The Best Things to Do in St. Croix

It’s one of the three isles that make up the U.S. Virgin Islands, and though St. Croix is the largest—measuring 218 square kilometers (84 square miles)—it’s the least visited of the trio. Perhaps that’s because much of the island has been set aside as parkland, which means fewer tourist hubs and more space dedicated to natural wonders, including pristine beaches and primo snorkeling and diving. But St. Croix also boasts many excellent historical sites. At various times it was controlled by Spain, Britain, France, the Netherlands and Denmark; the latter’s influence is the most visible in the architecture of St. Croix’s charming capital city of Christiansted, on the northern coast. Frederiksted, on the western point of the island, is a busy port surrounded by some significant colonial attractions, with a restored sugar estate and an 18th-century fort being among the most noteworthy. Here you’ll also find a family-run rum distillery and many restaurants and shops.

Highlights
Sandy Point, St Croix 00840, USVI
This three-mile beach, located near Frederiksted at the southwest end of St. Croix, is the longest in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Part of the 380-acre Sandy Point Wildlife Preserve, the beach is an important nesting area for the endangered leatherback turtle. Beach access is via a dirt road, open Saturdays and Sundays. The beach may be closed during turtle-nesting season, from March to August, so check with your hotel before you make the trek.
Route 82
At Point Udall, on the east coast of St. Croix, a sundial called Millennium Monument was erected for the New Year’s celebration in 2000. The stark sculpture represents the azimuth of the first sunrise of that year, the new millennium, at this easternmost point of the United States. Point Udall also affords visitors panoramic views and marks the starting point of a hike that leads to the beach at Isaac Bay.
2101 Company St Suite 1, Christiansted, VI 00820, USVI
Wherever your travels may take you around the world whenever you ever see anyone sporting this distinct hook bracelet, you’ll know they possess a special place in their heart occupied by the island of St. Croix. There are many, many imitations and evolutions of the Crucian hook bracelet (some better than others), but this is the original and, in my opinion, only truly authentic version. Pick one up and Sonya’s, wear it wherever you go and you’ll be surprised how many new friends you make.
Whistle Beach, St Croix 00820, USVI
I love this beach. Squeeze past the Buccaneer, bypass the golf course, keep going and don’t look back. Park at the end of the line, pick through the sea grapes and there it is: Shoy’s. A sweet little crescent of a beach that’s sure to leave a smile on your face.
Queen Street
This is it. The moment you arrive on-island, do not pass go, do not collect $200 — just get yourself to the La Reine Chicken Shack to immediately immerse yourself in the uniquely local St. Croix vibe. No, this is not haute cuisine, this isn’t even a nice looking place, but what it is is an institution sporting the best BBQ chicken on island. Everyone eats here from senators to sanitation workers and all walks of life in between. On Sunday’s you can even expect some roast pork added to the menu. Whatever you order, you won’t go wrong pairing your styrofoam wrapped meal with a nice rum & Coke!
East End Road
Pristine, untouched and unforgettable: There’s no other way to describe this natural park just off the northeast coast of St. Croix. Walking trails crisscross the expanse through frangipani and tamarind trees and cacti to beautiful beaches. Turtle Bay, on the western side, wows with its magnificent snorkeling; the protected waters and massive coral reef are home to more than 250 kinds of fish. Admission numbers are limited each day; advance booking is required.

Frederiksted Southeast, St Croix 00840, USVI
I’m not sure exactly how Rainbow Beach got its name, though I wouldn’t be surprised if it actually had a lot to do with rain. The island’s most popular beach bar, especially on Sundays, is centrally located on St. Croix’s West Coast, some of the island’s tallest peaks and dense rainforest just a few miles behind it. Prevailing weather patterns, particularly during the summer months, make brief afternoon showers a fairly regular occurrence here. That doesn’t stop the party, though. Live bands play on and everyone keeps dancing. When you’re already wet from the sea and feeling the vibes, a little rain doesn’t hurt one bit.
East End Road
I have to admit, I didn’t want to like this place. I used to come to this location (previously known as Smokey’s) for years to eat great local food and enjoy a laid back vibe... While getting gas, of course. But then the previous West Indian owner moved away to Antigua only to be replaced by a statesider. I thought my days of liming at the solitude gas station with so many other locals and eating great West Indian fare were over. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I’d say the new owner has gone out of his way to make Ziggy’s an active and positive member of the local community, but everything he’s done just has this natural feel to it. Like he’s not even trying, he just IS a part of the community. Local foods like roti, johnny cake, and more still find their home at Ziggy’s. Plus now they’re accompanied by frequent charity events, eating contests, concerts, and even dance competitions... All at an awesome gas station. It may seem odd to suggest stopping by a gas station, but you’d be missing a great new addition to Crucian life without a visit to this libation station.
North Shore Road
One of the great things about the Caribbean is that its rich history was often written at beautiful, easily accessible locations. One of the best places to learn a bit of that history is pictured above. That’s the beach at Columbus Landing in my home island of St. Croix. It was here, in 1493, that Columbus sent ashore a small contingent of his men to scout for fresh water. What they found instead were a group of Indians who weren’t too keen on visitors. What’s the whole story of Columbus and his less than stellar (to say the least) track record throughout the region? That may take a bit more book learning, but feeling what these new visitors may have felt coming ashore in this corner of paradise starts on these sands.
52 Estate Whim, Frederiksted, VI 00840
The Estate Whim Plantation Museum, billed as the only sugar plantation museum in the Virgin Islands, is set on magnificently landscaped grounds occupying 12 acres of what was formerly a 150-acre property. The restored early-18th-century buildings include a great house, fully restored windmill, and sugar-factory ruins that are open to visitors and can be toured alone or with a docent. Sugarcane still grows in one of the plantation gardens.
Christiansted, St Croix 00820, USVI
Sure, it’s the largest town on St. Croix, but it’s the charming Danish-influenced architecture that makes it most noteworthy. The city center is a protected national park lined with candy-colored buildings and historic churches, while the streets are made of cobblestones and punctuated by stone archways. At the waterfront, which was a focal point of the island’s sugar trade, a wharf is populated by restaurants, bars and water sports shops. There’s also an 18th-century fort.

