Our family of four made our first trip to St. Thomas 12/16/2010 - 12/23/2010. Below are some tips we learned and wanted to share.
1) We arrived at the airport and rented a car from Budget. We rented from Budget because we thought we wanted to take the car to St. John but we didn't.
Be prepared to spend some time at the rental car counter. They are definitely on "island time". Also, be prepared to pay as much for taxes, fuel and loss of service insurance as you will pay to rent the car.
We rented a mid size car for a week for $259. With taxes, fuel, etc... the total was $459! (Our US auto insurace covered us in St. Thomas).
2) Driving in St. Thomas - Yes, you do drive on the left but it was not a big deal for me. The intersections and turns are interesting and you have to think a little when you do it.
The roads are hilly, windie, have lots of pot holes, and in some instances not marked very well. We made several wrong turns because we weren't sure which way to go.
I recommend not driving at night unless you have too.
3) Where we stayed - We stayed at Sapphire Beach Resort in a unit that was literally less than 30 feet from the crashing waves. We had a corner unit with a wrap around balcony. We helped the owner put up a hammock on the balcony. St. John was directly across from our balcony and was a pretty view. The full moon was incredible on the water!
The beach was really nice with good snorkeling. There was a shop there where you can rent snorkeling equipment, kayaks, paddle boats, floats, chairs, etc... The beach also had a volleyball court.
There was also a point that jetted out and you could walk out there. It's a perfect place for a wedding. The pool was nice and clean.
The Sapphire Marina is literally right next door. It's a great place to get a charter, day sail, wave runners, etc...
Red Hook is about a mile away. It's where you catch the ferry / car barge to St. John. There are also several places to eat and several bars there. We were glad it was so close because lots of places close in Charlotte Amalia ("downtown") when the cruise ships leave around 6:00.
4) Things to do - We went to Coki Beach and Magens Bay and Drake's seat (it's close to Magens Bay). Coki is a very interesting place and is very close to Coral World.
There are several "places" on the beach that rent snorkeling gear, chairs, floats, etc... I don't think the "places of business" are regulated based on their appearance.
The beach is beautiful and has good snorkeling especially close to the rocks where the observatory at Coral World is. The fruit smoothies are really good too (ask for "Roger").
Magens Bay was nice but cost $4 per person admission. If you go, go left at the admission gate and go down the beach aways to get away from the crowd. You can rent the usual beach stuff there but it seemed much more expensive than other places (especially more expensive than Coki Beach).
While I'm thinking about it.... food is EXPENSIVE whether you buy it at the stories or eat out. Expect to pay $12 and up for a burger and fries. Expect to pay $25 and up for regular dinners (fish, etc...). Milk is $5 - $6 a gallon just as an example. We were "lucky" because there is a market in Red Hook that has a lot of useful food products and a bigger market was just a little further down the road.
We took the ferry to St. John one day. We took a St. John with Tony's Taxi. He was Great! The tour was 2 hours long and we saw so much of the island that we might not have ever seen on our own. The sugar plantation at Annaberg was especially fun and Tony did a great job explaining the slave quarters, the manufacturing of sugar, molasses, and rum. He showed us the dungeon that you won't know it's there unless you are with a guide.
There really isn't much shopping or many places to eat on St. John. Everyone said we needed to go to Mongoose Junction (short walk from the ferry) to shop. It was mostly expensive boutique shops.
It costs $6 to ride the ferry in each direction.
We found the best opportunities to barter was with the locals who had tents set up in Charlotte Amalia near the water front. It looked like most of the stores and shops in the buildings were owned by big companies (probably the cruise lines since cruise ships dock close by).
Don't go into Charlotte Amalia when cruise ships are in. It gets very crowded! Cruise ship schedules are posted on the USVI web site.
I'll be glad to answer any questions anyone posts...