Best Place to see Sea Turtles

St. Croix – A Diver’s Paradise

Best Family Vacation

St. Croix is a fantastic divers destination. There is so much sea life to enjoy around the island. We purchased a tropical fish identification guide for our kids, and between diving and snorkeling we have seen almost every fish in the book! During the first week of our vacation, Dave was unable to dive due to an ear infection that resulted in a trip to the local Urgicare. He was given the green light by the Doctor and has enjoyed dives in Frederiksted and Davis Bay.

A few highlights of his recent dives include sea turtles, sharks, squid, sea horses, and tons of amazing brightly colored fish. I love to watch and share the videos with the kids. They enjoy picking out fish in the videos and then identifying them in our fish guide. My personal favorite video clip is when they enter “The Aquarium” dive site in Frederiksted surrounded by hundreds of fish. It truly looks like they are swimming in a huge aquarium of tropical fish.

 St. Croix Diving Video Highlights:

 If you are having trouble viewing the video you can watch it here: St. Croix Dive – July 2015

 

Highlights of Dave’s Dives in Frederiksted, Salt River Bay, and Cane Bay from our last trip in January 2015:

If you are having trouble viewing the video you can watch it here: St. Croix Dive – January 2015

We are enjoying St. Croix for a few more weeks and will be posting more diving and snorkeling videos. Please follow our YouTube Channel for updates!

 

 A few of our favorite diving accessories:

 

 

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Best food in St. Croix

Eating our Way Through St. Croix – Local Grocery Shopping

During our first week in St. Croix we spent time seeking out locally grown produce and fresh seafood. We have found several great places recommended by locals, including road side vegetable stands and a local meat market. It took us over a week to locate fresh fish, however we feel like we are learning how to navigate our way through the St. Croix grocery shopping options.

LOCAL GROCERY SHOPPING IN ST. CROIX:

SEASIDE MARKET: Located in Christiansted, this was one of our favorite grocery stores on our last trip to St. Croix. They have a great wine selection as well as a small deli and meat market.

FOOD TOWN: We visited the location just outside of Christiansted on LaGrande Princesse.  They have a nice deli and a large selection of commercial breads and bakery items.

COST U LESS: Located mid-Island, this is a smaller version of a bulk food store (similar to a Sams Club or Costco). We found Cost U Less to have some of best prices on liquor and an internal meat department with a large reasonably priced meat selection. Best of all, you do not need to be a member to shop here. If staying for a short period, the bulk casing may be too much for standard items, however, they do offer meat and produce in smaller quantities.

LOCAL PRODUCE, MEAT, & FISH:

On our last visit we found The ARTFarm which offered fresh local produce several times per week. However, St. Croix has been experiencing a drought and currently they are only opening as produce becomes available. We look forward to visiting them in the future and they are worth in visit once the drought is relieved.

TROPICS HYDROPONIC FARM: We found the Tropics Hydroponic farm near Salt River Bay. They keep daily hours Mon-Sat 8-5:30.  Hours may change seasonally and you should call or check online before making the trip.  During our visit they had fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, and zucchini. Their tomatoes and cucumbers were excellent on our sandwiches and in salads.

LA REINE FARMERS MARKET & ROAD SIDE STANDS: Each Saturday there is a large Farmers Market where locals meet to sell their homegrown items. You’ll find a lot of local fruits such as mangoes and star fruit along with seasonal vegetables and herbs. We found some lovely rosemary, white zucchini, and star fruit at this market. There are also several fisherman that set up each Saturday between 6-7 am, and usually sell out before 7:30 am. Local Tip: Be wary of purchasing fish from roadside stands or not appropriately stored on ice. During the week you will also find small road side stands scattered throughout the Island with mangoes, sweet potatoes, herbs, and other seasonal items.

Shopping in St. Croix

La Reine Farmers Market

 

ANNALY FARMS: This local meat market is located mid-Island off of hwy 72. They offer both USDA choice beef as well as beef from locally raised Senepol cattle. We opted to purchase the Senepol bone in ribeye because we wanted to sample the locally raised products. They were fabulous and at an awesome price of only 5.50/lb! Periodically they also offer local fish for sale. We will purchase here again during our stay. TIP: Annaly Farms advised us to call ahead as their local beef sells out quickly.

