Read on and find out about the top things to do in Saint Croix, Virgin Islands.
Blue skies, turquoise water and white beaches … Saint Croix sure sounds like a perfect island paradise! The island is one of the three US Virgin Islands located in the Caribbean Sea. True to its Caribbean location, Saint Croix has some of the best beaches and reefs, and it’s a perfect place to spend the summer soaking in the sun.
We’ve put together 15 things you can do while vacationing in St. Croix, from night diving and enjoying bioluminescent waters, to riding a horse in the sea. Grab your suntan lotion and let’s go!
Get your feet wet:
One of the main draws for people visiting the Virgin Islands is the water. The beaches are gorgeous and pristine, but the real show is underwater. The islands’ tropical climate allows gorgeous reefs to exist on many beaches. Whether you want to swim, snorkel, or scuba dive, you’re sure to be blown away by the beauty of St. Croix’s reefs. You can even take a beginner scuba diving class and get up close and personal with the reefs in a little over an hour!
1. Dive the Wall at Cane Bay
What sets St. Croix’s reefs apart from other coastal areas is that St. Croix was formed by the shifting of tectonic plates. Because of this, there is a ‘wall’ that runs along the north of the island. In some places, the drop is 13,000 feet (3,962 metres)! This has created a reef wall, which boasts a wide and colourful variety of corals, sponges, and other marine life like seahorses, sea turtles, and, of course, fish.
The Cane Bay Wall is the most popular dive site along the wall, and it’s located off Cane Bay Beach. You can swim out to the wall from the beach. Once you’re there, you can swim along the wall, enjoying the sight of the reef on one side and the vast, open ocean on the other. You can rent diving equipment at any one of St. Croix’s dive shops, or arrange for a boat to bring you out to the wall.
Cane Bay Beach
Address: Cane Bay Beach, St Croix 00851, USVI
2. Night dive at the Frederiksted Pier
Frederiksted is a sleepy town on the west side of St. Croix. However, it is rated as one of the best scuba diving sites in the Virgin Islands. The Frederiksted Pier is a shallow dive, making it suitable for novices. If you’re not up for scuba diving, you could always just leap off the pier! (Seriously, it’s a thing.)
If you’ve already got your fill of day time diving, take things up a notch by going on a night dive from the Frederiksten Pier. You’ll get to experience the surrealness of the reef at night, and see all the night critters come out to play. Expect to see coral polyps, lobsters, and maybe even octopuses and eels.
Address: Frederiksted Southeast, St Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands
3. Snorkel, swim, and sunbath at Buck Island
Buck Island Reef National Monument is found just north of Saint Croix. It’s been declared a national treasure for its rich ecosystems, both on land and in the water. Much of the monument is underwater. Buck Island’s reef is huge and stunning. Towering walls of elkhorn coral block off the reef from the ocean, creating a lagoon that teems with marine life.
The reef has a snorkelling trail that you can follow, with information signs along the way. It’s recommended to go on a guided snorkelling tour. The tours are conducted by the National Park Service and are sure to enhance your experience.
You can also visit the pristine Turtle Beach, or hike across the island for a bird’s eye view of the reef and the surrounding waters.
Address: Buck Island, St Croix, USVI
Access: You can take a private boat or concession boat from Christiansted Wharf or Green Cay Marina
Website: Buck Island Reef
For an adrenaline boost:
4. Watch the sunset on a horseback ride
If you’re looking for something out of a Nicholas Sparks movie, look no further. Equus Rides offers you a horseback experience on the North Shore that is nothing short of incredible. The trail takes you past sugar plantation ruins, along the North Shore and into (that’s right, into) the Caribbean Sea. You’ll also get to try new tricks like standing on a horse, riding a horse up stairs, and of course, swimming with the horses. Everything is conducted with extreme caution for both yours and the horses’ safety. Equus Rides’ guides are also very knowledgeable and experienced, and love their horses very much.
