St. Croix, US Virgin
Islands Tourist Information
Frederiksted, St. Croix
Subtropical, with average temperatures year-round in the 80s
The largest of the three principal islands
comprising the U.S. Virgin Islands, St. Croix's diversity is partly
due to its size - 28 miles long and 7 miles wide. This tropical island
is three times the size of nearby St. Thomas, and its terrain is uniquely
diverse. A lush rain forest in the western mountains and undulating
hills in the interior are a marked contrast to the spiny desert vegetation
and dry, rocky red cliffs found on the eastern end. Year-round temperatures
average 80 degrees during the day and 70 degrees at night; constant
trade winds keep the island cool and pleasant.
There is an excellent published guide
for this island called "St. Croix This Week". The name is a little misleading
as it is a monthly publication. It is very well done (printed in Miami)
and is about 45 pages in length. The guide gives the schedule for the
entire months activities including cruise ship arrivals.
Currently only two cruise ships make
regular visits to St. Croix. Nordic Empress arrives every Thursday and
Carnival Destiny arrives every other Wednesday.
The guide is full of useful information
including maps of the island and the two major cities. It also includes
information on all the attractions of the island, history, local advertisements
and reviews on many restaurants. If you send $2.00 to St Croix This
Week, P.O. Box 4477, Christiansted St Croix, US Virgin Islands 00822-447
they will send you a current copy.
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A highlight of any visit to St. Croix is the Harbor
Night block party called "Jump Up".
The party is held in the streets of historic downtown
Christiansted several times a year. The official description of the
party is: "A lively street fair with vendors and entertainment, from
6 to 11pm."
Admission is free as are samples of the local
entertainment. You can purchase about any type of Caribbean food and
drink that you can imagine and of course souvenirs and local art are
displayed for all to see and purchase. You will have a wonderful evening
under the stars.
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St. Croix's major points of interest
are quite spread out, yet getting around the island along the major
roads is no problem at all. However, if you're adventuresome and want
to follow the scenic and less-well-maintained gravel roads, you should
consider renting a four-wheel-drive vehicle.
Several major carriers serve the St.
Croix airport, some flying direct from the mainland. In fact, many flights
that depart from St. Thomas bound for the United States stop at St.
Croix before flying on to the mainland. You can also find many major
carriers that fly to San Juan, Pueto Rico and then get an American Eagle
or Cape Air flight to St. Croix for about $160 U.S. round-trip. If you're
interested in island hopping, a number of carriers offer daily commuter-type
service to St. Thomas, Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Puerto Rico and St. Maarten.
Nine daily flights by seaplane between St. Thomas and St. Croix
are now offered by Seaborne Seaplane Adventures for approximately $130
U.S. They can be reached at 340-773-6442 on Mondays thru Saturdays from
6am - 5pm and on Sundays from 7am - 5pm. Charter service is available
at the airport, too.
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If you want to see the island at the
slow, leisurely pace at which it is best enjoyed, it pays to rent a
car or a four-wheel-drive vehicle for at least part of your stay. Your
driver's license is valid here for 90 days.
here for St. Croix car Rentals.)
The biggest difficulty for American drivers
in the Virgin Islands is getting used to driving on the "wrong," or
left, side of the road in an American- or Japanese-made car, which has
the steering wheel on the left side. With this arrangement, it's more
difficult to gauge your vehicle's distance from the lane to your right;
by paying careful attention, however, you'll quickly pick up the ability
to do just that.
Most rental agents will remind you to
pass with care. In the States, it's easy to nudge your car out of its
lane and look around the car in front of you. But driving an American-
or Japanese-made car in the left lane, you can't do that without getting
into the oncoming lane. There is no trick to solving this problem, so
be very cautious. The safest rule don't be in a hurry.
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Click here for up
to date information about ferry service between St. Croix and St.
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Since you're on vacation, you might like
to see the sights with the ease and convenience afforded by a tour or
your cruise ship's shore excursion desk. Several operators feature an
open-air safari bus; a knowledgeable guide will fill you in on the island's
history and take you along the most scenic routes. Most of these independent
operators are located in Christiansted near the waterfront. Both half-
and full-day trips are available at a reasonable cost.
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Never in short supply, taxis are un-metered
and rates must be posted in all vehicles. It's best to agree on a fare
before leaving. The posted per-person rates reflect the fare for more
than one passenger traveling to one destination; a solitary passenger
has to pay double that rate.
St. Croix Taxi Association,
Airport - 1-340-778-1088
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Christopher Columbus came upon St. Croix
on November 14, 1493, during his second voyage to the Americas. He sent
a crew ashore at St. Croix's Salt River inlet in search of potable water;
there followed a brief confrontation with some of the island's Taino
inhabitants, resulting in deaths on both sides. The Great Admiral promptly
moved on to chart the numerous islands to the north, naming the entire
group including St. Croix the Virgin Islands, in honor of the legendary
virginal devotees of St. Ursula. He later christened the island Santa
Cruz, or "Holy Cross."
As the Spaniards concentrated their early
efforts in the Caribbean on the Greater Antilles, St. Croix's native
inhabitants may have escaped the initial impact of the conquest. But
in the early 1500s, when the Spanish began to raid the island for slaves
to work their gold mines in more lucrative colonies, a renewed native
resistance served as the justification for the extermination of the
Caribbean's indigenous peoples. By the early 1600s, when the island
was permanently settled, the Tainos Columbus encountered on St. Croix
had utterly disappeared.
