Island life is in lovely balance here — not too slow, but certainly not too busy. Full of pleasant surprises, but still reliable in some ways. The beaches are absolutely beautiful, the shops open early, and the taxi fares are regulated.
The port at Frederiksted is pretty and so tranquil that the most high-energy scene might be kids playing basketball at the park. There are a few shops in the historic downtown, but much more activity can be found in Christiansted, where all the excursion boats and seaplanes are based. Christiansted also has a boardwalk bar scene. Cruise ships typically offer shuttle service from one town to the other — or included transfers if you’ve signed up for a shore excursion.
Whether you wander around one of the two towns, take an excursion to some natural gem, or plant yourself in a restaurant and nibble the day away, you’ll leave intrigued and wanting a return visit to St. Croix.
The closest major attraction to the cruise port, this beach is small-ish with an unexpectedly rocky beach right where the tide comes in. However, it is still picturesque and downright fun, thanks to resident bar (and local landmark) Rhythms and a lively activities shack. Sunday afternoons can get pretty packed but other times you have more space to yourself, which is always fantastic.
Many excursions with a beach-break component stop at Rainbow Beach, but you can also walk there from the cruise port in about 20 minutes, passing Fort Frederik and other beaches/beach bars on the way.
There’s no overstating just how precious this tiny protected island is. And you should not assume you’ve seen the best of the U.S. Virgin Islands’ (USVI) if you’ve gone on the Buck Island excursion in St. Thomas. They are not the same. Repeat: They are two different islands.
Buck Island Reef National Monument is St. Croix’s pride and joy. On one side of the island, there’s an underwater snorkel trail that goes into an incredible coral grotto; on the other side, there’s an anchorage right at the most beautiful beach you’ll ever set foot on. There’s also a protected turtle nesting area right around the bend, so be very careful while exploring. The only way to get to Buck Island is by boat, and locals and yachties are the ones who sail there regularly, but even with limited commercial boats allowed (meaning limited amount of people who can go to the island), this is one of St. Croix’s top excursions.
Caribbean Sea Adventures, which partners with all the major cruise lines, is the most cruiser-friendly of the handful of boat tour operators on St. Croix. It offers a modified half-day itinerary designed to give cruisers a variety of experiences during a relatively short amount of time. This locally owned business has great rates, friendly staff, and a choice of powerboat or sailing catamaran.
Captain Morgan’s move to St. Croix is big news, and the new visitor center experience is fun with a capital R-U-M. Learn a little bit of history, watch a quick movie about the spirit, take a tram tour of the distillery, and wind up at the tasting bar and tavern. Yo-ho-ho, and shots for all.
Most ships offer this as one stop on an excursion, but you can do an independent tour if you don’t want to go on a ship sponsored shore excursion. Just show up about 10 minutes before the top of the hour 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday through Friday. Weekends are only by reservation, so better to go with the cruise group.
You may very well make it out to this cay without ever knowing its name. It is easily viewable from Christiansted Harbor as a charming little mirage; but you know it’s real because of the water taxi that constantly goes to and fro. Catch it from the end of the boardwalk near the fort/Christiansted National Historic Site, and for just a few dollars you get access to a tiny tropical island hangout with lounge chairs to rent, a chillaxed beach bar and a family-friendly vibe. There are beach-break excursions to this cay as well, but if you’re wandering around Christiansted’s boardwalk with a few hours to spare and you fancy a spontaneous dip, it’s super easy to just grab the water taxi.
Certainly the most educational historic attraction available to cruise passengers, this living history museum/old-time village plantation square attempts to show culture and life as it was during slave days. The grounds are a historic sugar plantation, and tours include a tour of the estate home. Kids might find this a bit slow, but adults will be fascinated by the peek into yesteryear. It is offered as a shore excursion from most cruise ships.
This seven-acre historic site is conveniently located at one end of the Christiansted boardwalk, so you may find yourself in front of its iconic Fort Christiansted without ever consciously planning to tour a historic landmark.
Operated by the National Park Service, the site’s purpose is to preserve historic buildings and educate people about life on the island during the nearly 200 years it was under Danish rule. Other buildings on the preserved area around the fort include Danish Custom House, the Scale House, the Steeple Building, and Danish West India & Guinea Company Warehouse.
At the very center of Christiansted boardwalk, right where the cruise shuttle drops off passengers and steps from where sailing excursions depart, Caravelle Hotel & Casino is a great sunny or rainy day hangout, especially for couples or groups with no children. There’s a brand-new casino with penny slots! You’ll also find live music in the open-air lobby, tropical drinks at Rum Runners, and a great view of passersby on the waterfront boardwalk. Kick back and watch the sea planes land and take off just a hundred yards away. A charming courtyard shopping center is through the street-side exit. All the town’s snorkel, dive and beach shops are steps away.
This is the geographical and commercial center of Christiansted tourism — the center of the wharf. All the shopping, marine charters, restaurants and entertainment spread out like spokes from an axis.
The USVI’s most famous jewelry design originated on this island, and though many places emulate it, the creator is Sonya Hough of Sonya Ltd. Lore has it that when you wear the hook of the braclet facing up toward your heart that your heart is taken or you keep your luck with you. If you wear it with the hook facing away from your heart then you are single and you will bring in good luck when in need.
Hough’s shop is at 1 Company Street in the heart of downtown Christiansted. In addition to the highest-quality silver hook bracelets on the market, she has a variety of other beautiful and distinctive island–inspired designs.
Caribbean sun, sea salt and less-pleasant elements (mosquitoes and sand fleas) will likely take a toll within your first hour on St. Croix (or really any island in the Caribbean). Combat them with delicious-smelling handmade and plant-based products from Itiba Beauty, a local skincare company. The skincare and hair-care products are created to nourish, feel good and smell good. Body butters, botanical lotions and after-sun sprays are all great souvenirs, but it’s the moisturizing oil that’s also an insect repellent that you’ll end up using liberally throughout any Caribbean journey.
Classic Caribbean flavor meets international inspiration in St. Croix. And it’s always with a touch of ingenuity because the local restaurateurs absolutely have to work with what they’ve got. Whether it’s fresh seafood, pork shipped from the U.S. or some seasonal fruit, ingredients are typically featured until they’re sold out. Most restaurants have specials lists as extensive as the regular menu — and those are the restaurants you want. Whether it’s the trigger fish at 40 Strand Eatery, the lasagna of the day at Zion Modern Kitchen or the appetizer spoons at Eat @ Cane Bay, you should always ask the server, “What’s local and what’s good?” and go from there.