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At 84 square miles, St. Croix is the biggest of the U.S. Virgin Islands trio. Though the east end of the island is a tad too rough and rocky, the west end and inland belt makes for a spectacular holiday spot with its lush greenery, and striking beaches. There are gorgeous rainforests in the central region of the island. These verdant green belts house exotic mango groves, mahogany, and fern trees. The diverse topography of the island also features rolling hills and lush green pastures. Hiking and exploring are the favorite tourist activities on the island. Visitors will come across an intriguing mix of indigenous plant and animal life on their hiking trips.
Christopher Columbus called the island Santacruz, but did not dock here for too long, owing to the hostile locals. The French laid dominion over St. Croix until about 1773, when the Danish bought it. The Danish forces ruled till the 19th century, and transformed the island into a profitable economic hub. Until today, Danish inspired traces and influences are evident all through the island.
Docking & Local Transportation
Cruise ships moor at the Port of Christiansted on the northern shores of St. Croix. From there visitors can take a bus ride to Frederiksted in the southern side, or hire a taxi to take ferry them around on the island.
Buses are a terrific way to get around town in St. Croix. Every forty minutes, buses travel between the cities of Christiansted and Fredericksted, and the fare is only $1. If you prefer to take a taxi around town, you can call the St. Croix Taxicab Association (340/778-1088) to arrange for a ride. Fares are un-metered, so make sure to negotiate the rates with your driver before departing.
St. Croix is one of the most popular stops on cruise vacations to the Caribbean. With so much to do, however, how to visitors decide how to spend their time on this beautiful tropical island?
Things To See and  Do
As the largest island in the U.S. Virgin Islands chain of the Caribbean, St. Croix offers more than the rest of the territory. This means more beaches, more restaurants, more attractions and more island beauty to take in. Here, we offer a few of our favorite things to do in St. Croix to keep you occupied for your entire visit, and ensure you leave the island just as spellbound as we did.
The Steeple Building was erected in the 18th century, and is the foremost Lutheran church in St. Croix. It has also doubled up as a bakery, and a school. It makes for a nice day trip to learn interesting details about the history and heritage of St. Croix.

St. Croix Aquarium features a large assortment of local marine life exhibits. The "night creatures" display is one of the most notable collections here. This is complete family outing attraction, with a kiddy pond and more elegant displays for the older crowd.
This former Danish settlement at the western end of the island, about 17 miles from Christiansted, is a sleepy port town that comes to life only when a cruise ship docks at its pier. Frederiksted was destroyed by a fire in 1879, and the citizens rebuilt it by putting wood frames and clapboards on top of the old Danish stone and yellow-brick foundations.
Most visitors begin their tour at russet-colored Fort Frederik, at the northern end of Frederiksted next to the cruise-ship pier (tel. 340/772-2021). This fort, completed in 1760, is said to have been the first fort in the Caribbean to salute the flag of the new United States. An American brigantine, anchored at port in Frederiksted, hoisted a crudely made Old Glory. To show its support for the emerging American colonies, the head of the fort fired a cannonball in the air to honor the Americans and their new independence. Such an act violated the rules of Danish neutrality. It was at this same fort, on July 3, 1848, that Governor-General Peter von Scholten emancipated the slaves in the Danish West Indies, in response to a slave uprising led by a young man named Moses "Buddhoe" Gottlieb. In 1998, a bust of Buddhoe was unveiled here. The fort has been restored to its 1840 appearance and today is a national historic landmark. You can explore the courtyard and stables. A local history museum has been installed in what was once the Garrison Room. Admission is $3, free for children 15 and under; it's open Monday through Friday from 8:30am to 4pm.
The Customs House, just east of the fort, is an 18th-century building with a 19th-century two-story gallery. To the south of the fort is the visitor bureau at Strand Street (tel. 340/772-0357), where you can pick up a free map of the town.
The St. Croix Heritage Trail
A trail that leads into the past, St. Croix Heritage Trail helps visitors relive the island's Danish colonial past. All you need are a brochure and map, available at the tourist office in Christiansted. This 72-mile itinerary includes a combination of asphalt-covered roadway, suitable for driving, and narrow woodland trails which must be navigated on foot. Many aficionados opt to drive along the route whenever practical, descend onto the footpaths wherever indicated, and then return to their cars for the continuation of the tour. En route, you'll be exposed to one of the Caribbean's densest concentrations of historical and cultural sites.
