Exploring the U.S. Virgin Islands

Before the busy holiday season set in this year, we decided to take a very slow and relaxing trip to the U.S. Virgin Islands. Our first stop was the island of St. Thomas for two nights at Sapphire Beach and a day trip to nearby St. John and Virgin Islands National Park. Most of this post is about our favorite activities to do on St. Croix, but I had to mention our quick trip to St. Thomas.

To be honest, snorkeling in the Virgin Islands National Park was the only reason we came to St. Thomas instead of traveling directly to St. Croix. While St. Thomas is a beautiful island, it is also the most populated of all the U.S. Virgin Islands and we were really looking for a much more laid back vacation. Our quick stop here was totally worth it though. We had a great day on the water with Breakaway and some amazing snorkeling, which included our only barracuda sighting of the trip. We were actually hoping to see more of these eerie guys.

View from our condo at Sapphire Beach.
All smiles after snorkeling in the Virgin Islands National Park.

After our two nights on St. Thomas, we boarded a little Cessna through Cape Air for the 30-minute flight to St. Croix. I don’t typically get nervous on flights, but I’m pretty sure I held my breath the whole time. If propelling through the air with sudden ups, downs, and sideways movements makes you a little queasy, you might want to opt for the ferry.

Our little itty bitty plane that took us to St. Croix.

After landing safely with two feet firmly planted on the ground in St. Croix, we picked up our car rental from the local company Centerline and headed to our condo for the next week in Sugar Beach, just a few minutes outside of Christiansted. If you are staying at a VRBO or AirBnB, I would definitely recommend renting a car. While the island is small, it is pretty spread out and taxis are few and far between and Uber is non-existent. Centerline Car Rentals was easy to work with and very reasonably priced. I would definitely recommend this good local company for your car rental needs.

After making our way to the condo, learning to drive on the left side of the road as we went (yes, they drive on the left side of the road, but the steering wheel is still on the left like American cars), we pulled up to our oceanfront home away from home for the next week. This two bedroom, two bath condo was absolutely incredible. Newly remodeled and right on the water, we couldn’t ask for more.

Enjoying the hammock on the enclosed deck at Sugar Beach.
Sunset from the condo looking over Sugar Beach.

Best Things to Do on St. Croix

St. Croix is full of awesome things to do and see. Some of our favorites included golf, snorkeling, swimming, and drinking with pigs… yes, real pigs! Below is a recap of the things we enjoyed while we were on the island. If you’ve been to St. Croix and had a favorite activity that didn’t make it on this list, please let me know in the comments below.

Snorkeling

What time of year you visit the islands will depict what spots are the best for snorkeling while you’re there. We were there in December, when the winds/waves come in from the northeast. With that in mind, the snorkeling while we were there was pretty limited to the southwest where the waters are much calmer. Since there were only a few places to snorkel, I can’t speak for all the great spots on the island, but we absolutely loved the pier at Fredericksted and Rainbow Beach, both of which had completely calm waters.

The Pier at Fredericksted

Snorkeling through the columns at the pier here was a truly amazing experience. There are tons of life forms that have made their homes on the pier columns. Diving through the columns and checking out all the coral was so much fun. We saw some great fish and a few turtles. We also heard that if you look closely enough in just the right spot, you might find a seahorse on the columns. We looked until our fingers turned into raisins, but didn’t find any horsey friends.

One thing to note, when there are cruise ships at the pier you’re not allowed to snorkel here. But because of COVID, the ships are few and far between which allowed us to snorkel here to our heart’s content.

Rainbow Beach

Rainbow Beach is not far from the pier in Fredericksted. In fact, you can see the pier from the beach, but the snorkeling here was much different. There were spots with large sandy bottoms sprinkled with sand dollars that made for some fun diving. There were also more species of fish here including some beautiful king angelfish, Caribbean flounder, and the one sighting that made my entire trip, a spotted eagle ray.