Annaly Farms St. Croix

Locally raised Senepol Ribeye

 

ROADSIDE VENDORS: There are several reputable road side vendors for fresh lobster. Just ask any local and they will tell you where their favorite roadside seller is located. We found a good source for fresh lobster near Golden Rock. We were able to trade cell phone numbers and contact him when we were in need of fresh lobster.

Where to get fresh seafood on St. Croix

Tip: Never buy lobster from a roadside stand that is not alive.

On this trip to date, our home made lobster pasta is probably the best meal we have enjoyed. We had enough leftover for two full meals.

Best food in St. Croix

Our home made lobster pasta!

We shared the recipe on our sister blog The Winey Foodies. You can find a printable/downloadable recipe here: Lobster Pasta Recipe

FREDERIKSTED FISH MARKET: On our 10th day we found fresh Red Snapper from a fisherman near La Reine. He told us we should go to the Fish Market stand in Frederiksted, located at the boat launch, between 11-12.  That is the time the boats usually return from fishing. We met several nice fisherman and purchased another lobster. They also had shark and crab available. Tip: There is usually a crowd of people waiting to purchase fresh seafood from the boats so make sure to show up early.

Frederiksted Fish Market USVI

“I’m not touching that crab!”

There are several small corner stores, vegetable stands, and grocery stores located throughout St. Croix.  We have been able to purchase many of our favorite brands we enjoy back home, as well as finding new brands.  If you visit St. Croix and opt to stay in a Vacation Rental, you’ll find that the St. Croix grocery shopping options have everything you need to enjoy your own meals at home.

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Things to do in St. Croix USVI

A Drive Down Mahogany Road – St. Croix Rainforest

Mahogany Road – St. Croix Rainforest

We had the opportunity to drive down Mahogany Road through the St. Croix Rain Forest.  It’s a beautiful drive up and down long winding roads filled with large Mahogany trees.  If you look closely you might see a deer or an occasional mongoose on the side of the road.

Tip: A 4WD or mini SUV is recommended for this drive.

In the heart of the rain forest we stumbled upon a sign, that said “Shop Open.”  We looked around and saw another sign for the St. Croix LEAP project – Island Mahogany.  We had discovered a wood shop nestled deep in the forest.  After a short drive up another long and winding road we found a large barn/workshop and Vincent, a local woodworker.  The front and back of the barn are completely open.  We were unsure if we were at a business or someones private barn.  However, Vincent waved us in and gave us a tour of his workshop.  You feel like you are walking into the past in a room filled with antique sanders, clamps, lathes, saws, and other old-style woodworking and carving tools.

There are large slabs of aging mahogany.  Most of the items offered for sale are mahogany cutting boards, magnets, and small clocks.  However there are a few items made from other Island woods, saman and thibet.

Vincent told us he has been there for about 50 years.  There used to be more woodworkers but he said he was the only one there now.  He was a gracious host and took a lot of time giving us a tour of his workshop.  Every item is truly one of a kind.  We purchased a St. Croix magnet, and Vincent amazingly free-handed the words “St. Croix” on it with a router.

St. Croix Leap Project – Island Mohogany

We plan on taking another drive to St. Croix Leap to purchase a mahogany cutting board before we leave.  We also hope to visit the Montpellier Domino club, “home of the beer drinking pigs”, which is also located in the heart of the rainforest.

It is such a lovely drive and highly suggested if you have the chance to visit St. Croix.

You might also like: Beer Drinking Pigs at the Montpellier Domino Club St. Croix

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Urgicare Clinic in St. Croix USVI

First Few Days in St. Croix – A Rough Start

DAY 1 – Getting There:

Travel day! We woke the kids at 3:30 am to arrive at the airport by 5am. Most of the evening prior was spent packing. Due to various medical equipment, diving/snorkel gear, and other essentials we ended up with 4 checked suitcases, 5 carry on bags, and a beach tent that is light, yet too long to fit in our luggage. We also made room for a few bottles of wine for Mom & Dad to enjoy..

Best Kid Vacations

Pretty Happy for 5 AM!

The flight to St. Croix was around 5 hours total with a quick layover in Atlanta. What a long day! We arrived at the condo around 5 pm after retrieving our luggage, the rental car, and stopping by the grocery store for dinner. Day one was all about getting to St. Croix. Both flights were smooth and everything went off without a hitch. I am happy with how well the kids traveled on so little sleep.

