St. Croix, USVI

Destination Location

Overview

Like many other U.S. Virgin Islands, St Croix has a long history of European settlers and native peoples who shaped and influenced the island’s culture – including the Spanish, English, Dutch, Danish, Americans and Maltese Knights. But unlike some of its neighbours, St. Croix has a unique flair for arts and crafts, traditional music styles and year-round festivals and celebrations.

With a sincere, down-to-earth approach to life and understated elegance, the people of St. Croix love to make merry. Traditional sights and sounds are plentiful in St. Croix – Mocko Jumbies (stilt dancers) that help ward off evil spirits; reggae and calypso music, steel pan bands and salsa dancing are all things you may see on any given afternoon! The European pioneers to the island introduced the “quadrille” type of dance and “quelbe” or “scratch” music. Musical instruments such as flutes and trumpets are played to the percussive sounds of hollowed out gourds being “scratched” in time.

The annual St. Croix Carnival happens over the Christmas holiday and into the New Year, and you’ll find festivities taking place in both of the major towns on the island – Christiansted and Frederiksted. With parades, pageants for King and Queen of the band, the Carnival Queen, prince and princess, calypso shows, food fairs and fireworks, St. Croix’s Carnival is an event that’s too incredible to miss. There’s also Jump Up – akin to a mini-carnival – that takes place on one evening, four times a year, in November, February, April and July that gives everyone an opportunity to practice their dance moves for the main event in December. Look for steel bands, live music, dancing, local arts and crafts and plenty of delicious island food.

Cultural events are offered every week in St. Croix too, such as Sunset Jazz, a live jazz concert on the Frederiksted Waterfront Stage on the third Friday of the month, and Art Thursdays, a series of gallery walks on the streets of Christiansted on the first Thursday of the month featuring handmade pottery and sculptures, locally made glass and clothing.

Of course no tropical vacation would be complete without the sun, the ocean and the fun of enjoying both land and water pursuits. Exciting activities such as scuba diving, jet skiing, snorkeling, golf, horseback-riding or simply sunbathing are excellent ways to pass the day. Top it off with fine dining in one of the many gourmet restaurants, al fresco on the beach, or an evening at the Divi Carina Bay Casino.

If sightseeing is in the cards, the two main towns on St. Croix are similar yet have distinctive flavours. Christiansted is noted for its abundant 18th and 19th century architecture, while Frederiksted is lush and resembles a tropical forest. However, if visiting a local town seems a bit too hectic for your taste, venture over to Buck Island, a popular world-class snorkeling destination, where the coral reef is one of only three underwater national monuments in the U.S.

WestJet is pleased to offer service to this destination through our code-share agreement with our great airline partners.

Airport served by: St. Croix, US Virgin Islands (STX)

Destination basics

The U.S. Virgin Islands exist in a perpetual summer climate, with no significant seasonal changes and no real rainy season; the limited amount of rainfall that does occur happens in August through November and occasionally in May. Afternoon showers are usually over as fast as they start and help to refresh the sun-soaked islands. The average high temperatures for St. Croix’s coolest month – January – are 29 C with average lows of 22 C. This is only a slight contrast from the average of 32 C in July – the hottest month – which has an average low of 26 C. The variation between the warmest day of the year and the coolest day is typically only about 10 C.

 

Weather chart

 

St. Croix is the largest of the three main U.S. Virgin Islands with its 84 square miles (218 square kilometers) of rolling hills and sandy beaches, yet it receives fewer visitors than its sister islands of St. Thomas and St. John. The island is a pleasing middle ground between St. Thomas's focus on mass-market tourism and St. John's back-to-nature ambience. An occasional cruise ship calls in quaint Frederiksted, located at the western end of the island. The ship's passengers, along with hotel and vacation villa visitors, spread out across the island to enjoy beautiful vistas, boutique shopping and outdoor pursuits.

St. Croix is home to nearly 55,000 people, nearly the same as 28-square mile St. Thomas. With a refinery and other smaller industries providing employment, there is less focus on tourism than on the other two islands. Since the population density is low, it is rare to find crowded streets in the Christiansted and Frederiksted shopping areas. Parking can be a problem in Christiansted, however. The town serves as the seat of the island's commerce, and with minimal public transportation, workers usually drive to their downtown jobs.

