If you're anything like us, you spend most of the winter months researching tropical getaways. The very thought of a sunset stroll along the beach is enough to book a flight to a beautiful, warm destination! If you're not an avid traveler, however, or current with your passport, it's easy to get overwhelmed when planning a trip somewhere you've never been before.
Last month we flew to St. Croix to partner with the beautiful Renaissance Carambola Beach, and we loved it so much that we wanted to take the opportunity to give you a taste of what St. Croix has to offer! As part of the US Virgin Islands (St. Croix, St. Thomas, & St. John), US citizens are not required to have a passport to visit- a valid Gov't ID and birth certificate will suffice! English is the main language (with a beautiful island flare, of course) and currency is the US dollar. St. Croix is also home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, stunning Scuba diving and snorkeling, and incredible natural landscapes.
Most Major US carriers fly to St. Croix, and you can often find round trip tickets for less than $400. St. Croix was one of several stops on our trip- which made our flights even cheaper. We flew in from Orlando, which cost us around $170 per person on JetBlue. Our outbound flight took us to St. Thomas (our next stop), and cost us a measly $75 per person on Cape Air. Either way you do it, it's extremely affordable! Taxis are easy to grab from the airport and the main cities, and your resort can easily call one for you as well. One thing to keep in mind is that food in St. Croix can tend to be a bit pricey since everything is imported. The good news is that the rum is CHEAP!
There's loads to do it St. Croix, and we wish we could have stayed longer to see it all. We'll highlight some of our favorite experiences (and include a few more that came highly recommended) for you to get a taste of what the Island has to offer. You really can't go wrong in the US Virgin Islands!
Buck Island Reef National Monument
You cannot visit St. Croix without visiting Buck Island. It's one of the most stunning beaches in the world, with crystal clear turquoise waters and a protected barrier reef. The snorkeling is incredible and the national parks system has put a series of markers along the way to guide your tour. The area is known for attracting all sorts of beautiful tropical fish and sea turtles. The only way to the Island is via licensed concession companies (6 options) or private boat. Big Beards does both a half day (8:30-12:30ish) and a full day tour (9-3:30ish), and we highly recommend them. The crew is spectacular, and you take the trip on a beautiful catamaran. Half-day tours are on a power catamaran, and full-day tours are on a sailing catamaran and include unlimited rum punch and a beach BBQ (burgers, hotdogs, mahi mahi, veggie burgers). Full-day: $105/person, half-day: $75 per person
Carambola Tide Pools
One of the coolest adventures we went on was the hike from our resort to the Carambola Tide Pools. The Renaissance is not only located on an idilic beach in one of the best part of the islands, it's also just a 45 minute hike from the famous Carambola Tide pools. You can hike to the rocky beach where the tide pools are situated no matter where you're staying on the Island, but it certainly is a wonderful perk of staying at the Renaissance. The first lag is mostly uphill, and it opens into a grassy clearing with stunning views of the coast. another 20 minutes or so and you arrive at an untouched beach, and you can climb the rocks to make your way into the tide pools. We spent the afternoon exploring and swimming in the pools before making our way back to the hotel. You don't have to be a hotel guest to explore the tide pools though! Just park in the upper parking lot outside the gate at the Renaissance Carambola Beach or have your driver drop you by the gate and ask the guard which way to go! The best part? It's Free!
Cruzan Rum Factory Tour
It's not a Caribbean vacation unless you're sipping a steady supply of rum! The Cruzan Rum Distillery tour was the perfect afternoon activity for anyone who loves to drink! Even if you don't drink, the guides are fun and super knowledgeable about the history, the distilling process, and all things Cruzan (But let's be honest... the real star of this tour is the rum). The tour costs $5 for adults over 18 - and you only have to be 18 to drink in the Virgin Islands - which is a killer deal for all the rum you drink. After the tour they bring you back to their bar, where we sampled all the rum we wanted and ordered 2 full cocktails from their extensive menu, all included in our $5 fee! The best part, though, is that the US Virgin Islands allows you to take up to 6 bottles of local rum back home as a FREE checked bag at the airport! The 1L bottles of dark or flavored rums are only $7 or $8 each (!) and if you buy 4-6 bottles they give you a free travel box. So of course we brought 6 bottles back home with us! Doesn't get much better than that...
If you're looking for a relaxing afternoon, try exploring downtown Christiansted. You can get all the souvenirs your heart desires, walk the boardwalk, wave for the 24/7 gotostcroix.com webcam, drink your way through all the bars and experience the true relaxed island vibes. Most shops close around 5, but there's a good selection of restaurants to choose from if you want to stay for the evening. (Since we mentioned it, GoToStCroix.com is another excellent resource if you're visiting the Island!)
Sunset walk on Carambola Beach
If you're staying at the Renaissance Carambola Beach (which we highly recommend), you have access to one of the most stunning beaches in St. Croix. Nestled into a private bay on the lush northern coastline, Carambola Beach has that famous Caribbean turquoise water and is surrounded by jungle-covered hills. The sun sets in stunning display every night over the bluffs that disappear into the sea on the western horizon and makes for the most romantic Caribbean setting for a stroll. This is best done with a tropical rum drink in hand, of course!
Massages on the beach
When you're in the Caribbean, a massage on the beach is the perfect way to relieve every last ounce of stress. The Spa at Carambola is just the tranquil escape from reality that the doctor ordered. Call for a reservation and ask for your massage to be on the beach. It's in a perfectly private corner of the beach under an open-air hut, and the waves gently splash just feet away. Its impossible not to smile through the entire experience. We left our massage feeling refreshed, rejuvenated and utterly stress-free, and we've lovingly (and longingly, from NYC) deemed it a #LeagueTravelsNonNegotiable when in St. Croix!
Horseback Riding on the Beach
Paul and Jill's Equestrian Stables are constantly winning awards and have a reputation for incredible experiences. Their tour bring you through the rainforest and out onto the beach. 1.5 hours, $99 per person (cash/TT only)
St. Croix is famous for its diving. The entire North Shore is lined with "The Wall"- underwater cliffs that drop some 13,000 feet and are topped with one of the largest live reefs in the Caribbean. There's no shortage of dive shops, and you can cater your dive whichever way you want! St. Croix has it all. Dive by the wall, through shipwrecks, under piers, at night, from a ship, straight off of the beach- really anything! If you're not a certified diver, no problem! Most shops offer a one-day Scuba Experience, perfect for the beginner. Sweet Bottom dive shop offers a dive experience starting at just $90! Some other options are St. Croix Scuba & Dive Experience, just to name a few!
Ok. As you can see, St. Croix has something for everyone. It's so simple to get to from the US, no passports required, and it's really the perfect tropical escape in every way. There's so much we didn't mention, like glass-bottom kayaks in a bioluminescent bay and the beer-drinking pigs... but you'll just have to plan a trip to see those for yourself!
Have any St. Croix favorites? Let us know in the comments below!