This lush island may be the most laid-back in the U.S. Virgin Islands, which is a major part of its allure and charm. With no major resorts to speak of, the focus on St. Croix is on small and independent—hotels, resorts, restaurants, and bars. And the island’s natural gifts, like the marine preserve of Buck Island, just keep on giving. Further, foodies have really embraced the local passion for cuisine, turning St. Croix into a bona fide culinary destination.
Read where to eat, play, and stay, here.
Pictured: Carambola Beach
balter is the first eatery on St. Croix to go all-in on locavore contemporary West Indian, says writer and local Jolyon Helterman. "The chef, Le Cordon Bleu–trained Crucian native Digby Stridiron, obsesses over obscure foraged ingredients like black sapote (a chocolate cake– textured fruit) and sea purslane."
Pictured: One of balter's seasonal pork belly dishes, with dragonfruit and pineapple
"Harvey’s is a shrine to both traditional Crucian food and (retired) NBA star Tim Duncan, who grew up in the same neighborhood as the restaurant’s owners and even waited tables here briefly," says Jolyon Helterman.
Pictured: Harvey's proprietor and chef Sarah Harvey specializes in heaping portions of Crucian specialties such as fried pot fish.
La Reine Chicken Shack sports a menu that runs the gamut of traditional Crucian fare. But it's the rotisserie chickens, juicy-moist and assertively salty, that can’t be missed.
Pictured: Alfresco dining at its best: La Reine's crackly half chicken and a cold beer
Ridge to Reef is one of the island’s largest organic farms, which hosts bimonthly “Slow Down” dinners under the stars. For a donation ($60 to $100), you get six courses prepared by local chefs using ingredients grown on site. It’s also BYOB.
Pictured: Beef on purple yard beans at the Ridge to Reef Slow Down dinner
This uninhabited 176-acre island is a slice of paradise and home to stellar diving and snorkeling thanks to two-thirds of it being surrounded by an elkhorn reef. Head to Turtle Beach on Buck Island’s west side for a secluded escape under the lanky palms that stretch toward the perfectly turquoise water.
Pictured: The beach on Buck Island, just off the northeast coast of St. Croix
See Caribbean flora in all its Technicolor glory (St. George is home to 1,500 species) at this 19th century Danish sugarcane plantation-turned plant-lover’s paradise. St. George Botanical Gardens is located in Frederiksted and is free to the public.
Pictured: Ginger Thomas, which can be found thriving year round on St. Croix
Divers from around the world flock to St. Croix to explore one of the largest reefs in the Caribbean. But if you're not an expert diver, no worries. Cane Bay Dive Shop (with locations in Christiansted and Frederiksted) caters to first-timers with a Discover Scuba package that includes a 40-minute, instructor-led shore dive. Forget learning in a pool; this invigorating intro offers the perfect taste for beginners, who encounter tropical fish and sea turtles while swimming through a living coral garden—all within 100 yards of the shore.
Pictured: A diver explores the colors and textures of St. Croix's famed underwater wonders
Located on the southwest tip of the island, this lovely beach is blanketed in pristine white sand and provides critical nesting habitat for three species of threatened and endangered sea turtles. Sandy Point NWR closes seasonally during April, May, June, July, and August to protect nests and hatchlings. The refuge is open the remainder of the year on weekends from 10 am to 4 pm.
Pictured: Sandy Point Beach
On the East End, the pastel pink Buccaneer on St. Croix’s picturesque north shore is the island’s ritziest resort—with a beautifully maintained beachfront and golf course—located a quick five-minute taxi ride to downtown Christiansted. Rates start at $299.
On the northwesternmost coast, the Renaissance St. Croix Carambola Beach Resort & Spa offers secluded luxury, with convenient access to the rain forest and the Cruzan rum distillery. Rates start at $175.