Clear Kayaks + Snorkeling with Sea Turtles in St. Thomas

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I spent the weekend on St. Thomas, an island where the waters are as clear and blue as the sky above. We were invited to check out the 478-room Frenchman’s Reef and Morning Star Marriott Beach Resort after a 5-month, $48 million makeover. While spa treatments and lounging out by the pool, tapping my foot to the beat of live calypso music and sipping on a frozen libation seemed like the perfect way to spend a weekend in paradise, I wanted to take advantage of the crystalline waters and pristine beaches and was able to do so with the help of Adventure Center.

With their office in the main lobby of the Marriott, Adventure Center offers both hotel and outside groups a variety of fun-in-the-sun excursions available both day and night. Whatever interest your group has, their friendly staff is there to make your trip a memorable one. They offer transportation, ferries to the shopping area, tours, water activities and even day trips.

Our group started our stay with a day on a catamaran, snorkeling through colorful reefs and interacting with the marine life that inhabits them. After waving hello to a friendly sea turtle and coming up close and personal with some of the most colorful fish I’ve ever seen, we hopped back on board for some drinks and dancing.

After some much needed rest and relaxation, we headed back over to the dock, this time hopping on a ferry that would take us over to the shops at Charlotte Amalie. Breathing in the fresh salty air as the breeze blew right through my loose hair made for a highly enjoyable 10-minute ride, and just like that we were exploring the city’s shopping area, which featured fine jewelry stores (with 40-50% discounts from U.S. prices) and a handicraft market where women sold their finest handmade hats, purses and trinkets. For those who prefer the designer labels, the shops at Yacht Haven Grande are sure to please, with names like Gucci, Bvlgari and Salvatore Ferragamo lining the marina.

Day two proved to be just as exciting as the first, as we met our guide Mark McKellar, operations manager for Adventure Center, for paddle boarding lessons. “Paddle boarding is not as hard as it looks,” says Mark. I beg to differ.

As I bent my knees and clenched my toes to the board, holding on for dear life, I started paddling out into the shallow reefs. I look down as I glide over fire coral, areas covered in turtle grass and hovering spotted eagle rays. For just an instant, I am one with the ocean.

The saying that everything gets hotter when the sun goes down held true of the island’s waters that night. As I nestled my toes into the powder white sand, the waves brushing up against my feet, it felt like I was jumping into a warm bath. With a grin on his face, Mark tells us to get ready for our wildest adventure yet.

He pulled up three clear kayaks strung with LED lights, that glowed along the shoreline. Once we’d strapped on our life vests and received our kayaking 101 instruction we were off to experience the beautiful ocean in the dead of night. On our night ride we came across a curious sea turtle, schools of glowing ballyhoo and fossilized rock formations covered in colorful coral and prickly sea urchins the size of a basketball. All the while we listened to stories about pirates invading the island, celebrities who have made St. Thomas their favorite vacation spot and some of the history behind the various types of houses and architectural structures found throughout town. Once we’re back on land we celebrate our travels with some local fruit-infused rum.

To say the least, Mark and his team at Adventure Center kept us busy and blissful throughout our stay. Able to put together activities for up to 200 pax, groups can spend the day in St. John, ride a jeep through the green mountaintops or snorkel the shores of this sultry, sun-kissed island.

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