St. Croix, USVI

The largest of the United States Virgin Islands, St. Croix is 82 square miles of green fringed by endless white beaches. Of the string of islands belonging to the US, St. Croix is neither the most cosmopolitan (that distinction goes to St Thomas) nor the most unspoiled (St John is mostly a national park), but for many visitors it is the best of both worlds. In 1493 Columbus named these islands Santa Ursula y las Once Mil Vírgenes (Saint Ursula and 11,000 Virgins) -- later shortened to Las Vírgenes, now the British and US Virgins. Santa Cruz was then, and still is, the island's name in Spanish.

St. Croix is the least visited of the three major American islands, which is part of its draw. There are few sprawling resorts, meaning most of the accommodations are intimate places where the staff gets to know you by name. It doesn't have rainbow flags on every business, but it does offer a friendly welcome to visitors of all sexual orientations, and is still one of the most gay-friendly places in the Caribbean.

The island's two major towns are named after Danish kings: Christiansted and Frederiksted. Denmark ruled here for almost two centuries, between buying the island from the French in 1733, and selling it in 1917 to the US --along with St Thomas and St John. The other two had been Danish even longer, from 1672. Each island has a distinct personality, so many visitors try to get a taste of each. The sights range from rum distilleries, to the ruins of plantation houses, to nature preserves --both on land and underwater.

There are beautiful beaches all over St Croix, but one of the most popular is Dorscht Beach in Frederiksted, with crystalline water, small waves and unbelievable sunset views. You're likely to run into other gay travelers here too. The East End Marine Park Management Zone, from Point Udall on both the north and south coasts, extends for some miles (to Green Cay on the northside). It includes a Wildlife Preserve, and no fishing zones, but also two recreational areas at Teague and Grapetree Bays for snorkeling, boating and catch-and-release fishing (with permit). Dive sites are scattered all along the north coast from Christiansted Harbor, to the west, all the way down to Fredericksted.

 

Getting here

Located 13 miles from Christiansted, Henry E Rholsen Airport is the main gateway to St. Croix. Although there are a few direct flights from the US, most require a connection in Miami, St Thomas or San Juan, Puerto Rico. US citizens do not need a passport on arrival from the American mainland. Cars may be rented at the airport, or waiting taxis will take you to your hotel. The fare is posted inside every cab.

Seaborne Airlines flies seaplanes with water take-offs and landings, 35 flights daily between the harbors of Christiansted, St Croix, and Charlotte Amale, St Thomas. They also have service to San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Tortola and Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands. Downtown-convenient, the close-up views of land and sea are great from low-altitudes.

There is no longer any scheduled ferry service between Charlotte Amalie and Christiansted. For ferries between other islands see VI Now schedules, or the Road Town Fast Ferry website for service between Charlotte Amalie, St Thomas, and Road Town, Tortola, in the British Virgin Islands.

Frederiksted is a port of call for Holland America and Royal Caribbean cruise ships arriving at St Croix, and duty free allowances are generous. Taxis will get you to Christiansted and there are island tours on offer. Check with your cruise line or see St Croix Tourism/Cruise.

 

Getting around

Unlike many nearby islands, much of St. Croix is relatively flat. It even has a four-lane highway that makes cross-island jaunts a breeze if you have a rental car. Remember that cars drive on the left side of the road, as in Britain and Australia (and the British Virgin Islands) - but most cars have American-side steering wheels, making passing tricky on back roads. There is Vitran bus sevice every two hours between the two towns between 5:30am and 9pm daily except Sunday, plus other routes around the island. See VINow for travel information.

Olympic Rent-a-Car and Judi of Croix are gay-friendly local car rental companies. If you plan to stay in one of the towns, a rental car is not a necessity. But using taxis to get around can wind up being very pricey.

 

Towns

Christiansted: on the northern coast, dominated by a huge yellow fort dating from the 18th century. It's not the oldest building, however. The original post office and town hall were built in the century before Danish times.

Frederiksted: the second-largest town is less commercially busy, but also has a fort, and plantations dating from when the island was covered with sugarcane fields. There are a couple of interesting museums and a waterfront park where you can join the locals for a late-afternoon stroll. Beautiful beaches are nearby, as well as windy forested highland roads just to the north.

 

What to do

There are plenty of places to get away from the crowds, but a favorite is Buck Island. The beaches of this off-island are lovely, but don't miss the chance to snorkel among the rocky coral populated by huge schools of colorful fish. Most charter companies make their way to this nature preserve, located about five miles north of St. Croix. Big Beard's, and Caribbean Sea Adventures, are two popular options.
If you're into scuba diving, there are plenty of eye-popping dive sites just off the coast. St Croix Ultimate Bluewater Adventures  is a gay-friendly company.
If you'd rather stay on top of the water, sea kayaking is a great way to explore the Salt River, the spot where Christopher Columbus first set foot in the New World. St. Croix Kayak takes you on guided tours through the Salt River Bay National Historic Park and its brilliant green mangrove forests. Gecko's has ATV tours of the hilly rainforest region of the West End.

