Experience Island life in St. Croix.

Beach Photo

St. Croix wouldn’t be a trip without checking out the entire island. We rented a car for the day and mapped out our route ahead of time to make sure we used our time wisely. Our first stop was Frederiksted, one of the two towns on the island (Christiansted & Frederiksted). I enjoyed driving there and back because it was quite scenic. We saw lots of farms with horses, chickens, lizards appearing every now and then on the road. Our route was a combination of hilly, windy and remote which, eventually lead us towards the coast that overlooked the Caribbean Sea. It was a nice site and I remembered not seeing a lot of cars on the road at the time. At times, it felt like we were on the island by ourselves.

Frederiksted

Coming from California, we’re used to crowds on a daily basis and arriving at Frederiksted was a surprise in that it was very quiet. We walked around the boardwalk and rarely saw anybody around (except the chickens). There were a few colorful buildings near the pier that probably was once a cool place, sadly, a lot of them are closed now and dilapidated. By about 11am, there were a few scuba divers and snorkelers who started making their way into the water. Apparently, there’s a ton to see near the pier area that appeals to scuba divers and snorkelers. We decided not to do either one because we had other places we wanted to see.

We stayed for about an hour at Frederiksted, had breakfast at Ci Bo Ne and contemplated after eating whether we should go to Sandy Point or not. We knew ahead of time that there’s a potential for that beach being closed due to turtle nesting. Since it was nearby we decided to check it out anyway and came to find out that it was, indeed, closed. I was sad as I read that there’s really only two nice beach spots on the island with ultra clear turquoise water, non-rocky and provides plenty of beach space. Those two are the Buck Island and Sandy Point.

Fun Fact: There’s a movie called “The Shawshank Redemption” that shows the main characters running away to an island somewhere in Mexico when it was actually filmed in St. Croix at Sandy Point! Several people on the island had mentioned the movie to us and we finally saw it once we came back home. After seeing the movie, it made our trip all the more special.

Rainbow Beach

After driving to Sandy Point we made our way to Rainbow Beach. I guess this was the spot to be in because it was crowded. We hit traffic as soon as we arrived and there were cars already piled up on the side of the road. Luckily, we found parking right away.

The beach onsite has a restaurant and a rental store for snorkeling and jet skiing. I can’t comment about either one since we didn’t buy any food and we had our own snorkeling equipment. However, we tried to jet skii and we weren’t successful since we didn’t have any reservation and they didn’t have any time slot we wanted. We ended up snorkeling instead. One thing to be careful on this beach were the rocks. When you first get in the water there’s a ton of them at the beginning then it spreads out as you further get in. I saw a few fish here in compare to snorkeling in Protestant Cay and there’s an area on the beach where jet skiers are coming in and out which, creates small waves every now and then. We stayed here for an hour before we made our way to the next beach spot.

Notes: Make sure to pack sunscreen and a hat as the sun can get pretty hot.


Cane Bay

Cane Bay was a 20 minute drive from Rainbow Beach. It is also situated right by the road but, unlike Rainbow Beach the water was calmer in Cane Bay and it hardly had any rocks (except the big chunk of reef right by the shore). The beach has a few shades and a gorgeous backdrop of the tip of the island that you can see from far away. There was also a restaurant right by the entrance to the beach and a dj was playing various types of music. Although, I could’ve done without it to be honest.

On this beach, it felt like there were more families who came here in compare to Rainbow Beach that appealed more towards a younger crowd. I liked this beach more than Rainbow Beach because it felt calmer. We swam here for a few minutes before deciding to leave in time to make it to Point Udall.

Point Udall

The eastern most point of the United States, Point Udall is worth the drive. From Cane Bay it took us 40 minutes to get there since it was on the opposite side of the island. We made this our last stop on our day trip as it is located closer from where we rented our car and hotel. The view from here is one of the best on the island. There’s a monument onsite, a path that leads down to a beach with limited parking spaces. When we arrived we did not find parking and decided to drive all the way up to the top where the monument was located and got out there to take photos. They say it is a perfect spot to watch the sunset or sunrise and seeing the view from here I can see why.

Parking: Even though we didn’t have issues there’s warning about car break ins in the area. On Tripadvisor, a few people mentioned that in order to avoid your car from being broken into they suggested to (obviously) do not leave valuables in your car and to keep your windows down. When we visited Point Udall we saw most cars parked did exactly what was suggested and we also followed suit. Also, keep in mind that there’s no service in the area so, getting help would be difficult. Make sure you have a car insurance that will cover car break ins in case you are the unlucky few.

Buck Island

I saved the best for last! Buck Island is a paradise haven. It’s an island off the coast of St. Croix on Christiansted side that can only be reached through an approved vessel with a permit from the city or tour boats. It’s government protected with one of the most pristine beaches I’ve ever seen in my life! We booked our tour half a month prior to our trip and let me tell you that it was every bit worth it.