Although the coral here is still recovering from the 2017 hurricanes, I would definitely put this on your list. There is also a great beachside restaurant and bar, Rhythms at Rainbow Beach. The beach itself here was pretty busy and there are chairs/umbrellas, and jet skis you can rent, but totally worth the crowds for the snorkeling.

Buck Island National Wildlife Refuge

Unfortunately, we were unable to snorkel here due to weather while we were on the islands. The high seas and winds just wouldn’t cooperate for us and both days we had a snorkel trip scheduled, it was cancelled. We’ve heard from numerous people that the snorkeling here is amazing and has some of the most diverse marine life in the area, including some nurse sharks if you’re lucky. Although we didn’t get to snorkel here on our trip, I did think it would be amiss if I didn’t mention it. There are several tour companies that leave from Christiansted and we will definitely try to get on a boat again when we come back!

Exploring the pier at Fredericksted.
Making new friends — green sea turtles!
Diving for sand dollars at Rainbow Beach.
Spotted eagle ray.

Swimming at Sandy Point

Aside from the spotted eagle ray we swam with at Rainbow Beach, this was definitely my second favorite thing we did while on St. Croix. Sandy Point is absolutely stunning! I’ve never seen water like it in my entire life. Although it was raining a bit on us while we were there, the water was still this ridiculously blueish turquoise color that I can’t even begin to describe and photos do no justice. We played in the waves, swam around, and floated in the milky waters. It was incredible and something I would definitely put high on your list.

Beautiful Sandy Point.
I could float here ALL day.

The Eastern-most Point in the United States – Point Udal

No trip to St. Croix is complete without driving to the eastern most point in the United States, Point Udal. There is a pretty cool monument that was constructed in 2000 and the shoreline is beautiful. On a calm day (unlike the day we visited), we’ve heard the snorkeling is fantastic.

There are also some quick hikes to some beautiful beaches you can take from this point. The trailhead is just down the road (you can’t miss it as you’re driving to the monument) and you can see the trails down to the beach. We saw some rain coming in when we were here, so we decided to pass, but this is definitely something we will have on our list for next time.

Millennium Monument at Point Udal.

Drinking with Pigs

On a day with some weather, what else are you going to do than visit the Mt. Pellier Hut Domino Club to drink with some pigs? The piggies here live amazing lives and for $3 you can buy your new swine friend a non-alcoholic beer. The beer is made from the same grains the pigs would normally eat and they excitedly wait for you to put the beer in their mouth so they can gulp it down and spit out the can. They would definitely win any shot-gunning contest. It is absolutely hilarious!

If beer is not your thing, the Mt. Pellier Hut has a very special rum infused with a unique blend of spices that you’ll wanna try, aptly named “Mama Wanna.” You can drink it like a sipper or in one of many different mixed drinks. I had it mixed with grapefruit juice and Brian had his with Red Bull. I usually hate grapefruit and Brian’s not a fan of Red Bull, but we both thoroughly enjoyed our drinks.

Mt. Pellier Hut Domino Club Sign
This is Gem, and he could not be any cuter!
The next round is on you, buddy.

Golfing

Whenever Brian and I travel to an island, we try to make sure to fit in a round of island golf. There are three golf courses on the island and we opted for the more casual 9-hole course, The Reef. This was a super laid back course and when we called to make a tee time the day before, they just laughed and said we didn’t need any tee times. They were right. We pretty much had the whole course to ourselves and enjoyed a quick round of golf.

Island-style golf at The Reef.
Great views from the course.

That pretty much sums up our time on the island and we are so grateful for the amazing memories to look back at. We can’t wait to return someday and spend even more time exploring the beautiful USVI. We’d also like to spend some time on St. John exploring the Virgin Islands National Park more.

Check out the video below for more of our trip and some of the amazing sights we saw.

Have you been to the USVI? What was your favorite thing to do? Leave a comment below.

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