St. Croix, USVI
Just east of Puerto Rico -- and south of sister islands St. Thomas and St. John -- rises the largest of the U.S. Virgin Islands: The 82 pastoral square miles of St. Croix. If you feel St. Thomas is too busy and St. John too quiet, St. Croix may be just what you're looking for: A great balance of culture, beaches, history, and exciting outdoor -- and underwater -- activities.
Before You Go: Need-to-know info
5 hours from NYC, 10 hours from Los Angeles, 7 hours from Chicago, 6 hours from Dallas
Taxi, bus, rental car (keep left!), ferry
Passport, or photo I.D. and original birth certificate
When to Go: St. Croix at its best
February to August. Year-round temperatures range from 69 (winter evenings) to 84 degrees. Rainy season runs from September to January.
Mid-April to mid-December
Why To Go
Outdoors is where it's at on St. Croix. Canter through a rain forest on horseback, pedal the island's western coast with a rented bike, or kayak the Salt River. While you’re at it, you can learn about the island's history and fascinating fauna (including the Pain Killer, Monkey-No-Climb, and Stinking Toe trees).
Dive with seahorses at Frederiksted Pier (also a popular night-dive spot); explore one of four wrecks at Butler Bay; or visit the colorful five-mile-long Cane Bay Wall, site of a sponge big enough to stand in (although doing so would kill it). Not a diver? Snorkelers will love Buck Island Reef National Monument, where you can swim with parrotfish and blue tangs among dramatic reef structures. There are many chartered boats that will take you out to sea in day, night, or -- our favorite -- sunset.
In both the coastal towns of Christiansted and Victorian-inspired Frederiksted, tin-roof buildings draped in brilliant bougainvillea are painted in Easter egg colors including pale yellow, pink, sage, and ochre. Arcaded sidewalks lead you past little shops, galleries, and restaurants. Stop and skim the historical plaques you'll see to get a glimpse into the island's past.