Christiansted is usually the first stop for most visitors. A charming town with architecture that reflects the island's Danish heritage, many of the buildings are centuries old. Sitting at harbor's edge, the pastel blue, green and ochre buildings are trimmed in crisp white with red tin roofs. The abundance of ochre, or mustard yellow, comes from the Danish yellow brick brought over from Denmark as ship's ballast during the 18th century. The popular color predominates in the town's Fort Christianvaern and other Christiansted National Historic Site buildings run by the National Park Service.

Lush green hills provide Christiansted's backdrop. Alleyways filled with unique shops lead off a waterfront boardwalk. The town has several small hotels, many cozy eateries, bars, and a number of must-see historic sites and museums. Your first stop in town should be the National Park Service's Visitor's Center, located in the historic Fort Christianvaern, which is part of the Christiansted National Historic Site. Pick up a free walking tour map to make sure you do not miss any of the important landmarks. The local government also has the Christiansted Visitor's Center at 53A Company Street. Stop here for brochures on things to do across St. Croix.

The harbor, usually calm and turquoise, is home to about three dozen sailboats and a handful of charter boats that take visitors sailing, scuba diving or sport fishing. Seaplanes take off and land in the harbor on their trips to and from St. Thomas. A water taxi ferries people to Protestant Cay, a small island located in the middle of the harbor. It is home to Hotel on the Cay, a popular lunch and water sports spot for people staying in Christiansted.

Frederiksted, St. Croix's other town, is more like a village. It takes 45 minutes to drive from Christiansted, and can be reached via busy highways, or if time permits, on a more leisurely trip through the rain forest. The town is home to Frederiksted Cruise Ship Pier, the island's deep-water pier. You will find good restaurants and some shopping nearby if you arrive by cruise ship. However, when the cruise ships leave, the town rolls up the welcome mat and practically goes to sleep. You may not find all the shops and restaurants open when cruise ships are not in port, so call to make sure before you trek west. Fort Frederik, completed in 1760, provides a shady spot to relax near the pier. It was the site of the island's most important historical event. On July 3, 1848, following a rebellion by slaves, Danish Gov. Peter Von Scholten announced that they were now free on the fort's ramparts. Victorian buildings, two museums, several historic churches and the fruit and vegetable market are the most important attractions. The Tourism Department's Frederiksted Visitor's Center is right near the pier.

Out in the countryside, over 100 ruins of sugar cane mills and grand plantation homes dot the island. Many carry fanciful names such as Lower Love, Hard Labor and Work and Rest, all the legacy of some long-forgotten 18th or 19th-century planter. Some plantations have been restored as private homes, guest houses and museums. Whim Plantation Museum, just east of Frederiksted, is filled with antiques and is open daily for tours.

The beaches pale in comparison to those in St. John and St. Thomas, but you won't have to look hard to find a sandy strand to take in some sun. Many hotels are located beachside, and there are public parks located at the east and west ends of the island. One caveat: Deserted beaches may entice you with their privacy but for safety's sake, it is best to visit beaches where you won't be alone. Ask the hotel or vacation villa staff for their recommendations. To visit one of St. Croix's nicest beaches, take a day sail or Scuba trip to Buck Island Reef National Monument, a federally-protected island located less than two miles off St. Croix's north coast. Watching fish dart about the undersea coral garden that surrounds the island, hiking up an easy trail for spectacular views and lazing about in the sun or shade can fill an entire day.

When it comes to nightlife, the offerings are as diverse as the population and what is hot one season may disappear by the next. In fact, the winter season always sees more to do than the summer. For the latest on entertainment events, pick up a copy of “St. Croix This Week,” available free at shops, restaurants and tourist attractions around the island.

Easy-listening piano music is popular at the hotel restaurants and more upscale eateries located around the island. Clubs near the Christiansted waterfront often have rock and roll or reggae bands. In Frederiksted, the Blue Moon restaurant has jazz on Friday nights and at its Sunday brunch.

Cane Bay's Off the Wall beach bar and restaurant, located near Frederiksted, has blues or jazz Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

On Wednesdays when there is a cruise ship in town, downtown Frederiksted comes alive with a street party called Harbour Night.

The St. Croix Landmarks Society sponsors classical music concerts during the winter at its Whim Plantation Museum, located outside Frederiksted on Centerline Road.

