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 Travel Article Travel Article Archive  
February 2010 Email this to a friend

St. Croix, USVI

By Mark Sullivan

Annalie Farms, Virgin Islands

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NOTE: This is an archive article. For an updated and expanded article click DailyXtraTravel


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.
St Croix is the least visited of the three major 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. Guide magazine named St Croix one of the most gay-friendly Caribbean islands in 2009.
The island has two major towns, both named after Danish kings: Christiansted and Frederiksted. Each has a distinct personality, so most visitors try to get a taste of both. In between are sights ranging from rum distilleries to the ruins of plantation houses to nature preserves.
There are beautiful beaches all over the island, but one of the most popular is Dorscht Beach in Frederiksted, with its crystalline water, small waves and unbelievable sunset views. And you're likely to run into other gay travelers here.

Getting here
Located 13 miles from Christiansted, Henry E Rholsen Airport is the gateway to St Croix. Although there are a few direct flights from the US, most will require a connection in Miami, St Thomas or San Juan, Puerto Rico. Unless you rent a car at the airport, there are taxis waiting to take you to your hotel. The fare is posted inside every taxi.

Getting around
Unlike many of the other nearby islands, 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 Great Britain.
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, Christiansted is dominated by a huge yellow fort dating from the 18th century. It's not the oldest building, though: The original post office and town hall were built the century before by the Danes.
Frederiksted. The second largest town is Frederiksted, which has its own fort and plantations that date from when the island was covered with fields of sugarcane. There are a couple of interesting museums and a waterfront park where you can join the locals for a late-afternoon stroll.

Outdoors
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 (Bigbeards.com) and Caribbean Sea Adventures (Caribbeanseaadventures.com) are two popular companies.
If you're into scuba diving, there are plenty of eye-popping dive sites just off the coast. St Croix Ultimate Bluewater Adventures (Stcroixscuba.com) 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 (Stcroixkayak.com) takes you on guided tours through the Salt River Bay National Historic Park and its brilliant green mangrove forests.

Accommodations

Just down the beach from the center of Frederiksted you'll definitely be charmed by the Sand Castle On The Beach Hotel & Resort (127 Smithfield; 800-524-2018 or 340-772-1205), where the Caribbean is at your doorstep! The deluxe suites here are huge, complete with living room, bedroom (king-size beds), bath, kitchenette, and private patios. Some rooms have an ocean view, and all are within earshot of the beach. There's a fresh-water pool and a sun deck overlooking the beach, and a second complex of rooms with their own pool across the street. Gay men predominate in season, and couples come back again and again, mixing easily with friendly straights who are also welcome here. Their weekend seaside Beach Cafe restaurant features live music.

Right next door, the Cottages by the Sea (127a Smithfield Rd; 340-772-0495) has private beachside cottages with fully equipped kitchens and all the other amenities.
The folks at Sand Castle and Cottages get along famously, and they 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 horizon of water.

In Christiansted near Five Corners, the Hibiscus Beach Resort (4131 La Grande Princesse; 340-772-0495) is an everyone-friendly seaside resort with a popular restaurant, Elizabeth's at H2O.

The nearby Palms at Pelican Cove (4126 La Grande Princesse; 800-548-4460) has a beautiful palm-studded setting with deluxe units just steps from the water. Formerly called the Cormorant Beach Club, it's now mainly family oriented with new owners, but gay-friendly too.

Other local resort options include:
the Carambola Beach Resort & Spa (Kings Hill; 888-503-8760) beside a secluded cove and pristine beach west of Christiansted where the road turns inland from the wild and steep coastline, with bar, restaurant, live entertainment, fitness center and tennis courts. Inland nearby their tropical valley Carambola Golf & Country Club (72 Estate River, Kings Hill; 340-778-5638) is an expert 18-hole course, open to the general public.

Divi Carina Bay (5025 Estate Turner Hole, Christiansted; 877-773-9700) beach resort on a quiet stretch of coast, has beachfront guestrooms and deluxe hillside suites. There's also a casino, an activities center, spa, plus other poolside treats such as the pizza shop, and candle-lit dining at the Starlight Grille with huge buffets.

