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Frederiksted, St. Croix, US Virgin Island at eighty-four 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.
 
Island roads tend to be poorly surfaced and may take sharp turns due to the terrain. Cars drive on the left hand side of the road, but nearly all the automobiles on the island have left side steering columns. This has proven difficult for new residents and visitors from right-hand traffic locales such as the mainland United States and Puerto Rico.
 
There is a public bus service called Virgin Islands Transit, also known as VITRAN, operated by the Virgin Islands Department of Public Works.
 
In addition to taxis and buses, St. Croix has shared taxis, locally known as "taxi buses" (also found on the other U.S. Virgin Islands). Taxi buses are full-sized vans running a route from Frederiksted to Christiansted. Taxi buses are privately owned and operated; they do not follow a regular schedule, and there are no pre-specified stops. People simply wait by the side of the road until a taxi bus approaches, then flag the driver down by waving. Passengers can get out anywhere along the taxi route. Taxis are not metered and are required by law to charge a flat rate for a trip, regardless of where a rider gets on and off. Taxis to specific locations are much more expensive and are typically used by tourists.
 
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.
 
Things To See and Do
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.
 
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.
 
Frederiksted maintains its Victorian era architecture and original seven street by seven street city design and is host to several historic structures. Among them are St. Patrick's Catholic Church built in the 1840s and its primary school, the Customs House, the 19th Century Apothecary, and many other buildings; some which due to hurricanes past have fallen into very scenic ruins. Frederiksted operates at a more relaxed pace than most of the island, and is more lively during Carnival in January and whenever visiting cruise ships are in port.
 
Salt River Bay National Historical Park and Ecological Preserve contains the only known site where members of a Columbus expedition set foot on what is now United States territory. It also preserves upland watersheds, mangrove forests, and estuarine and marine environments that support threatened and endangered species. The site is marked by Fort Salé, a remaining earthworks fortification from the French period of occupation, about 1617. The park also preserves prehistoric and colonial-era archeological sites including the only existent example of a ball court in the Caribbean. This is one of two sites on the island for bioluminescent bays (the other being Altona Lagoon).
 
Fort Christiansværn built in 1749 and other buildings are maintained by the National Park Service as the Christiansted National Historic Site.
 
Christiansted is the largest city and is a bit east of the north drop, protected by reef, and a short distance to Buck Island and Green Cay.
 

Buck Island Reef National Monument preserves a 176 acre (71 ha) island just north of St. Croix and the surrounding reefs. This is a popular destination for snorkelers. Buck Island maintains a U.S. Coast Guard weather station and is also home to a student monitored lemon shark breeding ground. Green Cay (pronounced green key) is a small island located southwest of Buck Island and also hosts a nearby reef popular among scuba divers and snorkelists—Tamarind Reef.
 
Scuba diving, snorkeling, and watersports
Seahorse at the pier in Frederiksted. The island enjoys warm waters year-round (77'F-86'F) and features the watersports as a travel attraction, including: scuba diving, snorkeling, kayaking, paddleboarding, surfing, kite surfing, parasailing, jet skiing, fishing charters, and sunset sailing tours. Because of the island's underwater topography, St. Croix is known, in particular, for its scuba diving and two prominent features: the pier (Frederiksted) and wall diving on the drop-off (Salt River).
 
Frederiksted is a popular scuba destination for the pier, seahorses, reef diving, and access to wreck diving. This western side of the island is also known for having very calm waters and is ideal for snorkeling with easy access from the beach. Paddleboarding is very popular near Frederiksted here for those same calm features. In Frederiksted, visit Fort Frederik (just to the left as you exit the pier). Built in 1760, it's a National Historic Landmark. The one-time Danish coastal fortress houses historic artifacts pertaining to Virgin Islands' history. The fort has some intriguing claims to fame. On Oct. 26, 1776, a Danish soldier at the fort was the first foreigner to salute a ship belonging to the U.S. It was a big moment for the patriots. The fort also was the site of a major emancipation rally to free slaves in 1848. (Open 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday to Friday; 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday; closed Sunday. $3; younger than 16, free)
 