The Dutch and English were among the
first to establish themselves on St. Croix; both powers had a presence
on the island by 1625. The Dutch shared their settlement with a handful
of French Huguenots from nearby St. Kitts. The two colonies coexisted
without major incident until 1645, when the island's Dutch governor
killed his English counterpart. A skirmish ensued between the two colonies
during which the Dutch governor was mortally wounded. The English colonists
extended a conciliatory invitation to his successor; however, upon his
arrival at the colony, the Dutch official was arrested and publicly
executed. The Dutch were forced to abandon their colony and retire to
St. Eustatius and St. Maarten, while their French neighbors relocated
to Guadeloupe. The English solidified their claim on St. Croix and remained
unchallenged for the next four years.
In 1650, the English settlement was overrun
by 1,200 Spanish colonists from Puerto Rico. Dutch forces from St. Eustatius
tried unsuccessfully to recapture St. Croix. Later that year, Philippe
de Lonvilliers Poincy, Governor of the French West Indies, claimed possession
of St. Croix in the name of the French Crown. DePoincy, the leader of
the Knights of Malta, then purchased the island from the French king
in 1651 and directed a group of his fellow knights to colonize St. Croix.
In 1653, he bestowed his private holdings in the West Indies to the
order and sent one Chevalier de la Mothe to St. Croix with supplies.
The unfortunate emissary met with a rather ignoble fate as he was apprehended
and shackled by some 200 rebellious French colonists, who made off with
Two years later, a new governor was sent
to restore order to the colony. The knights, however, unaccustomed to
the rigors of managing plantations, failed to establish a viable economy
on St. Croix. In 1665, the French West India Company bought all the
islands owned by the Knights of Malta, and in 1674, the French king
paid the company's debts, assuming ownership of all its holdings. Unable
to turn the colony around, the king ordered its residents to relocate
to Santo Domingo. Although still a French possession, St. Croix was
abandoned save for a few squatters until well into the next century.
The Danish West India and Guinea Company
bought the island from the French in 1733. Attracted by cheap land,
planters, mostly English, flocked to St. Croix from neighboring islands.
But the company's impending bankruptcy prompted the settlers to petition
the Danish king for aid, and the island was made a Crown Colony in 1755.
The Danish influence, more lasting than that of any other European power,
is particularly evident today in the gingerbread architecture of Christiansted
During the second half of the 18th century,
the island enjoyed a period of enormous economic prosperity based on
the cultivation of sugar, the production of rum, and the slave trade.
The Danish West Indies served as a central slave marketplace in the
region, and despite the protestations of the Danish Crown, St. Croix's
planters relied heavily on slave labor. The Danish government declared
slavery illegal in 1792 but assisted planters in acquiring slaves during
a "transition" period; the slave trade was abolished in 1803. However,
St. Croix's slaves would not achieve independence until July 3, 1848,
when Governor-General Peter von Scholten roused from his bed in the
wee hours of the morning by the news of a slave insurrection ordered
their immediate emancipation.
The British recaptured St. Croix in 1807
and held the island during the Napoleonic Wars much to the relief of
St. Croix's English planters, who had been chafing under trade restrictions
imposed by the Danish Crown. But the island reverted to Denmark in 1815,
and the next 30 years brought drought and widespread economic depression.
During the second half of the 19th century, St. Croix suffered a series
of natural disasters including a fire in Christiansted, an earthquake
and tidal wave and two hurricanes that exacerbated the colony's woes.
The economy did not fully recover until the middle of this century.
In 1917, the United States purchased
St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas from the Danish government to prevent
their becoming a German submarine base during World War I. St. Croix
first fell under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Navy and was later granted
Territorial status. A period of uneven economic recovery continued until
the 1950s, when tourists began to discover the island. Since then, the
industry and the island has seen steady growth.
Today, the U.S. Virgin Islands is an
unincorporated Territory with a non-voting delegate to the U.S. House
of Representatives. Although all persons born here are U.S. citizens
and taxpayers, they have no vote in national elections. Islanders were
granted the vote in local elections in 1936 and chose their first governor
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St. Croix is large and its sights are
rather spread out, so if you are not taking an organized tour or shore
excursion, it pays to rent a car or taxi for at least part of your stay.
Bicycles are not a great idea, because the island is hilly and the roads
have no shoulders. Four-wheel-drive vehicles are better for visiting
the out-of-the-way scenic regions, since many are reached only by dirt
roads. A word of caution: not all roads are clearly marked, particularly
at the intersections. Though the American system of numbered route signs
is used, the signs appear with less frequency than drivers are used
to in the U.S. And there are fewer signs showing the names of the places
you've either reached or are heading toward than you would expect.
The island's most prominent landmarks
are the sugar-mill ruins, reminding visitors of the time when sugar
cane was "king" and the island was divided into hundreds of plantations.
Homes, resort swimming pools and hotels have been built around many
of these ruins, which are valued symbols of St. Croix's rich history.
Other reminders of the island's past are the fanciful names used to
identify St. Croix locations. Jealousy, Wheel of Fortune and Lower Love
are all plantation names dating from the 1760s, when land was divided
into low-priced 150-acre tracts used by the Danes to attract settlers.