It’s a great experience whether you’re with family or that special someone, and you’re sure to get some gorgeous shots too.
Address: Cane Bay, Northshore, U.S. Virgin Islands
Price: 100 USD per rider
Duration: 3 hours
Website: Equus Rides
5. Take a hike to the Annaly Bay Tide Pools
For a day immersed in the natural beauty of Saint Croix’s North Shore, take a hike to the Annaly Bay Tide Pools. The tide pools are large, naturally formed pools. The tide pushes seawater through crevices in the basin’s natural rock walls. Aside from floating in the tide pools, you can also enjoy the little waterfalls that are formed when large waves break over the basin walls. Some pools reach depths of 4 to 5 feet (1.2 to 1.5 metres), and if you bring snorkelling gear you can see marine life like fish, crabs, and sea urchins.
Now that you’re all excited about the tide pools, we come to the difficult part of getting there. The hike to the tide pools is about 2 miles (3.2 kilometres) and will take you through lush rainforests and make you scramble around rock walls. It’s not an easy hike, but every step it well worth it. If you go only for the tide pools, then you’re missing out.
It’s recommended you take a guided tour to the tide pools if it’s your first time there, since the area is very remote. Plan your time accordingly so you can get back before it’s dark.
Annaly Bay Tide Pools
Address: Renaissance St. Croix Carambola Beach Resort & Spa, Eate Davis Bay North Side, St Croix, 00850, U.S. Virgin Islands (Trail begins here)
6. Kayak into the mangroves of the Salt River
Salt River Bay has some of the largest remaining mangrove forests in the Virgin Islands. You can join various kayaking tours to take you into the Salt River National Park and Ecological Reserve. Caribbean Adventure Tours offers tours that are roughly three hours long into the mangroves. The day tours cover the ecology and history of the reserve.
In the mangroves, you can expect to experience the wildlife of the mangrove ecosystem. Look out for iguanas, pelicans, and other shore birds. Aside from the abundance of flora and fauna, the Salt River Bay is also packed with history. The bay has been the site of over a dozen major archaeological investigations, and they have revealed a rich history, from native cultures, to Columbus’ landing, to the different races that have owned and occupied the island. For a fun and fascinating day on the water, the kayak tour is the way to go.
Caribbean Adventure Tours
Address: 7A Salt River Marina, Christiansted, Virgin Islands 00820
Price: 50 USD per person. (Children aged 6 - 10 get 50% off on all tours)
Duration: around 2 hours required
Website: Caribbean Adventure Tours
7. Be enthralled by the bioluminescent bays of Saint Croix
The mangroves of Salt River Bay are a lovely place in the day, but it is at night where the true splendour of Saint Croix makes an appearance with its bioluminescence. The phenomenon is caused by micro-organisms that emit light when agitated. It’s extremely rare, and St. Croix has two bioluminescent sites!
The first bay is in the Salt River National Park and Ecological Reserve. You can join a kayaking tour and watch the water light up like stars as you pass. The other bay is at the Altona Lagoon. The Salt River Bay is deeper and has two kinds of micro-organisms (comb jellies and dinoflagellate). The bay at Altona is larger, but shallower. It only has dinoflagellate, but you’ll be able to see other marine life also agitating the bioluminescence and causing it to light up.
The natural beauty of the bioluminescence is sure to take your breath away and leave you awash with wonder. Before you go, check with a local guide or company as sometimes the bioluminescence cannot be seen, depending on the weather and the moon. Remember that bioluminescence is incredibly rare, and you have to be careful to not affect the fragile micro-organisms. Keep the Caribbean’s lights on!
8. Have an action-packed beach day with jet skis, paddle boards, and fly boards
The sun is up and the Caribbean’s waters are warm. For a beach day with a dose of adrenaline, head over to Rainbow Beach, which is near to Frederiksten. There, you’ll find West End Water Sports, where you can rent all kinds of equipment.