 

Media and resources

The Virgin Islands Daily News is the local paper. St Croix Tourism, GoToStCroix, St Croix Source, St Croix This Week and Visit USVI are useful general information websites with activities, and listinggs of businesses and events.

Things To Do In St Croix is another helpful website with things to do and places to stay.

For map locations and website links to the businesses below, and more, see our gay Cruzan listings pages.

 

Currency and Money

St. Croix is part of the US Virgin Islands, so the American dollar is used here. Bank ATMs accept major credit cards and networks, but may accept only 4-digit pins, so check with your home bank before leaving. Scotiabank and Banco Popular are the main international banks.

 

Accommodations

Down the beach from Frederiksted center, Sand Castle On The Beach Hotel & Resort (127 Smithfield; 800-524-2018) is a complex of deluxe suites, each with living room, bedroom, bath, kitchenette, private patio; some with ocean view. There are two pools, and sun deck overlooking beach. Gay men who predominate in season, mix easily with straight couples. Their weekend Beach Side Cafe restaurant has live music.

Next door, Cottages by the Sea (127a Smithfield Rd; 340-772-0495) has private beachside cottages, fully equipped kitchens and all amenities. The two guesthouses share Dorsch Beach, one of best swimming beaches on island, with clear, sparkling water, and no big waves. It's like a big warm ocean lake, and the sun sets into the water horizon here.

Palms at Pelican Cove (4126 La Grande Princesse; 800-548-4460), beautiful palm-studded setting, deluxe units steps from the water, Palms Restaurant & Bar breakfast, lunch/brunch and dinner. Formerly the Cormorant Beach Club, now mainly family-oriented with new owners.

Sand Castle On The Beach Hotel & Resort (127 Smithfield, Frederiksted; 340-772-1205), deluxe suites and villas complex, two pools, sun deck overlooking beach, Beach Side Café al fresco dining, cocktail lounge; IGLTA member.

Other local resort options include:

Renaissance Carambola Beach Resort & Spa (Kings Hill/ Estate Davis Bay; 888-503-8760), luxury resort on secluded cove, pristine beach west of Christiansted, beyond which the coastline turns steep and wild. They have a bar, restaurant, live entertainment, fitness center and tennis courts. Carambola Golf & Country Club (72 Estate River, Kings Hill; 340-778-5638) nearby is the expert 18-hole course, open to the general public.

Divi Carina Bay (5025 Estate Turner Hole, Christiansted; 877-773-9700) beach resort on quiet coast, beachfront guestrooms, deluxe hillside suites, casino, activities center, spa, poolside pizza shop, and candle-lit buffet dining at Starlight Grille.

 

Restaurants, bars, etc

Beach Side Cafe (Sand Castle Resort, Frederiksted), breakfast, lunch, dinner, Sunday brunch at beachside restaurant and bar.

The Blue Moon (7 Strand, Frederiksted), delicious food and drinks, indoors or out, popular Sunday brunch, Wednesday and Friday live jazz music, mix of locals and tourists.

The Domino Club (Route 76, Mt Pelier, up-coast from Frederiksted), Caldonia Rainforest rum shack, road flanked with massive mahogany trees, real local ambience (and can-crushing, beer-drinking pigs). Potent spice-honey-rum Mamajuana drinks, home-cooked Trinidadian food. A smoothie stand near here will satisfy sweet, fruity cravings.

Kim's (45 King St, Christiansted), Cruzan-style fish, chicken and conch with rice or linguine, salad and Johnny cakes; West Indian curries, Cajun-style local foods and drinks.

Polly's at the Pier (3 Strand, Frederiksted) coffeeshop, internet cafe, free WiFi, art gallery, smoothies and milkshakes. Veggie options, local ice-cream and organic eggs. Caribbean libations, micro-brew beer, soups, sandwiches hot and cold, wraps and tapas from Steve and Seth, with Polly, (the mascot dog). Fine imported cigars too.

Turtles Deli (37 Strand; Prince Passage, Fredericksted), gourmet hot and cold sandwiches on fresh bread, eat in, or take-out to the beach.

For a variety of restaurants, with cuisines from around the world, see the resort hotels at our map & listings pages; also with locations and website links to the businesses above.

 

Real Estate

Chances are, once you've visited, you'll plan to return. Thinking of longer term rentals or perhaps moving here? St Croix Tourism has the basic information, plus listings of agencies that handle properties, including beach condos and vacation villas.

- Staff - February 2017