East End versus West End
When visiting St. Croix, part of the adventure is exploring both ends of the island. In my previous blog post, I explored the West End of St. Croix which gets way more rain and has a rainforest. The East End, in contrast, is more arid and dry and actually has cactus plants. There’s not too many places in the world you can take a picture of cactus plants with the sea as the backdrop. It’s a nice scenic drive around the East End and the roads are in pretty good shape. It is well worth the time to drive and explore.
The East End also includes the city of Christiansted which is way more vibrant than Frederiksted. The East End is known to be more wealthy and you’ll see many large homes up in the hills overlooking the Caribbean.
One of the popular beaches of the east end is Cramer Park beach. This is a great beach to relax and escape the crowds on Rainbow Beach on the west end. The island you see from the beach is Buck Island where the Buck Island Reef National Monument is. I didn’t make it out to Buck Island on this trip but will next time.
Also on the east end is the largest home on the island called The Castle. The Castle was owned by a Bulgarian Contessa and is currently on the market for $10 million. Click here if you want to see better pictures of The Castle. No island would be complete without a casino so the Divi Carina Bay Casino is a legit casino with both slot machines and tables. One of the best resorts on the island is the Buccaneer Resort with fantastic views of the Caribbean. Even if you don’t stay here, be sure to try out their restaurants… The Terrace, The Mermaid, and Beauregard’s on the Beach… just tell the guard you’re going to the restaurant.
Christiansted is the largest city on St. Croix and has a population of about 3,000 people. Even though it is a small city, there is a lot of culture, architecture, and history to experience. There are also some great dining options in the city. The architecture is reflective of the island’s past as the capital of the Danish West Indies… still today there is a reunion for descendants of Danish families (Denmark) held every few years. The buildings are pretty well maintained but there is still a lot of opportunity for improvement as economic conditions continue to improve. The best days for shopping are when the cruise ships come into port as many of the retail shops are closed otherwise.
St. Croix is the Land of the Churches. There are about 150 churches on this small island and are found everywhere. Here is a few of my favorite pictures of churches located in Christiansted.
The government of the US Virgin Islands resides in Christiansted at the Government House. The government is set up similarly to a state with the governor as head of state. The US Virgin Islands is a territory of the USA and its people are citizens of the USA; however, the people cannot vote for the President of the USA or members of Congress. They are represented by a delegate to the House of Representatives. Should a US citizen choose to become a resident here, you would lose your right to vote for the President and Congress.
Christiansted National Historical Site
St. Croix actually has three national park sites, one of which is Christiansted National Historical Site. The fort was built in the early 1700s and represents the colonial development of the Virgin Islands. The site is well-preserved and you can explore the entire site, from the dungeon to the kitchen. Slaves were traded here until it was outlawed in 1803. There were great vistas from the rooftop where the cannons were.
The heart of Christiansted today is the boardwalk area where many of the popular restaurants are on the waterfront. This area is very vibrant and a great place to eat, drink, and watch the sunset. Be sure to look down in the water to see the large fish called Tarpon.
Point Udall, the Easternmost Point of the USA
Did you know the easternmost point of the United States is Point Udall on the island of St. Croix? I had no idea and was pleasantly surprised. This is part of the scenic drive around the East End and is a short drive from Christiansted, about 30 minutes. Definitely worth the drive to say you’ve been there and the scenery is spectacular.
Historic Sugar Mills
Sugar mills are an integral part of St. Croix and are found throughout the island. Many look like historical ruins and it is actually illegal to destroy a sugar mill even if it is on your property. You are allowed to do anything to it so long as the structure is not destroyed. Below is a sugar mill turned into a sitting area and a restaurant bar.
Dining out in Christiansted area
I have to say the restaurant scene in Christiansted is fantastic… from fine dining to bar food to chicken shacks. Below is a list of restaurants I tried and would recommend.
- Shupe’s on the Boardwalk – best burger in town on the waterfront
- balter – best fine dining and priciest; best meal of the week for me; reservations needed
- The Mermaid @ the Buccaneer – best pulled pork sandwich; beachfront dining
- The Bombay Club – popular place to dine with a great atmosphere; get the mashed potatoes; reservations needed
- The Mill Boardwalk Bar – best pizza on the boardwalk al fresco
- La Reine Chicken Shack – great rotisserie style chicken in a simple setting; be ready to eat with your hands; great stop on the way to the airport; very cheap
- Rum Runners – great happy hour for drinks on the boardwalk
- Brew STX – great place for a drink and appetizer; loved the Cruzan Confusion rum drink
Much to my surprise, the carnival like festival called Jump Up! took place while I was in Christiansted and only happens four times a year. If you can plan your trip to coincide with this festival, it’s definitely worth experiencing. Lots of street food, street music, and cultural activities take place plus the retail stores will be open much later. The main event of Jump Up! is the Mocko Jumbies walking around on tall stilts… be sure to tip them. Mocko Jumbies are a 200-year-old tradition on the island.
Here are the Mocko Jumbies in action.
Exploring the east end of St. Croix was a lot of fun and a lot to see. I stayed on St. Croix for about a week and there is so much more to do the next time I come back. What I really enjoyed about St. Croix was experiencing “authentic” island life. Oftentimes when you go to the Caribbean, you get whisked away from the airport and dropped off at some all-inclusive resort that you never leave or take an excursion or two. Aside from experiencing the warm weather and beaches, you could be anywhere in the world. St. Croix had both the great weather and nice beaches, but you also have the opportunity to interact with the local people, go to the cities to eat, and drive around the island and explore. I would highly recommend a visit to St. Croix.
I had such a great time experiencing St. Croix but my favorite pastime was sitting on the patio in the shade in my zero gravity chair watching the waves roll in, feeling the warm breeze with a nice cold rum drink in hand.
Here is a link to the vacation rental I stayed in that is owned by my sister and her husband called Bella Breeze.
Next Blog: Weekend in New York City