On our most recent Fun Family Vacation we wanted to experience something new and decided on visiting the United States Virgin Islands (USVI). After researching online we chose St. Croix because it is less “touristy” than St. Thomas yet offers a lot of similar experiences available in the Virgin Islands. (Snorkeling, diving, hiking, excursions). This was our first trip to St. Croix, we had a fabulous time, and we will return.
A few things to keep in mind when pre-planning a trip to St. Croix USVI:
- Verizon and several other cell services do not work (minutes are charged roaming at $1.99+ per minute) in USVI. AT&T is one of the only mainland service we found that provide coverage on the Island. We were able to purchase a one month unlimited calls/text GO Phone from our local AT&T store and utilize it for texting and phone calls while on St. Croix.
- Depending on your location, there are not many direct flights offered to St. Croix. You will most likely have more than one layover. We switched planes in Atlanta, and switched airlines in San Juan. The easiest way to get to St. Croix is to fly to San Juan PR and then catch a flight on one of the local “Island hopping” airlines such as Seaborne Airlines.
- Renting a car is necessary for most vacation rentals on St. Croix. St. Croix has several local and national car rental companies. Renting a car is easy, however when renting a car at the airport there is an additional tax added to your rental. Many people utilize rental companies from an alternate location on the Island. Your rental company should be able to assist you with the best way to book your car rental. *Renting a car/jeep that can handle rugged roads is advisable for some areas of St. Croix.
Things to do:
There are so many great activities on St. Croix. We found something new to experience almost every day of our 10 day trip. A few of our favorites:
We visited several beaches during our stay. One of the best beaches with soft white sand and clear blue water was Rainbow Beach in Fredricksted. We visited on a Monday and we had almost the entire beach to ourselves. There is a nice restaurant/bar located at Rainbow beach with plenty of rum drinks and a tropical pub menu. Tip: This beach is near the cruise ship port and can be very busy on a “cruise ship day.” Check the cruise schedule (available at most merchants and dives shops) and try to plan a non-cruise ship day to visit Rainbow Beach.
Cane Bay Beach – This is a smaller beach located in the North side of St. Croix Island. There is a dive shop offering both shore and boat dives along with an open air restaurant (EAT at Cane Bay) located at this beach. This is a popular beach for locals and is busy with local families over the weekend (especially on Sundays). Tip: The shoreline is somewhat rocky when you enter the water. Swim/water shoes are handy at this beach.
The Buccanneer – Like many Caribbean Islands, all of the beaches in St. Croix are free, meaning even non-guests can enjoy the beaches directly in front of any hotel or resort. However, in St. Croix the resorts do charge a minimal fee for parking ($5-10). We visited the beach at The Buccanneer the day before leaving and this was a perfect, relaxing, last adventure before our departure. There are kid-friendly activities including beach side chess, beach volleyball, basket ball, and frisbee golf. There were plenty of beach chairs available, lots of shade, a beach bar, and beach side servers. Our kids had a lot of fun at The Buccanneer, should we ever return in search of a hotel/resort experience we would stay at this location.
Snorkeling is accessible from any beach and there are also snorkeling excursions to Buck Island offered each day. We chose Big Beards Snorkeling Trips on the Christiansted Pier for our visit to Buck Island. This was approximately a 4 hour excursion round trip from Christiansted to Buck Island. First they take you to the beach at Buck Island where you can enjoy the soft white sand, explore the beach, or receive a snorkeling lesson from their tour guide. Then they will take you to the Buck Island snorkel trail. This is an underwater trail with signs explaining the various types of coral and marine life. On our excursion, after the guide “showed us the ropes” we had about an hour to explore the reef. We saw a lot of tropical fish, however a few other people in our group saw a Nurse Shark. (I’m kind of glad we didn’t see him!) Tip: On Sundays Caribbean Adventures offers a $25 special to Buck Island. This is very popular and advance reservations are suggested. The Buck Island Reef was hit hard a few years ago by a hurricane, however the reef is recovering and visiting Buck Island is worth the trip.
The different types of terrains on St. Croix, from lush tropical forests to dry hilly coastlines, make way for plenty of nature exploration and hiking opportunities. Because of our childrens ages we chose an easier self guided hike down to Jack’s and Isaac’s Bay on the Eastern Tip of the Island. For us the hike took about 20 minutes to reach the beach. The only way to reach Jack’s and Isaac’s Bay beach is to hike in, so you won’t find much of a crowd here. You will find some of the best snorkeling with tons of sea life near the shore. We saw a family of squid, many different kinds of fish, and a spotted eagle ray at this location. Love, Love, Love the snorkeling here. Tips: Wear comfortable hiking shoes. Take plenty of water and snacks. There is no shade on the hike or on the beach. Wear sunscreen and take an umbrella or something to use for shade. Another group we met on the beach at Isaac’s Bay had small pop up tent they were using for shade.