Gambling
Divi Carina Bay Casino has the island's only casino. Located on the island's east end across from the oceanfront resort, the casino attracts locals and visitors for a day or evening of gambling.

History
St. Croix is the perfect spot for history buffs. Both Christiansted and Frederiksted, have pasts worth exploring. The countryside is dotted with picturesque ruins, leftovers from the 18th- and 19th-century days when sugar and slavery fueled the economy.

Christiansted National Historic Site, part of the United States National Park system, is home to the huge yellow Fort Christianvaern, an old Danish Customs House, a Scale House and a museum located in the Steeple Building, formerly a Danish Lutheran Church. All are open daily.

Just west of Christiansted sits the Nature Conservancy's Little Princess Estate, an old plantation with windmill, rum factory and a slave village dotting its acreage that dates to the 19th century.

Fort Frederik sits adjacent to the Frederiksted cruise ship pier. Now a museum, this was the spot where Danish Governor Peter Von Scholten announced freedom for the territory's slaves on July 3, 1848.

Near Frederiksted, the restored Whim Plantation Museum provides a glimpse into plantation life. Its oval great house is filled with antiques.

St. George Village Botanical Garden, located near Frederiksted, has a glorious array of plants tucked in among 19th-century sugar plantation ruins.

Carl and Marie Lawaetz Museum, also located near Frederiksted, was until recently a working farm owned by the descendents of Danish family that arrived here in the late 1800s. It was built around 1750.

Christiansted boasts the core of the island's dining options. Most are tucked away in old buildings that date to the days when Denmark ruled St. Croix. Kendrick's sets the pace with creative cuisine such as Alaskan king crab cakes with a lemon and black pepper aioli sauce. 

For pub fare with a sophisticated spin, try the Bombay Club. It is a clubby Christiansted spot complete with dim lighting, lots of rich wood, art and a lively mix of expats, locals and visitors. 

Locals and visitors head to Harvey´s, a very casual eatery where owner Sarah Harvey dishes up local cooking that is always tasty. While classier bistros beckon, make an effort to stop here for local fare like fish cooked island style.

East End

There are several fine dining options outside of Christiansted. The East End is home to the Great House at Villa Madeleine. As the centerpiece of an upscale condominium complex, this elegant restaurant features dishes such as roasted duck and fresh wahoo. Galleon (The), located dockside at Green Cay Marina, gets multiple stars for its imaginative pasta dishes. Piano music on most nights and a good view of the boats at anchor just below are both nice extras.

Outside Christiansted
Breezez, located poolside at the Club St. Croix Condominiums just outside Christiansted, is the place to go for Sunday brunch as well as casual lunches and dinners. Frederiksted
In Frederiksted, Blue Moon, which is located right across from the waterfront, is a tiny bistro with delicious food.

On the casual front, don't miss lunch at Turtle's Deli in Frederiksted for New York deli-style lunch on a small covered patio. The breads and cookies are fresh-baked and delicious.

Outside Frederiksted
Outside Frederiksted, try Off the Wall seaside at Cane Bay for drinks and casual fare in a low-key atmosphere. No shoes required, and your bathing suit with a cover-up will do for attire.

St. Croix

Country: US Virgin Islands

St. Croix by the Numbers
Population: 50,601
Elevation: Ranges from 0 feet at sea level to 1,165 feet (355 meters) at its highest point.
Average Annual Precipitation: 40 inches / 102 centimeters
Average January Temperature: 77.5°F / 25.3°C
Average July Temperature: 81.5°F / 27.5°C

Quick Facts
Electricity: 120 volts, 60 Hz; standard two-pin plug

Time Zone: GMT-4

Country Dialing Code: +1

Area Code: 340

Did You Know?
In November of 1493 Christopher Columbus and his crew landed on the north shore of St. Croix. It is the only US territory to have been named by the famed explorer.

St. Croix is technically the easternmost point in the United States.

Orientation
St. Croix is one of the United States Virgin Islands, which are located between the Caribbean and the Atlantic Ocean. About 50 miles (80 kilometers) east of Puerto Rico, they make up part of the large arc of Caribbean islands that stretch from Florida down to South America. St. Croix is the southernmost of the Virgin Islands, and is also the largest.

