After spending Christmas on Oahu in 2008, I knew how relaxing a tropical Christmas could be. In 2012, I decided to head off any holiday anxiety with a trip to St. Croix, US Virgin Islands. My mom and I loved it so much, we came back the next year as well! With a huge travel bucket list that I constantly obsess over, it’s not often that I’ll go back to the same place twice, especially not two years in a row! (Other than Colorado, of course!)
Arrival in St. Croix is usually via a puddle jumper from San Juan, Puerto Rico. There are also some connections through Miami. The first year, we had an 8-hour layover in San Juan on the way home, so we were also able to explore a little bit of the Old Town, which was fun. I recommend doing this, although we should have researched luggage storage as it was a pain lugging around our carry-ons!
We stayed at the Renaissance Carambola, a Marriott property at the northern end of St. Croix. Some of the online reviews had me a little nervous, but it was absolutely incredible! Say what you want about chain hotels, but this is the only place I’ll ever stay on St Croix. I love everything about this resort. Starting with the rum punch they have waiting for you upon arrival. The views and constant sound of crashing waves are pretty awesome, too! Almost all of the rooms are in a short walking distance to the beach – there are some rocky areas, but plenty of sandy spots and loungers along the beach.
My first day was spent at the spa. I booked the “Beach Ready” package, which included a mani/pedi, facial and full body sugar scrub. It was all amazing, and included lunch from the bar delivered to the relaxation room. I especially loved the sugar scrub after flying in from cold, dry Chicago! However, I was there almost the whole day, so I wish I had done the mani/pedi back home and had more beach time that first day.
While visiting St. Croix is all about relaxing, we have done a few excursions during our visits. The full day snorkel tour to Buck Island with Big Beard’s is a must. For less than $100, you get an all day cruise, two opportunities to snorkel near Buck Island, a beach cookout and all-you-can-drink rum punch. And an amusing show by the island mongoose who gather for scraps at the lunch spot.
Another highlight of any visit is the Friday night Pirate Buffet at our hotel, which includes a performance by the Mocko Jumbies. Even if you aren’t staying at the Renaissance, I think this is worth the trip out. The buffet has tons of delicious options, but everyone comes for the show.
We also took a shuttle into Fredriksted one day, but found it was pretty quiet and didn’t offer much in the way of shopping or sightseeing. Apparently, when cruise ships are in, there are more vendors along the beach, but we tried to avoid the cruise ship crowds. I would recommend sticking to Christiansted if you are looking for anything to do.
Knowing that the towns on St Croix didn’t have much going on, we didn’t feel the need to explore them again on our 2nd trip. Instead, we booked a day of island hopping via seaplane. After a short flight, we were on St. Thomas, which is the glitziest of the US Virgin Islands. We quickly passed the yacht harbor with upscale shopping, and caught a taxi to the ferry dock at Red Hook. The ferry took us to St. John, the most pristine of the US Virgin Islands, where much of the island is designated a National Park. We took a taxi to Cinnamon Bay, marveling at the postcard perfect beaches around every bend in the road. St. John is truly magnificent! It’s a bit of planes, ferries and automobiles to get there, but totally worth it!
All in all, St. Croix is a perfect island getaway! (Did I mention no cell service?) If you are looking for a full plate of activities, getting back and forth to town from the Carambola can be expensive. It’s easiest to stay on property and take advantage of the quiet location and sugar sand beach. Car rentals are available, but the cars are American, while the roads are British – driving on the left, but the steering wheel is also on the left! Roads are narrow and windy, so I haven’t tried driving yet!
Both times that I’ve left St Croix, I’m immediately working numbers in my head to figure out when I can come back. Carambola Beach has a special place in my heart and I hope I’m lucky enough to come back many more times in the future!
My full Yelp review of the Renaissance Carambola can be found here.