St. Croix has been ruled by seven nations,
all of which left their marks on the island. Though it is currently
an American territory seemingly reminiscent of the United States with
its shopping centers and fast-food restaurants, St. Croix has preserved
its West Indian cultural heritage, attitudes and identity. Families
who have resided here for 10 generations are still influential, their
roots stretching back to the colonial era. It is worth your while to
make an effort to meet some Crucians because their stories and family
histories will immeasurably enrich your stay on the island.
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The picturesque harbor town of Christiansted
attained its present state by the late 1700s, when St. Croix was a crown
colony of Denmark and the city was one of the Caribbean's major ports.
The U.S. National Park Service maintains the neoclassical-style buildings
as they appeared in the 1830s through the 1850s, the period following
the peak of prosperity for the island's sugar, cotton, rum and slave
trades. Many street signs are still in Danish.
Christiansted was one of the first Caribbean
towns to adopt a building code. The 1747 measure regulated street width
and block size, created zoned areas and, perhaps most important, provided
that buildings must be fashioned of fire-resistant materials. Christiansted,
therefore, never suffered a devastating conflagration, as did Frederiksted,
and its architecture accurately portrays what this island port was once
The buildings generally fall into one
of four categories. Most prominent are the public buildings, such as
churches and government offices. Two- and three-story masonry townhouses
were constructed for planters, who needed a presence in the island's
center of power. Merchants lived in structures with ground floors of
limestone brick, where they tended shop, topped by wooden shacks, where
they lived. The workers lived in one-story wooden shacks on the outskirts
The imposing mustard-yellow Fort Christiansvaern,
finished in 1749, is a good example of 17th- and 18th-century Danish
military architecture. As you walk out of the fort, you'll pass the
graceful two-story Old Danish Customs House, which is the headquarters
for the National Park Service. Across King Street, you'll find the Old
Scale House, adjacent to the wharf. Built in 1855-56, the Scale House
was formerly used to weigh and inspect imports and exports for tax purposes.
Now it is the city's post office, but the old scales still stand.
Across the parking lot from the Scale
House is the rambling Old Danish West India and Guinea Company Warehouse,
currently the location of a bank and several shops and restaurants.
It was once the central offices of the Danish trading company that both
owned St. Croix and monopolized its trade even though the island's British
planters outnumbered the Danes five to one.
The nearby Steeple Building was St. Croix's
first church, erected in 1750-53; the steeple was added in the 1790s.
It still has the original marble floors, and contains a small museum
with an exhibit detailing the island's history.
Traveling up King Street, you'll approach
the stately Government House, with its long outside staircase and spacious
ballroom. The Danish government is helping to restore the structure
to its original elegance. Don't miss the shaded courtyard: its giant
shade trees and flowing fountain provide a respite from sightseeing
The facades only hint at the many splendid
courtyards and arcades found throughout town, many of which house shops
and restaurants. Don't resist the temptation to explore inside.
A boardwalk follows the harbor's edge which has
many great places to eat and drink as well as several small hotels.
A great place to watch the seaplane takeoff and land on it's way to
and from St. Thomas.
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St. Croix's eastern end has some of the
island's prettiest vistas, a perfect place for a leisurely drive. You'll
encounter a landscape dotted with cacti similar to the American Southwest,
an interesting contrast to the island's lush western regions.
If you want to see East End's many features
rugged cliffs, ocean vistas and interior farmland begin your driving
tour by taking Route 82 (East End Road) out of Christiansted and circle
back along Route 60 (South Shore Road).
As you depart Christiansted from Hospital
Street, which turns into Route 82, you'll soon pass The Buccaneer. Its
resort facilities are not open to the public, but a cocktail at sunset
at the Terrace Bar in the main building is one of St. Croix's unforgettable
Shortly, you'll see the signs for Green
Cay Marina, home to an assemblage of luxurious sailing yachts and a
good place to arrange charter, diving and snorkeling excursions. The
marina is named after the small island just offshore, a refuge for the
endangered St. Croix ground lizard. Just past the marina entrance, there
is a turnoff to one of the island's finest resorts, the Chenay Bay Beach
Another few miles ahead, a small bay
opens up before you, where you'll find the St. Croix Yacht Club, a popular
mooring for sailboats. Across from the club, perched atop the cliffs,
is an immense mansion the locals refer to as The Castle. Built by a
flamboyant jet-setter known as the Contessa, the building is a melange
of architectural flourishes reminiscent of the Taj Mahal.
Farther on is an intersection where Route
82 continues straight and Route 60 veers off to the right. If you go
straight for about two miles, you'll come to Point Udall, the easternmost
point in U.S. territory and the most secluded spot on the island. Before
the paved road ends, there's a beach and a tidal pool area perfect for
exploring (see the "Ecotourism on St. Croix" section for a self- guided
tour). Once you arrive at the end of the road, you'll be treated to
a spectacular view of the rocky coast and Buck Island off in the distance.
Back at the intersection, after you get
on Route 60, you'll pass some of the island's most picturesque views,
including one of Grapetree Bay. Continuing on, you'll see the Great
Salt Pond, a mecca for birds and bird watchers. On a typical walk, you
probably will spot brown pelicans, herons, great egrets, black-necked
stilts and many other species.
As you turn onto Route 624 and then Route
62 to head back to Christiansted, you'll be traveling through some of
the richest farmland in the Caribbean. And don't be shocked to see red-hued
cows; they are a special breed that is found only on St. Croix.
