St. Croix is a picturesque Caribbean island that has become one of my favorite places in the world. If you fancy dipping your toes in sparkling turquoise water, swimming with sea turtles, wandering through colorful colonial towns, or exploring Caribbean culture, don’t miss this enchanting island.
St. Croix also holds historical significance. Before Saint Croix became a U.S. territory, it was owned by the Danish West Indies Company, which bought the island from the French West Indies Company. St. Croix is also the only place where Christopher Columbus is known to have stepped onto U.S. soil, and it is home to the easternmost point of the U.S. As you visit this stunning island, you’ll be forced to grapple with the past and present, all while taking in gorgeous seascapes and wandering through brightly-painted colonial forts.
Golden hour in Frederiksted, St Croix
Note: This article may contain affiliate links. If you buy something, I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Your support keeps this blog active. Thank you!
Travel Guide: St Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands
St. Croix is the least visited, and largest of the U.S. Virgin Islands, but it’s still a small island that is easy to explore over a week, a long weekend, or even a day. When I visited in 2023, locals told me that travel to St. Croix is starting to pick up, with cruise lines adding new routes and the island making the news as a favorite vacation spot for the U.S. president.
Despite its growing popularity, the island’s main towns are uncrowded, and it’s easy to find an empty stretch of beach to enjoy by yourself. Visiting St. Croix was a breath of fresh air for me after recently traveling to popular (but crowded) Mexican beach destinations like Tulum and Cancun.
A vista point overlooking Christiansted
If the stunning seascapes, lush jungles, crystal-clear waters, colorful colonial architecture, and mouthwatering cuisine aren’t enough, you’ll fall in love with the island’s culture. Locals are warm, welcoming, and eager to share their home with visitors. They aren’t afraid to open up about the difficulties of living in a U.S. territory or share about the island’s complicated history.
St. Croix is a unique place that really stands out among other Caribbean islands I’ve visited. St. Croix’s culture has been shaped by the island’s past and influenced by both Christianity and Rastafarianism. In the past fifty years, the island has seen an influence of immigrants from the Middle East, which has further enriched the island’s cultural diversity.
Read on for my St. Croix travel guide.
Empty beach near Whale Point Trailhead and Point Udall
View from Fort Christiansvaern National Historic Site in Christansted
Where is St Croix?
St. Croix is a U.S. territory apart of the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI). The island is located in the Caribbean sea, east of Puerto Rico and south of the other U.S. and British Virgin Islands, like St. John, St. Thomas, and Tortola. Point Udall, on the eastern side of St. Croix, is the easternmost point of the U.S.
View from Point Udall, the easternmost point in the United States
Top things to do in St Croix USVI
There are so many things to do on St. Croix. Whether you’re interested in the history and culture or are visiting the island just to take in the bright blue water and other natural wonders, don’t miss these St. Croix activities.
Drive around the island
If you want to make the most of your time in St. Croix, I recommend renting a car. It’s the only way to get to most places I recommend visiting on St. Croix, such as Point Udall, Isaac and Jack’s Bays, Salt Bay, Cane Bay, and most beaches.
Driving around the island, you’ll spot old Sugar Mills and hidden beaches. You’ll also see the island’s landscapes transform from lush jungle to cactus-dotted desert. Best of all, you can stop anywhere you like to explore white sandy beaches, try local food, and hike to stunning viewpoints.
St. Croix is a small island but it is incredibly diverse. The best way to see the island is by car.
There are several places to rent a car on the island: the airport, Christiansted, and Frederiksted. You can see most of the island in a day, but I recommend renting a vehicle for the duration of your stay because it’s the easiest way to get around.
St Croix rental car parked near Isaacs Bay and Point Udall
During my most recent visit to St. Croix, my husband and I rented a car for $70 from Budget Car Rentals at the Frederiksted Pier during a cruise port day with Virgin Voyages. There was very little information online about renting a car in Frederiksted, and although we could reserve a vehicle online through Budget, Budget’s Frederiksted location did not come up on Google Maps. When we arrived in St. Croix, we were greeted by two friendly Budget employees sitting on a street corner right across from the cruise pier. They walked us to our car, which was parked a few blocks away. Despite how casual our rental experience was, it was very easy, and the ladies were amiable and helpful.
Visit the easternmost point of the U.S.
Point Udall is one of St. Croix’s most significant landmarks. A sundial called the Millennium Monument sits above the shore on the easternmost point of the U.S. While the sundial itself is simple, the surroundings are stunning. It’s one of the best viewpoints on St. Croix and easy to reach by car.