Tips on Getting to St. Croix: Delta offers seasonal non-stop flights from Atlanta on Saturday only.  Throughout the week Delta offers service through San Juan, in conjunction with Seaborne Airlines.  American Airlines offers non-stop service from Miami several days per week as well as service through San Juan in conjunction with Seaborne Airlines.   Alternately, if you fly to San Juan via any airline, Seaborne and Cape Air offer several hopper flights almost daily to St. Croix.

 

 

DAY 2 – Getting our bearings, exploring St. Croix.

Our first full day in St. Croix USVI started out a little rough. Dave woke up with severe ear pain and the weather was cloudy and rainy. We contacted our local car rental company, Judi of Croix, and Dennis was a wealth of knowledge regarding all things local, including options for medical care if necessary. We also learned that the fisherman we purchased fish from on our last trip to St. Croix was no longer fishing commercially. Dennis was able to connect us to a few other local fisherman to purchase fresh fish and lobster from this month. I cannot say enough about the great service we have received from Judi of Croix car rentals both times we have rented from them.

We spent the day driving around getting our bearings and activity ideas for the week. Throughout the day we stopped at a few stores and talked to locals to get ideas on great restaurants, shopping, and sights. The best way to travel is to eat and enjoy the Island like a local.

Late in the afternoon there was a break in the weather and we were able to explore the pool, grounds, and beach area at our condo. There has been a drought in St. Croix for several months so the Island is more brown than usual. We are used to seeing lush plants and greenery. Water is also expensive so a few of the local farms have taken a hit to their crops. We generally purchase from local farms whenever possible, but the produce yield is down considerably this year due to the drought.

 

DAY 3 – A trip to the Urgicare in St. Croix

We began our third day with a visit to the local Urgicare. Dave’s ear pain got worse over night and in order to dive during this vacation he needed to have it checked. The St. Croix Urgicare clinic, located near the Hospital, is a walk-in clinic run by the Acute Alternative Medical Group. Dave was seen by a local physician, Dr. Campbell, who was super nice and provided excellent care. The staff was outstanding and offered additional advice on the best places to snorkel and dive on St. Croix. We were in and out in less than an hour. They sent his prescriptions directly to the Medicine Shoppe Pharmacy which were ready for pick up within a few minutes. Because St. Croix is a US territory, our primary insurance covered the visit as a regular medical visit. In addition, we have purchased Travel Medical insurance that will likely pick up our copay for the visit and Medications. Best of all, Dave should be ready to dive in 2-3 days! If you find yourself in need of medical care while visiting St. Croix, I highly recommend the Acute Alternative Medical Group.

 

Urgicare Clinic in St. Croix USVI

After getting our Medical needs taken care of, we stopped for lunch at Victor Mencho’s.  Recommended by Dennis from Judi of Croix, who says this sandwich shop offers “the best Cubano on St. Croix.”  Victor Menchos is small, filled with locals, and open for breakfast and lunch only. The owners are nice and gave me contact information for their brother, an independent licensed tour guide, offering guided hikes on the Island. Oh, and the sandwich was excelente!

 

We spent the rest of the afternoon Swimming and Snorkeling at Rainbow Beach in Fredricksted. This is a nice calm, sandy beach next to a beach bar and restaurant. We also met Bobby, a local fisherman, who will contact us when he has fresh fish and lobster available. We are finally beginning to feel like we are on Vacation!

 

Rainbow Beach St. Croix

Finally in the Water!

 

Tips on packaging wine for airline travel

Tips for Packing Wine in Checked Luggage

Tips on packaging wine for airline travel

While on vacation we like to enjoy our favorite wines. Since wine costs 20-30% more at some of our vacation destinations, (especially the Caribbean), we try to pack a few bottles of wine in our checked luggage. We know there is a chance we’ll discover a wine soaked suitcase at baggage claim; however, to date, we have not had any problems with wine breaking in our luggage.

The key to successfully packing wine in checked luggage is to individually wrap each bottle and ensure the glass bottles do not touch in your luggage. After wrapping your wine – make sure to pack it in the middle of your suitcase. Do not place your wine directly against the sides of the suitcase.

