Christopher Columbus arrived on St. Thomas in 1493 during his second voyage to the Americas. Before his arrival, the islands were home to several native tribes, including the Ciboney, Taino, Arawak and Caribs. Columbus left the island and sailed for Puerto Rico, leaving St. Thomas unguarded and vulnerable to pirates. The Danish West India Company claimed the island in 1671 and retained possession until the United States purchased it in 1917.
As of 2015, St. Thomas remains a top vacation destination, and the city of Charlotte Amalie is an important cruise port of call. Crown Mountain, at an elevation of 1,556 feet, is the highest point on the 31-square-mile island. The island is 13 miles long and 4 miles wide, and the Cyril E. King International Airport occupies its western end. Shuttles are available to Charlotte Amalie, where travelers can meet cruise ships or catch a ferry to the eastern end of the island or to the nearby island of St. John.
St. Thomas is known for its beaches, some of which contain powder-white sand and others rocky shorelines. The popular white-sand beaches include Bolongo Bay, Sapphire Beach and Sugar Bay. Mandahi Bay is rocky, remote and sparsely populated, and people visit it to observe the tide pools or to fish from shore. Other attractions include the Butterfly Garden in Charlotte Amalie and a zip-line adventure called Tree Limin' Extreme in the rainforest of St. Peter Mountain.