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A complete activity guide to St. Croix

A complete activity guide to St. Croix

“Stay on the left, stay on the left,” I continuously repeated to myself while cruising around the curvy roads of St. Croix at a speedy 15mph. But as we rounded the corner and beachside cliffs came into focus, my attention was drawn to the stunning view.

The beauty of St. Croix is distracting in the best way. You’ll forget your work worries, daily stresses, and the task at hand the first time you see the pure blue water spotted with reefs and the white sand beaches backed by rocky cliffs. But focus on the road you must if you want to see as much of this paradise as possible. This guide is built for those who take a more active approach to vacationing. Completing all these activities will keep you extremely busy for 4 days – but I promise there is lots of beach time built in!

An absolute must to follow this guide is renting a car. Having your own vehicle will give you the freedom to come and go as you please and you won’t have to rely on cabs, which are pricey and relatively hard to find. Plus driving on the left is a fun challenge!

Day 1 – Explore Frederiksted and the surrounding area

Head toward Frederikstead in the Southwest portion of the island. Before making your way to the city, start your day at the St. George Botanical Garden. St. George is no Singapore Botanic Gardens where the beauty lies in immaculately groomed flowers and lawns. Rather, St. George’s beauty lies in its somewhat abandoned state. As you make your way through the gardens, you’ll see sugar mill ruins overtaken with vines. You can also traipse around the paths through the neighboring rainforest for a peaceful start to your morning.

Because it’s never too early to drink on vacation, your next step should be Cruzan Rum Distillery! For the small price of $7 you’ll get to tour the factory to see how rum is made and enjoy four rum samples (aka shots) and two mixed drinks. Honestly, even if you skipped the tour the drinks themselves are a steal. We opted for the Cruzan Rum Tour instead of the Captain Morgan Tour near the airport because Cruzan is the local brand that is stocked in almost all restaurants and bars. Plus, Cruzan has much less of a corporate vibe and you actually get to go inside the factory. Drink up!

Once your rum buzz subsides, drive to Estate Mount Washington to see sugar mill plantation ruins that are mostly intact. There is no admission or services here, so you’ll likely be alone. The view from the yellow house on the top of the hill is worth the trip.

Finally, make your way to Frederiksted for the rest of your day. This tiny Caribbean town is busy when a cruise ship is in port, but somewhat deserted otherwise. Don’t be surprised if Frederiksted is eerily quiet, since they only get 1 or 2 cruise ships a week.

Walk along the streets to see pastel colored Danish style buildings and some street murals. Check out the pier and the surrounding beaches where there is some okay snorkeling off the shore – mostly just fish and starfish. If you’re hungry, beware that restaurants are not open in mid-afternoon (~2pm – 5pm). If you stick around until the evening, Blue Moon is a good spot for dinner.

Day 2 – Visit Christiansted and Point Udall

Start your day by driving to Point Udall, the eastern most point in the United States and US Territories. Bring your camera because you’ll have 360 degree views of the cliffs and beaches below. Make sure to hike down to Isaac’s / Jack’s Bay beaches – the trailhead begins on the hill just before you reach the point. The hike down takes about 30 minutes through long grass and cacti, but there is a clear trail. At the bottom, you’ll have few neighbors to enjoy what I thought was the most beautiful beach on the island. We didn’t snorkel here, but you’ll see turtles if the season is right.

For the afternoon, head back toward Christiansted, which is the biggest, most vibrant town in St. Croix. Check out the historical buildings – namely the scale house (where sugar was weighed and taxed in the 17th century), the steeple building, and the fort. You can actually go into the dungeons of Fort Christiansvearn which is pretty cool. Make your way up to the roof for a beautiful view of the bay and the nearby boardwalk.

For a perfect end to the day, eat dinner at Savant. This is the best date spot in the city as it has a charming patio with waxy, dripping candles and vines covering the walls. Most importantly, the cocktail menu is delish. Order the Boobs drink (for real). Savant is very small and only takes a limited number of customer a night, so I definitely recommend making a reservation.

Day 3 – Swim in Cane Bay and Carambola Tidal Pools

Cane Bay is one of the most popular snorkeling spot on mainland St. Croix, so go early to beat the crowds. Enter the water directly in front of the boat launch (pictured in the far left of the photo above). The reef is super shallow so get on your stomach fast to watch out for sea urchins! I’m seriously terrified of sea urchins and there are a ton of them, so definitely wear close heeled fins for safety. Once you make it out to the deeper part of the reef, you’ll see some colorful coral and schools of fishes. Divers will prefer the wall, which is a steep drop off about 200 yards from shore. If you like Cane Bay, you’ll also enjoy Shoys, which has similar marine life but fewer sea urchins for scaredy cats like me.

Do not pass up hiking to the Carambola Tidal Pools. This was one of my favorite things we did. The trailhead starts at the western edge of the Renaissance Carambola Resort – we happened to stay here but anyone can enter the property to access the trail. Ask for a map at the front desk beforehand because the trail splits at one point and it’s not obvious which direction to take.  More importantly, check the tide for the day because you need to go just before or at low tide for safety reasons. Once you make it to the beach, you’ll have to climb over and down some rocks to enter the pools. The water is warm, shallow, and filled with some tiny fish that get washed inside from the ocean. This is the most beautiful spot on the island, in my opinion.

Day 4 – Sail to Buck Island

Buck Island and the surrounding reef was dubbed a national monument by JFK, who vacationed there with his family. Buck Island reef system is, without a doubt, the best snorkeling in St. Croix. The colorful reef on the eastern edge is comparable to Belize and Australia, with an array of colorful coral and fish – Parrotfish, Puffer Fish, and countless others. There are underwater signs here which will guide you along the reef and describe the different marine life in the area. Swim into the grotto, which is like an underwater tidal pool where the shallow reef forms a ring that you can swim into through a small entrance. Before you dive in, take off anything shiny (like rings) because there are a ton of Barracuda, who are attracted to shiny fish and may get confused by your jewelry and attack. Not likely, but better safe than sorry, right?

To get to Buck Island, you’ll have to go with a guided tour. I loved Big Beard Adventure Tours and highly recommend the full day tour. Before you hit the reef, you’ll stop at Turtle Beach on the western side of Buck Island. You can find se turtles here, but will need to swim out to some of the further sea grass beds. If you’re not a strong swimmer, take a life jacket and tell the boat crew you’re headed that way. Stay quiet, float, and look for shadows in the water. If you’re patient, you’ll run across some big, beautiful turtles.

What else should you know?

For some reason, St. Croix is the least talked about or written about U.S. Virgin Island. I would prefer to travel back to St. Croix over St. John or St. Thomas, hands down. Explore this underrated gem for yourself and I’m sure you’ll agree.

There are a ton of other beaches and bays we didn’t get to explore due to lack of time. If you have additional recommendations, comment below!

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