June 3, 2014
This is Part 3 in a series sharing the best of the family-friendly U.S. Virgin Islands.
The U.S. Virgin Islands, known for their sandy white beaches and turquoise waters, make for a relaxing and fun-filled family vacation destination. Get ready for plenty of island adventures, including swimming with sea turtles,flying on a sea plane and feeding stingrays – but save time for building sandcastles on the beach. Easy to reach from most major U.S. cities, the U.S.V.I. are officially a U.S. territory – so you won’t even need a passport. Here are 7 unforgettable family experiences on the island of St. Croix. (Check out St. Thomas and St. John).
1. Explore Christiansted.
84 square miles in size, St. Croix is the largest of the U.S. Virgin Islands. Spend some time strolling the cobblestoned streets of downtown Christiansted, one of St. Croix’s two major towns, which boasts 18th-century Danish-style buildings in pastel colors with bright red tile rooftops. The streets run at right angles to the waterfront with most shops and galleries on King and Company streets, near the Christiansted National Historic Site.
2. Choose a traditional St. Croix bracelet for a beautiful souvenir.
If you’re looking for a special souvenir, consider a traditional St. Croix bracelet from Sonya (Company St, Christiansted; Tel. 877-766-9284. Individually crafted, the original of these beautiful bracelets features a fishing hook but you’ll also find a number of beautiful motifs, including a lizard, a hibiscus, or a dolphin. Best of all, if your child outgrows her bracelet, you can always mail it back to St. Croix and Sonya will re-size it upon request.
3. Become a Jr. Park Ranger at one of St. Croix’s national parks.
St. Croix might be small in size but it’s big in National Parks, and at both Salt River Bay National Historical Park and Ecological Preserve and the Christiansted National Historic Site, kids can take part in the outstanding Junior Park Ranger programs. Salt River Bay National Historical Park and Ecological Preserve holds the only known site where members of a Columbus expedition set foot on what is now United States territory and is the site of one of the earliest indigenous settlements in the central Caribbean. Christiansted National Historic Site, located in downtown Christiansted, once the capital of the former Danish West Indies, is an urban park that illustrates colonial life in the Caribbean. The five historic structures on the site include Fort Christiansværn (1738), the Danish West India & Guinea Company Warehouse (where Alexander Hamilton worked as a young man), the Steeple Building (1753), Danish Custom House (1844), and the Scale House (1856). Aspiring rangers will need to complete a series of activities during their park visit and share their answers with a park ranger. In return, they’ll be awarded an official Junior Ranger badge or patch and a Junior Ranger certificate. To schedule a Ranger guided tour for a group, contact Park Staff at 340-773-1460 at least two weeks in advance.
4. Snorkel Buck Island National Monument.
Buck Island Reef National Monument is an underwater monument with a 4,554-acre long reef and an underwater trail complete with underwater plaques detailing the marine flora and fauna you’re likely to spot. Snorkel this ecosystem and you’re bound to encounter an underwater world brimming with marine life, including spotted eagle rays, nurse sharks and lemon sharks and endangered leatherback turtles. On the western edge of the island you’ll find Turtle Beach, voted one of the world’s most beautiful beaches. Big Beard’s Adventure Tours offers full-day and half-day sailing and snorkeling tours of Buck Island; Caribbean Sea Adventures offers scuba excursions to the island as well.
5. Scuba Dive “The Wall” at Cane Bay.
If you want to scuba dive or snorkel in one of the coolest dive spots in the world, check out Cane Bay, one of the most popular beach dive spots in St. Croix. Swim out 200 yards to “The Wall”, an incredible, abrupt 2,000 feet drop in sea level.
6. Explore the island in a Jeep.
For an off-road adventure, tour St. Croix by Jeep. Tan Tan Tours offers adventure-packed adventures around the island. The Anally Bay Swim Excursion will take you through the island’s forest to Anally Bay, where you’ll find beautiful tide pools and a waterfall.
7. Indulge in authentic island BBQ.
For the best BBQ’d chicken – Cruzian style – head mid-island to La Reine Chicken Shack (Route 75 near Centerline Road), a no-frills outdoor diner. Don’t forget to order the donut-like Johnnycakes!
Where to Stay
The Divi Carina Bay Resort, is the only all-inclusive resort on St. Croix. Located on a quiet stretch of beach, this resort is peaceful and relaxing with spacious beachfront guestrooms an on-site PADI five-star dive shop and activities center as well as a mini-golf course. Decidely more luxe but still family friendly is the Renaissance St. Croix Carambola Beach Resort and Spa, which is situated in the foothills of the island’s lush tropical rainforest and features guestrooms with kitchenettes, large screened-in porches, free wifi, and an amazing beach that is also ideal for snorkeling.