St Croix: Diverse and Distinctive

St Croix has been called the "distant step-sister" of the U.S. Virgin Islands. It's forty miles south of St Thomas and St John, and bigger than both of them combined. It's also got a distinctly different landscape, with smoother, gentler coastlines and rolling hills and plains.

It also feels different from the other Virgin Islands. It's got a laid-back, rural quality distinctly less commercialized than St. Thomas, yet more developed and settled than St John.

What's more, St Croix gives the impression that it's not just geared to the tourist trade. And the truth is, its economy is more diverse and less tourist-dependent than the other U.S. Virgin Islands.

Actually, it feels a lot like the American South, with an easygoing, friendly, slow-paced quality.

And it's exactly this less-commercialized quality that appeals to people. St Croix residents and visitors alike appreciate the gentle charms of the island. I've heard people say that it's a lot like St Thomas used to be decades ago, a relaxing, laid-back, tropical retreat.

But don't get the idea that Saint Croix is just some dull, rural backwater. There's plenty to do and see here.

Some people say it's the most cosmopolitan of the U.S. Virgin Islands. It has a diverse population, with people from North America (referred to as Continentals in the islands) as well as South America, Asia, and many of the other islands of the Caribbean.

A substantial sector of the population immigrated from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. As such, there's more Spanish spoken here than on the other Virgin Islands.

St Croix has two primary cities; Christiansted on the north coast and Frederiksted on the southwest coast.

Christiansted is the larger town, a bustling place that can get downright congested in the busy season. It has a historic downtown section with lots of old colonial buildings from the 18th century. The most prominent historic attraction is Fort Christiansvaern, the restored Danish colonial fort overlooking the Christiansted waterfront.

Frederiksted is smaller, less lively (even sleepy in the off-season) and less populated. It rests on the west coast near some of the island's best beaches.

It can easily take a whole day to drive around the island, because of its relatively large size. In the northeastern portion of the island, you'll find some fairly hilly, arid terrain covered with scrubby vegetation.

From here westward along the north coast (through Christiansted and beyond) you'll encounter many of the island's resorts and hotels.

The northwestern section of the island is wetter and more lush than the eastern part. This is the area where you'll find Saint Croix's remaining forests. The southern section of the island is open plains. This green, fertile area is what gives the island its nickname, "the garden of the Caribbean". The West coast around Frederiksted is home to a number of smaller hotels and "beachy" restaurants.

You'll find a full array of activities. You can enjoy the gamut of water-sports including legendary scuba diving, as well as touring, hiking, horseback riding, bicycling, and many others.

Other attractions include historical sites, arts and cultural events, nature preserves, and, of course, amazing beaches.

The most popular attraction is the Buck Island Reef National Monument, a well-known destination for sailing and snorkeling tours. Although the snorkeling here is not what it once was (due to damage from recent hurricanes), Buck Island is still well worth a visit for the beauty of the island and its surrounding turquoise waters.

Saint Croix offers a complete array of places to stay, including small hotels, inns, guesthouses, camping, and several world-renowned resorts. These are often somewhat less expensive than comparable accommodations on St Thomas and St John. You'll also find plenty of restaurants of all kinds here, especially in and around Christiansted and along the popular North coastal region.

St Croix has lots to offer by way of attractions, activities, accommodations, and dining. If you get the chance, don't pass up this beautiful island.

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