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In contrast to the expanse of the long
east end, the North Shore is much more compact. As you traverse the
roads that hug tawny cliffs overlooking the glistening Caribbean and
hear the wind underneath canopies of shade trees, the North Shore seems
the most peaceful section of the island.
Follow Route 75 north out of Christiansted
to the hotels and beach clubs of Little Princesse, capped by St. Croix
by the Sea, another of the island's fine resorts. A right turn, following
Route 75 to its end, will take you to Judith's Fancy, where you'll find
the ruins of a sugar mill.
As you descend Morningstar Hill, take
the first right, onto Route 80. Look for the sign "Tradewinds at Morningstar,"
which marks the intersection. As you follow the signs for Salt River
Marina and continue past it about a mile, you'll see a marker on the
left denoting the spot where Christopher Columbus purportedly landed
Although Columbus himself did not actually
disembark while anchored in the Salt River Bay, he did send a boat ashore
in search of fresh water. Salt River is one of only two sites in what
is now U.S. territory associated with Columbus and the only one confirmed
by documented evidence. Moreover, it was the site of the first fatal
confrontation between the European invaders and the natives of the New
World. Numerous Taino artifacts have been excavated from the site. Already
a National Historic Landmark and a National Natural Landmark, the Salt
River area was designated a National Park in 1992. (See the "Ecotourism"
When you get back on Route 80, continue
north. The road climbs along stunningly beautiful cliffs; on a very
clear day, you can see St. Thomas and St. John on the northern horizon.
North Shore Drive passes by Rust-Op-Twist, the ruins of a sugar plantation.
The name is Danish for "Rest-After-Work."
Several miles ahead, you'll pass through
part of St. Croix's unusual rain forest, which has the densest tropical
vegetation on the island. Two miles ahead is the renowned Carambola
Beach Resort & Golf Club.
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Westenders often greet visitors from
other parts of St. Croix by asking, "What brings you to the nice side
of the island?" While not exactly fair to the rest of St. Croix, the
greeting nevertheless has more than a germ of truth to it. This least-developed
part of St. Croix enjoys a more casual lifestyle, although there is
no less to see than in the east.
Frederiksted is the logical starting
point for a west-end tour. Stop off at the Visitors Center at the Pier
to get started and continue out on the Pier for a good panoramic view
of the town's old historic district and Strand Gade, or Strand Street.
This waterfront shopping area is noted for its arcaded buildings and
interesting historical structures. The town, in the midst of restoration
under a government "Main Street" program, is constantly evolving and
Frederiksted's architecture is different
from Christiansted's because the town was partially burned during an
uprising called Fireburn in 1878. When it was rebuilt, many structures
had the gingerbread trim characteristic of late Victorian architecture,
including the Victoria House, at the corner of Strand and Market streets,
which may still be closed for renovation to be turned into a museum.
Fort Frederik, constructed between 1752
and 1760 and located at the north end of town, is a grand example of
Danish military architecture. Two notable events occurred there: in
1776, it was the first foreign fort to salute the United States flag;
and in July 1848, Governor General Peter von Scholten signed the proclamation
that emancipated the slaves in the Danish West Indies.
Continue down Strand Street along the
waterfront for two blocks and you'll come to the Old Frederiksted Public
Library, also called the bellhouse after a previous owner named G.A.
Bell, who decorated the stairs with bells. The building is now an arts
and crafts center.
Nearby is the 18th-century Market Place,
an open-air bazaar existing from the time Frederiksted was founded,
where you can purchase tropical fruits. While here, don't miss the striking
sunset views from one of the town's waterfront cafes.
Two miles east of town on St. Croix's
oldest thoroughfare, Queen Mary Highway, also known as Centerline Road,
stands the Estate Whim Plantation Museum. Guided tours of this National
Historic Site explain the workings of an 18th-century sugar cane plantation
and provide an interesting introduction to the island's history and
landscape. Amid shady thibet, mahogany and 150-year-old tamarind trees
stand a windmill, a chimney and a sugar factory. Surrounded by a three-foot
moat of stone and coral, the stately French-influenced great house has
been fully restored by the Landmark Society and has imported and Crucian
antiques on display.
Just up the road is the
St. George Village Botanical Garden,
a lush, peaceful oasis with more than 300 species of tropical flora.
Built amid sugar-mill ruins, the garden is among St. Croix's most photogenic
sights. Check local papers to find out about the special events, such
as jazz concerts, that are frequently held there.
Backtrack down Queen Mary Highway to
Route 64 and the Cruzan Rum Distillery, the manufacturer of one the
finest rums in the world. Rum has long been a major export, and the
island's economy suffered greatly during Prohibition.
North of Frederiksted, the dramatic coastline
along Route 63 provides many turn-offs to shady beaches ideal for a
quiet picnic along the sea. If you're in the mood for a livelier time,
stop at any of the beach shacks lining the road where food and drinks
are doled out in generous portions. These beaches offer the best swimming
on the west side, particularly the one opposite Sprat Hall Plantation,
a charming great house that is now an elegant inn and restaurant serving
Creque (pronounced "creaky") Dam Road
(Route 58), by Sprat Hall Plantation, will take you into the heart of
St. Croix's rain forest. Creque Dam itself is a 45-foot-high structure
ringed by towering kapok and sandbox trees covered with Spanish moss.
Creque Dam Road then connects with Scenic Road (Route 78), which is
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St. Croix is endowed with natural features
that make it a water-sports enthusiast's paradise. Spectacular scenery
enhances the enjoyment of land sports such as golf and tennis. And mild
tropical temperatures make it possible to participate in sports year-round.