Fun fact: I happened to visit Point Udall at the same time as the First Lady, Jill Biden. My husband recognized her, but I didn’t, and I walked right up next to her to take in the ocean view. Apparently, secret service agents (who were all dressed in golf outfits) were following me and whispering into their earpieces. I was completely oblivious until everyone got in cars and drove away, leaving my husband and me alone at the viewpoint. As they drove away, he told me who I was casually standing next to. Since then, I’ve come to find out that St. Croix is a favorite vacation spot for the Bidens, and they even rang in the new year at Point Udall in 2022.
Snorkel or dive with sea turtles
Is there anyone who would turn down a chance to swim with sea turtles?
St. Croix is an incredible place to snorkel and scuba dive with these majestic animals. The reefs surrounding the island are home to several tortuga species, including leatherback sea turtles, green sea turtles, and hawksbill sea turtles.
Sea turtle surfacing near Frederiksted Pier
Some of the best places to swim with these beautiful creatures on St. Croix include:
- Under and nearby the Frederiksted Pier: The Frederiksted Pier is surprisingly one of the best places to see sea turtles on St. Croix. Even from above the water, you can see dozens of turtles swimming around and under the pier. You can only snorkel under the pier on days when no cruise ships are in port (usually weekends), but even if a ship is in port, you can snorkel nearby the pier but far from the ship. Stay safe and use your best judgment.
- Protestant Cay: Our friends at a dive shop in Christiansted told us that Protestant Cay has excellent snorkeling. It’s a great area to see not only sea turtles but also squid, manta rays, fish, and other marine life.
- Buck Island Reef National Monument: Buck Island is a short boat ride away from St. Croix, but it’s a place you can’t miss for snorkeling and diving. You can snorkel along an “underwater trail” where you’ll have the opportunity to encounter the area’s sea turtles, hundreds of fish species, and even reef sharks.
- Cane Bay: The Cane Bay Wall off of Cane Bay Beach is an area where the seafloor dramatically drops from 40 feet to 3,000 feet. This is an incredible spot for scuba divers to explore an abundant reef. You can spot corals, sponges, fish, and sea turtles.
Indulge in Rastafarian ital food
Ital is a diet associated with the Rastafarian religion that is deeply embedded in the culinary culture of St. Croix. The Ital cuisine relies on natural, unprocessed plants. Most dishes tend to be plant-based. And let me tell you, the food is out of this world.
Whether you’re vegan, vegetarian, or a meat-eater, you must take some time to try ital food while you’re in St. Croix. I recommend Ital in Paradise, a homely restaurant in downtown Christiansted owned by a man who has been practicing the ital diet for nearly 50 years. Their menu changes each day and they serve one vegan plate and one fish plate. I can only speak for the vegan plates—they were mouthwateringly delicious.
Coconut curry plate at Ital in Paradise—it looks simple but it was so tasty!
I tried a plate with creamy chickpea coconut curry with delicious crispy lentil balls (similar to falafel), a bright fresh salad, and flavorful black beans. I also tried another plate with sautéed mushrooms and the same sides (lentil balls, salad, and beans). Both were incredible, filling, and wholesome.
Ride a horse through the jungle
If you want to get off the beaten track, explore St. Croix on horseback. This horseback riding experience is one of the top-rated tours in St. Croix. With the help of an experienced guide, you ride through the rugged jungle and along St. Croix’s plains, spotting wildlife, visiting breathtaking viewpoints, and tasting local edible plants along the way. Taking a tour like this one is also a great way to meet fellow travelers and get advice from a local (your guide).
Learn about the island’s history in a colonial fort
A trip to St. Croix is not complete without a visit to Fort Christiansvaern National Historical Site. The Danish colonial fort is smack-dab in the middle of downtown Christiansted, between the Christiansted boardwalk and Gallows Bay.
Cool, colorful hallways through Fort Christiansvaern
The fort is small compared to forts on nearby islands like Puerto Rico, but it’s worth visiting as it helps you understand the island’s history. Right before the entrance to the main part of the fort, you can turn left and enter a small exhibit that details the history of St. Croix—from indigenous roots, being “discovered” by Christopher Columbus, being bought and sold by numerous global powers, and the challenges islanders face today being apart of a U.S. territory.
Another exhibit includes details of Alexander Hamilton’s life (spoiler alert, he lived on St. Croix, and his mother was imprisoned in this very fort before he was born!) From the top of the fort, you can gaze out over Gallows Bay (named because it is near the area where enslaved Africans were hung) and Protestant Cay.
During your time in St. Croix, you can also visit Fort Frederik, another colonial fort in Frederiksted.
The bright entryway at Fort Christiansvaern
Peeking out a window at Fort Christiansvaern
Swim in natural tide pools: Monks bath and Annaly bay
There are several natural tide pools along St. Croix’s stunning north shore, including the Annaly Bay and Monks Bath. I highly recommend adding at least one of these unique landmarks to your St. Croix itinerary.
