St. Thomas may only cover 32 square miles in size, but it’s one of the world’s most heavily trafficked cruise ports. Gateway to the US Virgin Islands, it was purchased by the US from Denmark in 1917 for $25 million in gold! Today, it’s famous for its beaches and snorkeling spots.
However, it’s St. Peter’s Mountain Top that’s a world famous destination welcoming hundreds of thousands of visitors every year.
Taxi Tour of St. Thomas
I arrived on St. Thomas on board the cruise ship, Oasis of the Seas, and took a local taxi/tour for an insider’s view of the must-see things in my four hours. We started out by winding up a road that led into the mountains, giving me a beautiful view of the turquoise Caribbean Sea below.
While the mountains really look a lot like hills once you’ve seen the Rockies in Canada, St. Thomas has the highest mountains in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Signal Hill, the tallest according to Peakery.com, is a 1,486 ft / 453 m mountain peak near Charlotte Amalie, while St. Peter and Mountain Top are both slightly lower, at 1,480 ft / 451 m.
The Banana Daiquiri
Strangely enough, while the view from St. Peter’s Mountain Top is certainly spectacular since you can see 20 different islands on a great day, that’s not the main attraction — that honor goes to the Banana Daiquiri! It seems that some 60+ years ago, a sea captain from Barbados, named George Soule, set off to find the perfect Caribbean cocktail. While he found various types of alcohol mixtures that tickled his fancy, like Guava Gimlets and Mango Margaritas, it wasn’t until he made it to the top of St. Peter that he discovered perfection.
Perfection, to Soule, and a few million others, was a banana daiquiri.
Okay, I’m not a daiquiri lover, but this one was tasty! The basic recipe for the St. Thomas Mountain Top Bar Banana Daiquiri is lime juice, simple syrup, banana liquor, water, a ripe (or very ripe) banana, and Cruzan aged dark rum.
And if you’re wondering if bananas grow in the Virgin Islands, they do. The indigenous Virgin Island form of bananas is a banana fig, which is a small, somewhat sweeter fruit.
The bananas we buy at the store were first grown in Southeast Asia and the South Pacific, but were introduced into the United States in the late 1800s. Today, bananas are found all over St. Thomas, as the banana trees (technically they’re herbs, not trees) began to grow wild when the sugar cane plantations of the 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries lost importance.
Sugar Cane & Rum on St. Thomas
Sugar cane, of course, might be the main reason the banana daiquiri became the signature drink of the Mountain Top Bar in the first place. Why? Well, rum is made from molasses, which is more or less the “leftovers” of the sugar cane once the crystal sugar we eat is extracted.
The rum in the famous Banana Daiquiri is made from the St. Croix (island about 40 miles from St. Thomas island) Cruzan Rum. That distillery has been in nearly continuous operation since 1760!
In the Virgin Islands, all other rums are measures against Cruzan Rum, making it the local standard. Since sugar is no longer produced on St. Croix island, the molasses is imported from Central and South America. Once distilled, the rum is aged in oak barrels for two years before bottling.
There are a variety of quality control tests for the rum, with a panel of tasters signing off on everything that leaves the Cruzan Rum Distillery.
Shopping on St. Thomas
Once you’ve had a daiquiri or two, you can spend some time shopping in the large duty-free store. One of their most popular products is the pre-mix for their daiquiri, and it’s the only place you can buy it.
I found the shopping great–my favorite purchase was a pair of shorts that seemed to literally cool me off the next day on my 4×4 tour of St. Marten. And the price was under $20, so couldn’t have been better.
If you have time, take a tour of the St. Peter Great House and 2.5 acre Botanical Gardens, situated on St. Peter Mountain Road. You won’t be disappointed.
Once we left the mountain, we completed a short tour of the island before leaving the tour/taxi at Havensight, the mini-downtown around the dock. Here, you’ll find lots of those duty free signs and more than 50 shops offering everything from electronics to souvenirs.
More Choices of Things to Do in St. Thomas
While you can’t do everything in four hours, if you have longer, you’ll find the historic walks of Charlotte Amalie interesting. Walks range from the 1680 Fort Christian, established by the Danes, to Blackbeard’s Castle, built in the late 1600s to watch for enemy ships approaching the island.
If you’re looking for activities rather than historical walks, there are many things to do! You can grab a zipline, rub noses with a sea lion, kayak, snorkel, take a bike or gondola, just to name a few.
Last updated Dec 30, 2018.
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About the Photo
The photo in the header above is of the island of St. Thomas, gateway to the Virgin Islands in the Caribbean Sea, and the cruise ship port. It was taken by Linda Aksomitis.