The largest of the U.S. Virgin Islands, St. Croix is a beautiful island with a complex past and alluring attractions. Forts and remnants of sugar plantations attest to the island’s Dutch colonial era, as do the colorful Dutch-built structures in Christiansted.
Underwater reefs rich with corals, sponges, and schools of tropical fish lure snorkelers and divers. You can kayak where Columbus made landfall, walk among fragrant blooms and lush foliage at a botanical garden, and stroll and swim at glorious beaches.
Enjoy these 13 exciting things to do in St. Croix.
Snorkel & Hike Buck Island Reef National Monument
Protected by the National Park Service, Buck Island Reef National Monument’s 19,000-acres of land and submerged areas lie six miles off the coast of Christiansted. It’s also home to some of the best snorkeling in the Caribbean.
On an escorted snorkel trip, guides lead you along an underwater trail that showcases corals and schools of tropical reef fish.
Allow time to go ashore. The beach is among the best beaches in the Caribbean, and the panoramic views of turquoise waters from the 400-foot island summit dazzle. It’s wise to bring sneakers and pants to hike past prickly pear and barrel cactus.
When on the island, be sure to listen. Besides the soothing rhythms of surf, you hear the trill of mountain doves, the screech of yellow birds, and the twitter of pearly-eyed thrashers.
You’re likely to see brown pelicans since the island serves as a rookery, and in season, nests of leatherback, hawksbill, and green sea turtles. Bring your own food and drink.
Read: Best Islands for Snorkeling
Learn About History at Fort Frederik
Take in the splendid sea views at Fort Frederik, built between 1752 and 1760 to protect the island from pirates, plunderers, and potential invasions by other powers.
Like Frederiksted, the town it defends, the fort is named for Danish King Frederick V of Denmark, under whose reign the Dutch West Indies Company purchased St. Croix from France in June 1733.
Fort Frederik, a U.S. National Historic Landmark, served as the site of several significant events. In 1848, thousands of enslaved and free laborers from the island’s many plantations marched on Frederiksted, taking the fort.
Governor-General Peter von Scholten, sympathetic to emancipation and fearful of the town’s destruction by fire, abolished slavery on July 3, 1848, in the Danish West Indies.
Learn about the events at the fort’s small museum. The fort also served as the site for one of the ceremonies transferring St. Croix to the U.S. in 1917.
Kayak Salt River Bay National Historical Park and Ecological Preserve
Paddling the bay where Columbus landed on November 14, 1493, on his second voyage to the New World, is one of the best things to do in St. Croix.
On a kayak tour of tranquil Salt River Bay, you’ll explore estuaries and mangrove lagoons, observe ancient burial grounds and villages, and snorkel over unspoiled reefs.
That’s a decidedly more pleasant experience than Columbus had. Natives shot so many arrows at the invading party that the explorer retreated.
Pick up the park’s informative brochure that details the human history and natural significance of the 1,015-acre preserve.
Stroll Through the St. George Botanical Garden
The contrast between the lush foliage and the ruins of 18th and 19th-century sugarcane plantations makes strolling through these gardens feel like walking through a natural art installation.
More than 1,000 varieties of plants thrive on the 16-acre St. George Botanical Garden. Paths wind past towering palms, sausage and cannonball trees, cactus, orchids, heliconia, butterfly ginger, and other fragrant blooms.
You see aloe, Creole cotton, tobacco, avocado, and other plants used in daily Caribbean life.
At the St. George Village Museum, housed in a restored colonial-era laborers’ cottage, peruse items that span 2,000-years of the site’s history, from Amerindian artifacts to plantation-era objects.
Scuba Dive Butler Bay
For scuba enthusiasts, diving Butler Bay is a real thrill. As one of the best diving spots in the world, you get to explore five wrecks at depths of between 40 and 80 feet in one outing.
Encrusted with corals and barnacles, the scuttled vessels and vehicles serve as rich habitats for fish. Barracuda, snapper, butterflyfish, and turtles commonly circle the 75-foot-long Northwind, that’s also notable for its intact propeller.
Not far away, several Hess oil trucks hug the ocean floor.
You can swim through the 30-foot-long Aegir, an underwater habitat consisting of two cylindrical chambers with a sphere in the middle.
As you work your way across the largest wreck, the 300-foot long oil barge the Virgin Islander, peer through slits in the deck to see below. Snapper and chub frequent the vessel and stingrays bury themselves in the sand.
Since the superstructure of the Suffolk Maid, a 144-foot-long North Sea trawler, has been removed, you can look beneath the deck through large cutouts. In and around the ship, find creole wrasses and moray eels.
Explore Fort Christiansvaern and the Christiansted National Historic Site
You can’t miss Fort Christiansvaern. The bright yellow stronghold, the largest structure in the seven-acre Christiansted National Historic Site, overlooks Christiansted’s harbor.
Constructed between 1738 and 1749 by Danish soldiers and enslaved Africans, the fort is one of the Caribbean’s best-preserved colonial structures.
On a self-guided walk of the grounds, you see the courtyard, cannons, the powder magazine, and the dungeons. Enjoy the sea breezes and the spectacular harbor views, too.
Additional park structures include the Steeple building, a 1753 Danish colonial-style Lutheran church whose 1796 steeple served as a marker for mariners, and the 1753 Scale House, where materials were weighed before being exported.
Take a Dip at Frederiksted Beach
One of the best beaches in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Frederiksted Beach, also known as Fort Frederik Beach, is convenient for a cooling swim after exploring Frederiksted. The beach has public restrooms and picnic tables.