District

St. Croix is the largest of the three main U.S. Virgin Islands with its 84 square miles (218 square kilometers) of rolling hills and sandy beaches, yet it receives fewer visitors than its sister islands of St. Thomas and St. John. The island is a pleasing middle ground between St. Thomas's focus on mass-market tourism and St. John's back-to-nature ambience. An occasional cruise ship calls in quaint Frederiksted, located at the western end of the island. The ship's passengers, along with hotel and vacation villa visitors, spread out across the island to enjoy beautiful vistas, boutique shopping and outdoor pursuits.

St. Croix is home to nearly 55,000 people, nearly the same as 28-square mile St. Thomas. With a refinery and other smaller industries providing employment, there is less focus on tourism than on the other two islands. Since the population density is low, it is rare to find crowded streets in the Christiansted and Frederiksted shopping areas. Parking can be a problem in Christiansted, however. The town serves as the seat of the island's commerce, and with minimal public transportation, workers usually drive to their downtown jobs.

Christiansted is usually the first stop for most visitors. A charming town with architecture that reflects the island's Danish heritage, many of the buildings are centuries old. Sitting at harbor's edge, the pastel blue, green and ochre buildings are trimmed in crisp white with red tin roofs. The abundance of ochre, or mustard yellow, comes from the Danish yellow brick brought over from Denmark as ship's ballast during the 18th century. The popular color predominates in the town's Fort Christianvaern and other Christiansted National Historic Site buildings run by the National Park Service.

Lush green hills provide Christiansted's backdrop. Alleyways filled with unique shops lead off a waterfront boardwalk. The town has several small hotels, many cozy eateries, bars, and a number of must-see historic sites and museums. Your first stop in town should be the National Park Service's Visitor's Center, located in the historic Fort Christianvaern, which is part of the Christiansted National Historic Site. Pick up a free walking tour map to make sure you do not miss any of the important landmarks. The local government also has the Christiansted Visitor's Center at 53A Company Street. Stop here for brochures on things to do across St. Croix.

The harbor, usually calm and turquoise, is home to about three dozen sailboats and a handful of charter boats that take visitors sailing, scuba diving or sport fishing. Seaplanes take off and land in the harbor on their trips to and from St. Thomas. A water taxi ferries people to Protestant Cay, a small island located in the middle of the harbor. It is home to Hotel on the Cay, a popular lunch and water sports spot for people staying in Christiansted.

Frederiksted, St. Croix's other town, is more like a village. It takes 45 minutes to drive from Christiansted, and can be reached via busy highways, or if time permits, on a more leisurely trip through the rain forest. The town is home to Frederiksted Cruise Ship Pier, the island's deep-water pier. You will find good restaurants and some shopping nearby if you arrive by cruise ship. However, when the cruise ships leave, the town rolls up the welcome mat and practically goes to sleep. You may not find all the shops and restaurants open when cruise ships are not in port, so call to make sure before you trek west. Fort Frederik, completed in 1760, provides a shady spot to relax near the pier. It was the site of the island's most important historical event. On July 3, 1848, following a rebellion by slaves, Danish Gov. Peter Von Scholten announced that they were now free. Victorian buildings, two museums, several historic churches and the fruit and vegetable market are the most important attractions. The Tourism Department's Frederiksted Visitor's Center is right near the pier.

Out in the countryside, over 100 ruins of sugar cane mills and grand plantation homes dot the island. Many carry fanciful names such as Lower Love, Hard Labor and Work and Rest, all the legacy of some long-forgotten 18th or 19th-century planter. Some plantations have been restored as private homes, guesthouses and museums. Whim Plantation Museum, just east of Frederiksted, is filled with antiques and is open daily for tours.

The beaches pale in comparison to those in St. John and St. Thomas, but you won't have to look hard to find a sandy strand to take in some sun. Many hotels are located beachside, and there are public parks located at the east and west ends of the island. One caveat: Deserted beaches may entice you with their privacy but for safety's sake, it is best to visit beaches where you won't be alone. Ask the hotel or vacation villa staff for their recommendations. To visit one of St. Croix's nicest beaches, take a day sail or Scuba trip to Buck Island Reef National Monument, a federally-protected island located less than two miles off St. Croix's north coast. Watching fish dart about the undersea coral garden that surrounds the island, hiking up an easy trail for spectacular views and lazing about in the sun or shade can fill an entire day.