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Charter boats leave from the wharf in
Christiansted, Green Cay Marina in Christiansted and St. Croix Marina
in Gallows Bay on half-day, short-day (approximately six hours) and
full-day excursions to the prime fishing ground of Lang Bank. What makes
this a great place to fish other than the abundance of blue marlin and
other game fish is the fact that boats don't have to spend much time
running, as the drop-off of Lang Bank is only a short distance offshore.
This means more time to fish.
Billfish are plentiful in summer, while
winter brings wahoo and dolphin to local waters. Tuna run in the spring.
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As is the case with many of St. Croix's
other attributes, people are only slowly discovering the fantastic range
of diving opportunities here. The reefs surrounding the island offer
both easy beginners' dives and enough challenges to hold the interest
of the most seasoned divers for weeks. In a Top 100 poll taken in Rodale's
Scuba Diving Magazine readers rated St. Croix #4 overall for
"Best overall destination, best visibility and value in the Caribbean,
and the world's most popular destination" and # 2 for
" best shore diving"! US Virgin Islands placed #2 for "best
For the novice, one of the best introductory
dives anywhere is the Frederiksted Pier. Skillful divers find it entertaining
too, particularly for its night diving. The pier's substantial pilings
are covered with brilliant red and yellow sponges, and sea horses, octopus,
batfish, Atlantic oval squid, puffer fish and lizard fish are in abundance.
Just north of Frederiksted is one of
the most impressive wreck dives in St. Croix. The Rosamaria is one of
three wrecked ships that form an artificial reef off Butler Bay. This
177-foot steel-hulled freighter is en-crusted with pink and red sponges
that have attracted a good number of fish, including yellowtail and
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St. Croix, attracts divers and snorkelers alike.
Easily accessible from Villa
minutes from Caribbean Breeze the site offers outstanding
wall dives beginning in only 35 to 40 feet of water. Antler, purple
tube and orange elephant ear sponges are common; boulder corals dominate
the spurs and grooves of the shallows, giving way to vertical drops
where schools of spade fish and eagle rays thrive. Northstar Wall has
an immense Danish anchor embedded in the coral at a depth of 60 feet.
Dolphins and turtles occasionally make an appearance in the area. Nearby
Davis Bay also offers great snorkeling from the beach.
The Salt River region has what many consider
to be the island's finest diving. Its east wall features a sharp 100-foot
drop marked by canyons and caves cut into the wall's face, and large
schools of fish are a frequent sight.
Snorkelers can explore the coral gardens
around Green Cay, a tiny offshore island just east of Christiansted.
Although it is accessible only by boat, the cay is close enough to reach
in a small craft like a kayak or even a sailboard.
Hotel on the Cay, a private island located
just a short ferry ride from downtown Christiansted, has a large designated
snorkeling area just off its sandy beach. Its focal point is a mini
marine habitat in less than three feet of water, perfect for beginners,
non-swimmers and kids. Schools of tropical fish gather around an old
engine block and peek out from "recycled" conch shells, and small eels,
shrimp and a variety of other creatures abound. Nearby is a 15-foot
drop off, where the bottom is peppered with coral formations; schools
of jacks, needlefish, tangs and many other species can be seen, and
eagle rays, squid, octopus and other exotic creatures have been known
to make an appearance from time to time. You can rent snorkel gear from
the St. Croix Water Sports Center. You can also borrow a "glass-bottom
bucket" to enjoy the view.
Just off the northeastern coast, Buck
Island's underwater trail, which is restricted to snorkelers,
is St. Croix's most popular tourist destination. And getting there is
half the fun the vessels leaving from Christiansted and the north shore
include motorized boats (some glass-bottom), graceful sloops and speedy
trimarans. Excursions are either for half or full days; full-day trips
include a beach party on shore as well as snorkeling. (See the "Ecotourism"
Visitors who are not certified to dive,
or those who wish to upgrade their certificates, will find a variety
of sanctioned courses available throughout St. Croix at competitive
prices. If you have never dived before, you can enroll in an inexpensive
resort course that allows you to make shallow reef dives after just
a few hours of training. In addition, divers can rent or purchase virtually
any piece of dive equipment they desire: numerous dive shops carry a
wide selection of brand-name goods. Fully qualified personnel are also
available to attend to equipment repairs.
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At first glance, parasailing seems to
be exclusively the province of daredevils. Not so - parasailing is safe
even though you are hundreds of feet in the air. Don't miss the opportunity
to see the island from this unique perspective!
St. Croix is regarded by experienced
windsurfers as one of the top locations in the world to practice the
sport. The same features that attract the experts - the steady 10-to-20-knot
winds out of the east, beautiful scenery and the combination of glassy-smooth,
sheltered water and churning waves - make St. Croix an ideal place to
learn and develop windsurfing skills.
Experts should try windsurfing at Salt
River, where the winds are the strongest on the island and the surf
is at its highest. At Duggan's Reef, at the island's east end, conditions
are also suitable for windsurfing. And the calm waters off Hotel on
the Cay, sheltered by Long Reef, are perfect for novices and experts
alike. Lessons and equipment rentals are available.
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The U.S. and British Virgin Islands are
a "cruising crossroads." The trade winds are continual, the seas are
generally calm, and the mountainous terrain provides for excellent line-of-sight
navigation which explains why the Virgin Islands are often cited as
having the world's best sailing.
