More than 500 years ago, Columbus landed on St. Croix and called it a lush garden. The remarkable treasures that Columbus found -- crystal-clear waters, white-sand shores and rolling, green hillsides -- all remain today for the island's visitors to experience.
St.Croix's beauty lies in it's remarkably diverse landscapes. It has a lush forest in the western mountains, undulating hills in the interior and, on the eastern end, spiny desert vegetation and rocky red cliffs. Skirting the edges of the countryside are gorgeous white-sand beaches, and just offshore to the northeast lies pristine Buck Island.
St. Croix is the largest of the three principal Virgin Islands, measuring some 28 miles long and 7 miles wide and located about 40 miles south of St. Thomas and St. John. Its two main towns are Frederiksted, on the west coast, and Christiansted, on the north shore.
While Christopher Columbus came upon St., Croix in 1493 during his second voyage to the Americas, the Dutch and English were among the first to establish themselves on St. Croix; both powers had a presence on the island by 1625. The two colonies coexisted without major incident until 1645, when the islands Dutch governor killed his English counterpart. The English then retaliated by killing the Dutch governor, which sparked a long series of battles over possession of the island.
During the next three hundred years, rule of the island passed through many hands, including England, France, Spain, Holland, the Knights of Malta, Denmark and even renegade pirates. The islands most prosperous period during this time was under Danish rule during the second half of the 18th century, when sugar cultivation, rum production and the slave trade were the largest industries on the island. This golden age ended with the abolition of slavery in 1848; the ensuing collapse of the economy, coupled with a series of natural disasters occurring in the last half of the 19th century, drove the island into economic obscurity for many years.
In 1917, the United States purchased St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas from the Danish government to prevent their becoming a German submarine base during World War 1. St. Croix first fell under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Navy and was later granted territorial status. By 1936, St. Croix's agricultural sector was failing, and attempts to revive the sugar industry were fruitless. A period of uneven economic recovery followed, continuing until the 1950s, when tourism became the leading industry of the island.
Considered one of the most architecturally interesting of the Virgins, St. Croix offers the visitor wonderful sightseeing. Massive stone forts such as Fort Frederik in Frederiksted and Fort Christiansvaern in Christiansted, the charming Danish architecture of Christiansted and the Victorian buildings of Frederiksted, the enchanting serenity of the St. George Village Botanical Garden, historic plantations such as the Estate Whim Plantation Museum, and the uniqueness of Buck Island Reef National Monument-America's only underwater national monument-are yours to discover throughout the island. You can arrange a tour with the many knowledgeable cab drivers on the island or with a number of tour operators who provide transportation, expert guides and even refreshments.
St. Croix Activities
Besides the multitude of things to see, there are a myriad of exciting things to do on St. Croix. There's always a party happening on the island, with numerous festivals held in Frederiksted and Christiansted throughout the year. The climax of these festivities is the Crucian Christmas Festival, a month-long celebration filled with street parties, concerts and parades, including the Three Kings Day parade, one of the island's most popular and lively events.
Sample some of the island's best known export at the Cruzan Rum Distillery, the manufacturer of one of the finest rums in the world. Once known as Estate Diamond, the popular drink has been made in this same location for 300 years. A major export, it is bottled locally and abroad under the Cruzan Rum label. Guided tours of the distillery explaining rum's role in Crucian history are conducted mornings and afternoons Monday through Friday, and include a complimentary drink.
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. Sandy Point has miles of secluded strands, providing safe nesting ground for the endangered leatherback turtle. You'll enjoy the calm waters and sugar-white sand at Rainbow Beach; it's been touted as one of the is best snorkeling spots, and shell collectors will be equally enchanted with the varieties of shells to be found along the shore. Sprat Hall Beach has beautiful sandy shores with full facilities, including beach shacks and grills. The best beach near Christiansted is located at the Hotel on the Cay, just a short ferry ride from downtown. The little island offers water sports, a restaurant and bar, and great views of the harbor.
One of St. Croix's "must-sees" is undeniably Buck Island, an 880-acre nature preserve a mile off the northeast coast. Buck Islands Underwater Trail, which is restricted to snorkelers, is St. Croix's most popular tourist destination. And getting there is half the fun-the vessels leaving Christiansted include motorized party boats (some glass-bottom), intimate sloops and graceful trimarans.
Buck Island's primary draw is the spectacular snorkeling. An irregular arc of reef creates a wide and shallow lagoon between the shore and the reef Within this area is the park's well-marked underwater trail, which meanders through coral grottoes and out to the reef's edge. At a depth of only 12 feet, you can observe a brilliant kaleidoscope of shapes, patterns, colors, textures and movement. Expect to see provide information on St. Croix's history, folklore, flora and fauna.
Golfers will enjoy a round of golf at the Carambola Golf Club, rated one of the top 18 golf courses in the Caribbean by Caribbean Travel and Life. The Buccaneer Golf Course, just east of Christiansted, is a hilly 6,843-yard, par-72 course dramatically situated by the ocean.
In Frederiksted, mountain bikes are a good way to explore the town and its surroundings. Hikers will find a myriad of trails to explore in the countryside, where the focus is on ecotourism.
St. Croix Accommodations
Finding a place to stay is never a problem on St. Croix; from the most quaint "bed and breakfast" inn to the grandest of luxury resorts, the award-winning facilities on the island provide excellent, consistent service that will make you feet right at home, no matter what environment you choose.
The upscale resorts and hotels on St. Croix offer the ultimate in a pampered getaway. Highly trained professional staff cater to your every need as you indulge in soothing spa treatments, sample the finest in haute cuisine or relax on a secluded white-sand beach.