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A Magens Bay Beach Break on St. Thomas

Follow these first time cruise tips and tricks for a magical experience in paradise!

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. It is an adventure in paradise!

Lifeguard on a beach watching people swimming in the ocean
Lifeguard watching over swimmers in the ocean

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. Later, we realized we hadn’t given St. Thomas a fair chance.

So, during our recent cruise on Celebrity, we opted to rent a car and drive ourselves around St. Thomas. As it turned out, driving was the perfect decision.

Having driven on the other side of the road before, seeing all the things to do in St. Thomas on our own made sense. The rental car company (Budget) is located right at the cruise ship pier. We were able to create our own island tour by hitting the highlights: Skyline Drive, Drake’s Seat, Mountain Top, and on to the beach.

Two ships docked in a cruise port city
Cruise port in Charlotte Amalie

The drive along the entire Skyline Drive road (Route 40) offers stunning views of the island. From the scenic overlook , there are amazing views looking south to Charlotte Amalie and Crown Bay.

On the day we made the drive, there were four 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.

Panoramic view of islands and yachts in the ocean
View of the bay from Drake’s Seat

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.

Entrance to a gift shop with a sign: Home of the World Famous Banana Daiquiri; Over 7 Million Daiquiris Sold
Mountain Top

The real goal of our excursion was to soak up some sun on Magens Bay beach. No other place in the Caribbean is more frequently misspelled or mispronounced. It’s not Megans Bay, and there’s no apostrophe. It is named for a long-forgotten territorial governor named Jacob Jorgenson Magens.

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 here, too. However, we learned some tips to get away from the crowds and enjoy this tropical paradise.

People on the beach and in the ocean
Masses of cruise ship visitors

After pulling up to the admission gate, private cars need to turn left and find parking in Magens Bay Park (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.

People swimming in the ocean
Relaxing in the bay

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!

Pelican in the ocean
Pelican waiting to dive-bomb schools of fish below

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

$5.00 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.

Getting to Magens Bay St Thomas from the Cruise Port

Our first question was, how far is Magens Bay from the cruise port? The answer is 5.8km (3.7 miles). However, that short distance is compounded by mountains, winding roads, and poor road signage.

You’ve really got three ways to get from the St Thomas cruise port to Magens Bay: expensive private excursion, hiring a taxi, or renting a car and driving yourself. The taxi fare from the cruise port to Magens Bay is between $10-$15 per person. Taxis are not private taxis–they are more like big, open-top buses.

If you’d rather book your own tour, consider this half-day option.

The official cruise shore excursions are:

  • Royal Caribbean: Magens Bay Beach Getaway
  • Norwegian Cruise Line: Magen’s Bay Beach (yes, they misspell the name)
  • Princess: Magens Bay Beach, Scenic Drive & Shopping
  • Carnival: Magens Bay Beach Getaway

For us, the best way to get there is to rent a car. This also allows you the opportunity to see other things on the island like the Mountain Top and Drake’s Seat.

Green and white concession stand with a deck
The humble concession stand

Restaurants on the Beach

There are three concessions services at the 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. The food was actually better than we expected.

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 from the Magens Bay Beach Bar. Technically not affiliated with either business, they will run drinks for you out to the beach (for tips).

People waiting at a concession stand
People waiting to order lunch

Equipment Rentals

Equipment is available to rent. 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. (Note: We strongly recommend buying your own snorkel gear. There’s something about putting your mouth on a snorkel that thousands of other people have used that we don’t love. We wrote an in-depth guide to snorkel gear here.)

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.

Signs listing prices for renting chairs and equipment

Services

There are public showers and restrooms at several points along the beach.

Island dotted with houses next to the bay
A final view of Magens Bay

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L Harris

Saturday 5th of November 2022

Are there lots of taxis available between Havensight and Magen's bay? Would you recomment Magen's bay or Sapphire Beach?

Lance Longwell

Monday 14th of November 2022

We've been through St Thomas on a number of cruises and have always seen lots of taxis at Havensight. I don't think you'll have any issues at all. Magens Bay and Sapphire Beach are different and both lovely. Sapphire wins for the better restaurant and a quieter vibe. Magens has the better sand and more trees for shade. BUT, the big factor is the Sargassum seaweed situation. Magens Bay is largely protected by the peninsula, so there's very little seaweed there. Depending on the time of year and what's happening, there can be a LOT of seaweed at Sapphire, which happened on our trip a few months ago. There are also LOTS of other beaches in St Thomas that don't get a lot of visitors.

Reva

Saturday 12th of March 2022

Thank you so much for the information. We are a family of 5 and hate being locked down in large groups for excursions. We definitely will rent a car in St. Thomas. Any recommendations for Tortola and Puerta Plata? Our family likes to be outdoors, try new things and up for adventure. Kids range from 13-18. Thanks so much! Teacher from Greenwood, SC

Lance Longwell

Saturday 12th of March 2022

Are you on a cruise, Puerto Plata is in the Dominican Republic. You aren't going to be able to drive there from St. Thomas! If on a cruise, we've written about Amber Cove/Puerto Plata as well: https://traveladdicts.net/inside-amber-cove-cruise-port/

Betty Jo K.Dearnaley

Monday 5th of July 2021

I can hardly wait to visit. My trip is planned for Labor Day week. I am so excited to see as much ad I can and taste all the different foods and drinks.

Don Joseph

Friday 8th of January 2021

We've visited St Thomas several times, Megans Bay is beautiful, but can get crowded and the beach areas can get a bit cluttered with trash. As suggested we moved down the beach about 150 yards to be basically by ourselves. We took an open-air taxi, 16 of us, and made a deal for both ways since the driver could fill his ride. He was very good and pulled off at several overlooks so we could view and take pics on the way. We've also visited Trunk Bay which is absolutely gorgeous! This trip we took a taxi to the ferry (Red Hook), ferry to St John (Cruz Bay) and taxi to trunk Bay. Just a few people at Trunk Bay, we spent about 3.5 hours and wanted to spend more but had made arrangements with our taxi driver and the ferry schedule was calling so we could get back to the ship. We are cruising on Royal Caribbean this coming November, hopefully, and they have a package for the ferry to St John from the ship, called "St John on your own" for $43, duration 3.5 hours. I've got to research this a bit as the schedule doesn't sync with the given ferry schedule online and given the ferry ride there and back only leaves about two hours on the island, not time to see much. Price for this ferry on you own is $12 one way and $2.50 more if you have a carryon, takes 40 minutes. The ferry from Red Hook to Cruz Bay is $6 one way and takes 20 minutes, the ferry runs hourly, whereas the port ferry leaves three or four different times. It's maybe a 10 minute taxi ride to Red Hook for the ferry from the cruise port. We've found the taxi drivers to be punctual. Love your articles, expands ones options.

Gone Traveling

Monday 9th of December 2019

Thanks so much for this helpful article and all the good tips! Decided to rent a car when our ship stops here next week--going with Budget, as you suggested. Compact came to $62 for the day, all fees included (agent on phone beat online pricing by about $17).

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