Like most semi-regular cruisers, we had been to St. Thomas before. Several times before. We had almost given up on the most popular of the U.S. Virgin Islands as too touristy. So when we saw that our cruise ship once again stopped in St. Thomas (as most do), we knew we wanted to do something different. We stumbled upon Water Island by accident: the brother of my colleague’s wife (did you get that?) lives in St. Thomas & on a trip there last year, they discovered Water Island. I happened to be chatting with her when she stopped by the office one day, explaining my confusion over what to do on yet another visit to the island & she insisted that we had to head to this sleepy island, where golf carts rule the roads & palm trees outnumber people. What she didn’t mention is what made us fall in love with the place: just off-shore of a swimmable beach, are sea turtles.
St. Thomas Adventure Tours popped up as we were doing our research. They’re a husband & wife owned small business, which focuses on small group tours with a truly personalized experience – exactly what we look for when traveling. Their combo snorkeling & kayak tour was the perfect length for our day in port & combined two of our aquatic loves. We booked their VI Turtle Tour & counted down the days until we arrived in the Caribbean.
We met one of our guides, Michelle, on the dock right off our ship. While we had planned on kayaking over to Water Island for our snorkeling adventure, the wind wasn’t cooperating the morning of our visit, so we hopped on the water taxi instead. Our other guide, Lewis, was already on the ferry dock, waiting with tickets. We were the only ship in port that day, a rare occurrence in busy St. Thomas, so Water Island & Honeymoon Beach were wonderfully uncrowded. After a brief instruction & bundling up in thermal shirts & life jackets, we headed out into the water. About 10′ off the beach, there they were: sea turtles! They were beautiful & majestic & totally unphased by our presence. Since there were only four people in our tour group, we split up into pairs, each with a guide helping us find turtles & snapping underwater photos of us (all the photos are included in the price of your tour!). I also got the chance to use our new underwater camera to take some turtle shots of my own.
After about 45 minutes in the water, we headed in for lunch on the beach at Heidi’s Honeymoon Grill. There are two beach bars on Water Island’s Honeymoon Beach, both lovely & divey (but with Caribbean-speed service). While we waited on our fish tacos (highly recommend!) we enjoyed the bottled water & beers that Michelle had brought for us – lunch & beverages were included in the price of our tour.
After lunch, the other couple on our tour (who had booked a longer excursion) went off with Lewis to snorkel in a nearby reef – Michelle gave us the option to join them at no extra cost, but we didn’t want to cut it that close getting back to the ship. We hopped onto a sit on top kayak & paddled with Michelle back to St. Thomas. Even though we’ve kayaked previously, we were a little intimidated by kayaking with a pretty intense chop, but we’re so glad we did! The views were amazing & we felt so close to nature. While paddling back, we were rewarded with views of our ship, planes taking off from the airport & seaplanes coming & going from the channel. It was not too difficult, even in the wind, & definitely do-able for even novice kayakers. Michelle’s husband Sven met us at the beach & drove us back to our ship.
The whole tour was very well organized, but super casual. Due to the small group size, it felt more like snorkeling with a friend than in a formal tour – not a bad thing. We enjoyed chatting with Michelle about how she had made her way to St. Thomas, a story which I think left both of us dreaming of selling everything & moving to the Caribbean.
Once back on land, we bought some duty free rum for our office & enjoyed a few beverages at the WinMill Sports Bar, right on the Crown Bar dock (the owner is best friends with Tim Duncan & the bartender was 100% southern belle). After several rum punches, we made our way back to the ship, thrilled with our most successful trip to St. Thomas yet.
Note: Michelle gave us a small discount on our tour in exchange for a blog post; however, it was 100% awesome & we will gladly pay full price next time we visit.