The route connects Christiansted and Frederiksted, going past the sites of former sugar plantations, and traverses the entire 28-mile length of St. Croix. The route consists mainly of existing roadways. The brochure will identify everything you're seeing: You will pass cattle farms, suburban communities, even industrial complexes and resorts. It's not all manicured and pretty, but much is scenic and worth the drive. Allow at least a day for this trail, with stops along the way.
Nearly everyone gets out of the car at Point Udall, the easternmost point under the U.S. flag in the Caribbean. You'll pass an eclectic mix of churches and even a prison.
The highlight of the trail is the Estate Mount Washington, a strikingly well-preserved sugar plantation. Another highlight is Estate Whim Plantation Museum, one of the best of the restored great houses, with a museum and gift shop. Another stop is along Salt River Bay, which cuts into the northern shoreline. This is the site of Columbus's landfall in 1493.
Of course, you'll want to stop and get to know the locals. We recommend a refreshment break at Smithens Market. Vendors at this market, which lies off Queen Mary Highway, offer freshly squeezed sugar-cane juice and sell locally grown fruits and homemade chutneys.
Sandy Point Wildlife Refuge
St. Croix's rarely visited southwestern tip is composed of salt marshes, tidal pools, and low vegetation inhabited by birds, turtles, and other wildlife. More than 3 miles of ecologically protected coastline lie between Sandy Point (the island's westernmost tip) and the shallow waters of the West End Salt Pond. This national wildlife refuge is one of only two nesting grounds of the leatherback turtle in the United States -- the other is on Culebra, an offshore island of Puerto Rico. It's also home to colonies of green and hawksbill turtles, and thousands of birds, including herons, brown pelicans, Caribbean martins, black-necked stilts, and white-crowned pigeons. As for flora, Sandy Point gave its name to a rare form of orchid, a brown/purple variety. The area consists of 360 acres of subtropical vegetation, including the largest salt pond in the Virgin Islands.
Park rangers are determined to keep the area pristine, and in doing so they have to face such problems as the poaching of sea turtles and their eggs, drug smuggling, dumping of trash, and the arrival of illegal aliens. Even the mongoose and feral dogs are a menace to the nesting female turtles.
Visitors are fascinated to see the leatherback sea turtle, the largest of its species, which can measure some six feet in length and weigh more than 1,000 pounds. Every 2, perhaps 3 years, the turtles come back to this refuge to nest from March to July. The average female will deposit anywhere from 60 to 100 eggs in her nest. The survival rate is only one in 1,000 hatchlings. The refuge is also home to the green sea turtle, which can grow to a maximum of four feet and weigh about 400 pounds. These turtles come here only from June to September, when the females come to lay from 75 to 100 eggs.
Birdies also flock to Sandy Point to see more than 100 species of birds, five of which are endangered. Endangered brown pelicans, royal terns, laughing gulls, Caribbean elaenias, bananaquits, and yellow warblers are just some of the birds that call Sandy Point home. Three species of geckos (yes, that annoying insurance salesman), along with several species of reptiles also live here. The reptiles usually stay out of your way.
The wildlife refuge is only open to the public on Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 4pm (admission is free). Activities include hiking, nature photography, and wildlife observation. To reach the refuge, drive to the end of the Route 66 (Melvin Evans Hwy.) and continue down a gravel road. For guided weekend visits, call tel. 340/773-4554 to make arrangements.
Sea Turtle Etiquette -- These are some of the most highly endangered species in the oceans. Catching even a passing glimpse of one is a magical experience, but you'll blow the chance unless you heed some basic guidelines. When you first spot a sea turtle, resist the urge to move in and get a closer look; you will only scare it off and ruin the opportunity for others to see it. Instead, stay still and watch at a respectful distance as it goes about its business, searching for food or gliding along gracefully. Keep an eye out for identification tags on their flippers or shells -- a sure sign these fellas are being closely studied and well protected. You should never approach a turtle or its nest, and never touch or try to touch one -- for your safety and theirs. While it seems harmless to humans, it is in fact quite stressful for the turtles (how'd you like to be chased around the grocery store by strangers all day). Warning: Do not swim above the turtles; it will prevent them from surfacing to breathe and subject them to undue respiratory stress. And, of course, if someone offers you sea turtle shell, egg, or meat products, just say no.
