Chicago Travels: St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands


 
 

By Amy Bizzarri

Member of the Chicago Parent Blog Network
 

This is part 2 in a two-part series sharing the best of the family-friendly U.S. Virgin Islands.

 

Known for its sandy beaches, crystal clear Caribbean waters and sunshine, the U.S. Virgin Islands are usually thought of as a popular couples or honeymoon destination. Think twice and consider the beautiful and friendly islands of St. Thomas, St. Croix and St. John, all part of the USVI, for your next family vacation. The USVI makes for a fun, kid-friendly and relaxing, yet excitement-filled destination. And because its officially a U.S. territory, you won't even need a passport! I recently visited the USVI with my two kids, Daniel,13, and Chiara, 4, and we checked several items off our bucket list: snorkeling together as a family, swimming with sea turtles and flying on a seaplane were just a few of our many island adventures.

 

St. Croix

 

84 square miles in size, St. Croix is the largest of the U.S. Virgin Islands. Its unique combination of history, culture and natural beauty make it one of the most unforgettable of the islands. Two U.S. National Parks and a U.S. National Monument, beautiful Victorian era architecture and warm, clear waters ideal for scuba diving and snorkeling, means there is always something to do in St. Croix. That said, relaxing on the sandy white beaches and swimming in the turquoise waters is always a delight on this stunning island.

 

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Our arrival in St. Croix was part of the fun and adventure. From the island of St. Thomas, the kids and I hopped into a seaplane and flew over the beautiful islands, enjoying incredible vistas and experiencing the thrill of landing on water. Book your tickets on Seaborne Airlines. Upon arrival in St. Croix, consider renting a car if you're up for doing some exploring at your own pace. We opted for taxi service to get us to points of interest. Grab your sunscreen and get ready for fun as you explore the magic of St. Croix.

 

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Become a Junior 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 it is the site of one of the earliest indigenous settlements in the central Caribbean.

Christiansted National Historic Site, located in downtown Christiansted and 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.

Explore Christiansted. Spend some time strolling the cobblestoned streets of downtown Christiansted, 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. 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.

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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 and Caribbean Sea Adventures offers scuba excursions to the island as well.
Stay
We stayed at the Divi Carina Bay Resort, the only all-inclusive resort on St. Croix. Located on a quiet stretch of beach, this resort was peaceful and relaxing. My kids had a blast playing on the beach and swimming in the pool. Our spacious beachfront guest room was elegant yet comfortable, with a balcony that offered an unforgettable view of the ocean. At night, we would sit on our balcony and count the stars in the sky before bed. We dined poolside most days and appreciated the excellent cuisine and fine service.  An on-site PADI five-star dive shop and activities center, as well as a mini-golf course, gave my kids an unlimited menu of things to do.
Don't Miss
-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 and abrupt 2,000 feet drop in sea level.
-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.
-For the best Cruzian style BBQ chicken, 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!
 
 







 
 
 
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