The 18th century mahogany-accented Christiansted townhouse Pink Fancy (27 Prince Street; 340-773-8460) is closed this season for renovations. Check their website for updates.

Restaurants, bars, etc

The Blue Moon (17 Strand, Frederiksted) serves delicious food and drinks, indoors or out, with a popular Sunday Brunch. They feature live jazz music on Wednesdays and Fridays and attract a great mix of locals and tourists.

The Domino Club (Route 76, Mount Pelier, up-coast from Frederiksted) is a Caldonia Rainforest rum shack down a road flanked with massive mahogany trees, with true local ambience (and can-crushing, beer-drinking pigs). Potent spice-honey-rum Mamajuana drinks, home-cooked Trinidadian food, and the famous pigs are the main attractions. There's a smoothie stand just before you get here if your cravings are sweet and fruity.

Polly's at the Pier (3 Strand, Frederiksted) coffeeshop, internet cafe with free WiFi, and art gallery has great smoothies and milkshakes. The ice-cream is locally made, and their organic eggs locally laid. Caribbean libations, their own micro brew beer, soups, sandwiches hot and cold, wraps and tapas are served up by Steve and Seth, with Polly, their mascot dog nearby. They have fine imported cigars too.

The Sunset Grille (Estate William, Frederiksted), open 7 days a week including Sunday Brunch, has West Indian-Infused Island cuisine at water's edge on it's own stretch of Sprat Hall Beach, and true to billing they have wonderful sunset views. Highly recommended by locals, their food is prepared with only fresh local ingredients by Dominican chef Miss Jules.

For fabulous sandwiches, smoothies, and other picnic food pop in to the friendly Turtles Deli (37 Strand; Prince Passage, Fredericksted) for eating in, or taking with you to the beach.

The West End Grill (330 King St, Frederiksted) has been operated by Debby, Amy and other family members for over 30 years. Plan a lunch here, Tuesdays through Fridays until 4pm (last seating), for mouth-watering home-style island specialties (and big portions!) of pork, fried chicken, fresh fish or mac & cheese.

Getting There, Getting Around

American Airways flies into St Thomas and Jet Blue to San Juan.
From there you can take Cape Air (Flycapeair.com), or the Seaborne Air Shuttle (Seaborneairlines.com).
By sea you can travel with Smith's Ferry (Smithsferry.com) between Charlotte Amale, St Thomas and Gallows Bay in Christiansted, St Croix.

On island there are local buses if you can learn the schedules, and taxis that are somewhat expensive, so car rentals are a good idea. Be careful when passing, as you'll be on the left side of the road with an American-side steering wheel, making it hard to see around the car in front. It's been like this since Danish colonial days, and Cruzans like to be a little different. With a slower pace of life here, why rush?

Olympic Rent-a-Car has locations in each of the two towns (1103 Richmond, Christiansted, and on Custom St in Frederiksted; 888-878-4227); and
Judi of Croix (4017 Hermon Hill, Christiansted; 877-903-2123) is another rental option. Both companies offer free pick up and drop offs.

Tours etc

Big Beard's (340-773-4482) for Buck Island trips; Caribbean Sea Adventures (340-773-2628) for sailing, fishing or snorkel and scuba; Gecko's (340-713-8820) with ATV tours of the rainforest; and SCUBA (877-567-1367) for blue water adventures.
To paddle the calm waters of the Salt River where Columbus first set foot in the New World, beside the largest mangrove forrest in the Virgin Islands, get your gear from St Croix Kayak (800-532-3483).

Real Estate

Be forewarned: chances are, once you've visited, you'll make plans to return. Thinking of longer term rentals or perhaps moving here? See the pros at Richards & Ayer Associates (340 Strand; 340-772-0420). They have over 45 years of experience in the islands, knowledge of local ways, and properties that include beach condos and vacation villas.

Author Profile:  Mark Sullivan

Mark Sullivan is the managing editor of Guide magazine. He can be contacted at marks@guidemag.com.

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