A Long Weekend on the Most Underrated Island in the US
After sustaining damage from Hurricane Maria in 2017, the tiny island of St. Croix is back and better than ever
When Hurricane Maria hit in 2017, all eyes were on the island of Puerto Rico. Relief efforts were highly publicized, with big-name celebrities like Jennifer Lopez and Jose Andrés pitching in to help the US territory recover from utter disaster. Tourism there gradually ramped back up, aided by travel guides and stories on philanthropic ways to make your traveler dollars count.
But left in the dark, both literally and figuratively, was St. Croix, whose residents are still feeling the toll of the Category-5 hurricane more than two years later. The good news? Slowly, somewhat surely, roofs are being put back on homes and local farms are beginning to install hurricane-proof stands for selling their fresh wares thanks in part to private fundraising efforts by the Island Spirits Fund by Cruzan Rum and GlobalGiving.
Still on the mend too is their tourism industry, but we can’t emphasize enough that this is lucky for you. Now, St. Croix is absolutely no St. Thomas, which is to say that you don’t visit the island for a designer shopping spree or a weekend clubbing binge. You visit St. Croix for some of the best scuba diving and snorkeling in the world, for stunningly azure waters, bioluminescent lakes and a friendly community that makes it feel normal to greet a stranger with a “good afternoon.”
Where to stay…
Your best choice on the island right now is The Buccaneer, a four-star beach and golf resort with a bangin’ pool right on the beach. Views from their rooms, which range from standard-fare double-queens to suites with private outdoor decks, show off an 18-hole golf course and the tranquil sands of the beachfront property. A great option for families, the resort is super secluded with plenty of activities to participate in, like their always busy tennis courts and a water sports center. Three on-site restaurants guarantee no lack of options when you get hungry.
What to do…
… if you want to completely forget reality for a day
Ask any local for their “must do” and they’ll tell you to check out Buck Island, one of only two Underwater National Monuments in the United States thanks to a trip there by the Kennedys in the early ’50s. There are plenty of companies that offer afternoon excursions there, like Big Beards, who will bring you out in a locally made catamaran for an all-inclusive adventure that includes snorkeling, a barbecue lunch and all the rum punch you can drink.
… if you’re up for a well-worth it challenge
A hike to the Annaly Bay Tide Pools will take you up through a jungle trail that rewards you with stunning panoramas at the summit. Keep going and you’ll arrive at an expansive beach that gives way to secluded tide pools, the perfect place to relax for lunch and a dip (but not in that order!). Companies on the island give tours there, but beware the ones that offer to drive you right up to the beach, as the journey there and back is part of the fun.
… if you’ve never seen the ocean sparkle at night
If you were ever mesmerized by the glow of fireflies as a kid, you’ve witnessed bioluminescence: the production of light by a living organism. There are few places in the world where you can see this amazing phenomenon in the water, though, and St. Croix is one of them. Take a kayak out to the Bio Bay with Bush Tribe as the sun sinks below the horizon. The dark of night and swish of your paddle will prompt tiny organisms called dinoflagellates and comb jellies to light up, turning the water into glitter.
Where to eat…
… if it’s date night
Located in the quaint downtown area of Christiansted is balter, featuring upscale local cuisine with fresh ingredients and a constantly rotating menu. Their cocktails are a must-try, and dining al fresco in their garden courtyard is an island date night done the right way.
… if you’re looking for some truly local fare
A true global traveler knows that their experience isn’t complete without a visit to a mom-and-pop for some authentic seaside fare. Find that in St. Croix at Caribbean eateries like Harvey’s, a no-frills spot for island specialties like stew conch and fish in creole sauce.
…if you dig a beach vibe
On your way to the hike to Annaly Bay, you’ll pass right by a place called Rowdy Joe’s Northshore Eatery, a low-key local favorite known for a signature hot sauce with a name that speaks for itself: the Underwear Nemesis. A menu standout is their fried teriyaki edamame, but most people become regulars because of the restaurant’s al fresco dining and easygoing island vibe.
Where to drink…
… if you want a taste of the islands
Rum lovers would be remiss not to pay the Cruzan Rum Distillery a visit, where tours are offered every half hour on the hour. Learn about the history of the family-run business and the process of making rum, then stay awhile at their outdoor tasting room for a cup or two of their proprietary concoctions.
… if you fancy a cocktail
Thought of by many as the best drinks in town, the BES Craft Cocktail Lounge is an intimate bar that uses fresh local ingredients and liquor along with infusions of fruits, vegetables, roots and herbs in their handcrafted bevs.
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