St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands: Heart of Culture

"Sunrise. The best time of day. Beautiful natural light peeking over the ocean’s unobstructed horizon, at first casting silhouettes of everything in its path before revealing the true beauty of the landscape we venture to. This time it’s a cultural gold mine: St. Croix, an island ripe with culture and ready for exploration."
Prepared By:

Semaj Thomas

Photographer, Traveler & Writer

St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands

Odd sister out

Even though St. Croix is the largest of the U.S Virgin Islands, this tranquil spot is visited a lot less than one would think. Many elect to follow the crowd into the smaller, yet more popular islands of St. John and St. Thomas, both of which are separated by just a six dollar and 20-minute ferry ride. By comparison, travel to St. Croix is a 45-minute ride and it seldom sees anything close to the tourist numbers, and consequently, tourist dollars, as its Caribbean counterparts. Ultimately, while many enjoy the two-for-one playground swing between St. John and St. Thomas, it often leaves St. Croix on a seesaw between peaceful island life and economic challenges.

The culture

This is where the peacefulness of the island thrives. Cobblestone sidewalks parallel to a multitude of archways take you back in time, leading through streets integrated with historic, vibrant architecture. One such landmark, the Steeple Building, is an 18th Century Lutheran Church, which previously served as a school, hospital, military bakery, and a museum of history for the Christiansted community and beyond.

The sugar mills are another historical and cultural structure in St. Croix. These mills, scattered across the agricultural areas of the island, were used to grind sugar cane grown on the island’s plantations during 18th Century slavery. They signify the island’s history and stand as a reminder of perseverance. Today, over three-quarters of the islands’ populations are Afro-Caribbean. During slavery, this was roughly the same, if not a wider disparity. Learn how these numbers contributed to slave revolts on all the islands, and eventually, freedom for its occupants.

We cannot talk about the history of this island, nor can you visit, without experiencing one of the most culturally significant attractions: food. From Indigenous soups—Maufe—to locally grown guavaberry, coconut, and other fruit tarts, you can taste the soul of St.Croix at one of the many fairs, farmers markets, and outdoor markets in Frederiksted and Christiansted!

St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands

The climate

St. Croix is temperate year-round, making it a great travel destination during any season! One caveat though: The island experiences extreme tropical weather including hurricanes—one of which most recently devastated the U.S. Virgin Islands in 2017. While still recovering from the event, tourism dollars greatly contribute to the small island’s economy (even though St. Croix is larger than its island sisters, the combined U.S. Virgin Island population is just over 100,000). This means that a visit to St. Croix not only offers a cultural and peaceful experience but it also aids in the island’s economic growth! On a brighter note, St. Croix’s climate contributes to some of the most incredible snorkeling in the Caribbean, as well as the opportunity to kayak through “living light” at a bioluminescent bay!

Be the first to see the sun

Rolling hills to your right and coastal beauty to your left, the blue hour drive to Point Udall is incredibly serene, even though it’s done mostly in the dark. Speaking of driving, fair warning: the U.S Virgin Islands are the only place in the country where drivers travel on the left side of the road, even though the vehicles are of American import and still have left-side steering wheels!

The end of the road to Point Udall culminates with a sundial and an unobstructed view of the Caribbean Sea. The hike down the coast is the easternmost point by travel in the United States making it the first spot the sun’s rays graze U.S land every morning. Welcome to the edge of the country!

You’ll be rewarded again for getting up early on the scenic drive back through newly lit land.

St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands

An uncrowded experience

St. Croix is a quiet, culturally rich, and beautifully vibrant island, waiting to share its history with anyone looking for an authentic and uncrowded experience. Traveling to St. Croix and investing in its local amenities not only aids in the island’s growth but brings important history to the table and lessens the tourism burden on its sister islands.

St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands

More tips for visiting St. Croix

Car Rental
This island is a great place to explore beaches, snorkeling spots, and great food, and you’ll need a car to get around! I generally don’t recommend Jeeps, but St. Croix roads are rough, so if you really want to get out without worry, a Jeep or 4×4 capable vehicle is necessary.

Annaly Bay Tide Pools
Take a hike through dense jungle to beautiful blue, and often people-free, tide pools!

Shops
Explore and purchase local handmade art from paintings to jewelry, inspired by the land and the Caribbean Sea.

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