Frederiksted, St Croix 00840, USVI
This city is laid out in a grid system—seven streets by seven streets. Although established in 1751, Frederiksted was rebuilt in 1878 in a Victorian gingerbread style following a great fire due to a labor revolt. St. Patrick’s church, which was constructed in the 1840s, is an impressive sight. Other buildings of note include the Customs House and the eponymous fort. Steps from the pier, Frederiksted Beach has chair, umbrella and paddleboard rentals.

3007 Hannah's Rest, Fredericksted, USVI 00840, USVI
Rum is the Caribbean’s signature spirit, its production documented in the region since colonial times. Just as there are dozens of varieties of rum, Caribbean travelers can select from a wide variety of rum distillery tours. The one offered at Cruzan Rum Distillery highlights the rum-making prowess of the 19th-century Nelthropp family, considered Cruzan rum royalty by many. The Nelthropp family endeavored to craft a spirit incorporating the “warm, tropical breezes that circulate through the open-air warehouses of the distillery.” A sip after your tour will allow you to judge whether they managed to capture St. Croix in a bottle.
King St, Frederiksted, St Croix 00840, USVI
Fans of organic skin care make a beeline to this shop for its all-natural, St. Croix products. Ultrahydrating lotions are made with 100 percent aloe vera juice and packed with avocado and jojoba oil. Bar soaps are spiced with Caribbean scents. (The shop just opened a second outlet on the eastern part of the island, across from Government House. )

Jack Bay, St Croix, USVI
You won’t find crowds on a beach that is accessible only by foot or boat. Hike to beautiful Jack Bay from Point Udall or from the east end of the beach at Grapetree Bay. Like beach at Isaac Bay, Jack Bay’s is home to protected hawksbill and green turtle nests. Enjoy the privacy on Jack Bay, then hike around the bend to see more of the same kind of paradise on Isaac Bay.
2100 Church St, Christiansted, St Croix 00820, USVI
This national park is an ecological preserve with upland watersheds, mangrove forests, and estuarine and marine environments that support threatened and endangered species. The park also includes the Columbus Landing Site, a National Historic Landmark that is the only known place where members of a 1493 expedition led by Christopher Columbus (his second voyage) set foot on what is now United States territory. Columbus and his men met a tribe of Caribs here, so it was the first documented encounter between American Indians and Europeans.
Isaac Bay, St Croix, USVI
You have two choices for how to access the beach at Isaac Bay: Either hike from Jack’s Bay or arrive by boat. The hike is worth the extra effort. The breathtaking beach is home to nests of hawksbill and green turtles. (Keep your distance, though; the nurseries are protected by the Nature Conservatory.) The calm and deep waters of secluded Isaac Bay make it great for swimming and even better for snorkeling.
St Croix, USVI
Wide, sandy Cane Bay Beach, on St. Croix, has a lot going in its favor: The medium-size surf, full-service dive shop, barbecue grills, and fun sites to snorkel make the beach popular with families, kids, and even dogs. Choose simply to rent some beach chairs and bask in the warm Caribbean sun, or opt for a game of beach volleyball or a swim in the clear waters.
St Croix 00820, USVI
The Buccaneer has a long history. The colonial great house was built by Maltese knight Charles Martel in 1653. Located on a protected bluff, the house later became the home of Danish governor von Prock after Denmark’s 1733 purchase of the Virgin Islands. Fast-forward to 1947, when the Armstrong family transformed what was by then a cattle estate into the Buccaneer, St. Croix’s first family-run hotel. The resort, completely modern and still quite popular, operates the Buccaneer Golf Club, celebrated for its par 70 course that offers Caribbean views from 13 of its 18 holes.

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