Cruise ships often bypass St. Croix in favor of St. Thomas, but if you’re lucky enough to set sail for the largest of the U.S. Virgin Islands, you’re in for a treat. The quiet island offers authentic culture and some of the best snorkeling in the Caribbean. Here’s where to go when you’re in port.
Frederiksted: You don’t need to head any further than Frederiksted -- where your ship will dock -- to soak in the Cruzan culture. Start with a self-guided tour of Fort Frederik, then stroll through local shops before grabbing a bite at Polly’s at the Pier or Turtle’s Deli.
Or head straight for Rainbow Beach, mere steps from the docking destination. Here, you can spend the day lounging on the white sand or rent snorkel gear from N2theBlue Scuba Diving to spot coral, sponges, and colorful fish in the waters near the pier. (Divers can also arrange for dives through N2the Blue as well.)
During the late 18th century, sugar drove the St. Croix economy, and you can see evidence of that in the hundreds of sugar mills, windmills, and Great House ruins that dot the island. For a look at what life was like on a sugar plantation, tour nearby Estate Whim Museum with its completely restored Great House. Rum goes hand-in-hand with sugar production, and St. Croix has two distilleries: Cruzan Rum and Captain Morgan (both offer tours). Cruzan, which has operated on the island since the early 1800s, offers a glimpse into the island’s rum making heritage. Tours leave out of Frederiksted.
Christiansted: What it lacks in beaches (the only accessible beach requires a $5 round-trip ferry ride to Hotel on the Cay) Christiansted makes up for with history and culture. Like Frederiksted, the town has an impressive fort. Tour it to see where Alexander Hamilton’s mother was once held prisoner, then walk the streets where the young Hamilton spent his formative years. As you travel through town, don’t miss the opportunity to purchase a souvenir from Sonya Ltd., home of the original St. Croix hook bracelet.
If you want to sample authentic Cruzan foods, Christiansted is the place to do it. For a refreshing drink, head upstairs to Ital’s in Paradise for fresh fruit juices, like pineapple ginger beer, or take a seat at the bar in Zion Modern Kitchen and order a cocktail with a Caribbean spin from “mix master” Frank Robinson. If you’re feeling hungry, head to Havey’s for pot fish, conch, and stewed goat. Another option is 40 Strand Eatery, known for its fresh seafood and innovative entrees.
Christiansted is also the starting point for trips to Buck Island.
Buck Island: Six concessionaires take visitors to Buck Island Reef National Monument, about a 20-minute boat ride from Christiansted. Most trips to the park begin on the 176-acre island’s west side with its pristine white beaches and gentle surf that's perfect for learning how to snorkel before heading to the reef. From there, boats sail around to the other side where snorkelers can navigate an underwater trail along the elkhorn coral reef.