Around the Island
North of Frederiksted, you can drop in at Sprat Hall, the island's oldest plantation, or continue along to the "Rain Forest". Most visitors come to the area to see the jagged estuary of the northern coastline's Salt River. The Salt River was where Columbus landed on November 14, 1493. Marking the 500th anniversary of Columbus's arrival, former President George H. W. Bush signed a bill creating the 912-acre Salt River Bay National Historical Park and Ecological Preserve. The park contains the site of the original Carib village explored by Columbus and his men, including the only ceremonial ball court ever discovered in the Lesser Antilles. Also within the park is the largest mangrove forest in the Virgin Islands, sheltering many endangered animals and plants, plus an underwater canyon attracting divers from around the world. If you visit on your own, a taxi from Christiansted will cost $22.
Fort Chrestiansvaern is a well protected colonial fort site on the Virgin Islands territory. Maintained by the National Park service, the fort nestles the St. Croix Police Museum showing exhibits on police memorabilia till date on the island. The fort located adjacent to the Steeple Building on the waterfront.
Hiking on St. Croix makes for an enjoyable and educational experience. The rainforest is a lush fifteen-acre patch of land that some of the best hiking trails in the region. The major hike excursion organizing companies are located in Christiansted and hold hiking trips from December to March.
Taking in the history – Visit the site where Christopher Columbus landed in St. Croix – the Columbus Cove – and learn a bit more about the history of the Caribbean and Americas. The cove features a marina, some shops and a restaurant, as well as a century plant in the parking lot. This is an infrequently visited attraction, so it can be an excellent way to escape from the crowded beaches and snorkeling areas as well!
Buck Island, is the most popular beach in St. Croix. It comes under the purview of the United States National Park network, and features a volcano surrounded by incredible coral gardens. On the south and west coasts, there are gorgeous silver sand beaches, with near perfect snorkeling conditions. A huge assortment of indigenous plant and animal life resides can be witnessed in the waters here. There is a picnic area nearby where you can enjoy a good day out with the family. Sandy Point features calm and non deep waters, which is again great for snorkeling and swimming fun for the entire family.
St. Croix can offer many outdoor adventures. In the east, the terrain is rocky and arid, getting little water. But the western part of the island is lush, including a small "rain forest" of mango, tree ferns, and dangling lianas. Between the two extremes are beautiful sandy beaches, rolling hills, and pastures -- all of which can be explored. Watersports galore abound, including boating, sailing, diving, snorkeling, fishing, hiking, and windsurfing.
Fishing -- Of course, the Caribbean is an amazing place to go fishing. Visitors can charter a boat from one of many owners and head out into the open waters for a morning or afternoon of angling for tuna, mahi mahi and other local fish.
The fishing grounds at Lang Bank are about 10 miles from St. Croix. Here you'll find kingfish, dolphin fish, and wahoo. Using light-tackle boats to glide along the reef, you'll probably turn up jack or bonefish. At Clover Crest, in Frederiksted, local anglers fish right from the rocks. For more information on legal shore-fishing spots around the island, contact the tourist office in Christiansted or Frederiksted.
Serious sport fishermen, and those who don't have their own dinghy, can board the Island Girl II, a 38-foot Bertram special. It's anchored at King's Alley Hotel at 59 Kings Wharf in Christiansted. Reservations can be made by calling tel. 340/773-2628 during the day. The cost for up to six passengers is $550 for 4 hours, $750 for 6 hours, and $950 for 8 hours with bait and tackle and drinks included.
Golf -- St. Croix has the best golf in the Virgin Islands. Guests staying on St. John and St. Thomas often fly over for a round on one of the island's three courses.
Carambola Golf & Country Club, on the northeast side of St. Croix (tel. 340/778-5638; www.golfcarambola.com), adjacent to the Carambola Beach Resort, was created by Robert Trent Jones, Sr., who called it "the loveliest course I ever designed." It's been likened to a botanical garden. The par-3 holes here are known to golfing authorities as the best in the Tropics. The greens fee of $95 in winter, or $65 in the off season, allows you to play as many holes as you like. Carts are included.
