St Croix

Christiansted Harbour © Erik Larson

Less developed than St Thomas, St Croix is the largest and most remote of the three inhabited Virgin Islands. Covered in forested hills and fertile lowlands, it is also surrounded by coral reefs providing excellent diving opportunities, particularly along the north coast.

Located 40 miles (64km) south of St Thomas, the island has two main towns, Christiansted on the northeast coast and Frederiksted on the west coast. Both prospered as commercial ports during the 18th and 19th centuries.

Christiansted is a lively town offering trips to the tiny Buck Island as a popular excursion. Frederiksted is smaller and a sleepy destination, apart from the occasional cruise ship arrival and passengers indulging in a spree of duty-free shopping.

Both towns contain numerous examples of fine Danish colonial architecture. The surrounding landscape is scattered with remnants of sugar plantations, stone windmill towers, and ruined houses from the island's commercial heyday in the sugarcane industry.

Along with its picturesque beaches and superb diving, St Croix has a variety of indoor and outdoor activities, including hiking, historic sights and attractions, golf, and horse riding. There are fine hotels, excellent dining spots, and casinos.



Attractions

Buck Island Beach
Buck Island Beach © Philip Brewer

Buck Island

A few miles off the northeastern shore of St Croix lies the tiny paradise of Buck Island, one of the best excursions in the Virgin Islands. The entire island and its surrounding coral reef is a protected nature reserve and includes a beautiful beach, an incredible coral marine garden, and two major underwater snorkelling trails with signs that introduce snorkellers to the types of coral and sea life.

Turtle Bay Trail and East End Trail together have become one of the most popular attractions in the US Virgin Islands, while there are also some excellent scuba diving sites off Buck Island Reef. Those wanting to visit Buck Island should take a taxi or drive to Christiansted or Green Cay, on St Croix, and then find a boat trip going to the island. There is no regular ferry service, but it is generally easy to find and join a boat tour.


Christiansted
Christiansted © Prayitno

Christiansted

One of the prettiest towns in the Caribbean, Christiansted has a perfect harbour setting and is the capital of St Croix. Dominating the waterfront is the large yellow building, Fort Christiansvaern, built in the late 1700s to protect the town's harbour against pirates during its days as capital of the Danish colony. It served as an important trading centre for sugar and rum. Much of the original Danish colonial architecture remains, including the Old Custom House, government buildings, and the atmospheric wharf area lined with pastel-coloured warehouses. Original Danish streets signs survive among modern enterprises like tourist shops, courtyard restaurants, and a spirited bar scene on the waterfront. There are plenty of beach activities nearby and a popular excursion is a trip to Buck Island, which offers superb beaches and coral reefs.


Scuba diving
Scuba diving © LASZLO ILYES

St Croix SCUBA

St Croix Ultimate Bluewater Adventures has been called 'the friendliest dive shop on earth' and offers a fantastic opportunity to anyone who wishes to become a fully-certified diver while on holiday in the Virgin Islands. While experienced divers will find their every need catered for (try the night dives!), the real beauty of the operation is the ease with which complete novices can obtain their PADI Open Water Diver certification, under the expert guidance of highly-qualified dive staff. Over and above experiencing the beautiful underwater sights of the Caribbean, doing a diving course in the US Virgin Islands allows visitors to the islands to leave with a skill that they'll cherish for the rest of their lives.

Address: 81 Queen Cross Street, Christiansted; Website: www.stcroixscuba.com