It’s been almost a month since my long weekend in St. Croix and I’m still basking in the afterglow of their special brand of paradise. I played mas. Ate my belly full. Snorkeled. And sang (read: screamed) along as Bunji Garlin and Skinny Fabulous performed “Famalay” live on stage at the Festival Village. All things considered, my experience was EPIC and I am forever grateful to LoopTT for the opportunity to represent them on this press trip hosted by the incredible representatives of the US Virgin Islands Department of Tourism. While my time on the island may have been brief, four days and three nights was enough for me to get a sense of the place. So here’s another edition of my favorite post-trip recap…10 cool, quirky and useful things to know about St. Croix.
Let’s start with the Cool
The Most Eastern point in the US is there
With territories all over the world, it’s not surprising that the most eastern point in the United States doesn’t exist on the mainland. It’s actually located at Point Udall in St. Croix. Perched atop a hill overlooking the ocean, it boasts a spectacular panoramic ocean view that stretches on for miles; a hiking trail that leads down to the beach; and it’s also home to the larger than life Millenium Monument sundial that was installed to mark the start of the new millennium. Which means that, even without its elevated status as an extreme cardinal point, this spot is a must-see on any visit to St. Croix.
The Crucian Christmas Festival is Incredible
Confession: I was an absolute Trinidad-Carnival purest…until I experienced the Crucian Christmas Festival. A small band and short parade route are the exact opposite of what I’m accustomed to, but these condensed elements provided a level of intimacy I never thought possible with mas. The festivities were also dominated by many traditional elements, such as quadrille dancers and quelbe bands, allowing it to maintain an endearing level of authenticity. And if that wasn’t enough, patrons were treated to free performances by incredible local and regional artists every night! True talk: St. Croix’s carnival is a great option for carnival veterans who appreciate the origins of Caribbean culture, as well as curious carnival neophytes who’re just looking to get their feet wet with a tiny taste of all the bacchanal.
Side note: Feel free to check out my LoopTT articles, A T&T Carnival veteran takes on the Crucian Christmas Festival and 5 reasons to experience St. Croix’s Crucian Christmas Festival.
The Food is sooooo good #yum
Imagine inventive variations of some of the yummiest foods in the world appearing on the menu of almost every restaurant you dine at. From Caribbean to Indian, Latin to continental, the culinary scene in St. Croix is next level. Considered one of the region’s premiere dining destinations, meals in St. Croix are usually a multicultural experience in their own right. I feasted on curried chicken with macaroni pie (baked mac and cheese) and was surprised at how well this unusual combination paired together. I savoured a buttery cassava dish with a scrumptious conch chowder. And my best breakfast was a medley of pancake and eggs, along with johnnie cakes and salt fish. From a culinary standpoint, it was like sampling the best of EVERY world.
Everyone rocks Crucian Gold Jewellery
If you’re into handmade jewellery like I am, this cool-factor will be of interest to you. Almost immediately upon arriving in St. Croix, you’ll notice one thing – most Crucians (man, woman and child) will be wearing at least one bangle, ring, or earrings from the homegrown jeweller, Crucian Gold. The gorgeous, original pieces are made from gold, silver, copper and local materials. They feature signature elements of Crucian life, such as the Crucian knot (rooted in St. Croix’s sailing culture) and the moko jumbie (Carnival character). Naturally, they make perfect souvenirs, so don’t leave the island without getting at least one of them!
It’s home to one of three underwater trails in the US
For a beach-bum like myself, Buck Island Reef National Monument doesn’t have to do much more than be surrounded by water to be cool. But the fact that the park possesses one of only three underwater trails in all of the United States, means we’re definitely in bucket list territory. The marked trail is located on the eastern end of the 18.43 km² reef, with plaques describing the various types of marine life found in and among the coral. Private boat operators offer half-day and full-day tours to the island so you can snorkel and explore to your heart’s content.
Next, I’ll touch on the Quirky
At a glance, sunny, tiny St. Croix and sprawling, mostly chilly Minnesota (shoutout to my college state!) have virtually nothing in common. But, it turns out they share a nickname (almost). While I’m intimately acquainted with Minnesota’s “Twin Cities” of Minneapolis and St. Paul, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that St. Croix is also referred to as “Twin City” because of its two main towns – Christiansted and Frederiksted. Bright and colorful, quaint and traditional, these gorgeous cities are rich in culture and full of well-preserved history. They’re both quite walkable and an even spent strolling through either of them would be time well spent.
They celebrate Christmas and Carnival together
Two of the greatest and most festive seasons combined to create one epic experience? Yes, please! In St. Croix, Christmas and Carnival are observed at the same time, resulting in a unique atmosphere that sees yuletide decorations covering booths at the Festival Village; and days of observance such as Three Kings Day, doing double duty to mark both the end of the Christmas season, as well as the end of the carnival festivities. The juxtaposition is intriguing and at times a little bit comical, as it was a bit strange to take in the Soca Monarch performances standing below a massive inflatable dinosaur holding candy canes and wearing a Santa hat…
It’s home to the most dangerous tree in the world!
The Guinness World Book of Records lists the manchineel tree as the most dangerous tree in the world. And, like many other Caribbean islands, it can be found growing in St. Croix. More importantly, though, it’s crawling all over one of the island’s most popular attractions – the Buck Island Reef National Monument! The island comprises only 1% of the sprawling marine park, but a significant portion of that 1% is covered in this infamous tree, that possesses dangerous toxins. Even standing beneath the tree while it rains will result in blistering of the skin from contact with the liquid released through its sap. Not fun. But pretty interesting…I think.
And finally, I’ll wrap up with the Useful
It’s a US territory
I know this may seem like a “duh” factoid, but the truth is, many people don’t realize that the US Virgin Islands are literally a part of the United States. And Crucians are actually Americans. So, of all the things to know about St. Croix, this is a biggy. If you’re a US citizen, you do not require a visa, or even a passport to enter the island. However, if you are not a US citizen, a passport is required for entry (and a visa might be as well). As much a part of the US as the USVI might be however, I was surprised (and disheartened) to learn that its residents are only allowed to vote in the US primary elections but not the general elections.
They drive on the left side
Another possible “duh” statement since many Caribbean islands drive on the left side. However, with St. Croix being a US territory, I fully expected them to drive on the right. Beyond this difference, however, St. Croix offers a further twist as they do follow the US in driving on the left side of the car. So while most places that drive on the left side have right-hand drive, St. Croix uses left-hand drive in the left lane!
St. Croix is a tiny island with a big personality and there’s a lot to uncover within her 210 km². Much more than I could ever capture in one post! That being said, I truly hope these little insights were enough to inspire you to plan a trip to this Caribbean gem so you can discover it’s full potential on your own!
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