cruise Lines ship in port that day. We found out from them that they’d been to St. Thomas numerous times and they’d tried a few different beaches, including the famous beach at Magens Bay. Their assessment was that Honeymoon Beach beat Magens Bay hands down, not just because it was quiet (before the booze cruises showed up), but because at Magens Bay they’ve had things stolen from their “spot” while they were out enjoying the water. Seriously people… stealing things from the beach is just like stealing from campsites, you just don’t do it. Leaving everyone’s “stuff” alone is a basic tenet of beach (and camping) etiquette.
We got some lunch at Heidi’s, DH getting one of her highly ranked burgers, and I opted for the lunch platter that she had for the Booze Cruisers (pasta salad, pork ribs, chicken, bread, etc.) and a cold Carib beer. We passed another hour on the beach, sunning and enjoying the heat before making the climb back up the hill and down to the ferry stop (which is also the island’s Post Office and Library).
Our advice: Do your homework! I read a lot of reviews online from people who didn’t bother to research the island, the schedule for the ferry or find out when Heidi’s Honeymoon Grill was going to be operating. Some of the reviews also commented that the ferry captain was gruff with them*, and were surprised to learn that if they missed the ferry they’d be stuck overnight on the island. Don’t be those people, and just in case – bring some granola bars and water along in case Heidi’s isn’t open that day. These reviews ended up being low because the reviewer didn’t do their homework.
When you get back to Crown Bay Marina, stop in at Tickles and ask one of the very nice wait staff to call you a cab; this was the advice of the safari cab driver who dropped us off in the morning. In his words, “Don’t just hop into any white cab, because you’ll get ‘taken for a ride’. Have the restaurant call one for you.” We followed his advice, waited for a few minutes at Tickles and the cab driver, Zack (or was it Zach?), came and retrieved us. We enjoyed our ride back to the West Indies Trading Co. pier in his All-Pakistan-all-the-time minivan cab, complete with music from Pakistan. He was a great guy, we had a smooth ride, and I’d recommend him.
*The ferry captains we had for the rides to and from the island were nice. They’re locals who live on Water Island. We actually rode to the island with other locals with whom we had a nice conversation. Remember that when in the islands, you’re on “island time”, things are more relaxed, but schedules are schedules for a reason and everyone can have a bad day. Don’t take it personally.