Test your balance on a paddle board, or whiz about the waves on a jet ski. You can also rent snorkelling gear, although Rainbow Beach does tend to be rocky, so be careful! For a more chilled out experience, rent a kayak and soak up some waves and sun.
For the ultimate water sports experience though, try flyboarding. It’s basically a jet pack, propelled by water. It’s not cheap, but it’ll make all your Iron Man dreams come true. You can make early reservations online.
West End Water Sports
Address: Rainbow Beach, Frederiksted, St. Croix. 340-277-8295
Price: Ranges from 5 USD / hour (snorkel mask) to 95 USD / 30 minutes (flyboard)
Contact: +1 340-277-8295
Website: West End Water Sports
9. Watch a sea turtle lay eggs at Sandy Point
Located in the southwest corner of Saint Croix, the Sandy Point National Wildlife Refuge is a nesting ground for the endangered leatherback, hawksbill and sea green turtle. It’s actually closed during the summer months because of nesting season. However, if you want to witness one of nature’s most fascinating sights, you can try to take part in a watch group for sea turtle nesting or hatching. Reservations must be made in advance with the park service, and you’ll have to gather your own group. Do note that priority will be given to youth groups, schools, and local community groups, so don’t be too disappointed if you don’t manage to make a reservation.
The number to call for reservations is 340-690-9452.
Sandy Point National Wildlife Refuge
Opening Hours: From April - August, the refuge is closed. (However, you can try to join a watch group!) From September - March, the refuge is open on weekends from 10 am - 4 pm
Website: Sandy Point National Wildlife Refuge
For those who just want some fun:
10. Get your adrenaline pumping by racing … hermit crabs?!?!
On your marks, get set … scuttle! Hermit crab racing might sound absurd, but that’s kind of the point. It’s a centuries’ old tradition that has recently seen resurgence in the resorts, bars, and restaurants in Saint Croix.
Here’s how it works: crabs are chosen by participants, and a little name tag is tucked on their shell. The course is a series of concentric circles, like a bull’s eye. Competing crabs are placed in a bucket, which is turned upside down on the inner circle and then lifted. Then it’s time to cheer and scream for your crab as it scuttles its way out. The first crab out of the circle wins.
It costs 2 USD to choose a crab, and you can expect fun prizes for everyone at the end of the race. Kids are sure to love this, and it’s great fun for everyone involved.
The following are the current timings for races, but please call ahead to ensure that the races are still on.
Mondays: 5:00 pm at Shupe’s on the Boardwalk (+1 340-773-3400)
Wednesdays: 5:00 pm at Divi Carina Bay Resort (+1 340-773-9700)
Fridays: 5:30 pm at Deep End Bar & Grill at Tamarind Reef Resort (+1 340-718-7071)
11. Go on a beach hunt for some chaney
No, chaney isn’t some creature or person. Chaney are little smooth shards of porcelain that can be found on the beaches, in plantations, or even car parks. No one is entirely sure how the shards appeared; stories range from ship passengers throwing porcelain overboard to avoid tax to finery being destroyed in the slave rebellion of 1878.
The magical thing about chaney is that seems to refresh itself. Heavy rains and stormy seas bring new pieces to the surface every now and then. The pieces range in origin, from England to China. Local craftsmen have started turning chaney into jewellery, so if you’d like something a bit more unusual and fancy you can opt for that.
If you’d simply like a few pieces of Saint Croix to bring home, then keep your eyes peeled!
12. Dance with Moko Jumbie and get some good luck
Stilt dancing takes on a whole new level with the Moko Jumbies. This colourful art form came to Saint Croix with the enslaved West Africans in the 18th and 19th centuries. The ‘Moko’ was the spiritual guardian of African Villages. The height of the Moko allowed it to scare off evil spirits, the ‘Jumbies’.
Today, Moko Jumbies are cultural icons of Saint Croix. Their dancing is incredible! The performers seem to glide, floating like ghosts at times. Other times, especially with a younger generation of dancers, the Moko Jumbies run, jump, and shimmy about. You can dance under and around the Moko Jumbies’ stilts, and it’s considered to bring good luck.
