At just 84 square miles (217.55 sq km), you’d think St. Croix would fly right under the radar. But in the USA Virgin Islands, those kms stack up to make it the largest island in the archipelago. And every square inch is brimming with something special for visitors. So, bookmark this page for your next trip to St. Croix to remember everything you should see, do, and explore on this beautiful Caribbean Island. By T+L editors
Getting to St. Croix
Several leading air carriers operate nonstop flights from major gateways like Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Charlotte, and Atlanta. Perhaps most convenient for American travellers is the fact they do not need a passport to enter, as the island is an unincorporated USA territory.
However, Americans will notice one major difference upon landing: The local population drives on the left. But the transition is easy, thanks to “Keep Left” road signs and stickers prominently displayed in rental cars and road signs providing helpful reminders along the way.
St. Croix history and culture
While on this beautiful Caribbean island, visitors may catch a glimpse of several different flags swaying in the breeze, including the Dannebrog, the national flag of Denmark. This is a holdover from the island’s colonial-era past, prior to the purchase by the USA and its transition of power in 1917.
The culture on the island is a deep combination of African, European, Caribbean, native Carib and Taino, and American heritages. It’s a place where storytelling and music can be found on every corner and town square, and it’s a good idea to stop, learn, and appreciate what makes this destination and its locals so special.
Best St. Croix Beaches, hikes, shops, restaurants and more
St. Croix appeals to a broad range of adventurous and culturally curious travellers. The island’s twin towns, Christiansted in the east and Frederiksted in the west, offer a wealth of shopping, fine dining, art, and historical attractions.
Fort Frederik in Frederiksted is historically significant from an Afro-conscious perspective. It was here, in 1848, that the proclamation freeing all enslaved Africans throughout the Danish West Indies was made. A bust commemorating General Buddhoe, a formerly enslaved person who led the insurrection that proved pivotal in earning emancipation, sits just outside the fort’s weathered red walls. Additional historical attractions in Frederiksted include the Estate Whim Great House and Museum (the only sugar plantation museum in the Virgin Islands) and the Lawaetz Museum.
Christiansted is also home to several centuries-old attractions. Fort Christiansvaern forms the centrepiece of the Christiansted National Historic Site, a collection of carefully restored Danish colonial structures dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries.
Arguably, the bigger draws in Christiansted, however, are the shopping and dining venues. Here, exciting foodie adventures and one-of-a-kind buys await in cafes, restaurants, and boutiques housed in distinctive structures pulled right from the past.
Top restaurants in the neighbourhood include Savant, Café Christine, Galangal, and Rum and Wine Bar Restaurant. Meanwhile, savvy shoppers keen on collecting unique mementoes, won’t want to miss Sonya’s, home of the original St. Croix hook bracelet. Crucian Gold and ib Designs are also big on producing fine, handmade jewellery born and bred on the island.
Away from the twin towns, this beautiful Caribbean Island’s beaches, hiking, championship golf courses, snorkelling, and scuba diving options fill days with thrills that keep travellers coming back for more.
For a stunning view, put in the work with a hike up Goat Hill, where you’ll enjoy the full expanse of the island extending westward and the easternmost point of the USA, Point Udall, to the east.
The Jack and Isaac Bay Preserve below Goat Hill allows travellers to combine hiking and beachcombing in one rewarding adventure. Low-impact trails lead to the remote, unspoiled beaches lined with sugar-white sand, lush trees, and blessedly nothing else.
Additional hiking trails are also available at Buck Island, a small, uninhabited island just off St. Croix’s northeast shore. Buck Island and its surrounding reef and waters lie within the Buck Island Reef National Monument, a protected natural environment managed by the USA National Park Service. Hiking adventures here are a boon for bird-watchers or anyone seeking to commune with nature in peace and tranquillity. An undersea snorkelling trail along the Buck Island Reef makes it easy for visitors to familiarise themselves with the coral and sea creatures that call these protected waters home.
Several tour operators offer half and full-day excursions to Buck Island. Chief among them is Captain Carl of Buck Island Charters. The family-owned charter company provides a nonmotorised full-sail Buck Island experience aboard trimaran sailing vessels.
For scuba divers, nothing beats the fun at The Wall at Cane Bay. One of the world’s renowned dive sites, The Wall drops to depths in excess of 13,000 feet. The deep waters here teem with out-of-this-world wildlife and coral formations.
Best St. Croix resorts
The leading hotels and resorts on this beautiful Caribbean Island are a bit different from those found on other Caribbean islands. In place of large, all-inclusive properties and familiar international brand names, St. Croix hotels are generally smaller and more intimate. Often, they echo the island’s rich history. And many of the newest hotels are actually updated and reimagined versions of older, historic properties.
The Buccaneer Beach and Golf Resort
The Buccaneer Beach and Golf Resort truly has it all: a stunning 18-hole championship golf course, modern tennis facilities, a full-service spa, multiple dining options, three beaches, and an array of water sports equipment. The estate was originally founded in 1653 when the Knights of Malta controlled St. Croix. Historic remnants of the old plantation, like the sugar mill that sits astride the main entrance to the hotel lobby, remain on the grounds. The property was converted into a hotel in 1947, earning The Buccaneer the distinction of being the oldest family-owned and operated property in the Caribbean.
Company House Hotel
Nestled in the heart of downtown Christiansted, the historic Company House Hotel is a cosy and freshly remodelled oasis of refinement built on simplicity. A somewhat secret grotto pool and an elegant mahogany bar in the lobby serve as the two main gathering points. There’s no restaurant, though this encourages guests to seek out the many fantastic restaurants that have recently elevated Christiansted into a culinary hot spot in the area.
The most stylish hotel to open in St. Croix in a generation, The Fred sits right on the waterfront of its namesake town, Frederiksted, on the west coast of the island. Formerly a private residence, the property’s structure dates back to the 18th century. The swanky pool, elevated sundeck, party-sized Jacuzzi, half-moon bar, and boardwalk above the beach are all new additions to the building.
Feather Leaf Inn
What’s old is new again (and much improved) at the Feather Leaf Inn. Formerly known as Estate Butler’s Bay, the property is an 18th-century Danish sugar plantation. Rather than glorifying its dark, colonial past, Feather Leaf builds on its agrarian roots, emphasising healthy, plant-based food and sustainable tourism. Much of the grounds are devoted to developing a seaside botanical forest filled with tropical fruits and herbs. As for the accommodations, nine guest rooms are spread among three separate buildings, and each is 100% solar-powered, distinctively styled, and features jaw-dropping sunset views over a calm, secluded bay.
(This story first appeared on www.travelandleisure.com)
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