St. Croix Travel Guide: Adventures

Best Beaches: All beaches on St. Croix are public and free of charge, but if you go to a beach which is maintained by the resident hotel, you may have to pay a small fee for facilities. Lying 2.5 kilometers (1.5 miles) off northeast St. Croix, Buck Island, an 350-hectare (850-acre) national monument, has some of the best beaches in the St. Croix area, reachable by boat from Christiansted; the 10-kilometer (6-mile) trip takes 45 minutes to an hour. Some concessionaires who offer sail or motorboat tours also include a picnic lunch and an overland hike to the island's 125-meter (400-foot) summit with terrific views. Turtles also lay their eggs on Buck Island beaches.

Cane Bay also has a stunning beach on the island's north side. Other fine beaches can be found at Protestant Cay, Davis Bay, Cramer Park on the east shore, and Frederiksted Beach to the north of town. The last two have changing facilities and showers. Surfing is best on the north coast, and you'll find great shells on the northwest coast, from Northside Beach to Ham's Bay, as well as on Sprat Hall Beach.

Best Dive Sites: One of St. Croix's best snorkeling and diving sites is found along Cane Bay on the island north's shore. On clear days, you can swim out 135 meters (150 yards) to the drop-off and see a "wall" that drops off dramatically. Various fish and coral are in abundance here. Salt River Drop-off, at the mouth of the Salt River, is a prime dive location encompassing actually two sites the east and west walls of a submerged canyon. The east wall is gently sloping and attracts a huge variety of marine life; the west wall starts at 9 meters (30 feet) and plunges to a shelf at 27 meters (90 feet), where it takes a vertical nose-dive to more than 300 meters (1,000 feet). The wall's caves and deep crevices are covered with corals and tube sponges and forests of black coral. Fully equipped dive operators can be found at the Salt River Marina, on the western shore of the bay, and boats can be chartered for trips into the mangrove area.

More than 250 species of fish have been recorded at the spectacular 345-hectare (850-acre) island-and-reef system of Buck Island Reef National Monument, 3 kilometers (2 miles) off St. Croix's north shore, as well as a variety of sponges, corals, and crustaceans.

Frederiksted Pier has the reputation for being one of the most interesting pier dives in the Caribbean; its pilings have become an underwater forest at about 10 meters (35 feet) depth with sponges, plume worms, and great numbers of tiny yellow, orange, and red seahorses. Snorkeling is also said to be good. Many hotel properties offer splendid snorkeling sites, as well as snorkeling equipment. For information on special hotel packages, contact the St. Croix Hotel Association (Tel. 1-800-524-2026).

Touring the island is quite an adventure, since it's 82 square miles. Rental cars are available,a and you can also rent a taxi/tour car and have the guide show you the island. The cost varies; it depends on the number of hours. Your guide will know where to take you, what to see, and where to have lunch (which is extra) outside of town.

Through your hotel you can arrange for a twilight sail or a cocktail cruise or a Buck Island cookout and much more. Sightseeing tours can also be arranged through your hotel. Ask for literature to find the range of programs offered.

St. Croix Travel Guide: St. Croix Adventure Sites

  Estate St. George Botanical Garden: Consisting of lush woods and rich land, the Garden covers 16 acres and contains ruins of a 19th-century sugarcane village and rum factory including workers' homes, manager's house, a bake oven, stone dam, a blacksmith's shop and foundations of a watermill. A small admission fee is charged.

Buck Island Reef: Here is the only United States National Monument (we call it a "National Park") that is underwater. The Park itself covers over 850 acres including the island proper, with a sandy beach, picnic tables and barbecue pits. The reef has two major underwater trails -- Turtle Bay Trail and East End Trail. Numerous boats operate off the dock in Christiansted; your hotel has specifics. Buck Island is just one of St. Croix's natural wonders. The island is also famous for its beautiful beaches, including Rainbow Beach and Cane Bay.The Salt River Bay National Historical Park and Ecological Preserve is a pristine and historically significant site; Christopher Columbus landed here in 1493.

The St. Croix Environmental Association (SEA), an organization committed to the conservation and preservation of St. Croix's natural wonders, provides articles, lectures, workshops, and field trips on Salt River Bay.

The SEA is instrumental in preserving other parts of the island as well. An anonymous benefactor helped the SEA purchase 60 acres of land at Southgate on the island's east end to preserve a prime nesting wetlands habitat for birds and endangered sea turtles. 96 bird species have been recorded at the site, including 26 that are considered threatened or endangered in the territory.

