Dreaming … I do a lot of it! One of my more frequent dreams is about moving to an island in the Caribbean where I can kayak every day, be surrounded by history and culture and enjoy laid-back attitudes and tropical breezes. My dreams often vary about what I would do with my time and how I would make a living. Ideas have ranged from really taking my artistic side seriously and painting landscapes of the island to sell in a small art gallery, to being a tour guide or a freelance writer. After watching one too many episodes of International House Hunters set in St. Croix, I thought St. Croix could be “that island” I had been dreaming about! I liked the idea that it is part of the United States Virgin Islands and was intrigued by the “Big Island’s” geographic mixture of rain forests, rolling farmlands, and beaches. I figured if it was good enough for Christopher Columbus to explore in 1493, why not me!
Once I touched down on the island, I learned that many vastly different things were unique to St. Croix and I had a fascinating adventure! Here are the places I explored and would recommend to anyone who plans to visit. If you decide to set out on your exploration of this pristine paradise, you will quickly realize why I now plan on making my dream a reality in the future!
1. St. Croix Heritage Trail – This 72-mile self-guided driving tour stretches across St. Croix connecting over 200 historic and scenic sites. Some highlights of the trail are the Whim Plantation Museum, the Lawaetz Family Museum, and the St. George Village Botanical Gardens. A surprise on the trail is Point Udall, which is the easternmost point in the United States.
2. Buck Island Reef – Buck Island Reef National Monument is an underwater National Park and a premier snorkeling site. Once on the island, there is two beaches and two picnic areas and a great place to hike. Since it is an island the only way to get there is by boat. We had a great time on Big Beard’s Adventure Tour. They provided snorkel gear and the full day tour included a beach barbecue.
3. Take a Walking Tour of Christiansted – Christiansted is also a National Park Service site. The park encompasses seven acres around the waterfront area and includes five historic structures: Fort Christiansvaern, the Danish Customs House, the Danish West India & Guinea Company Warehouse, the Steeple Building, and the Scale House. For a fee, tours are available at the Scale House Bookstore.
4. Salt River Bay – This is where Christopher Columbus anchored his fleet in 1493. Here you can paddle through lush mangroves on luminescent water and see wildlife and listen to historical lore along the way. You can learn about the history and ecology of the Salt River on a kayak tour offered by Caribbean Adventure Tour.
5. Horseback Riding – Paul and Jill’s Equestrian Stables at Sprat Hall Plantation offers Rain Forest Nature Tours including a ride along the beach. The tour is about an hour and a half, and they have excellent horses for kids. A bonus is that you can sample the fruit from the exotic orchards.
6. Walk a Dozen Art Galleries on Art Thursdays - Art Thursday in Christiansted gives you an opportunity to stroll along the streets and alleyways and visit nearly a dozen galleries that show the work of local artist between 5 and 8 pm.
7. Scuba Diving at Cane Bay - Cane Bay is gorgeous! It is also the home of the Cane Bay Wall (it drops over 13,000 feet) which is considered one of the top dives in the Caribbean and Atlantic. Also, there is also a thriving reef terrace. Cane Bay Dive Shop offers flexible diving schedules and is a PADI 5-Star Dive Center.
8. Shop in the Danish Brick Courtyards and King’s Alley Walk - There are many unique stores in Christiansted, but I enjoyed checking out the jewelry stores. I had to go into Sonya’s cute little store on Company Street to pick up a Hook bracelet. I also found a beautiful little watercolor painting at Yellow House Gallery. When shopping on St. Croix, US citizens can enjoy duty-free allowance of $1,600 per person every 30 days whether buying to pack or mail.
9. Head to the Beach – All beaches in the U.S. Virgin Islands are open to the public, although access through private property may have restrictions. I enjoyed the beaches on the North Shore like Cane Bay and Carambola Beach.
10. Check out La Reine Farmer’s Market on a Saturday Morning - The Farmer’s Market at Villa La Reine is a Saturday morning tradition for locals. The sociable event always has fresh market produce and sometimes the harvest produce occurs the day before or even the same day the market is open. Here you will have an opportunity to try many fruits and vegetables. Make sure you try the Star Fruit, also known as Carambola. Also look for homemade jams, jellies, chutney tarts, pies, cakes and local juices. The market is open from 7 am to 3 pm and is run by the Department of Agriculture.
11. Taste the Tropics - There is great food in St. Croix! Here are my favorites. You can eat with the locals at Rowdy Joe’s or enjoy magnificent views at Off the Wall and The Waves at Cane Bay. I also loved EAT @ Cane Bay! The atmosphere is excellent as well as their brunch. Another place recommended to me by a local was Blue Moon in Frederiksted. It was fabulous and, you can enjoy some cool jazz music. For a different type of atmosphere you can head over to the Fort Christian Brew Pub for live music, and on Mondays, you can catch the Crab Races where hermit crabs crawl, and you cheer them on! Another fun place we enjoyed was the Spratnet Beach Bar on Cane Bay. Make sure you go on a Sunday for their Pig Roast, you’ll be sure to have a great time!
12. Tour the Cruzan Rum Distillery or visit the home of the Famous Beer Drinking Pig - Obviously this is not a kid-friendly activity, but I had to throw something in for Mom and Dad while the kids were hanging at the Kid’s Camp at the Buccaneer. Tour the rum factory and learn how the popular local rum, Cruzan is made. You will walk away with knowledge on what the difference is between white rum and gold rum and how the proofs are made. You can also sample the rum for yourself. Tours are only offered during weekdays. You also won’t want to miss Mt. Pellier Domino Club which is the home of the World Famous Beer Drinking Pigs! Located in the heart of the rain forest you can stop for some great food and a cold drink and be entertained by JJ and Oreo as they enjoy a round of beer, non-alcoholic of course!
Are you ready to explore St. Croix’s wonderous landscapes and downtown area that tells a story of rich culture and history?