You can arrange excursions at the wharf
in Christiansted, at Green Cay Marina and at St. Croix Marina. Smaller
boats such as Sunfish and Hobie Cats can be rented on the beach at the
major resorts. The St. Croix Water Sports Center rents kayaks, Sea Doos
and Wave Runners.
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For those who prefer to stay on land,
try a round of golf at the Carambola Golf Club (809-778-5638). Here
you'll find one of the best golf courses on St. Croix and perhaps in
the entire Caribbean. Nestled in the lush interior hills of northern
St. Croix, the course is set amid palms, bougainvillea and hibiscus.
As designed by the famed architect Robert Trent Jones, the 6,856-yard,
par 72 course features many challenging uphill and over-water shots,
particularly on the tricky par 3 holes. Tee times are generally easy
to get, but you must make reservations one day in advance. Lessons,
equipment rentals, practice facilities and a pro shop are all available
on the premises. (just a 15 minute drive from
and only 20 minutes from
The Buccaneer Golf Course (809-773-2100)
is another first-rate course, as well as being a good test of your shot-making
skill. It is a hilly 6,268-yard, par 71 course dramatically situated
by the ocean. The course, pro-shop and practice facilities are open
to the public by reservation.
The Reef Golf Course (809-773-8844) is
a fun 9-hole course that also offers panoramic ocean vistas of Buck
Island. It's located on the east end of the island by Duggan's Reef.
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The best courts on St. Croix are at private
clubs, which require reservations and a modest fee. The Buccaneer has
eight championship Laykold courts open to the public, along with a well-equipped
pro shop and an experienced pro who gives lessons. Two courts are lighted
for night play.
Private courts are also available at
Gentle Winds Resort (Caribbean
Breeze is located here),
Chenay Bay, Colony Cove, Mill Harbour, Sugar Beach, Hotel on the Cay,
Club St. Croix and The Reef.
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St. Croix is attracting people who come
primarily to appreciate the natural splendor of the island. This section
focuses on a few of the island's natural wonders: Buck Island, Butler
Bay, The St. Croix Aquarium and Marine Education Center, and the St.
George Village Botanical Garden.
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Buck Island Reef National Monument
President John F. Kennedy, apparently
moved by the beauty of Buck Island's reefs during a 1963 visit, had
the island and its surrounding waters declared a National Monument.
Numerous tour operators around the island offer trips of varying length
to the 800-acre nature preserve, located one mile off St. Croix's northeastern
Buck Island's primary draw is spectacular
snorkeling in clear, shallow waters. At a depth of only 15 feet, you
can observe massive elkhorn corals, brain corals and other marine life
that flourish along the park's well-marked underwater trail. And more
experienced snorkelers will enjoy exploring the deeper outer reef.
After a visit to the extraordinary underwater
trail, most tour operators usually anchor at the island's white-sand
beach, a worthwhile attraction in itself. There's also a 45-minute hiking
trail that leads into the interior of the island, which is carpeted
with tropical vegetation. The observation tower at the end of the trail
provides a fabulous view of St. Croix and the reefs around Buck Island.
The island's facilities include picnic
tables, grills, a pavilion, a changing house and rest rooms. Most tour
operators provide snorkeling equipment.
Butler Bay Nature Preserve
The Butler Bay Nature Preserve comprises
225 protected acres replete with indigenous plant and animal life. A
bridge made with hand-cut Danish stone over 150 years old still stands
on the property, and hand-dug wells have been discovered here. A 60-foot
waterfall cascades in the middle of this rain forest. The preserve has
horseback riding trails, and there are plans to develop new trails for
both riding and hiking within the refuge.
The St. Croix Aquarium and Marine Education
Center Opened in 1990, The St. Croix Aquarium and Marine Education Center
practices and teaches eco-sensitive measures. Every day, marine biologist
and owner Lonnie Kaczmarksy dives to catch fresh food for the marine
creatures at the St. Croix Aquarium. Kaczmarksy also believes in "recycling"
the aquarium's sea life; once an exhibit has "performed," its often-times
hand-collected creatures are returned to the sea and are replaced with
a new exhibit. With this constant rotation, hundreds of species pass
through the aquarium's tanks each year. In addition to several viewing
tanks, there's also a touch pond with starfish, sea cucumbers, pencil
urchins, several varieties of fish, colorful coral and much more. Kaczmarsky's
intention is to familiarize beginner snorkelers and divers with the
underwater world and to educate them on the effects of damaging or threatening
the ecosystem in any way.
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This beautiful 16-acre expanse showcases
over 800 various species of exotic plants, all varying in shape, size,
color and texture. The walking tour an experience you won't want to
miss takes you through a Crucian rainforest, the ruins of a sugar mill
and rum factory, and a cactus and succulent garden.
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If you wish to explore St. Croix on your
own, the following hikes are recommended for their solitude and beauty.
Note that these trails are not manicured or marked, so you'll feel as
close to nature as the island's original inhabitants. However, because
the areas are isolated, it's wise to take along a companion.
Isaac's Bay is a two-mile hike. To reach
this spot, follow East End Road (Route 82) past Cramer's Park; the road
turns into a gravel path, which you follow until you reach a dead-end
on the hilltop overlooking Point Udall. You can park here be sure to
leave no valuables in your vehicle.