The Caribbean Museum Center for the Arts, which showcases revolving shows that primarily focus on regional artists, is a small institution in the center of town. It boasts two floors of gallery space, with a gift shop that offers souvenirs ranging from affordable note cards to gorgeous, handmade mahogany rocking chairs. The chairs are made to order, can be shipped and cost about $1,000 apiece. (10 Strand Street; open during cruise ship days with sunset jazz until 6:30 p.m.; otherwise, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday to Saturday; other days by appointment)
 
Historic Christiansted is a 17-mile cab ride from Frederiksted. History buffs should take the walking tour, which showcases structures such as Fort Christiansvaern, the Virgin Islands' best-preserved colonial fort and part of the National Park Service. Start at the visitor center, which itself has some history; it was known as Old Scalehouse when it was built in the mid-19th century. (Open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. $3; younger than 16, free). The renovated Government House is also worth a peek for its Danish Creole architecture and courtyard gardens. (Open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Friday)
 
The Estate Whim Plantation Museum, two miles east of Frederiksted, is a three-room historically restored plantation house that dates to the era of the Danes. Tour the house, restored windmill and sugar factory ruins. There's a fantastic gift shop onsite. (Open cruise ship days, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday to Saturday; $10 adults and teenagers, $8 seniors, $5 children younger than 12)
 
Nearby, the Cruzan Rum Factory offers guided tours for $5 that include two cocktails and four tastings on a colorful patio built for groups; don't miss the single barrel. Note: The facility only accepts credit cards, no cash. (Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. $5 or $4 if bought in online.) You can also check out the Captain Morgan Experience at the Diageo-owned Captain Morgan rum distillery, which opened a $5 million visitor's center in 2012. Tours of the plant are offered, complete with tastings, at 9 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 10 a.m. and noon on cruise ship weekend days. $10 adults, $5 children.
 
If beaches and snorkeling are your thing, don't miss a half-day or day trip to Buck Island National Park, an 800-acre uninhabited island that is America's only underwater national monument. Located at Christiansted's harbor, Big Beard's Adventure Tours offers full-day (9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.) and half-day (noon to 4:30 p.m.) trips on its catamarans. Price includes snorkeling gear, instruction and two stops, one at gorgeous Turtle Beach and another at the reef. The full-day trip also includes a barbecue lunch on a nearby beach. Reservations -- at least 24 hours in advance -- are required (866-773-4482; half-day sails: $70 adults, $55 children 6-12, $22 children 5 and younger; full-day sails: $99 adults, $80 children 6-12, $26 children 5 and younger). If you want to bring your own lunch, Buck Island Charters (340-718-3161) offers a similar experience but on trimarans and a bit cheaper. They also run the trips offered through the cruise ships.
 
The famous beer drinking pigs of Mount Pellier Hut Domino Club, a bar deep in the rainforest, have garnered YouTube views for decades. While the hogs have switched to the nonalcoholic stuff, it's still a hoot to watch them take a can from your hand and guzzle it like a pro. The bar itself attracts a fair share of rowdies; if you're in the mood, join them for lunch and a shot of owner Norma's local brew, mamajuana, a concoction of herbs, honey and rum that she pours from an unlabeled jug. Potent but tasty, the liquor can be bought as a souvenir ($25 for a fifth). (Open 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily)
 
The north coast of the island (Salt River to Cane Bay) is the drop-off with the wall diving just outside Salt River. Just a few hundred meters off shore the topography makes a sudden drop into a deep underwater trench, featuring scenic coral reefs, abundant tropical fish, and migrant sea turtles. Kayaking is very popular from the Salt River area.
 
Bioluminescent Bays
There are two bioluminescent bays or bio bays on St Croix. The most widely known and visited is located at Salt River Bay National Historical Park and Ecological Preserve. A second bio bay can be found at Altona Lagoon. Bio bays are extremely rare with "only seven year-round lagoons known to exist in the Caribbean".
 
