Idyllic warm turquoise waters of the Caribbean left me wanting more. For the longest time, I’ve always seen beautiful images of the Caribbean islands from Bahamas to St. Lucia and remembered thinking of wanting to go there at some point in my life. If, only the Caribbeans wasn’t so far away from California I most likely would’ve been there by now. Well, dreams do come true!
St. Croix fulfilled everything we hoped for on this trip. We swam in warm clear waters, watched the varying colors of the sunset from our beach chairs, and enjoyed the fact of how easy it was to hop out of bed everyday and head to the beach. After being on the island for full 4 days I can say it was enough for us to see what we wanted and fulfill our first experience of being on a Caribbean Island.
Since I’ve returned from our trip, I’ve had a chance to reflect on our island adventures. Like any other first time trips I always do some form of research prior to jetting off somewhere new. There were a few things I discovered along the way that were quite worth noting.
St. Croix is by far much better in following the Covid restrictions in compare to the mainland. Prior to our departure we needed to submit a negative test result 5 days before our flight and uploaded it on the USVI Travel Screening Portal for an approval that takes 24-48 hours. I waited 24 hours before my nerves started kicking in. We literally had a day left before our departure and I couldn’t wait any longer to find out my status of approval. I decided to call the hotline phone number but, I was not successful. I also sent out an email directed to: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com and that went through. It took about 10 minutes to receive my approval status which, you can probably imagine I was overjoyed in receiving this message.
Before our trip, we had several documents we printed and one of them was our approval status message. This is probably one of the most important documents to print out and bring with you as the airline requested when we checked and again we had to present the same document at the airport in St. Croix. Recently, USVI has been cracking down on fake covid test results being submitted through the screening portal. Please, make sure you have a legit approved test results from a trusted resource and that you have the approved letter from USVI that showed the barcode and the message that said “APPROVED”. You will have to present this upon arriving to the island.
St. Croix Airport: Baggage Claim, Car Rentals & Taxi
After we landed in St. Croix, everyone went through screening at the airport. You’re basically entering a room (limited amount of people at a time) where there are people behind desks with computers and the people behind those desks are wearing hospital gears with gloves on, masks and all. They asked for our IDs and the barcodes that I mentioned earlier. Base on our experience, I would assume that the barcode pulled up our approval status on their end. It took about 5 minutes before we were cleared. We exited through another door that lead us outside of the airport where you’ll find baggage claim, car rentals, parking, restrooms, etc.
The airport itself is small. You check in the same area where you arrive and it is outdoors. You’ll find car rentals onsite as well as a taxi stand next to the baggage claim. Uber, Lyft or any other form of car rideshare doesn’t exist on the island. Typically, people rent a car or use a taxi to get around. Originally, we had scheduled with our hotel ahead of time for a taxi pick up. Sadly, there was a mix up with our taxi that left us stranded at the airport leaving us fetching one from the taxi stand. It wasn’t a good way to start our way into the island but, we made it.
The cost to get to our hotel from the airport was $30 (not including tip). Make sure to ask the cost of the ride with the taxi driver upfront before leaving the airport in order to avoid any mix-up. Our ride was shared with a family of 3 who also just flew in. They were dropped off before us at a rental car spot and paid the same rate.
As far as downtown Christiansted, covid restrictions were also implemented. We found that every restaurant seemed to require reservations ahead of time as seats are currently limited. The only time you will find it easier to “dine-in” (typically it’s in a courtyard, patio or balcony) is during downtime like late afternoon. The shops, hotels, stores and gas stations around the island typically have signs that says “No Mask” “No Service” and also tour operators will require you to wear masks. If that’s not enough, they will re-iterate this verbally prior to starting any activity. So, no Karen’s allowed on the island 😉
There are 3 main languages spoken on the island. English, Spanish and Creole. We never had issues speaking in English and the locals are one of the friendliest people I’ve met. They’re laid back, respectful and welcoming.
I think a resort is ideal for this type of trip because everything is within reach. You don’t need to worry about transportation, security, food, activities (i.e. beach access) etc. Otherwise, you can see the island in a day by renting a car to see other beach areas, see Frederiksted (the other major town) and go to Pt. Udall and find other activities (like ziplining) that may not be available at your resort. This is exactly what we did, we stayed in Christiansted during our trip but, we rented a car which allowed us to see Frederiksted and stopped along the way to see other beach areas. Also, since there weren’t any grocery or liquor stores near where we stayed in Christiansted this limited us to strictly eat at restaurants. Luckily, our hotel had a small convenient store where we were able to buy a gallon of water for $2 while it cost $2 for a bottle at the boardwalk; definitely, something to keep in mind.
The food on the island were pretty good. I will do a separate post regarding what we ate, the restaurants we went to and so forth. Anyway, since mostly everything is imported from the mainland, the prices are a bit high depending on how you look at it. A standard plate per person is around $15 not including tax and tip. On Christiansted side, you’ll find restaurants along the boardwalk and a few others within walking distance.
The sun in St. Croix was hot. It went up to 82F. I’m happy that I brought my bucket hat with me because I wore it everyday. We tried to stay under a shade if it was available. In the Buck Island, there’s no shade (except by the bathroom) and a few other beach spots rarely had any either.
The flight was rough! There’s no direct flight from Southern California. It was around 9-10hrs. long each way. Here’s the breakdown:
To St. Croix
(4.5hrs.) LAX – Fort Lauderdale
(6 hrs. layover) in Fort Lauderdale
(2.5 hrs.) Fort Lauderdale – St. Croix
(2.5 hrs.) St. Croix – Fort Lauderdale
(2 hrs. layover) in Fort Lauderdale
(4.5hrs.) Fort Lauderdale – LAX
Other airlines flew to St. Croix such as American, Delta, Cape Air and Spirit. Checking in at LAX via Spirit was a hot mess but, had nothing to do with the island except for the fact that the person who checked us in was confused about what documents was required to get in to USVI (U.S. Virgin Islands). We explained what we submitted and showed our approved status with the barcode. She seemed confused at first but, eventually was ok with what we presented. Our return was a breeze without issues whatsoever.
A few things we did on the island was see the Port Christvaied, go on a Buck Island Tour, window shop in downtown Christiansted, eat at various places, visit The Bucaneer Resort, rent a car for the day and visit Fredriksted and beach hopped. One thing St. Croix is known for is snorkeling and scuba diving. I highly suggest doing one of the two (or both) to see one of the best coral reefs around.
They drive on the left lane of the road. It took us a few tries before we mentally accepted it. The right turns on a 4 way stop light or signs is a bit of a “I can’t believe this” moment but, we eventually got the hang of it.
Personally, we never had issues with safety in St. Croix. However, like anywhere else I would keep your wits about you especially when you’re visiting somewhere new. I read the local news in St. Croix before our trip as part of my research and they also have their own issues relating to drugs, poverty, corruptions, etc. Tripadvisor also has a few old reviews from travelers to St. Croix you can read here, here or here to gauge safety. Again, everyones experience will be different.
If you want to read up on the U.S. Virgin Islands local sources check out here, here, here and here.