If you look over the railing, you will
notice a faint track that leads down the barren volcanic hillside to
the water. At the bottom, you can sit and watch waves roll in, crashing
against the rocks. Follow the shoreline heading west until you come
to an open field filled with cactus. Wind through this arid field and
you will end up at East End Bay, where you can explore the beach and
search for shells. You can follow the beach, heading up and over a small
mound, back down to Isaac's Bay. This is where you might want to spread
a blanket and have a bite to eat. If you're a snorkeler, bring your
gear along; these shallow, protected waters have lots of colorful fish
A slightly shorter but just as exciting
hike is at Annaly Bay; this is a 11 2-mile trek. Take Scenic Road (Route
78) west, approximately five miles past Carambola. Take the turn-off
heading up and to the right. Immediately thereafter, you'll see another
dirt road heading back down the hill; turn right. You will be fairly
close to the water. Park at the top of the hill and hike down the incline
to Annaly Bay. Once there, you can enjoy the warm wading pools and explore
the deserted beach. At the northwest end of the beach are some cliffs
that are virtually perpendicular with the ocean. This area is called
Marron Hole, named after a community of exiled slaves who lived there
in the mid-1770s.
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The lure of St. Croix's sun-drenched
beaches is virtually impossible to resist; they have been ranked among
the most beautiful in the world. Picture crescent moons of sugar-white
sand rimming secluded coves, lush tropical scenery and the sun reflecting
diamond sparks on crystal-clear aquamarine waters that about sums up
what you'll find on this island paradise.
for more beach information.
A short ferry ride from downtown Christiansted
will bring you to the Hotel on the Cay, which offers a lovely beach
with an adjoining restaurant and bar; a complete water-sports center;
and a wonderful view of the harborside wharfs. To the west of the city,
there's a great 1,000-foot stretch of beach, as well as facilities for
a number of water sports, at Estate Golden Rock, where Club St. Croix
is located. The Buccaneer, a five-minute ride to the east of Christiansted
on Route 82, features luxurious beach facilities, tropical drinks, food
and shade. Non-guests are charged admission; rafts and beach chairs
can be rented.
Nearby Shoy Beach has palm trees along
the shore and waves that are perfect for body surfing if the wind is
right. To find it, go through the Buccaneer Hotel entrance, turn right
along the golf course and travel the dirt road at the fork until you
see the sign for Buccaneer Estates. Park there and follow the overgrown
path to the beach.
Teague Bay and the Reef Beach entrance
opposite the Reef Condominiums. Everything you'd want from a beach is
here no wonder it's favored by both residents and visitors. Swim or
sun at the long stretch of beach, or sip a cool drink on the restaurant
deck while you watch the windsurfers.
A turn onto Route 60 will take you to
Grapetree Beach. It boasts shade, a splendid stretch of sand, and calm,
protected waters. Should you tire of just plain swimming, snorkel gear
and sailboard rentals are available at this hotel beach, and you'll
also find a bar, a restaurant and rest rooms.
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Heading west and then north of Christiansted
on Route 75 will bring you to the Little Princesse region. Here you'll
see a long stretch of white-sand beaches dotted by beach resorts, the
largest of which is St. Croix by the Sea.
Traveling farther west on Route 75 and
turning north on Route 80, you'll arrive at Salt River Bay, where Columbus
anchored in 1493 and which has recently been designated a National Park
(see the "Ecotourism" section below). There is a nice sequestered beach
without facilities, and a nearby marker commemorating Columbus' visit.
Frequently, you'll see windsurfers negotiating the challenging wind
Farther down the North Shore Road (Route
80), you'll come to the locally popular Cane Bay Beach (this is where
Dawn is located and is
only 8 minutes from
Here you can watch the waves roll in over
the spectacular reef or spy a sea turtle. Neighboring Davis Bay Beach
meets most people's preconception of what a Caribbean beach should look
like, so much so that the final scene of the movie Trading Places was
filmed here. The dense rain forest forms a backdrop for the winding
shoreline, making this one of St. Croix's most picturesque spots. These
two strands are particularly special because some of the island's best
snorkeling is just 100 feet offshore. Davis Bay Beach is part of the
Carambola resort complex but is accessible to the public.
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You can also find several fine beaches
on the west shore north of Frederiksted. If you drive along Route 63,
you'll arrive at several beach shacks and grills. You'll enjoy the calm
waters and sugar-white sand at Rainbow Beach. It's been touted as one
of the island's best snorkeling spots. The nearby beach bar provides
a cool haven for sipping a refreshing drink. The stretch in front of
La Grange Beach and Tennis Club and Sprat Hall Beach, across from the
Sprat Hall Plantation, are similar to Rainbow Beach: both have gorgeous
sandy shores with full facilities, bars that pour inexpensive, oversized
drinks and grills that serve tasty burgers and sandwiches.
Another spot for those who like privacy
is Sandy Point, a pristine area with tranquil waters and miles of white
sand. Located at the southwestern tip of the island, it is a nesting
ground for the endangered leatherback and green sea turtles. If you
are lucky, you may get to see them. The beach is protected by local
environmentalists during the early April to early June nesting season
to guard the eggs. To get there, take Melvin Evans Highway to its western
end and follow the dirt road; there are several places to turn off.