The Buccaneer, Gallows Bay (tel. 340/712-2144), 3 miles east of Christiansted, has a challenging 5,685-yard, 18-hole course with panoramic vistas. Nonguests pay $100 in winter or $60 off season, including use of a cart.
The Reef, on the east end of the island at Teague Bay (tel. 340/773-8844), is a 3,100-yard, 9-hole course, charging greens fees of $20 for 9 holes and $35 for 18 holes. Golf carts can also be rented at an additional $15 for 9 holes or $20 for 18 holes. The longest hole here is a 465-yard par 5.
Hiking -- Scrub-covered hills make up much of St. Croix's landscape. The island's western district, however, includes a dense, 15-acre forest known as the "Rain Forest" (though it's not a real one). The network of footpaths here offers some fantastic nature walks. Buck Island, just off St. Croix, also has nature trails.
The St. Croix Environmental Association, Arawak Building, Suite 3, Gallows Bay (tel. 340/773-1989; www.stxenvironmental.org), has regularly scheduled informative hikes to more remote sections of the island, costing $10 per person.
Kayaking -- The beauty of St. Croix is best seen from a kayak. Try the tour offered by Caribbean Adventure Tours (tel. 800/532-3483 or 340/778-1522; www.stcroixkayak.com). You use stable, sit-on-top ocean kayaks, enabling you to traverse the tranquil waters of Salt River, of Columbus landfall fame, and enjoy the park's ecology and wildlife. You also explore secluded mangrove estuaries. The highlight of the excursion is a dip for snorkeling on a pristine beach and paddling to where Christopher Columbus and his crew came ashore some 500 years ago. The tour, lasting 3 hours, costs $45 per person and includes water and a light snack.
Safari Tours -- St. Croix Safari Tours (tel. 340/773-6700; www.gotostcroix.com/safaritours) offers a tour in a 25-passenger open-air bus run by a hip tour guide who knows all about the botany, cuisine, and history of the island. Tours crisscross the island with stops at plantation houses, historic Frederiksted, and the Salt River landfall of Columbus, and a drive through the rainforest, with a stop for lunch. There are lots of photo ops. The cost of the tour is $55 per person, including admission fees to the botanical garden, rum factory, and museum.
Tennis -- Some authorities rate the tennis at the Buccaneer, Gallows Bay (tel. 340/773-3036), as the best in the Caribbean. This resort offers a choice of eight courts, two lit for night play, all open to the public. Nonguests pay $8 daytime, $10 nighttime per person per hour; you must call to reserve a court at least a day in advance. A tennis pro is available for lessons, and there's also a pro shop.
Windsurfing -- Head for the St. Croix Water Sports Center (tel. 340/773-7060), on the small offshore island in Christiansted Harbor and part of the Hotel on the Cay. It's open daily from 10am to 5pm. Windsurfing rentals are $35 per hour. Lessons are available.
Eating Out
St.Croix offers a wider variety of cuisines to dine on. The local Crucian fare will be a treat for any visitor, but there are also a plethora of specialty and more down to earth places to eat that offer a filling, exciting meal. Below are a few of our favorites places to eat across the island.
40 Strand Eatery – The 40 Strand Eatery, aptly named for its address in Christiansted, offers Caribbean fare with a vegetarian flair. For omnivores and carnivores there are meat-dishes on the menu, but the eatery’s specialty is in vegetable-based plates that will make your mouth water.
Avocado Pitt - The Avocado Pitt is an amazing bistro located right on the Wharf in Christiansted. Grab breakfast or lunch here before touring the town or grab a boxed lunch to take with you as you explore.
Beach Side Cafe – Why leave the beach to eat when you can have both at Beach Side Cafe in Frederiksted? This cafe/wine bar provides great light meals to compliment your day in the sun, as well as a wide variety of cold drinks to keep you in the island spirit. Reserve your lounge chair in advance by getting
Cruise Ship beach day pass at http://www.sandcastleonthebeach.com/cruise-ship-beach-pass.Galangal - For a different type of island cuisine, Galangal offers top-quality Thai food for patrons visiting on their Caribbean cruise. Galangal is one of many visitor’s favorite places to eat on St. Croix, located at 17
Church Street in Christiansted. For a special treat, arrive early and peruse the restaurants art gallery for a bit of Thai history and culture.