Historic
St. Croix's present reflects its past at every turn in the road. The island's main towns, Christiansted and Frederiksted, are filled with historic buildings, and a small part of downtown Christiansted is designated Christiansted National Historic Site. Crumbling ruins of old 18th- and 19th- century plantations dot the countryside.

Known history starts with the Indians, first the Igneri tribe, and then the peaceful Tainos. By the time Christopher Columbus, an Italian explorer sailing under the Spanish flag, visited what is now Salt River National Historical Park and Ecological Preserve in 1493, the Caribs were prepared to fend them off with their arrows.

By 1625, the Dutch and the English began small settlements. In the ensuing century, England, Holland, Spain, France, the Knights of Malta and the privately owned French West India Company traded ownership of the island, mainly for economic and strategic reasons. Until the Danes bought the island from the French in 1733, various countries made half-hearted stabs at colonization.

The Danes divided the land into what eventually became 224 plantations with names like Upper and Lower Love and Estate Jealousy. Those names remain, a relict of the days when agriculture, especially sugar and its byproducts, rum and molasses, fueled the economy. While the Danish flag flew overhead, English, Scotch and Irish planters far outnumbered their Danish colleagues. However, the bulk of the residents were black slaves with their roots in Africa. English was the lingua franca in schools, business and social life, but Danish was the language of the government, the courts and the state-affiliated Lutheran Church.

This was the island's heyday, but British occupation in 1801 (and again in 1807 through 1815) brought with it many changes. Droughts, the end of the slave trade in 1803, the development of the sugar beet industry in Europe, political upheaval and a depression sent the island into an economic downturn. The Danish government tried to help by naming the island a free port in 1833, a designation that remains under the United States government.

The island never regained its former glory, and the end of slavery in 1848 dealt the economy another blow. In the island's most important historic milestone, 8,000 slaves marched from Estate LaGrange to Fort Frederik in Frederiksted to demand their freedom. Faced with no real choice, the Danish governor, Peter Von Scholten, complied. Fires, hurricanes, an earthquake and labor riots through the last half of the 1800s compounded the island's economic woes.

By the time the United States bought St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas in 1917 for USD 25 million, the economy was in shambles. The United States wanted the islands to serve as a buffer between the mainland and the Panama Canal as World War I neared its close. While residents hoped for economic improvement and political reforms, they were sorely disappointed. Prohibition, which became effective in the territory in 1922, called a halt to the island's rum industry, dealing another blow to the economy. Things were so bad President Herbert Hoover called the territory an “effective poorhouse” during his 1931 visit.

The U.S. Navy ran the islands until 1931 when the United States Interior Department took over. The 1936 Organic Act gave residents the right to elect members of their Municipal Councils, but the United States president appointed the governor until 1970 when residents elected Melvin Evans to the post. All residents who held American citizenship, were over age 21 and could read and write English had the right to vote starting in 1938. The previous property ownership provision was abolished.

The island's ethnic make up began to change dramatically during and after World War II as Puerto Ricans, mainly from the island of Vieques, moved to St. Croix to cut sugar cane. Their descendents today make up a large part of the island's population. Continentals, white residents who hail from the United States mainland, also discovered the island in the 1960s. They came to enjoy their retirement years and to establish businesses. Residents from Eastern Caribbean countries who came in the 1970s and 1980s add to the mix.

While sugar was grown commercially until 1965, the island didn't begin to regain economic equilibrium until industries like Harvey Alumina and Hess Oil, now HOVENSA, opened shop in the mid-1960s. Around this time, a trickle of tourists began to arrive thanks to easier airplane travel, rise in popularity of cruise ship vacations, affluence that gave Americans enough leisure time and money to travel and the close of the Caribbean hot spot, Cuba, when Fidel Castro came to power. The tourists continue to come, but then as now, in smaller numbers than they do to St. Thomas and St. John.

St. Croix's economy suffered several devastating blows in the last half of the 20th century. Crime and two devastating hurricanes took their toll.

Many residents feel they are second-class United States citizens. Although decisions made at the federal level have a huge impact here, territorial residents cannot vote for the United States president. Residents elect a delegate to the United States House of Representatives, but she is not able to vote. Residents pay taxes at the same rate and use the same paperwork forms as state residents, but the money stays in the territory to fund local government operations.

Points of interest in St. Croix, USVI

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