There are several commercial wine shipping containers available that will work well for airline travel.

The Inflatable Bottle Pouch  – inflates with air and seals to prevent leaking.

Styrofoam Bottle Shippers – (insert links) These generally provide plenty of travel protection. When we order wine online we try to save some of these shippers for future travel.

 

OR you can opt for creating your own wine travel packaging system.

We often make our own wine packaging for travel because our bottles usually vary in size. Some wine shipping containers are made for specific size bottles and will not accommodate larger bottles.  We often pack a few bottles of wine and a bottle of spirits.  Our DIY packing system accommodates most any size bottle of wine/spirits for travel.

DIY – Packaging Wine for Checked Luggage:

WHAT YOU NEED:

  1. Cardboard (the inserts from cases of wine work really well for packaging in your luggage).
  2. Masking tape or packaging tape
  3. Padding (we recycle plastic shopping bags)
  4. Trash bags or large zip lock bags.

 

Tip: Prior to packing, make sure to check with your destination on how many bottles of wine or spirits each adult may bring.

 

Packaging a Single Bottle:

  1. Cut a piece of cardboard that is approximately 1.5 times the circumference of the bottle. i.e. the cardboard should wide enough to wrap around the bottle 1.5 times and should be 3/4″ longer on each end of the bottle. The corrugated lines should run parallel to the length of the bottle. Can you carry wine on an airplane
  2. Wrap the cardboard tightly around the bottle and tape the seam leaving a little space at each end. Tip: To ensure you do not pack the bottle upside down in the suitcase mark the end of the package notating which side is the top (or neck) of the bottle. This will minimize the chance that you will have a broken bottle as the neck is the weakest part of the bottle.

    How to travel with wine

    We used a shoe box to wrap this bottle

  3. Stuff plastic shopping bags on each end of the bottle and cover with packing tape. (Snug but not to tight). Ensure the bottle cannot move inside of the cardboard.

    Take wine on a plane

    completely fill with reused shopping bags and secure with tape.

  4. Double bag the wrapped bottle inside trash bags or large zip lock bags.
Can I take wine to the Virgin Islands

Double bag cardboard wrapped bottle before placing in luggage

  1. Pack 1/2 of your clothing and then place the wrapped bottle in the center of your suitcase with the bottle neck side up with respect to the top your suitcase.
  2. Pack the rest of your belongings making sure to provide enough padding around the bottle. *Your suitcase should be packed snugly so the bottle experiences minimal movement during travel.

 

On our last trip we packed a single bottle of wine using the above method. Our bags were randomly chosen for a TSA search. They ruffled through our suitcase and placed the bottle back against the side of the suitcase, and the bottle was not broken on arrival.

 

DIY – Packing for Multiple Bottles of Wine in Luggage

We like to create a padded “box” similar to, but smaller than, a case of wine.

  1. Start with an insulated bag. We use an insulated wine carrier or our insulated Whole Foods market bag. How to pack wine in your luggagge
  • Take card board and make “individual” bottle holders as shown and place inside of the bag. The actual inserts from a case of wine work really well. Best way to pack wine in luggage
  • Wrap each bottle of wine with a large zip lock or other plastic bag and place inside of the holders making sure there is card board in between each bottle. Pad the bottle necks with recycled shopping bags.

wrapping bottles for plane travel Packing wine to prevent breakage on plane

 

 

 

 

 

  • Double bag the entire package with bags or trash bags to help protect your clothing in the event a bottle is broken.
  • Place the double bagged package inside of your luggage, right side up, with clothing packed all the way around. It is important that the bag cannot move inside of your suitcase during travel to minimize the risk of breaking.

We have traveled with up to 6 various sized bottles, in a single piece of luggage, packed using the above method more than a dozen times without breakage.

Other Tips:

  • Pack only dark clothing in the suitcase that contains wine.  Even with careful packing there is always a chance a bottle of wine may break during travel.
  • Weigh your luggage and adjust accordingly.  Wine bottles are heavy and depending on your other items, multiple bottles of wine may put your luggage over the 50 lb threshold.
  • Reuse the recycled shopping bags while on vacation for dirty clothes, local shopping, or rental car trash bags.
  • If you are traveling to Wine Country, take a few insulated wine carriers with you for your return flight!

 

 

 

 

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