The Galleon – Located at The Reef Resort in the Green Cay Marina, The Galleon offers seafood favorites to guests, as well as an extensive wine and cocktail list. Visit for dinner then relax in the restaurants piano bar, or visit earlier in the day for an amazing brunch.
Photo courtesy of The Galleon in St. Croix, US Virgin Islands
Rowdy Joe’s – For a more down-to-earth dining experience, visit Rowdy Joe’s. Focusing on local fare and a variety of traditional American dishes, Rowdy Joe’s combines the taste of home with the Carribean. Enjoy a fresh fish dish and end the meal with some homemade ice cream. Rowdy Joe’s is located at the east end of Cane Beach in Christiansted.
Villa Morales – On the other end of the island, Villa Morales focuses on Crucian cuisine in Frederiksted. Enjoy an authentic meal in a relaxed St. Croix diner and discover some of the charm that inspires many to move to the island permanently.
The Waves at Cane Bay – An American-style restaurant, The Waves offers some high-quality food with an ocean view. Situated right on the coast, visitors can eat on the open air porch, dining on the freshest catch of the day. The Waves is conveniently located at Estate Cane Bay.
Indie, a beautiful 19th century courtyard like ambiance sporting restaurant, has one of the most popular chefs in the Caribbean. Try their swordfish and lobster preparations. Comanche Club is a casual yet relaxed environment featuring venue that makes nice salads. Their seafood and conch chowder is to die for.
Shopping on St. Croix, Virgin Islands
Folk Art Traders, on Strand Street, features an incredible variety of art creations from all across the Caribbean. Visit Folk Art Traders and see nearly everything of artistic value that these explorers have uncovered.
Shopping in Christiansted
You could easily spend the whole day in Christiansted; have breakfast in a cozy cafe while you talk to locals or read the paper. After having your OJ and bagel, head out for bargains and unique Crucian souvenirs. Quaint pavilions and alleys are filled with shops that offer china, crystal, arts, perfumes, clothing, alcohol, jewelry and souvenirs. Small stores often feature unique locally crafted items like hand painted shirts, pottery, bath products, hand made jewelry with island themes, crucian bracelets and crucian rum! After a few hours of shopping take a break and explore the colonial architecture of the historical buildings like Fort Christiansvaern and the Scale House.
The National Park Service that maintains the Fort and other historical buildings has a small store that sells books about St. Croix history; another similar store is the St. Croix Landmark Society. After sightseeing, head for some lunch on the boardwalk and enjoy the pleasant breezes and view. Then its back to shopping for those items you saw and wanted to think about and have now decided you just must have.
In Christiansted the main shopping area is along King Street. Company and Strand Street also offer a variety of fine shops with a large assortment of items. Make sure to explore the small alleys that run between streets and you will discover a mixture of boutiques, many selling unique souvenirs. More shopping opportunities await just east of Christiansted at the Gallows Bay Marketplace, where you will find gift-shops, bookstores, boutiques and other shops.
Shopping in Frederiksted
Frederiksted is also historically significant to St. Croix and contains numerous buildings worth exploring including Fort Frederik. Stores in Frederiksted offer souvenirs and locally crafted items. Frederiksted is not as busy as it was a few years ago, however government and local groups are working on renovating the town and restoring it to its former glory. A few great water sports shops are located in Frederiksted, along with pleasant restaurants and bars.
Shopping Around the Island
Other shopping areas on St. Croix include SunnyIsle and Sunshine Mall which primarily cater to residents and offer pharmacies, grocery stores, clothing stores, movie theatre and offices. Many resorts offer on-site shopping at small boutiques that sell an assortment of souvenirs, clothing, sunglasses, arts and other items.
Shopping on St. Croix offers the convenient ability to sightsee, dine and shop all in one. Shoppers can find crystal, jewelry, perfume, cosmetics, liquor and cigarettes at great prices. Many shops showcase locally made arts, crafts, woodwork, leather goods, ceramics and fabric designs. Be sure to pick up some of these locally made items - they make unique souvenirs. Happy Shopping!

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