St. Croix, USVI. Curious Little Island.
Updated: Dec 8, 2018
St. Croix, USVI
Did you want to get away from it all? Lose yourself for days on an island? St. Croix might be the prescription you are looking for. We ventured here in the fall of 2016. I found the island, interesting. Why? There are beautiful beaches, waterfronts, places eat and dine but if you're looking to be entertained, it might not be your cup of tea. I enjoyed my time in St.Croix, I really did, my spouse not so much. St. Croix for a visitor is about slowing down and possibly getting off the grid. We met many Expats from the U.S. that were doing just that, who had left everything behind. We rented a nice one bedroom near Cane Bay, ocean view with very few other tourists and thus began the proverbial question of the day, "what is there to do here?" Well, that depends on "what" you're expecting. Since we rented a car we explored the possibilities of "what is there to do here?" We started at Cane Bay. Cane Bay is a nice beach area with a few eateries, two that offer what can be considered Caribbean pub/beach food and one that is high end, delicious too. Eat@canebay is exactly what you might want from a beach side restaurant. Fresh ceviche, nachos and everything in between and there are drinks (of course rum) as well. Off The Wall which overlooks the Caribbean has decent eats as well, it's also colorful and funky. The Waves at Cane Bay is your higher end establishment, offering all the freshness from the sea, incredible views and ambience to match. Think wine crowd versus beer and nacho folk. Each has their respective goodness so visit all three or choose the one that suits you and your budget best. We visited all three, see the food reviews on this site. The beach at Cane Bay is not overly big but nice enough, friendly enough and the water is clear enough to snorkel or dive just off shore.The vibe is laid back and perfect for being off grid with nothing but turquoise blue waters staring back at you.We spent a couple of days of visiting Cane Bay, it's exactly the place for a little time out of life. Very few if any beach vendors asking for your money. Parking is public just find something curbside, lock up and put your feet in the sand.
After Cane Bay we headed west to Frederiksted. Frederiksted is the western most part of St. Croix. Be warned Frederiksted is a cruise ship town meaning that if a cruise ship is not in port, the town is sleepy if not just walking dead. That being said it is a quaint little town. With no cruise ship in site we walked the town shore side peering into closed shops, grabbing a bite here and there and walked the mammoth pier which is where those said massive ships would dock. The empty pier was surreal walking what a felt like a concrete mile into the ocean with nothing else in sight. A fisherman here and there, gray skies above and looking back at Frederiksted from the pier, Frederiksted seemed to be saying, "yes I am here, just enjoy me for what I am in this moment", so we did. We strolled the town for about and hour and half exhausting it. The locals that were there were friendly and conversational. A few office people passed us by but nothing seemed to penetrate the quietness. It was both serene and disillusioning, but still beautiful. St.Croix has all the looks of the Caribbean, but seemingly comfortable with what it is and I can respect that.
By day three given what we had seen so far, we decided "what the hell" let's rent a Jeep and see the whole of the island, so we did. St. Croix is 28 miles long, 7 miles wide and 1160 feet high, we saw it all from every angle. There are vantage points that will take your breath away.
With our newly acquired Jeep we had that go anywhere feeling (almost mistakenly) and set out on Scenic Road (western part of the island). Is it scenic? Yes. Is it recognizable civilization? Not quite. And that my friends is where is the fun begins. Scenic Road starts off nice enough with mesmerizing overlooks of St. Croix below and it can be intoxicating and it's still paved at that point.. Picture opportunities are everywhere. As you continue on Scenic Road, the word "road" should be used loosely as the battle of attrition is about to begin. The tarmac disappears and rutted, scorched earth becomes the norm. Glad we rented that Jeep. If you should take Scenic Road you will need a 4X4 of some type. About an hour into drive we rescued an elderly couple in a low clearance front wheel drive vehicle that was stuck on a muddy mosquito infested berm, wheels spinning but going no where fast. We assisted them by calling for a tow truck, they would be rescued about 2 hours later. By the way if you should go, there is spotty cell phone coverage on this part of the road and your progress will be measured in feet not miles. Your GPS will be rendered almost useless. Scenic Road during our travels was the epitome of the department of transportation just not giving a damn. The road becomes covered by over growth (think jungle) and in the back of your mind you will question what you've gotten yourself into (please no flats, please no breakdowns, amen). At this point it becomes "vitally" important to make sure you place each tire in the right place as there is no margin for error and several of the rocks you have to drive around and over can be jagged. Mount Eagle and Scenic Road plays peekaboo with you, showing you vistas of ocean and shoreline below (help can't be that far away) and then burying you back into the "jungle". Just when you think all is lost Scenic Road starts a down hill descent towards the Frederiksted. In all if you endure the entirety of the drive it's about 2 and 1/2 hours of slow going, "yes Dorothy you're not in Kansas anymore". Once we fully descended down the mountain "road" passing burned out vehicles (there were several hulking masses of skeletal automotive remains torched to a crisp) switching from overgrowth to tarmac to overgrowth again we came out to a paved road (prayers heard) just north of Frederiksted. Frightening and fun we concluded our drive at Rhythms Bar and Restaurant @ Rainbow Beach and drank in all the awesomeness it had to offer. See below.
Once refreshed from our bout with Scenic Road, we left Frederiksted via Centerline Road and then Highway 62. Centerline Road as it might suggest runs directly through St. Croix. Here you will see the beating heart of the island; schools, business, shops and island industry which is largely service sector. I found it fascinating to be among locals, to be among the people that call St.Croix home. Highway 62 after leaving Centerline Road will lead you to the southern coast of the island which is breath taking. The southern side of St. Croix has an arid quality feeling desert like, but beautiful just the same. Here you will find massive residences that face the oceans and cliffs brooding over the blue Caribbean. Highway 62 will turn north eventually offering you a choice of heading northwest toward Christiansted or east toward Point Udall. See my Point Udall post as Point Udall should not be missed. Christiansted from a tourist perspective is the liveliest part of St. Croix, we headed that way after a brief Point Udall visit.
Christiansted is the tourist center of the island with a lively pier, transportation center (ferries and seaplanes) shopping, Fort Christianvaern and restaurants. If you were looking for a diversion it's here. It's not large by any means but has more than enough to keep you busy. Stroll the shops of the historic streets, imbibe in the many rum drinks or take a tour to nearby Buck Island. Should you need entertainment Christiansted is your place in St. Croix. Other highlights of the island? Beer drinking pigs at the Domino Club (near Scenic Road). You'll go for the spectacle, but you'll enjoy the drinks and food served at the Domino Club. Also, if you like rum check out the Cruzan Rum Factory. You'll discover what's being done with all that sugar cane that is grown on the island. Once the tour is over tasting the product is half the the fun. The staff is friendly and informative and you'll see how rum is manufactured.
Should you visit St. Croix? Yes, if you want to get away from it all, feel isolated from the rest of the world and take a moment to catch your breath.