You can meet the Moko Jumbies at weekly cultural nights offered by hotels and resorts. Do remember that stilt dancing is seriously hard work, so be sure to tip!
For great food and drink:
13. Share a beer with a pig at Mt. Pellier Hut Domino Club
Yes, you read that right. No, it’s not animal abuse. At the Mt. Pellier Hut Domino Club, you can buy the resident pigs a non-alcoholic beer. The pigs are all named and well-cared for, and they aren’t given beer unless they want it.
You’ll have to pay a small fee to see the pigs, but it’s a unique adventure that is likely to leave you in giggles. Where else can you see a massive pig chugging a can of beer with ease?
Aside from feeding the pigs, be sure to try out their Mama-Wanna, an infused rum, and the roti. Do note that the Mt. Pellier Hut Domino Club will require a short drive to get to, and it closes early in the evening. Go in the day and pig out!
Mt. Pellier Hut Domino Club
Address: Mahogany Rd, St Croix 00840, U.S. Virgin Islands
Opening Hours: Closes around 5 pm
Contact: +1 340-713-9052
14. Taste rum at the island’s two distilleries
Beaches aren’t the only thing that Saint Croix is famous for. In true Caribbean fashion, Saint Croix is also a renowned producer of rum. There are two distilleries on the island. The Cruzan Rum Distillery has been around since the 1760s. Its Cruzan Rum has won more than 30 Spirit Awards for its smoothness and quality.
The new kid on the block, Diageo, produces Captain Morgan Rum. You can go on tours of both facilities. The Cruzan Rum Distillery is steeped in history, and you can tour the remains of the company’s old sugar plantation and get a close-up look at the process of distilling rum. At the Captain Morgan Rum distillery, expect a high-tech, multisensory experience, complete with a comfortable tram ride.
At the end of both tours, you can enjoy two cocktails, as well as sampling different rums. There are 39 in total. Have fun!
Cruzan Rum Distillery
Address: Cruzan® Rum Distillery, 3A Estate Diamond, Frederiksted, VI 00840
Opening Hours: Monday through Friday: 9:00 am to 4:00 pm, Saturday: 10:00 am to 2:00 pm, Sunday (Nov - April): 10:00 am to 2:00 pm, Sunday (May - Oct): CLOSED, unless there’s a cruise ship visiting the island that day
Website: Cruzan Rum
Captain Morgan Rum
Address: Diageo USVI
Opening Hours: 9:00 am - 4:00 pm (First tour is at 10:00 am, last tour is 3:00 pm) from Monday - Friday. Reservations will have to be made for weekend tours. (No tours on public holidays)
Website: Captain Morgan Visitor Centre
15. Savour the diverse range of food available on Saint Croix
Over the centuries, Saint Croix has been home to a melting pot of cultures and ethnic groups. One of the best things to come out of that is a food scene that is varied and delicious. Some of the influences on the local food include Caribbean, African, European, American, and Indian. There are too many different dishes to list here, so we’re going to highlight some Saint Croix specials that shouldn’t be missed:
Saltfish: Saltfish is fish that has been salt-cured and dried. You can find it in any traditional Crucian breakfast, along with boiled eggs, johnny cakes, and greens.
Kallaloo: A delicious, green stew that originates from Africa.
Pate : A pastry that has been stuffed with deliciously seasoned meat.
Black Cake: Usually eaten around Christmas, black cake’s special ingredients are fruits that have been soaked in rum for several months.
Life's a beach
Besides diving and snorkelling, there are a ton of other fun activities that you can do on Saint Croix that promise an experience unlike anywhere else. It’s a place that allows you to enjoy nature’s beauty, and get up close and personal with horses, pigs, and all kinds of marine life. Perhaps the best thing about Saint Croix is the laid-back island culture you’ll find here. Get ready to put aside reality and enjoy a sunny, chilled out vacation.