The Monks Bath tide pool is easier to reach because it’s right off the road, whereas you need to hike to get to the Annaly Bay tide pools. The areas around both pools are rocky, so I recommend bringing water shoes. If you can’t buy them before you fly to St. Croix, you can find a small selection of water shoes at scuba shops in Christiansted and the island’s K-Mart.
Hike Isaacs Bay or Jacks Bay
Isaac Bay and Jack Bay are two stunning bays along the eastern side of the island that can only be reached by a short hike. The two bays are along the same trail, so I recommend visiting both. It only takes about 10 minutes to reach Isaac’s Bay from the trailhead near Point Udall and about thirty minutes to get to Jack’s Bay beach.
Both beaches are secluded and peaceful, with waves crashing along coarse and deserty cliffs extending into the bright blue ocean. The short hike is perfect whether you want to spend a few hours relaxing at one of the beaches or sightseeing quickly before exploring other parts of the island.
Spend a day at the beach
It seems obvious, but one of the best things to do on St. Croix is enjoying the island’s many beaches. It’s difficult to recommend the best beaches in St. Croix since there are tons of beautiful stretches of sand, and many beaches are unnamed.
Beach near Whale Point
If you rent a car, you can drive around and find the perfect spot, but here are a few of the best beaches on St. Croix:
- Cane Bay Beach
- Cramer Park Beach
- Whale Point
- Isaacs Bay Beach
- Hay Penny Beach
- Sandy Point Beach (only open on weekends)
- Dorsch Beach
- Rainbow Beach
Take a Boat trip to a remote island (Buck Island)
Visiting Buck Island is undeniably one of the best things to do in St. Croix, or technically, near St. Croix. The uninhabited Buck Island and nearby reef is a short boat ride away from St. Croix and is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The 176-acre area was declared a National Monument in 1961 after President Kennedy visited and was moved by the natural wonder.
Buck Island National Monument is home to Turtle Beach, which has said to be one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, and the Buck Island Reef, an abundant biodiverse reef. With an “underwater trail,” the area is a snorkeler’s and scuba divers’ paradise.
National Geographic footage of Buck Island National Monument
The best way to visit Buck Island is to book a tour with a local tour company on St. Croix. Caribbean Sea Adventures is one of the most reputable companies with a Buck Island tour, but there are several other tour companies you can book with.
Witness Christopher Columbus’ 1493 landing site
While driving around the island you can stop at the site where Christopher Columbus infamously landed during his second transatlantic voyage in 1943. It’s also the only U.S. land known to be visited (on foot) by one of Colombus’ crews. And it’s also the site of the first recorded violent altercation between Europeans and natives of the “New World.”
I thought that the landing site itself was underwhelming and poorly maintained. However, the historical significance makes it worth stopping by if you can. If you want to learn more about the indigenous people who inhabited the island before colonialism, head to the nearby visitor center at the Salt River Bay National Historical Park and Ecological Preserve,
Swim in a bioluminescent bay
Swimming in a bioluminescent bay is an unforgettable experience. At night, certain bodies of water glow neon blue due to a natural chemical reaction. It’s difficult to capture in a photo, and you must experience it to fully understand the wonder of bioluminescence. There are two bioluminescent bays on St. Croix, including Salt River and Altona Lagoon.
Take a two minute ferry to a tiny island
Protestant Cay is a tiny island just a few hundred meters from the Christiansted Boardwalk. Visiting the island via the two-minute ferry is one of the best things to do in Christiansted, whether you want to lounge on the island’s white-sandy beach all day or just take a quick look at the cute island. You can also stay on the island at Hotel on the Cay.
Hotel on the Cay at Protestant Cay, St Croix USVI
The beaches on Protestant Cay are known for their incredible marine wildlife. When I visited Christiansted, locals told me you can snorkel with sea turtles, manta rays, squids, and tropical fish right off the island. While I didn’t get to visit Protestant Cay, it’s on the top of my list for my next visit to St. Croix.
Explore St. Croix’s sugar mills
If you spend any time on St. Croix, you’re bound to encounter the ruins of several sugar mills. These spherical white-stone buildings point back to St. Croix’s days as a Danish colony when the island was home to hundreds of sugar plantations. Some sugar mills have been transformed into restaurants and even houses, and others are open to the public as museums. To better understand St. Croix’s past as a Danish, head to Estate Whim Museum, a well-preserved sugar plantation.
Stroll along the Christiansted boardwalk
The Christiansted Boardwalk is a place that you can’t miss when visiting St. Croix. Whether you’re in St. Croix for a day or a month, make sure you carve out some time to walk along the water in this Danish colonial town. From the pastel-painted buildings and yellow colonial fort to the sparkling turquoise water and verdant palm trees, you’re surrounded by bright, beautiful colors.
