Charlotte Amalie in the U.S. Virgin Islands is an extremely popular cruise ship port-of-call and there is no shortage of visitors here. One of the most popular St. Thomas activities is a visit to one of the many beaches on the island – and no beach is more beautiful or popular than the Magens Bay Beach. Magens Bay is an adventure in paradise!
We visited St. Thomas on a cruise several years ago and weren’t impressed. While we’d initially considered going to Magens Bay Beach or one of the other St. Thomas beaches, we opted to take the ferry over to Trunk Bay in St. John instead. However, we realized we hadn’t given St. Thomas a fair chance. So, during our recent cruise with Celebrity, we opted to rent a car and drive ourselves around St. Thomas. This turned out to be the perfect call.
Having driven on the other side of the road before, touring St. Thomas on our own made sense. The rental car company is located right at the cruise ship pier. We were able to do our own St. Thomas island tour hitting the highlights: Skyline Drive, Drake’s Seat, Mountain Top and on to Magens Bay Beach.
The drive along the entire Skyline Drive road (Route 40) offers stunning views of the island. From the scenic overlook (i.e., small parking lot) there are amazing views looking south to Charlotte Amalie and Crown Bay. On the day we made the drive, there were four different cruise ships in port. It’s hard to see how the island can support that many visitors, but we didn’t experience a lot of overcrowding on our trip. Continuing on Skyline Drive, the viewpoint at Drake’s Seat offers amazing views of Magens Bay, the other Virgin Islands, and the Atlantic Ocean to the north.
Before continuing on to the beach, we stopped at Mountain Top. This is the #1 tourist attraction in the Virgin Islands. Millions of visitors make the trek up here for the stunning views of the Virgin Islands – and the gift shop that sells everything. And we mean literally everything. Mountain Top also claims to be home of the Banana Daiquiri, which we sampled and enjoyed. For our taste, Mountain Top was a bit too kitschy and we were interested in a more relaxing experience.
The real goal of our St. Thomas excursion was to soak up some sun on the beach: Magens Bay Beach (sometimes mistakenly called “Megans Bay”). This nearly one-mile long white sandy beach is one of the nicest in the world. Protected by the Peterborg Peninsula, the water is calm, the sand is fine, the palm trees provide ample shade, and it’s practically perfect. The only downside is that nearly all the cruise ship visitors seem to make their way to Magens Bay Beach, too. However, we learned some tips to get away from the crowds and enjoy this tropical paradise.
After pulling up the admission gate, private cars need to turn left and find parking (and there is ample parking). However, the further down the beach you go, the fewer people there are. It seems most of the cruise ship visitors who come by taxi congregate near the concession stand. We went 500 yards down the beach and had a picnic table in the shade to ourselves with relatively few people.
We spent over three hours lounging in the sun, swimming in the ocean and watching the pelican dive-bomb small schools of fish in the shallow water. We drank tropical island drinks and got a little too much sun. It was perfect in every way!
The cruise ships charge $50-$60 per person for the shore excursion to see the island and visit the beach. For our group, that would have been $200-$240. Independent shore excursions can be had for about $40. We did it for $76 with the rental car, $15 in gas and $20 to get into the beach. But even more important than saving money, we were on our own time schedule and had the independence to do what we wanted. We were able to have an adventure in paradise.
Magens Bay Beach Visitor Information
Admission: $4.00 per person, plus $2.00 parking per car.
Location: Follow Route 35 from Charlotte Amalie due north until it dead ends at check point. Private cars will be directed to the left. There is ample parking.
Concessions: There are three concessions services at Magens Bay Beach. The snack bar serves pizza (either whole or by the slice), food from the grill (hamburgers, hotdogs, etc.), sandwiches and salads (pre-packaged), plus snacks like chips and sodas. There is also a full-service bar serving all kinds of beers and tropical cocktails. There are also about a half-dozen young women in bikinis that operate a kind of independent waitress service. Technically not affiliated with either business, they will run drinks for you out to the beach (for tips).
Equipment rentals: Equipment can be rented at Magens Bay Beach. Lounge chairs are available for $7.00 per day and beach chairs are $5.00/day (either option has a $5.00 refundable rental deposit). Mask, fins and snorkel can be rented for $15.00 (plus a $35.00 refundable deposit). Bringing your own snorkel gear will save you money. The one downside is that the equipment rental shed is on the busiest part of the beach and you may need to wait for gear or carry your chair a long, long way to get away from the crowds.
Services: There are public showers and restrooms.
Official website: http://www.magensbayauthority.com/
Note: Some links may be affiliate links, which means Travel Addicts may earn a few pennies if you buy something, which helps offset our costs of web hosting – all at no additional cost to you.