St. Croix USVI Travel Guide and Photo Gallery
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Welcome to St. Croix U.S. Virgin Islands Travel Guide!

Copyrighted Image   Since Christopher Columbus anchored on St. Croix in 1493, the island has been ruled by seven nations. Although now a United States territory, St. Croix and its residents have retained much of their West Indian cultural heritage, identity and architecture.

The largest of three principal islands comprising the U.S. Virgins, St. Croix offers visitors a diversity not found on St. Thomas and St. John. Its size 28 miles long and 7 miles wide makes it three times that of cosmopolitan St. Thomas. With more square miles than its sister islands, uncrowded St. Croix has space for both modern development and the preservation of its uniquely diverse terrain.

St. Croix is the place to get a full dose of the Caribbean outdoors: lots of fresh air, soothing sea breezes, cool waters and verdant surroundings. A sport's enthusiast's paradise, the island offers fabulous opportunities to try every water sport imaginable. Land options are also plentiful: How about horseback riding, hiking, bicycling, golf or tennis?

     
The lure of St. Croix's sun-drenched beaches is virtually impossible to resist; they have been ranked among the most beautiful in the world.

Picture crescent moons of sugar-white sand rimming secluded coves, luscious tropical scenery, the sun reflecting diamond sparks on aquamarine waters--that's what awaits in this island paradise.

The island of St. Croix offers something for everyone in the way of nightlife. Top off the splendid, sun-filled days with island and disco dancing, smooth jazz or the soothing sounds of piano -- the choices are plentiful on St. Croix!

 

If St. Thomas is the sophisticated cosmopolitan island of the U.S. Virgins Islands, and St. John is the nature island, then St. Croix is a cross between the two, a rustic environment with tinges of elegance. Columbus thought St. Croix looked like a lush garden when he first saw it. Today, the island is a combination of graceful Danish architecture, modern development, and natural beauty. There are two main towns, Christiansted on the northeast coast and Frederiksted on the west.


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St. Croix Facts & Figures


arrow Official Name St. Croix, US Virgin Islands,
territory of the USA

arrow Largest City Christiansted

arrow Languages English, English Creole, Spanish

arrow Official Currency US Dollar

arrow Religions Varied denominations

arrow Population 50,600

arrow Land Area 82.88 sq. miles

View Map of St. Croix

Christiansted, designed by the Dutch West Indies Company as a planned community, shows its Dutch influence plainly, but it is more than just historic buildings. There is modern shopping, excellent dining, wonderful little bars, and numerous outstanding resort hotels.

Guarded by Fort Frederik, Frederiksted is a very quiet community on the west seashore, differing substantially from Christiansted because many of the original buildings were destroyed by a hurricane and high waves in 1867 and the fire of 1878. The real pleasure in Frederiksted is its bustling, colorful port, attracting freighters, cruise ships, and navy vessels, vying for sleeping quarters in the well-kept harbor.

For years, divers and macrophotography buffs around the world have known the famous Frederiksted Pier as one of the Caribbean's premier dives for all kinds of marine life. The port of Frederiksted has recently undergone a major expansion, with vendor kiosks in Victorian gingerbread style lining the waterfront and two shaded bus stops installed in General Buddhoe Park. The old pump station has been converted into a hospitality lounge for tourists, a police substation, and a VITRAN bus token station. The best place to watch the glorious sunsets of St. Croix is now an old clock tower adjacent to the park which has been renovated to include a second-story observatory.

St. Croix Travel Guide: St. Croix History

Columbus and his crew first came ashore at St. Croix's Salt River in 1493, but native Caribs did their best to fight them off. In haste he named the island Santa Cruz (Holy Cross) and sailed on to lay claim to St. John and St. Thomas. Eventually he renamed the entire group including the British Virgin Islands at the time for the legendary 11,000 virgin followers of St. Ursula. Today, we know that he unknowingly wildly exaggerated the number of islands in the area. Soon after Columbus's departure, British, Dutch, and French colonists began to establish farms on St. Croix, and in 1653 the island was awarded the crusaders' Order of St. John, better known as the Knights of Malta.
 