Paul and Jill's Stable and Farm on the west end of St. Croix, offers horseback riding just five minutes from Frederiksted. A 90-minute ride is $99 per person, cash only, and includes scenic areas such as the rain forest, pasture and hill view of the cruise ship harbor. Reservations, made at least two weeks before you cruise, are recommended. Rides take place in the late morning; afternoon rides are sometimes added if there's demand. (340-772-2880)
 
Scuba divers won't want to miss The Wall, a 13,000-foot underwater vertical drop that runs along the island's north shore. Most outfitters access it from Cane Bay, which is also a nice beach for snorkeling. Almost all dive operators in Frederiksted and Christiansted will set up your trip. You can also scuba the Canyon, a 350-foot submarine canyon where an ancient river once flowed, at Salt River Bay National Historical Park and Ecological Preserve. Incidentally, this is also the site where a Christopher Columbus expedition set foot in what is now U.S. territory on his second voyage to the New World in 1493.
 
Try kayaking with one of the many operators on the island. Tours go to various sites, including the mangrove forests in Altoona Lagoon, Christiansted Harbor or Salt River Bay, which is bioluminescent at night. Expect to pay about $45 for a half-day tour. Sea-Thru Kayaks VI rents clear kayaks, good for all ages (340-244-8696).
 
Christiansted's also got an arty side; it's adopted the SOHO moniker for its cluster of art galleries and studios. Among them are the Mitchell Larsen Studio (2000 Company Street, south of Hospital Street) for glass and photography; Maufe Gallery and Crucian Gold (1112 Strand Street) for photography and jewelry; and Folk Art Traders (2 Strand Street) for unique paintings and sculpture. Many stores in Christiansted and Fredericksted are closed Sundays.
 
If you're into historic walking tours or eco-tours hosted by locals who can give you the inside scoop, you can book an excursion through Crucian Heritage and Nature Tourism (340-719-5455), which offers both types of tours for reasonable prices. You'll visit historic schools and churches on these 90-minute walks and learn about everything from slave rebellions to tsunamis.

Beaches
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.
 
Protestant Cay
This small triangular cay, located less than 200yd from Kings Wharf, is a little oasis. It’s the site of a mellow resort whose wide, sandy beach and bar-restaurant are open to the public. The St Croix Water Sports Center rents out snorkel gear, kayaks, sailboats and windsurfers. Some swimmers rave you can see just as much underwater life here as at Buck Island. The ferry (US$4 round trip, five minutes) departs from the wharf in front of the Customs House; look for a step labeled Hotel on the Cay.
 
Best for a Half-Day Visit: Dorsch Beach is a white-sand expanse running south of Frederiksted. You'll find some snorkeling around the area. All beaches in St. Croix are public, and this area can get busy with locals on the weekends. The hotel Sand Castle on the Beach sells day passes for cruise passengers who are looking for chairs and umbrellas.
 
Note: Sandy Point, which has traditionally been a popular site for cruise ship visitors, is closed during the week in the cruise season to protect the leatherback and green sea turtles that nest here April through June. During the summer, it's closed full time.
 
Best for Scuba Divers: Cane Bay, on the north shore, is a major destination for divers and snorkelers (an undersea wall is deep enough for naval submarines to launch practice missions; it drops some 13,200 feet just 25 to 40 feet offshore). While the beach itself isn't great, there are some terrific bars that also serve food at Cane Bay, including the legendary Off The Wall and eat at CaneBay.
 
Best for Active Types: Hotel on the Cay in Christiansted offers access to all manner of beach equipment and activities, from water scooters to parasailing. Just north of the Frederiksted pier, you can rent water sports equipment as well as beach chairs and umbrellas at Rainbow Beach.
 
Shore Excursions
Best for Snorkelers: A trip to Buck Island National Park, which is off the Christiansted coast, is a terrific snorkeling tour; the island is six miles off the coast and is maintained as part of the National Park Service.
 
Best for History Lovers: St. Croix Island Highlights, a three- to four-hour excursion, takes you through the rain forest, to a variety of museums, past the ruins of a sugar plantation and into Christiansted.
 
