St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands
Value for Money:
Personality Types that Like it Best
Did You Know…?
- The island is dotted with the remains of 54 sugar mills.
- Point Udall, St. Croix, is the easternmost point of the U.S.
- Alexander Hamilton held his first job, as a child, on St. Croix.
- Buildings in Christiansted’s historic area must be painted in colors used by the Danes: yellow, green and white.
- The Knights of Malta once possessed St. Croix.
A seven-flag island
St. Croix is the largest of the U.S. Virgin Islands, running 28 miles long east to west, and seven miles north to south at its widest point. Surrounded by Caribbean waters and close to neighborhood coral reefs, the island has plenty of sandy beaches and several protected bays. It features a lush green landscape and a rain forest at its western end, rolling hills inland and a drier eastern section where cacti grow.
Its two main cities are Frederiksted in the west and Christiansted to the east, each with its own defensive fort and colonial-era historical buildings. The countryside is dotted with former sugar mills and plantation homes.
In the U.S. Virgin Islands, St. Thomas was traditionally the center for trade and shipping while St. Croix was the center of sugar production, most of this while the island was a Danish colony.
Seven flags have flown over St. Croix — Spanish, Dutch, British, French, Knights of Malta, Danish and American — but the influence of the Danes, who held sway from 1733 to 1917, is the most obvious among all the Europeans.
With the above as a backdrop, several St. Croix travel itinerary choices suggest themselves.
For the active, St. Croix is a popular destination for fishing and diving — or snorkeling for those without PADI certification. The island also provides several choices for hiking, horseback riding, kayaking, parasailing, sailing, windsurfing, as well as swimming, of course.
The cities’ colonial historic centers, Danish fortifications (to fend off pirates) and restored plantation great houses are prime attractions for history buffs. The Christiansted National Historic Site is a must-see in that category. It’s centered on the Christiansted waterfront/wharf area, and Fort Christiansvaern (1738) is among its key structures.
Sugar no longer rules here, but rum distilleries do operate and give tours with tastings.
More modern considerations encompass casino time; traditional dances; quelbe, a kind of music unique to these islands; live performances in city nightspots; an art scene worth exploring, and shopping — duty-free and otherwise. Compared with St. Thomas, shopping on St. Croix is more limited, but there is plenty to keep a dedicated shopper engaged, nevertheless.
Things to do for Venturers
- Take your pick for diving spots. Cane Bay Reef, Davis Bay and Salt River Bay are known for a 13,000-foot deep canyon and steep diving walls. Or, do a night dive at Frederiksted Pier.
- Compete in the annual St. Croix Half-Ironman International Triathlon, held in May.
- Go to Salt River Beach for bodysurfing or to Reef Beach for windsurfing.
- Nightspots offer music that ranges from rock or reggae to piano tunes. Check local listings.
- Follow the St. Croix Heritage Trail, a self-drive, self-guided itinerary featuring 200 cultural and historical sites on the island. Target the ones of interest to you.
- Do your sportfishing in St. Croix’s waters. Fish for blue marlin, sailfish or wahoo.
Things to do for Centrics
- Listen to and watch quelbe (aka, scratch band music) and the quadrille dance as performed here. Each is unique to the U.S. Virgin Islands, representing a fusion of African and French cultures.
- Kayak on the Salt River.
- Or, take a guided hiking tour in the rain forest.
- Snorkel at Buck Island National Monument, 700 acres of protected underwater area and good for sighting exotic fish and coral reefs.
- Make time for the history course. In Christiansted, see Christiansvaern, the yellow-brick fort built by the Danes; the Christiansted Apothecary, and churches of note: Friedensthal Moravian Church and one called the Steeple Building. The island’s only lighthouse is at Frederiksted, site of Fort Frederik, as well.
- Tour the Cruzan Rum Distillery or the Captain Morgan Rum Company, then sample the product.
Things to do for Authentics
- Visit the Estate Whim Plantation Museum, a restored Danish sugar plantation great house. It has a sugar mill, too.
- Shop for the Crucian hook bracelet and other jewelry made with larimar, a rare Caribbean gem. Another local choice is chaney, jewelry made from pottery shards, which are set in silver or gold.
- Also, consider the furniture and artwork created from fallen mahogany trees by the St. Croix Life and Environmental Arts Project (LEAP).
- Take a sunset cruise. Or do some underwater sightseeing aboard a glass-bottom boat.
- Take your camera and photograph it all in the Christiansted National Historic Site. The National Park Service is required to maintain appearances to accurately reflect those of the 18th century when this was the Danish West Indies. The yellow walls with green and white trim reflect the colors used by the Danish military.
- Join a guided tour that takes you to artist studios and an herbalist’s garden.
For more information, consult the Virgin Islands Department of Tourism at www.visitusvi.com