Part of the tour is a guided snorkeling through coral reefs. The experience of seeing the coral reefs is unbelievable. I saw a few that were much bigger than I imagined and towards the end of our snorkel was this huge swordfish swimming nearby. He didn’t seem to be scared of us one bit. I imagine that the fish here are probably used to seeing people everyday.

After snorkeling, our group made our way to the beach of the island and we had a chance to roam around for the rest of our tour. My bf and I walked from one end of the beach and to the other where we ended our time swimming. The sand here is as white and pure as it gets. There’s not a lot of things to do on this island except swim and picnic. There’s also shades near the restroom and a few benches around however, with the water being warm and clear what else do you need?

The Tropical Bites of St. Croix.

St. Croix Eats

We ate our way around the island tasting Caribbean dish after another. From Yuca Fries to Rum Cake, I expanded my flavors that I never knew would be possible. The island time typically starts at 11am with shops and restaurants closing at 5 or 6pm (due to covid restrictions). It is important to make reservations ahead of time during peak hours if you want to make sure you have a table. There are a few restaurants that require reservations but, I think it also helps you to know that you have a guaranteed spot.

Base on my experience, a typical dish we ate on the island consisted with some sort of seafood and a side salad or veggies. It was definitely a healthy meal, one that I enjoyed and considered to be similar to how I eat at home. My favorite dish was the Cruzan breakfast, Grilled Salmon and Mahi Plate. There was something about the sauces and the whole combination of it all that I found intriguing.

One of the things to budget for this trip is spending money on food. A standard plate will cost around $15 and can go up to $30+. You can reduce food expense by buying food at a grocery store that will last you a few days. However, we stayed in Christiansted area where a grocery or liquor store was not within walking distance from us and we did not have a car. Therefore, we were left to eat at restaurants which was fine with us too.

I’ve outlined the restaurants below with links that we tried on this trip and places we recommend (or not).

Ital in Paradise

Address: 2220B Queen Cross St. Christiansted 00820-5068
Hours: Sat, Mon-Fri. 12-9pm, Sun: CLOSED

Keep your eyes open and don’t miss this place. It’s one of those restaurants that only the locals know about. Although, base on our experience I’m sure it’ll take off in no time.

The restaurant is in downtown Christiansted. It is a small establishment with two dining tables inside and is found by going up a staircase. I only knew about this place through a Youtube clip while I was doing my research on St. Croix. The restaurant is vegetarian friendly with vegan and gluten free options.

The owner was the one who helped us when we visited the restaurant. He was very welcoming and gave us a rundown on the menu and drinks. I saw different types of salads on the menu and various drinks such as ice teas. My bf and I ordered the Monday Special. It was a Grilled Salmon plate that consisted of salad, quinoa, spinach and lentil balls. Our plates was a sizable portion and hands down, it was one of the best meals we had on the island. One thing to keep in mind is that it’s a cash only place and they do accept Venmo as another payment option. We payed through Venmo and we did not have issues.

Cafe Fresco

Address: 1138 King St.
Website: FB, Site, Menu

We came here for brunch on our last day of our trip and we did not make any reservations but, we were seated right away. The cafe was located inside an area that shares the space with other businesses around. Our waitress was friendly and attentive. She sat us in the courtyard where we ordered The Cooper 15 consisting of scrambled eggs, toast, bacon with Yuca fries and a latte to drink. This was my first time hearing and trying Yuca fries. I thought it tasted like potatoes and the sauce the restaurant gave us paired well with it. Yet, since it was made in house there was no way of finding out how to replicate that sauce. That was one thing we forgot to ask. Also, my latte order came in a bigger glass than I anticipated. For some reason I thought it would come in a small cup. Nonetheless, I was pretty satisfied with the food and drink. Their menu does have plenty to choose from and the portions were quite big. In another time, I would come back and try other items on their menu.

Savant

Address: Hospital St. Christiansted, 00820
Phone: 340.713.8666
Hours: Sat, Mon-Fri. 6-10pm, Sun: CLOSED
Reservations Required

This restaurant was recently featured on Departure Magazine. I saw it, read about it and tried it.

While on the island, we made reservations ahead of time to dine in their courtyard. As soon as we walked in we immediately loved it. The dining room had a romantic ambiance with low lighting and interesting decors. We started off with Chicken Lollipops as an appetizer. It is a fried pulled chicken breast with Gorgonzola cream wrapped in crispy wontons. It was so good! As for our main dish, I ordered the local Mahi served with herbed rice and broccoli and my bf got the Half Duck Two Ways. We both tried each other’s plate and were pretty satisfied with our meal.

The service was good in that our waiter checked in with us. They also followed covid protocols with tables spaced out across the room. Lastly, we ended our night with a Vanilla Rum Cake. If you stayed long enough on the island, you’ll know that it is a signature dessert of the Virgin Islands. Various places sell them and yes, it contains rum.

