by Shannon O’Brien
by Shannon O’Brien
St. Croix is a laid-back island with a focus on culture, food, and festivals. You’ll find a few golf courses and some of the best diving in the Caribbean.
St Croix is the most overlooked of the islands but also has the most diverse scenery. From the beaches to the rain forest, the island feels spread out and uncrowded.
St. Croix has two major towns, Christiansted and Fredriksted. When locals say ‘town’, they mean Christiansted. Fredriksted is closer to the rainforest. The island’s Danish heritage is on full display in the two forts and Governor’s house located on the island.
Udall is considered the easternmost point in the United States and a great place to watch the sunrise. A car is a must to get around the island, and driving is easy. However, driving at night can get tricky since there are not many streetlights.
Snorkeling the Buck Island Reef Underwater Trail is a must-do. Follow the underwater trail markers to spot turtles and brightly colored fish darting around the coral formations. Then spend the rest of the day enjoying the pristine beaches of Buck Island.
Unique to the island are the local distilleries. Both Captain Morgan and Cruzan produce their rum right on St. Croix and Mutiny Island Vodka is produced using the local breadfruit.
Taste the vodka on a tour of the Sion Farm Distillery or plan more time to eat at the restaurant for a farm to table experience.
Mutiny Vodka is owned by award-winning chef Todd Manley, who is responsible for several other restaurants too. Our meal at 40 Stand was delicious.
La Reine Chicken Shack is an institution on the island and great if you’re looking for cheap eats. Both the chicken and johnnycakes are fantastic.
The St. Croix Hook bracelet from Sonya’s is perfect if you’re looking for locally made artisan gifts. Wear the hook inwards towards your heart to show you’re in a relationship and outwards to show that you’re not!
Take the seaplane. I’ve taken small planes in Africa and South America, but this experience is one I’ll always remember. The views were stunning, and the water landing was so exciting.
It’s much faster than the ferry and the additional cost for the seaplane is nominal. Take a seaplane whenever you can to island-hop. You won’t regret it!
St. Thomas is the cosmopolitan island most people have been to at least once on a cruise. It has the only five-star luxury property of the islands, The Ritz Carlton, which was recently fully refurbished.
St. Thomas has a wide variety of white sandy beaches, several condo resorts, and some of the best dining venues on the islands. New restaurants pop up regularly.
Charlotte Amalie is the downtown area with many art galleries, restaurants, jewelry, and other shops. Red Hook is where you will find a variety of restaurants and pubs as well as the ferry to the jewel of the USVI, St. John.
Though Hurricane Irma decimated the islands, it gave an opportunity to make some much-needed improvements. The promenade and boardwalk area have been completely updated and look much nicer. It’s not the same St. Thomas and will feel different to you if you visited in the past.
Beach hopping. Magen’s Bay is considered one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, but all the different beaches I visited were beautiful.
All the beaches on the East side of the Atlantic will have good snorkeling. You’ll find the finest dining and shopping options on St. Thomas as well.
Go to Sunset Grille at Secret Harbour for the best sunsets and a great Tuna Poke Bowl. This was the best I had since my trip to Thailand.
In Charlotte Amalie, look for Tropical Creations Gallery & Boutique and meet the shop owner, Tulip. She’s a local artist, and most everything in the store is made by her or other local artisans.
You’ll find beautiful handmade Batik fabric, paintings, Christmas ornaments, and local cuisine cookbooks in her shop.
For my clients, I strongly encourage hiring a private driver, and I prefer to book this in advance for them. It’s the best way to see the island. The driver I use knows all the best places to go and knows everyone on the island!
St. John is an outdoor lovers’ beach paradise. Hiking, kayaking, paddle boats, snorkeling, boating, and diving can all be had here. Most accommodations are self-catering condo resorts and come with beach chairs and a cooler.
Open Safari-style taxis will take you on a tour or to your selected beach. Or you can rent a car and try your hand at driving on the wrong side of the road!
Two-thirds of St. John is a National Park, and most of the beaches on St. John are part of the park. Several sugar plantation ruins are available to explore, like Annaberg, where I met Charlie.
He was from Tortola and explained to me the garden he keeps as a volunteer for the National Park Service.
In the garden, Charlie showed me the native plants that had been used by his grandmother and explained the importance of each. I even got to try real sugar cane.
This is a great spot to view the British Virgin Islands (BVI). Travelers should visit the Park Service Center for additional information on hiking.
I loved everything about St. John, a jewel of an island. It’s so interesting to see how close it is to the BVI. Plan time to hike. One morning, I started from my condo hiking to the top of a mountain to cherish 360° views of Caneel Bay. It was breathtaking.
The ceviche and sushi at The Longboard are excellent. Go to Oceans 362 at the Gallows Point Resort for great sunsets and a farm-to-table experience.
Grab lunch to go at North Star Deli before you head out for the day and get to the beaches early as they do get crowded, and snorkel rentals will sell out.
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