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An artist is born every minute in the
Caribbean; since pre-colonial times, these islands have produced many
dreamers. St. Croix has consistently worked its magic in this respect
by producing some remarkable "born-here" artists and, over the years,
by becoming home to an astounding number of artists from all over the
world. That strong artistic presence is what gives St. Croix its particular
character as the "art-full" Virgin Island, boasting an average 40 local
artists whose works can be viewed throughout the year. The diverse and
often transient nature of St. Croix's artistic community keeps originality
of style as much a certainty as the tropical charm that continually
attracts new dreamers to these shores.
Major artistic events are usually scheduled
throughout the winter season. However, the vibrant artistic life on
St. Croix makes art shows an all-year enjoyment. Art exhibitions on
the island can be seen at places as varied as the grounds of a historic
great house, an artist's studio, fund-raising events, public fairs,
street festivals, the Botanical Garden or inside a 15th-century fort
and, more predictably, at a few commercial galleries in Christiansted
and Frederiksted. You'll be treated to exciting creations by newcomer
artists as well as long time-residents and native Crucians. There are
also offerings from artists who have gone but still keep in touch through
their colorful imagery.
The majority of these artistic activities
takes place in the town of Frederiksted and its surroundings. Frederiksted
is known for having preserved its attributes as an artist's colony.
The only traditional gallery, in both size and artistic representation,
is located in one of Frederiksted's oldest houses, dating back to the
early 1880s. The Frederiksted Gallery features fine arts selections
from St. Croix's noted artists, as well as cultural activities, such
as court-yard poetry readings.
Fort Frederik, located in the Frederiksted
harbor, houses an art gallery and many display rooms offering a variety
of presentations all year long.
The crafts are heavily represented in
late November at Starving Artist Day held yearly at the Whim Plantation,
where many artisans can be seen at work. In addition, currently on display
at the plantation is a new line of furniture called The West Indies
Collection, inspired by 18th- and early 19th-century colonial pieces
found at this restored plantation house.
Art In The Garden in March showcases
the work of art students from painting sessions that were held at the
Botanical Garden. In the town of Christiansted, the Gilliam-King Gallery,
owned by a painter and a sculptor, features their respective works.
And La Petite Galerie, also in Christiansted, specializes in Caribbean-inspired
glass and metal sculpture.
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Within recent years, St. Croix has become
more environmentally conscious and sensitive, joining the rest of the
world in an effort to protect and preserve the earth as well as encouraging
a back-to-nature approach to tourism.
There is a growing desire here to protect
the coral reefs and marine life that border the island's shores, the
soil that covers the land, and the air that's breathed by all. Many
projects now exist for environmental causes, and several associations
have formed, including the St. Croix Environmental Association (S.E.A.).
The S.E.A. is a non-profit organization
that was established in 1986. The primary purpose of the organization
was originally to protect certain land sites from development. The campaign
to save the Salt River site, an ecological and historic jewel, has been
one of the S.E.A.'s greatest successes to date. Since then, the mission
of the S.E.A. has been to educate and create an overall environmental
awareness on the island.
The Salt River area now the Salt River
Bay National Historical Park and Ecological Preserve contains the single
largest mangrove estuarine system left in the Virgin Islands. The mangroves
and the bay's seagrass beds provide a very important wildlife habitat,
hosting 27 endangered or threatened species and providing a breeding
and feeding ground for fish and invertebrate populations. The submarine
canyon at the mouth of the bay one of just a handful in the world is
home to deep-water corals and rare geological features including caverns,
grottoes and ledges. This unique submarine environment has made Salt
River a scuba diver's paradise.
In addition to its ecological importance,
the Salt River basin is also one of the most significant archaeological
sites in the Virgin Islands. Archaeologists unearthed the only Taino
ceremonial ball court in the Lesser Antilles here; along with many associated
artifacts, the ball court indicates that the area was an important Taino
cultural center. A ceremonial burial ground dating back to A.D. 350
was also discovered. And Salt River Bay provided Columbus' first anchorage
in what is now U.S. territory. Hence, the site has been the focus of
every archaeological investigation held on St. Croix since 1880.
In addition to Salt River, the S.E.A.
has continuously worked to protect other fragile lands by advocating
thoughtful and environmentally sound development. And the association's
programs have had a far-reaching effect on the island.
The S.E.A.'s VI ReLeaf reforestation
program, started in 1989 after Hurricane Hugo, is dedicated to planting
new trees and teaching their ecological importance. Trees are given
to schools, churches and communities as gifts, and children are taught
to plant and care for them. The S.E.A.'s Environmental Quality Action
Team (EQAT) monitors the waters around the island, keeping them clean
and safe for humans and wildlife alike. EQAT ensures that St. Croix
is in compliance with local and federal environmental laws governing
quality standards. The program was recognized by the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency in 1994 with an award.
The S.E.A. was the first organization
to teach Crucians about the need to recycle; while this effort is now
overseen by the Antilitter and Beautification Commission, the S.E.A
continues its educational efforts, and still coordinates island clean-ups
from time to time. While everyone enjoys the benefits of the S.E.A.'s
many programs, its guided eco-walks and hikes are especially appealing
to visitors and appropriate for all age groups. Each tour is of varying
difficulty. The walk through Salt River Bay National Historical Park
and Ecological Preserve is the least strenuous. There's also an excursion
to Point Udall, the easternmost point in U.S. territory; this trip is
moderately difficult. A rain-forest expedition into the Caledonia Valley,
home to 200-foot kapok trees, is the most challenging.
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© 1998 Jerry Reynolds