When we decided to take the kids on their first ever fishing trip we contacted all the local charters and many of them were not equipped to take out young children or they had a minimum of 4 hours for $600-$800. Since our children are not quite old enough for a big fishing day we were looking for a short two hour trip, close to shore, where they could possibly catch a fish. We found a great captain, Navy John, who was agreeable to take us out for a shorter time (2 hours) in the early evening for $200 (included snacks and water/sodas). The kids each caught a barracuda, not bad for a first ever catch!
While our kids are too young to dive, Daddy enjoys sneaking off for a dive or two when on a beach vacation. A few “must” St. Croix Dives – Cane Bay shore dive, Fredericksted Pier night dive, and Salt River Bay.
Because we stayed in a vacation rental with a full kitchen we cooked most of our own meals. It’s important to consider that being an island, almost everything is imported. Prices are typically much higher than on the mainland. However, we found good prices on many grocery store items compared to other Islands we have visited. We found a good selection of grocery store produce at Food Town, just outside of Christiansted. We also enjoyed shopping at the Seaside Market in Christiansted. This store had an incredible wine selection. The best and freshest produce is available from one of the roadside farm stands. There are several farms on the island and each one has a list of times/dates/locations they offer produce each week. We found The Art Farm on the South East end of St. Croix. They are open on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturday mornings and offer a great selection of local organically grown produce and herbs for cooking. We have food allergy considerations and contacted The Art Farm via Facebook with questions and they responded with helpful information on where to purchase items along with allergy friendly restaurant suggestions.
One would also expect a fabulous seafood selection at the grocery stores, but we found this was not the case on St. Croix. After a few days of research and inquiring we learned that the fisherman typically sell their fresh fish direct to the consumers and restaurants as they arrive on the dock in Christiansted. My husband hung around the dock one afternoon and obtained a local captain’s cell phone number and he texted us daily with his catch of the day. The fisherman we met was named Ryan; he was awesome and made sure we had fish when it was available. The boats come back around 3-4 pm and they will filet the fish right there for you. After making this discovery we experienced some of the best Mahi and Wahoo we have ever eaten. Tip: Take your own cooler or bag of ice with you when purchasing fish on the dock.
Restaurants we visited:
Rhythms at Rainbow Beach – We enjoyed lunch here on our visit to Fredricksted. They have a great beach side location, a tropical “bar/pub” style menu, and plenty of fun rum drinks.
Eat at Cane Bay – This is a must visit for Sunday Brunch. From 11-4 each Sunday they feature a unique brunch menu as part of their “Reggae Brunch” complete with live reggae music.
Rum Runners – This restaurant is located directly next to the fisherman’s dock in Christiansted. We witnessed the chef purchasing fish as it arrived at the pier. Can’t get a fresher catch of the day than that! They have a very busy dinner crowd. We “lucked” in to a table here as they were booked with reservations. Tip: Call ahead for seating.
Pickled Greek – Every Saturday they offer a $5 Gyro from 4-9pm (eat in only) and it is a hit with the locals. We arrived early (thankfully) and were able to secure an outdoor table. Tip: Skip the appetizers and enjoy a gyro with a salad as the gyros are fabulous and very filling.
A few final tips:
- Passports are not necessary for US Citizens. However if you want to “island hop” to a non-US territory, you will need a passport.
- On most Islands car break-ins are an issue. The locals suggest not leaving anything in your car and leave your windows down and doors unlocked. We used common sense and did not have any safety concerns.
- The winter weather is almost perfect on St. Croix. We enjoyed 80-85 degree weather each day with a few evening showers. If you are renting a house with a pool, make sure the pool is located on the “sunny side” of the house. Our first rental had a north facing pool that received very little sun and was un-swimmable. We switched rentals mid-week and the pool at our second rental received sun all day making our experience more enjoyable.
- Driving is on the left. Be prepared to constantly question whether or not you are on the correct side of the road.
- Everyone on St. Croix seems to communicate via texting. Having a phone that works locally is handy for making reservations, contacting excursions, and purchasing fresh fish on the dock.
- When booking a dive or excursion, try to schedule on a non-cruise ship day for a more relaxing adventure. Cruise ships are great for the Island economy – but you will most likely enjoy a less crowded adventure on an off cruise day.
Other things to do on St. Croix: Sandy Point National Wildlife Refuge, St. George Botanical Gardens, Carambola Tide Pools (may be best for older kids due to the hike), Visit one of the many historic landmarks and Forts, Cruzan Rum and/or Captain Morgan distillery tours, shopping in historic Christiansted.
Overall this was another great Fun Family Vacation for the books! Please share your comments, questions, and tips below. We’d love to hear about your fun family vacation to USVI!