Best for Active Types: Take a coastal bike tour through the lush greenery of the island's West End. The 12-mile trip explores sugar plantations, the rain forest and the gorgeous coastline.
 
Eating Out
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.
Because it's the most agricultural of the Virgin Islands, St. Croix restaurateurs have access to a bounty of local produce. Consequently, the food there is the best that weve had in the Virgin Islands. Go local with chicken, served with curry, stewed or in a roti, or search out Caribbean lobster (sweeter than its Maine counterpart). Or try one of the more upscale restaurants that have opened; the St. Croix Food & Wine Experience keeps getting bigger every spring, and the international chefs it brings have encouraged restaurants to up their game.
 
In Frederiksted:
Polly's at the Pier is an uptown coffee shop that serves its own microbrew, soups, salads, ice cream, desserts and cigars. It's also an urban-Caribbean art gallery -- with Wi-Fi. (3 Strand Street; 340-719-9434; open 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday)
 
For lovers of healthy fare (particularly vegetarians), UCA's Kitchen is a local favorite. (Custom House at King Street; 340-772-5063; open Monday through Saturday, 12:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.)
 
The Blue Moon faces the water, and between the wild and wacky color scheme and genuinely good sandwiches and such, it rocks when cruise ships are in town. (17 Strand Street; open 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday to Friday, 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday)
 
For a coffee-house-meets-deli ambience, check out Turtles Deli (37 Strand Street; open 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday to Saturday)
 
In Christiansted:
Rum Runners is a favorite on the Christiansted Marina, either before or after a trip over to Buck Island. (At Hotel Caravelle on the Marina; 340-773-6585; breakfast 7 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. Saturday, brunch 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday, lunch 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday to Saturday, dinner 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. daily)
 
NBA star Tim Duncan hails from St. Croix, and his picture can be found at Harvey's, where you'll find authentic Caribbean favorites such as callaloo soup, oxtail stew, fried fish and barbecue chicken. (11B Company Street; 340-773-3433; open for lunch 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Saturday)
 
Fort Christian Brew Pub has a great view of the harbor and great pours of Virgin Islands microbrews created right on the premises. It serves burgers and fresh seafood. (Boardwalk; open from 11 a.m. Monday to Saturday, noon Sunday)
 
If you're looking for a leisurely lunch in a renovated Creole cafe, hunt out Cafe Christine, where you'll find refreshing salads, homemade duck terrine, a daily quiche and pies made with crusts so flaky, you'll swear you were in France. Reservations are recommended. (6 Company Street, in a back courtyard; 340-713-1500; open 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday to Friday; cash only)
 
Elsewhere: La Reine Chicken Shack on the road between Christiansted and Frederiksted is popular with locals and tourists alike; on Martha Stewart's blog, she declared it her favorite after she made a holiday visit. Try the johnnycake, fried bread dumplings also known as "bake." (24 Slob A B, Estate La Reine; 340-778-5717; open 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily; cash only)
 
Shopping
 Sunny Isle Shopping Center
 Sunny Isle Shopping Center located in the heart of St. Croix, offers both residents and visitors state side shopping convenience right here in St. Croix. Sunny Isle is both retail shops and business offices. At Sunny Isle, you'll find everything from K-Mart to locally owned and operated People's Drug Store. Services are abundant. There's everything from the Sunny Isle Public Library, to the Social Security Office, the US Immigration Office, the Caribbean Lottery, along with doctors, architects, and other professionals.
 
Historic downtown Christiansted St Croix is a charming town that boasts some of the oldest Danish architecture in the Caribbean. Arched walkways and cobblestone sidewalks welcome visitors as they browse through the towns many shops and restaurants. You’ll find many artisans running their shops where they custom create beautiful pieces of jewelry and other wares. Bright patterns and cool fabrics can be found in local clothing shops. Spend the afternoon browsing through the streets and stop at one of the harborside eateries for a cocktail and lunch with a view!
 
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.


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