France took control a few years later, and for the next 50 or so years, possession alternated between the French and the Spanish. As St. John and St. Thomas became acquired by the Danish West India Company and Guinea Company, St. Croix remained in the background. In 1773 the Danes also purchased St. Croix, attracted by its already burgeoning slave population and sugarcane fields.

Planters and pirates mingled together during this golden age; some secluded coves are still said to harbor buried treasure. As the sugar beet was introduced to Europe, and the uprisings of slaves threatened the status quo, commercial interest in the island began to flag.

Over the last 250 years, seven different conquerors have taken control of the island, though the Danish influence has remained the most lasting. During World War I, the Danes, sensing the sugarcane industry had all but dissolved, looked for buyers, finding the U.S. who was seeking a Caribbean base from which it could protect the Panama Canal. Eventually a great deal was struck between the two powers US$25 million dollars for three islands. St. Croix history timeline follows:

  • Circa 2500 BC - to late 1500's AD: Igneri ("the ancient ones") and later Arawak and Carib Indians inhabit St. Croix (Burial grounds have been found in over 40 areas on the island, notable at Salt River).
  • 1493: Christopher Columbus drops anchor at Salt River on St. Croix's north shore. He names the island Santa Cruz (Holy Cross).
  • 1587: John Smith spends three days on Santa Cruz before he founded the colony of Virginia.
  • 1625: Dutch and English settle on the island.
  • 1650: French West Indies Governor de Poincy gains possession of the island for the French Crown.
  • 1651: Governor de Poincy purchases Santa Cruz from the French King for private use by himself and other Knights of Malta.
  • 1653: Santa Cruz renamed St. Croix.
  • 1665: The French West India Company buys St. Croix and other Knights of Malta possessions.
  • 1671: Fort St. Jean, on the site of today's Fort Louise Augusta, constructed by the French just east of Christiansted.
  • 1674: The French Crown takes possession of the French West India Company properties.
  • 1695: St. Croix abandoned by the French; a few English families remain.
  • 1733: The Danish West India and Guinea Company buys St. Croix from France.
  • 1734: Moravian missionaries start settlements and missions on St. Croix.
  • 1735: St. Croix survey divides island into nine quarters, still existing today
    and sugar and cotton plantations are parceled out.
  • 1753: The Danish Crown takes over ownership of St. Croix from the Danish West India and Guinea Company.
  • 1801: St. Croix briefly captured by the British.
  • 1803: Denmark completely abolishes the slave trade.
  • 1834: End of racial segregation between whites and free blacks decreed.
  • 1839: Compulsory education decreed.
  • 1848: Governor Peter von Scholten declares the emancipation of the slaves at Fort Frederik in Frederiksted.
  • 1871: Capital of the Danish West Indies moves from Christiansted to Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas.
  • 1878: Labor uprising results in a fireburn, destroying many plantation buildings and Frederiksted houses.
  • 1915: First labor union formed.
  • 1917: The Danish West Indies - St. Thomas, St. John, and St. Croix are purchased by the United States for $25 million and become the United State Virgin Islands, under administration by the U.S. Navy.
  • 1931: The U.S. Department of the Interior takes over the administration of the islands.
  • 1936: The Organic Act introduces self-government to the Virgin Islands.
  • 1968: The U.S. Congress passes the Elective Governor Act; previous governors had been appointed by the President.
  • 1993: Salt River National Park established.
  • 1994: New Frederiksted Pier.

St. Croix Travel Guide: Economy of the Island

St. Croix, like many other Caribbean islands, has tourism as one of its main sources of revenue. However, there are a number of other industries on the island to help support the economy.

