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St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands

St. Croix is the largest among the Virgin Islands, a group of islands located in the northern sector of the Lesser Antilles, on eastern Caribbean, between Puerto Rico and St. Martin. Politically, the easternmost islands constitute the British Virgin Islands, while those to the west form the American Virgin Islands, a territory administered by the United States. The American Virgin Islands are formed by three main islands: St. John, a nature heaven; St. Thomas, one of the busiest ports in the Caribbean, and where the capital Charlotte Amalie is located; and St. Croix, the southernmost and largest island, covering 214km² (83mi²) and inhabited by 51,000 people.

Throughout the centuries, seven national flags have waved sovereign in St. Croix, since control over the island was frequently negotiated among the great powers. Spain, Holland, the Order of Malta, The United Kingdom, France, Denmark and the United States have already controlled these lands. Considering this, it is not surprising that its history is one of the island’s main highlights: more than two hundred places of historical significance are catalogued across the island.

Frederiksted
Frederiksted

The Estate Whim Plantation, the Cruzan Distillery and the Forts Frederik and Christiansvaern are some of the main historical sites in St. Croix. The Estate Whim Plantation features 5 hectares (12 acres) of restored buildings dating back to the 18th century, including its slaves quarters, the great house, a mill and its manufacturing plants, which serve as a testimonial to the work of the African slaves and to the dreams of the European settlers that sought the riches derived from sugar in the Caribbean. The Cruzan Distillery is a small distance away from there. It has been manufacturing the most well-known rum of the region for more than 300 years and offers tours through its plants and tastings of its award-winning spirits. Both attractions are located alongside (or nearby) the main road of the island, which connects the cities of Frederiksted and Christiansted.

Both cities are small enough to be visited on foot. Although Frederiksted is not particularly beautiful, it houses Fort Frederik, a place of historic happenings that currently houses a museum. Christiansted, on the other hand, is a more pleasant kind of place, offering several shops and restaurants and a quite busy marina, besides Fort Christiansvaern (more interesting than Fort Frederik) from where one can imagine how the life of the first settlers of the island might have been.

Christiansted
Christiansted

Despite being a relatively compact island, it is a very good idea to rent a car in order to visit the island, since its public transportation system is quite limited. That said, be aware that people drive on the left here and that foreigners need to acquire an authorization to drive in the island (for about $25). The quality of the roads varies from good to absolutely poor; the segment of Hwy 63 on the North Side required extra caution the last time I was there (November 2015). Nevertheless, owning (ok, renting) a car is the most feasible way to reach some of the most interesting places of the island, like Cane Bay (north), Point Udall (east) and Sandy Point (southwest).

Sandy Point
Sandy Point

Cane Bay is a quite popular familiar beach and also one of the best diving spots in the island – less than 100m (330ft) off the shore, a wall (called The Wall) plummets from of a depth of 15m (50ft) to 1,000m (3,300ft). Buck Island is another very good place to swim, this time snorkeling. This is a small island reached from Christiansted, which allows the observation of a great variety of sponges, corals, fish and crustaceans. The access to Point Udall, the easternmost point in the US, passes through a beautiful landscape made of rolling hills. Sandy Point, finally, is the largest beach of the American Virgin Islands and hosts a wildlife reserve, mainly dedicated to breeding turtles. This place is usually open to tourism only on weekends.

Point Udall
Point Udall

St. Croix’s airport is connected to the continental United States, to Puerto Rico and to St. Thomas, besides, on a smaller scale, to a few other neighboring islands. It is also possible to reach the island taking a ferry from St. Thomas (90 minutes). Lastly, Frederiksted’s port receives a few cruise ships, making it possible to spend a day in the island as part of a Caribbean itinerary.

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