Studies by the Buck Island Reef Hawksbill Sea Turtle Research Program on St. Croix have contributed significantly to both the survival of the endangered Hawksbill Sea Turtle and the study of environmental sciences in St. Croix's local communities. Begun in 1988, the research program studies the migration of sea turtles after nesting season and the development of non-lethal methods for determining the gender of sea turtle hatchlings. Volunteer assistance from the community has been essential to this program's success.

Cramer Park: A very nice place to relax the day away during the weekdays. The Park has a beautiful beach and picnic area. On weekends the park is transformed into a outdoor bar atmosphere with DJ's and music.

Cruzan Rum Distillery: Out on West Airport Road you can visit the distillery and see them making Virgin Islands rum. The tour includes a walk through the plant by long, flat sections of kegs, up ramps past the distilling, through fumes as intoxicating as the rum itself, to bottling and labeling. Check at your hotel for visiting hours.

Eastern End of the Island: You've gone as far as you can go in the United States on the easternmost point of St. Croix, Point Udall. The spot is barren, but beautiful. Bring your camera.

"Eye to the Sky": Less than a mile from Point Udall, the National Science Foundation has funded the installation of a giant $5-million-dollar antenna -- 82 feet in diameter. This 260-ton dish will be used to explore the unknown universe. Visit the site, where guides will explain that the antenna is identical to nine others around the U.S. Together, the ten make up a single radio telescope, sharing their data over the Internet.

Rain Forest: As you head towards Frederiksted, you'll come upon Creque Dam Road and the 15 acres of the Rain Forest. The dam itself is 150 feet high. You will also go along Mahogany Road, which is lined with beautiful mahogany trees, yellow cedar, and Tibet trees (also called "mother's tongue" because of the pods that rustle in the wind). The air is filled with the scent of many of our island fruits, and also the call of mountain doves. The Forest is private property; the owners have graciously consented to let visitors tour.

St. Croix Leap: Also in the Rain Forest, you will find a group of talented woodcarvers. You can order wood sculptures and chairs and tables all made from local mahogany and have them shipped to your home.

Salt River: Here's where Columbus first arrived in the Virgin Islands in November 1493 on his second voyage to the New World, with 17 ships and 1500 men. He called this island Santa Cruz.

Whim Greathouse: A restoration of one of the finest greathouses from the late 1700s. There's the main house, windmill, watch house and bathhouse, cookhouse and apothecary; also a museum and gift shop. This is one of St. Croix's showplaces. Small admission fee.

In Christiansted: Christiansted has been called the picture-book harbor of the Caribbean; a natural reef just offshore assures a haven for yachts and smaller pleasure craft. A Historical Tour of Christiansted Ask for the "Walking Tour Guide" at the Division of Tourism. Be sure to bring your camera!

Fort Christiansvaern: Built in 1774 to protect the town's harbor, the handsomely restored Fort has battlements to photograph and dungeons to visit. Small admission fee.

Government House: Impressive and imposing, a beautiful example of Danish architecture, this structure dates back to 1747. You can go inside, and walk up the majestic staircase to the magnificently appointed Ballroom.

Outdoor Market: If you're putting together a picnic, here's the place to visit. The people of the island bring their fruits and vegetables to sell here. You can get mangos, papayas and many other delicious things.

Steeple Building: Here is where you'll find a small museum of Arawak and Carib artifacts, and a display on the workings of a sugar plantation. There also is an interesting chronology of the African people's history in the Virgin Islands; and the history of the diverse architectural styles throughout the centuries. The Old Customs House is being used as an Art Gallery for art exhibits all year round.

Churches: You'll also want to visit some of the lovely old churches in town, including the Gothic St. John's Anglican Church and the huge Moravian Church (the oldest of their sect under the American flag).

In Frederiksted: Here's where many cruise ships dock, approaching the palm-fringed town from the open sea. Frederiksted is known for its continuous shoreline.

Fort Frederik: The first foreign salute to the U.S. flag was given at Fort Frederik in 1776. At the Fort on July 3, 1848, Governor General Peter Von Scholten emancipated the slaves in the Danish West Indies. The Fort has been restored in brick red and white, to the way it looked in 1840; the Fort actually dates back to the 18th century. The restoration includes the courtyard, the stables, the old soldiers canteen where tobacco and beer were purchased, and the old garrison, is an art exhibit area. Open daily Monday through Friday.

The Old Danish School: In the middle of Prince Street, it was designed by the well-known Danish architect Hingleberg in the 1830s.

St. Patrick's Roman Catholic Church: At the corner of Prince and Market Streets, it was built of coral stone in 1842.


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