St. Croix is home to HOVENSA, one of the world's largest oil refineries. HOVENSA is a limited liability company owned and operated by Hess Oil Virgin Islands Corp. (HOVIC), a division of U.S.-based Hess Corporation, and Petroleos de Venezuela, SA, the national oil company of Venezuela. Because of the presence of the oil refinery, gas prices have customarily been 50 cents cheaper than gas prices in the continental United States and the other Virgin Islands.

St. Croix is also home to the Cruzan Rum Distillery, makers of Cruzan Rum and other liquors such as Southern Comfort. The Cruzan Rum Distillery was founded in 1760, and for many years used locally grown sugar cane to produce a single "dark" style rum. The distillery now imports sugar cane molasses from other Caribbean islands, primarily from the Dominican Republic. In recent years Cruzan Rum, along with Bacardi from Puerto Rico and Gosling's from Bermuda, has also contributed to the resurgence of "single barrel" super-premium rum. Examples of this are Cruzan Estate Diamond Rum (aged 5 years in American oak barrels) and Cruzan Single Barrel Estate Rum (aged 12 years in American oak barrels).*

*Special thanks to WikiTravel and its contributors for this article.

St. Croix Travel Guide: St. Croix Must Sees

Christiansted

Once the capital of the U.S. Virgin Islands, Christiansted is the perfect place to begin your visit to St. Croix. Fort Christiansvaern, built by the Danish as protection from pirates and other plunderers, stands over Christiansted Harbor. Nearby, the Steeple Building houses artifacts from St. Croix's Carib and Arawak Indian settlements and colonial sugar plantations.

Cruzan Rum Distillery

The Cruzan Rum Distillery, in operation for over 300 years in the same location, is home to one of the world's finest rums. The distillery (formerly known as Estate Diamond) offers guided tours of the facilities that explain the distillery process, the importance of rum in the island's history, and the story of the estate grounds.

Estate Whim Plantation Museum

Venturing into the countryside, visitors to St. Croix discover reminders of bygone days when sugar and rum shaped the island's life and land. With an imposing windmill tower, the fifty-four sugar mills each have their own factory chimney, and rest in the shadows of stately eighteenth-century and nineteenth-century greathouses. Estate Whim Plantation Museum is located on the west end of the island.

Frederiksted

On the west end of the island, Fort Frederik still stands over the Victorian homes and nineteenth-century churches of the town of Frederiksted. St. Croix's only lighthouse, built in the late 1800s, overlooks the port from the cliffs of Ham's Bluff.

St. Croix's Heritage Trail

St. Croix's Heritage Trail crosses the entire 28-mile length of St. Croix, linking historic attractions, cultural landmarks, scenic overlooks and other points of interest. Using a trail map and following the Heritage Trail road signs, visitors can explore the island on a self-guided driving tour.

Buck Island National Reef Monument

Buck Island National Reef Monument, an 880-acre nature preserve, boasts an underwater snorkeling trail that has become one of the most popular attractions in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Visitors are ferried by boat to the island one mile northeast of St. Croix to view the stunning array of coral and sea life.

St. Croix Travel Guide: St. Croix Quick Travel Facts: Passport Requirements

The new passport requirement outlined below does NOT apply to U.S. citizens traveling to or returning directly from a U.S. territory. U.S. citizens returning directly from a U.S. territory are not considered to have left the United States and do not need to present a passport. U.S. territories include the following: Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Swains Island, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

  • Currently, all persons, including U.S. citizens, traveling by air between the United States and Canada, Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean, and Bermuda will be required to present a valid passport, Air NEXUS card, or U.S. Coast Guard Merchant Mariner Document, or an Alien Registration Card, Form I-551, if applicable.
  • Effective January 1, 2008, ALL persons, including U.S. citizens, traveling between the U.S. and Canada, Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean, and Bermuda by land or sea (including ferries), may be required to present a valid passport or other documents as determined by the Department of Homeland Security. While recent legislative changes permit a later deadline, the Departments of State and Homeland Security are working to meet all requirements as soon as possible. Ample advance notice will be provided to enable the public to obtain passports or passport cards for land/sea entries.

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