Nearby, Polly’s at the Pier serves wraps, rice bowls, and noteworthy grilled cheese sandwiches, and The Fred eatery has good seafood salads and lobster rolls.
Swim, Snorkel, & Dive Cane Bay Beach
Palm trees edge Cane Bay Beach, a long sandy stretch on St. Croix’s northwest coast. Aside from swimming, this is one of the best spots for snorkeling in St. Croix. Close to the shore, you might spot parrotfish, damselfish, blue chromis, stingrays and turtles.
The Cane Bay Wall, teeming with coral, sponges and fish, can be accessed about 200 yards from the beach’s boat ramp. At a depth of 30 to 40 feet, you can swim along a sand chute whose coral reefs attract turtles, flounder, lobster, and eels.
It’s known as one of the best diving spots in the Caribbean.
At the Wall, an abyss with deep drops, you might see barracuda, reef sharks, squid, and sometimes dolphins. Consider lunch at The Landing Beach Bar, a good place for fish and chips, jerk chicken salad, and the grilled mahi sandwich.
Read: Best Things to Do in the U.S. Virgin Islands
Taste Mutiny Island Vodka
Sample something unique–vodka made from breadfruit–on a tour of Sion Farm Distillery. Learning about Mutiny Island Vodka and its mission is an interesting insight into island culture.
A partnership between award-winning chef Todd Manley and master distillers led to the creation of Mutiny Island Vodka, the world’s first and only island vodka made from breadfruit.
The eco-conscious innovators chose breadfruit because of its abundance on the island. Breadfruit is a superfood rich in nutrients, and also produces a great vodka.
Tour the distillery, learn about the plant-to-product process, and taste the vodka, loved for its smooth texture. You can also sample the unique St. Croix drink at the waterfront Sion Farm tasting room at the Mill in Christiansted; it makes a different and delightful souvenir, too.
Enjoy Sun & Fun on Rainbow Beach
Situated on St. Croix’s west end, Rainbow Beach, a strip of sand edged by trees, is relatively quiet during the week, but bustling on weekends, especially Sundays when locals gather to listen to live bands.
You can rent chairs and umbrellas as well as jet skis, paddleboards, and kayaks. Wear water shoes to protect your feet from the patches of underwater rocks.
Rhythms on Rainbow Beach is known for its tacos, burgers, and blackened mahi bites.
Shop for Souvenirs in Christiansted
Take home a painting, print, piece of jewelry, ceramic platter, or bowl that delights you and reminds you of your exciting Caribbean vacation.
Find brightly colored island paintings and prints, handmade pottery, greeting cards, and Moko Jumbie figures, modeled after the towering stilt figures used in festivals to ward off evil spirits, at the Many Hands Gallery.
The Cane Roots Gallery showcases a variety of works by local and international artists. Henle Studio Fine Art Gallery primarily features the island-inspired etchings and paintings of Caribbean artist Maria Henle, the photographs and posters of Fritz Henle, and the photography of Tina Henle.
Artist Therese Trudeau showcases her vibrant paintings and works by others at Crucian Gold, a jewelry store that sells handcrafted rings, necklaces, and bracelets. A staple at this store and others, Crucian Knot bracelets, also known as the love knot, feature interlocking knots that symbolize strength in unity.
Taste Local Specialties
Sampling local fare is one of the best things to do in St. Croix. Among the many ways Crucians like their seafood is fried or cooked with creole sauce or butter sauce.
The national dish of the U.S. Virgin Islands, fish and fungi (pronounced “foon-jee”)—yellow cornmeal cooked with okra and butter—dresses many St. Croix plates.
Try stew chicken or goat, rice and beans (known as “peas” in the Caribbean), and pot fish, a fried fresh fish in a stew with vegetables and served with fungi. Order tasty red grout, a USVI dessert made from guava, almonds, and tapioca.
Zeny’s Restaurant in Christiansted plates Latin-infused local fare such as stew chicken and conch in butter sauce. Locals rave about the stew goat in coconut sauce at Harvey’s Restaurant, also in Christiansted.
Head to Martha’s Deli for an authentic Crucian breakfast of salt fish, spinach, Johnny cakes, and eggs.
Many think La Reine Chicken Shack, in Kingshill, cooks up the best BBQ chicken on the island. The eatery slow-cooks the chicken, as well as ribs and pork chops over charcoal. Add such tasty sides as mac ‘n’ cheese, rice and beans, and Johnny cakes.
The food at Braata, in Frederiksted, mixes Caribbean and African influences. Try the Mahi tacos, crab cakes, and African meatballs.
Stand at the Easternmost Spot in the U.S. at Point Udall
Point Udall marks the easternmost spot in the United States. Here, the sea is a sweep of turquoise waters laced with deep blue reefs. The spot was named in 1969 in honor of Stewart Udall, United States Secretary of the Interior under Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson.
What looks like a collection of stone spires is a sundial called the Millenium Monument, installed in 2000 to celebrate the new millennium in the U.S.
From Point Udall, hike down (three-and-a-half miles round trip) to Jack and Isaac Bay Preserve, one of the best beaches in St. Croix. The area is also a nesting site for green and hawksbill turtles from July through August.
The first beach, East End Bay, is a long, thin splinter of sand. Keep walking until you see stairs to the real jewel, Isaac Bay, a swath of soft sands, lapping surf, and few people. Be sure to bring ample water.
Read: What’s the Best Virgin Island to Visit?
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