Savant articles or reviews read here, here, here.

40 Eats & Drinks

Address: 1101 Strand St., Christiansted
Hours: Sat. 10am-2pm, 6-9pm, Sun. 10am-2pm, Mon. CLOSED, Tues. Weds. Thurs. Fri. 6-9pm
Reservations is highly recommended

We came here for brunch and sat outside next to a hotel. They also have indoor seating but, we preferred seating outdoors. When we arrived they were already busy but, we never had issues with the service. I ordered the Healthy Banana Split while my bf got the Vodoo Shrimp & Grits. Both orders were pretty good. They had a wide variety of options on their menu and I’d definitely go back again if I get another chance. On a random note, I loved watching the chickens roam around while we ate.

The Mermaid at The Bucaneer

Hours: Call to make reservations ahead of time for either lunch or dinner.
Reservations Required

We came to The Mermaid during lunch hour. Even though we had reservations they weren’t busy at all. We got seated right away next to the beach. Their menu had plenty of options to choose from salads, sandwiches to burgers. Since I wasn’t too hungry I ordered the Conch Friters appetizer with a Mango Smoothie. The Friters are radish sprouts with cilantro aioli. It was ok.

My bf ordered a burger with fries and the portion was quite big. He didn’t end up finishing everything, although, he looked content.
I thought the food and service was ok. Our waitress came by a few times but, it didn’t feel welcoming nor did the food taste in the same level as the other restaurants we’ve been to on the island.

Ci Bo Ne

Address: Frederiksted, St. Croix 00840
Phone: 340.719.2663
Hours: Tues.-Sat. 6-10pm, Sun. 10am-3pm, Mon. CLOSED
Reservations is highly recommended

I think we got lucky on this one. We arrived too early for breakfast according to island time. We were greeted by a woman at the door who told us to come back at 11am as they do not start serving until 11:30am. I appreciated her courtesy and we did return to the restaurant at 11 on the dot. We came to find a different woman at the door who told us that they were still not open. Luckily, the first woman we spoke to intercepted and graciously let us in. It turns out she was the owner and had explained to us that their restaurant had been closed for a few months due to construction and that was their first day of re-opening. She went further to explain that they had a new cook who’s prepping now and that the waitress will take our order but, it will take a few minutes for the food to be served. I appreciated that the owner provided us such an extensive detail and I have great respect for it.

For breakfast, I ended up ordering The Cruzan Style that had Cucumber Salad, Avocado, Smoked Herring, Bread and Spinach. The fish had a salty taste combined with veggies made this breakfast refreshing. My boyfriend got a simple Fried French Toast that was a portion too small for him. I liked my dish but, my bf was left hungry. As for drinks, we had mimosas and that was good. We’d go back again and try their dinner menu.

The Courtyard

Address: 54 King St., Christiansted

We came to The Courtyard many times during our trip and ordered their smoothies. It’s a spot located at a fitness center and they offer smoothies, açai bowls, juices and chia seed puddings. I loved coming here when it got too hot outside and the Peanut Butter Smoothie sure helped me cool down every time.

Brew STX

Address: 55 King’s Alley Walk, Strand Ln.
Links: Menu, Yelp, Tripadvisor
Reservations is highly recommended

This was the first restaurant we went to when we arrived in St. Croix. It’s located on the boardwalk with a nice view of the water as well as a good spot to people watch. Due to the location they draw a big crowd and most people do make reservations ahead of time to get good seats. As far as the food goes, we ordered the chicken wings, coconut curry muscles and tried the painkiller drink that a few people on Tripadvisor suggested. It did not disappoint. We didn’t stay long but, this is a good place to come for drinks and enjoy a good view.

Other restaurants on our list that we did not make it to:

Galangal: Fine-dining Thai food

Address: 17 Church St.
Phone: 340.773.0076
Reservations Required

Beach Side Cafe: American, Caribbean, Seafood

Address: 127 Smithfield Rd.
Hours: Mon.-Fri. 11am-8:30pm; Sat. & Sun. 10am-3pm, 4:30-8:30pm

Cafe Christine

Address: 6 Company St. Christiansted
Hours: Tues-Thurs 11:30am-2:30pm, Sat-Mon: CLOSED
Phone: 340.713.1500

Twin City Coffee House

Address: 1 Company St.
Hours: Sat, Mon-Fri 7am-2pm, Sun. CLOSED
Phone: 340.773.9400

Polly’s at the Pier

Address: 3 Strand St.

Rythms at Rainbow Beach

Address: Frederiksted, St. Croix 00840

First time in St. Croix.

Beach Photo

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.


Covid Restrictions

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: travelportal@usvitravelportal.com and info@usviupdate.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 😉

Language

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.

Accommodation

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.

Food

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.

Weather

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.

Flight

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

To LAX
(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.

Activities

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.

Driving

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.

Safety

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.