Gazing toward Protestant Cay from the Christiansted Boardwalk
As you stroll beside the water, you’ll spot schools of enormous parrot fish, run into red roosters wandering through the alleyways along the boardwalk, and pass by an old Sugar Mill turned into a restaurant. You’ll see Protestant Cay, a small island a few hundred meters across the water that can be reached by ferry.
There are several restaurants and shops along the boardwalk to spot for a bite to eat. The rest of the downtown area of Christiansted is also worth exploring after walking the boardwalk.
Scuba dive through shipwrecks
The reefs surrounding St. Croix are home to several shipwrecks. Many of these wrecked boats have been taken over by nature—with bright corals and tropical fish claiming the sunken treasure as their home. Several shipwrecks can be found off of Butler Bay and at Shipwreck Bay on Butler Island. Scuba divers and explore these shipwrecks on their own or with a guide.
Scuba Diving near Shipwreck Beach on Buck Island (Photo by Karl Callwood on Unsplash)
Getting around St Croix
The best way to get around St. Croix is by rental car. However, if you stay in Christiansted or Frederiksted, you can get around town easily on foot and even walk to nearby beaches. You can also explore parts of St. Croix by bike.
Where to stay on St Croix
Feather Leaf Inn
Oceanview vegan-friendly eco-retreat
Feather Leaf Inn is one of the only eco-hotels on St. Croix. The property is an old plantation overlooking the ocean that has been transformed into a stunning hotel that is completely powered by solar. Visitors can reach a stunning beach via a short walk.
Book your stay at Feather Leaf Inn
The Waves at Cane Bay
Modern boho beachfront hotel
The Waves at Cane Bay is a gorgeously designed beachfront hotel at one of the most popular beaches in St. Croix, Cane Bay. Every hotel room has a seaview balcony, AC, and other essentials. The hotel has a beautiful restaurant with seafood, American cuisines, and vegan options upon requests.
Hotel on the Cay
Iconic hotel on a private island
Just a two-minute ferry ride from Christiansted USVI, Hotel on the Cay is an iconic hotel on Protestant Cay, a small island with excellent snorkeling. Staying at Hotel on the Cay is a unique experience worth checking out.
Book your stay at Hotel on the Cay
Getting around St Croix
If you stay in one of St Croix’s main cities, Christiansted or Frederiksted, you can get around town by bike or on foot. However, if you want to explore more of the island, I recommend renting a car.
St. Croix U.S. Virgin Islands FAQs
When is the best time to visit St. Croix?
According to locals I met on the island, the best time to visit is in December and January. The island comes alive during their Christmas celebrations and they love to welcome tourists during this time of the year. Other than that, I recommend visiting St. Croix in the winter and spring when the weather is mild but warm.
Do American citizens need a passport to travel to St Croix?
No. Since St. Croix is a U.S. territory, U.S citizens do not need a passport to travel to St. Croix, as long as they travel directly from the U.S. with no layovers or stops in other countries.
How can you get from St Croix to St John?
The best way to get from St. Croix to St. John is by flying or taking a ferry from St. Croix to St. Thomas, and then traveling from St. Thomas to St. John. The ferry from St. Croix to St. Thomas takes 90 minutes and leaves from Gallows Bay on St Croix only on Fridays and Sundays.
Where is the cruise port on St Croix?
The St. Croix cruise port is located in downtown Frederiksted on the western side of the island.
Do you need a car on St Croix?
You don’t need a car to enjoy St. Croix, but with limited taxis, the best way to explore the island is via car.
Is St Croix vegan-friendly?
As a vegan, I would say that St Croix is vegan-friendly! The island has several vegan restaurants as well as hotels with vegan options.
Final Thoughts on St. Croix Virgin Island
St. Croix is a Caribbean island you can’t miss. The island’s awe-inspiring landscapes, biodiversity, rich culture, and historical significance make it the perfect spot for a relaxed, yet adventurous escape.
Saunter With Sanika says
What a beautiful destination! Snorkelling here looks like a dream.
Travel A-Broads says
St Croix sounds like a dream! My boyfriend and I have been searching for tropical destinations to travel to for our five year anniversary – which has actually now passed, haha, but we will figure out sometime to go! – and I think this would be a great one to add to our list. Thanks for all of the information! Xx Sara
Wow St Croix looks incredible and your photos are beautiful! Definitely one to add to the bucket list!
Wow, St. Croix looks amazing. It seems to be slightly more rugged and wild than other Caribbean islands. I love the sound of the Ital cuisine – I’m not vegan, but eat a lot of vegetarian food, so it sounds perfect to me!
This is so funny! I’ve been to many islands in the Caribbean and never even heard of St Croix! With so many things to do I’d love to visit!