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One Day in St. Croix is Never Enough

St. Croix Carnival Dancer. Copyright Joe Tolley 2014 / TravelBoldly.com
Colorful Carnival characters are only one of the many reasons to visit the Caribbean island of St. Croix, the largest of the U.S. Virgin Islands. Whether you'd like to snorkel in the clear warm waters off Buck Island or tramp through the historical ruins of St George Village Botanical Gardens or loll on a sugar sand beach, St. Croix gives you plenty of options. Photos by Joe Tolley for TravelBoldly.com
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One Day in St. Croix is Never Enough 


Guest Post by Kristy Tolley


“Oh, my gosh! Did you see that nurse shark?” My daughter squealed in delight. “That was so cool!”

I never would have expected my kids (at the time, ages eight and five) to be so thrilled about learning about marine life. However, that was just one of several pleasant surprises we experienced during our family’s visit to St. Croix.

Buck Island, St. Croix. Copyright Joe Tolley 2014 TravelBoldly.com
A stretch of empty beach beckons on Buck Island St. Croix
As a port of call for our seven-day cruise, St. Croix’s bucolic landscape beckoned us to come explore. Being the unconventional cruisers we are, we opted to plan our own excursions for the day. Our goal: pack as much in as we possibly could before the ship left the port!

Our first diversion was snorkeling on Buck Island. Located off St. Croix’s northeast shore, it was declared a National Monument in 1961. A number of local companies specialize in half or full day tours, yet the trail is protected by the park system so it’s never over crowded. We snorkeled with Big Beard’s Adventure Tours, and had a remarkable experience.

Suited up for snorkeling St. Croix. Copyright Joe Tolley 2014 / TravelBoldly.com
Ready for snorkeling off Buck Island, St. Croix
Although my kids were great swimmers, I was a little apprehensive how they would fare in open (and somewhat choppy) waters with little prior practice. My fears were quickly abated thanks to knowledgeable and enthusiastic guides. We spotted coral fish, angelfish, and a nurse shark while floating above stunning brain and elk horn coral. I believe my oldest daughter’s passion to pursue a career in marine science was fueled by this early encounter.

Our next stop was the St. George Village Botanical Garden in Frederiksted. What an unexpected gem! The garden is on the National Register of Historic Places, and is situated on the remains of a 19th century Danish sugar cane plantation. The gardens are alive with more than 1,500 native and exotic species of flora. A tour here reveals ornamental ferns, bromeliads, heritage gardens, a naturalized forest, and other treasures.



Cactus in St. George Village Botanical Gardens St. Croix. Copyright Joe Tolley 2014 / TravelBoldly.com
Cactus in St. George Village Botanical Gardens St. Croix
As cool as the ghostly remains of buildings looked, I honestly thought the girls would lose interest quickly. Once again, I was proven wrong. David Hamada, the garden’s Horticultural Director, was well versed and engaging – pointing out countless natural wonders. The Stapelia plant especially intrigued them. This low growing succulent resembles a cactus and hails from Africa. Its scent, that resembling rotting flesh, attracts different kinds of pollinators (and apparently my kids).

Historical treasures in the garden include artifacts ranging from pre-Columbus through the plantation era. A few of the restored buildings to see are the Blacksmith Shop, the Overseer’s House and the Great Hall, among others.

Christiansted Harbor, St. Croix. Photo Copyright Joe Tolley 2014 / TravelBoldly.com
View of  Christiansted from the water,  St. Croix. 
Had our visit landed on a second Saturday, we could have enjoyed the special kids’ programs from 9 am until noon. Workshops like cooking (finding ingredients throughout the gardens), chocolate making and the like are offered. Oh well - just another reason to book a return trip to St. Croix!

While this brood certainly enjoys outdoor action and soaking up some history, we do appreciate a little “chillaxing time” as much as the next folks. Chenay Beach and Rainbow Beach are perfect family hangouts. Chenay provides shallow water and lots of shells to hunt. Its palm-lined shore offers ample shade. The kids can even go nuts on the play set. Rainbow Beach is like hanging out at a friend’s house for a barbecue. Volleyball, swimming and snorkeling are on hand on this white sand beach. Often, you can enjoy live music as well.

Although our time on land was waning, refueling with local cuisine was a “must do”. Our group
Rum Runners in Christiansted, St. Croix. Photo: Copyright Joe Tolley 2014 / TravelBoldly.com
View from Rum Runners' deck in Christiansted, St. Croix.
enjoyed the casual fare and excellent view at Rum Runners in Christiansted. Voted best for just about everything by tourists and locals, Rum Runners serves up a mean fish taco and sumptuous conch fritters. They serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner – and given more time, I would have sampled all three. Live steel pan music added to the island vibe, and made us sad to realize our day on St. Croix had come to an end.

I wasn’t surprised how quickly my family fell in love with the island. I got bit by the St. Croix bug years ago, and was excited to finally share it with them. After we boarded the ship and watched St. Croix fade into the distance from our cabin balcony, I asked my daughters when they wanted to go back. Their response was a resounding “Now!” Ditto, girls.

~~~

Kristy Tolley, from Tega Cay, South Carolina, is a freelance travel copywriter with a soft spot for the Caribbean. Her blog reflects that love - and other amusements. She's no stranger to traveling boldly. She's traveled with children, and has forgotten to pack deodorant on occasion. You can follow her on Twitter @KristyTolley to share ideas on what she should write about next - or share packing tips.

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