There is some debate about what is actually the easternmost point of the United States, inclusive of U.S. territories, whether you’re judging by geographic center (Maine) or longitude (Alaska). But if you’re quantifying this metric by direction of travel (as well as the easternmost national park), the answer would be St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
St. Croix is also often overlooked among travelers to the Caribbean, whether it be to nearby St. Thomas or Puerto Rico, both of which are served with many more direct flights from the continental U.S.
But getting to St. Croix isn’t that complicated and is slowly getting easier with more (and very short) connections out of those two locations. But for travelers looking for somewhere tropical but not crowded, somewhat local but still slightly off the beaten path, St. Croix is not to be overlooked any longer.
Where to go
Buck Island Boat Tour: As noted, Buck Island Reef National Monument is the easternmost U.S. national park site. Tourists can easily get out there from Christiansted Harbor via powerboat with Caribbean Sea Adventures while also booking half- or full-day adventures that include snorkeling, swimming, fishing, and sunbathing on Turtle Beach.
Bioluminescent Kayaking: One of St Croix’s most beautiful hidden gems, guides from Bush Tribe Eco Adventures take guests out before sundown on two-person kayaks to navigate “Bio Bay” on the east side of Salt River, approximately one kilometer from the launch site. From there, guides share all about the local ecology, history, and spiritual mysteries of Salt River before heading to Mangrove Lagoon to see the glowing water—a truly mystical and natural wonder of nature with a blue-ish aura around bioluminescent waves.
Virgin Island Food Tours: There is no shortage of places to eat on St. Croix, either in town or around the island. But you’ll find the absolute best eats with the help of a local guide, and each stop reflects the history of the island and different communities that live there. Some of the bites include roti and boneless chicken from Singh’s Fast Food, which has been open for more than 30 years since the family first moved to St. Croix; Puerto Rican-style rice, beans, and plantains from Zeny’s; tropical-inspired ice cream from What Da Scoop?; traditional “bush” tea and coconut cake from Gary’s Bakery; and Crucian-made rum and fish tacos from Rum Runners along the Christiansted boardwalk.
Nature Conservancy Coral Innovation Hub: The Nature Conservancy has been working in the Caribbean for more than 40 years to protect local beaches and safeguard endemic wildlife, and the Nature Conservancy’s preserve on St. Croix, in particular, is home to the group’s Virgin Islands Coral Innovation Hub, with a state-of-the-art coral laboratory and land-based nursery for the restoration of coral reefs—an increasingly demanding challenge in the face of climate change. The reserve is a special place to visit to learn more about conservation efforts while also getting a glimpse of the endangered sea turtles nesting nearby.
Where to eat
Virgin Island Coffee Roasters: The epitome of a local neighborhood coffee shop, this café serves freshly roasted artisan small-batch coffee and specialty drinks as well as pastries, sandwiches, and smoothies for breakfast and lunch.
Cream & Co Ice Cream Parlor: Nothing feels more like vacation than ice cream on the boardwalk. This artisanal ice cream shop has all the classics and some Caribbean-inspired flavors (including hibiscus swirl, pineapple bush tea, and coquito) in a cup, cone, or even the middle of an ice cream sandwich.
Breakers Roar: Sometimes tiki bars feel like they’re trying too hard, but this is one that nails it, with its fun decor that feels both elevated but kitschy in the best possible way. But ultimately, what makes a good bar are the drinks, and they do not disappoint here with a menu of more than 30 cocktails on the menu filled with both classic and unique tiki drinks.
El Leon: Located right on the Christiansted boardwalk, this contemporary Mexican restaurant has all of your favorites, also made with a focus on locally-sourced ingredients and Crucian flare. Open for happy hour and dinner nightly, don’t miss brunch on weekends, with classic chilaquiles as well as a very brunch-culture inspired tres leches french toast.
AMA: Guests staying at the Waves Cane Bay hotel are in for a treat as this sustainable, upscale seafood restaurant is a destination in its own right on the island. The restaurant works with local farmers and environmentally responsible fisherman to source ingredients for its menu, curated with elevated takes on simple fare, such as shrimp ceviche, yellowfin tuna crudo, crab souffle dip, smoked caesar salad, almond crusted mahi, and slow roasted pork belly with spiced prawns. Along with an extensive bottled wine list, the restaurant features select beers from local brewery Leatherback Brewing Company.
The Mill Boardwalk Bar Brick Oven Pizza: This very, very casual restaurant and bar right next to the Mutiny Vodka distillery looks like your typical boardwalk fare, but don’t overlook it because this might be the best pizza south of New York City. And come hungry because the pies will fill you up, but you can also always take the rest to go.
Savant: Located in Christiansted, Savant is recognized as one of the best Caribbean restaurants in St. Croix, with an extensive fine wine list, craft cocktails, and a farm-to-table inspired menu incorporating local produce from island farmers and seafood purchased from local fisherman.
Where to stay
The Waves Cane Bay: A sweet spot for anyone looking for a more private getaway and/or long-term stay. Newly renovated and reimagined in 2021, all 11 suites here are fully equipped with all the modern touches you need (kitchenettes, high-speed Wi-Fi, internet-connected HDTVs, air conditioning, parking spots, etc.), in a layout intended for solo travelers, couples, groups, and families who might be looking for quieter nook on the island outside of town. Truly the only noise here is in the name of the place—the waves of the Caribbean crashing up against the rocks just off the northern edge of the property. And each suite has a private patio directly overlooking the ocean, located just a few hundred yards away.
Onsite dining is limited to dinner at onsite restaurant AMA and light bites at the Sunset Bar— open for tropically-infused craft cocktails, beer, and wine under black and white striped umbrellas on the patio overlooking the sea—starting in the late afternoon. Speciality cocktails include The Island Blonde (made with St. Germain, Lillet Blanc, gin, grapefruit juice, and orange bitters); passionfruit frozé (an slushy version of rosé wine with passionfruit juice); and a classic mojito made with Cruzan light rum, made on St. Croix.
But it should be noted the aforementioned kitchenettes are all fully equipped with cutlery and serveware as well as refrigerators, microwave ovens, a coffee maker, and hi-top counter seating.
King Christian Hotel: While the hotel building has been there for decades, the new and revamped version has become a cornerstone of downtown Christiansted since reopening in 2022 after a top-to-bottom remodel. All of the 46 rooms feature custom-designed terra cotta flooring, bespoke furniture, and floor-to-ceiling marble clad bathrooms, and all suites have balconies overlooking either the water or the sparkling pool deck, surrounded by posh black-and-white striped beach umbrellas.
Guests don’t have to go far to find onsite dining, between Virgin Islands Coffee Roasters and El Leon covering everything between breakfast and dinner. But also tucked away is the Peacock Room lobby bar, truly an over-the-top but still stylish shrine to the fine feathered bird. Guests are also treated to a welcome drink here upon arrival, such as sparkling wine or a martini, and anyone can come in and order off the menu while sipping their drinks in one of the leather tufted couches or the wicker throne chairs.
And situated directly on the Christiansted waterfront as well as the National Historic Site, a protected landmark by the U.S. National Park Service, the King Christian Hotel is a short sailing (not more than a few minutes) to Hotel on the Cay on the tiny island of Protestant Cay (pronounced “key”), which while currently open is about to be completely remodeled itself by the same ownership group, Neighborhood Establishment. And mark your calendars for 2025 because the upgraded resort could be a gamechanger for St. Croix when it reopens.