Any mention of the US Virgin Islands conjures up a Caribbean island fantasy – white sandy beaches, turquoise blue waters, sipping cocktails from pineapple cups. People go to get away from stress and relax. But relaxing can be hard when many of the beaches are filled with trash and seaweed, like St. Croix. It also didn’t help to have a three-year-old nephew determined (kind of like an organized crime) to be difficult all vacation long.
With the Atlantic Ocean to the north and the Caribbean Sea to the south, the US Virgin Islands are composed of three islands – St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix. St. Thomas is the bustling, all-inclusive-style island, the busiest and most cosmopolitan of the three islands. St. John is a nature-lover’s haven, as more than two-thirds of the island is protected as a national park. St. Croix, often called the “big island,” is the largest of the three islands and serves as the history-rich, cultural capital. And now I can say I’ve been to all three.
After traveling to all three of the US Virgin Islands, St. Croix is probably my least favorite. The island was experiencing a severe drought during our visit, and everything was extremely brown and dry. Limited greenery, few flowers, palms falling over and dying, trash-filled beaches and seaweed washed ashore on nearly every beach didn’t make the place very attractive. Don’t get me wrong. Not everywhere on the island was like this. Check out some of the highlights in the pictures below:
The beautiful: Frederiksted beaches
The west side of the island is home to the most beautiful sandy beaches on St. Croix. The Frederiksted side of the island is known for having calm water and is ideal for snorkeling. You know the movie Shawshank Redemption? The film nominated for seven Academy Awards? At the end, ex-cons Andy and Red are reunited on a paradise-like beach in Mexico. Except the scene was actually shot at Sandy Point on the southwest end of St. Croix. This should explain a lot.
The bloody: Sailing trip to Buck Island
On the positive side, we had a blast when we sailed out to Buck Island with Buck Island Charters and Captain Carl at the helm of Teroro II, a 42’ trimaran. Buck Island was first established as a protected area by the U.S. Government in 1948. Later, Buck Island Reef National Monument was created in 1961 by John F. Kennedy, preserving the 167-acre island and its surrounding reefs. Around the island is an underwater snorkel trail where we found an elkhorn coral barrier reef, over 250 fish species, as well as spotted eagle rays, sharks and turtles. In fact, quite a few members of our crew got cut up and bloodied by the coral. Thank goodness we didn’t see any sharks! Sadly, Hurricane Hugo destroyed almost 100% of the south barrier reef and much of the nesting areas for the turtles was eroded. The pristine white beach was one the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. Well worth the sailing trip out there.
The bizarre: Famous beer-drinking pigs
After an afternoon of sun and sand on the beautiful west-side of the island, we made our way deep into the rainforest to the Mt. Pelter Domino Club. Here for a small price you can watch pigs drink straight from cans of non-alcoholic beer. You simply wave a can of beer around, and they hop on their stall door in excitement. Or in my dad’s case, he propped the beer he was drinking on the edge of the stall and pig name almost sucked down the real thing.
St. Croix is certainly no Hawaii. Comparing the two is quite laughable, in fact. The people were friendly and there were a few beautiful spots, but overall I left unimpressed with this Virgin Island.
Have you traveled to St. Croix? What did you think of the island?