Inviting waters surrounding St. Croix

You can appreciate the warm, inviting waters surrounding St. Croix in any number of ways, from snorkeling and scuba diving to kayaking, sailing, and windsurfing. Spend a day or two soaking up the sun at St. Croix’s lovely beaches – be sure to wear sunscreen!

View gorgeous coral reefs and an abundance of fish with the aid of mask and snorkel. St. Croix’s most popular tourist destination is Buck Island’s underwater trail, just off the northeastern coast, which is restricted to snorkelers. Getting there is half the fun – vessels leaving from Christiansted and the north shore include motorized boats, graceful sloops, and speedy tri-marans. Half-day and full-day excursions are available. Try Mile Mark Watersports (340-773-2628) or Big Beard’s Adventure Tours (340-773-4482, www.BigBeards.com). Hotel on the Cay is a private island just a short ferry ride from downtown Christiansted which has a large designated snorkel area just off its sandy beach. A mini marine habitat in less than three feet of water is perfect for beginners, non-swimmers, and kids. There is also a 15-foot drop off nearby, where eagle rays, squid, and octopus have been known to visit. Other snorkel sites you might want to try include Davis Bay, near Cane Bay, where you can snorkel from the beach, and Green Cay, a tiny offshore island reachable by small craft such as a kayak or a sailboard. Explore coral and sea fans, and swim among the turtles, parrot fish, blue tangs, and more.

St. Croix scuba diving is some of the best in the Caribbean. You can access the famous “Cane Bay Wall” right from the beach. The Salt River region has what many consider to be the island’s finest diving. Its east wall features a sharp 100-foot drop marked by canyons and caves cut into the wall’s face, and large schools of fish are a frequent sight. Frederiksted Pier, with its substantial pilings covered with brilliant sponges, and sea horses, octopus, batfish, squid, puffer fish, and lizard fish make this a great introductory dive or night dive. Finally, just north of Frederiksted is the wreck of the Rosamaria, a 177-foot steel-hulled freighter that is now encrusted with pink and red sponges and attracts a number of fish.

Many of the dive shops are based in historic Christiansted, and many dives depart from the Christiansted harbor. If you have never dived before, you might consider enrolling in an inexpensive resort course that will allow you to make shallow reef dives after just a few hours of training. Numerous dive shops also carry a wide variety of dive equipment for rent or purchase. One dive operator that we like is St. Croix Ultimate Bluewater Adventures (209-372-0263).

Parasailing provides the opportunity to see the island from a unique perspective, and it’s safe even though you’re hundreds of feet in the air. St. Croix is also regarded as one of the top locations in the world to practice windsurfing, thanks to the steady 10-to-20-knot winds out of the east, the gorgeous scenery, and the combination of glassy-smooth waters and churning waves. Salt River is a great place for experts to try windsurfing, with the strongest winds on the island and the highest surf. Hotel on the Cay has calm waters more suitable for novices. For a great time contact Dillon at Cruzan Breeze Parasailing (cruzanbreezeparasailing@gmail.com or (340) 642-0723). They have locations in Christiansted Harbor and Rainbow Beach in Fredricksted.

The Virgin Islands are often cited as the having the world’s best sailing, thanks to continual trade winds, generally calm seas, and excellent line-of-sight navigation. You can arrange excursions at the wharf in Christiansted, at Green Cay Marina, and at St. Croix marina. Sunfish and Hobie Cats can be rented on the beach at the major resorts.

Kayaking through the Salt River National Historic Park and Ecological Preserves is an experience nature lovers won’t want to miss. Caribbean Adventure Tours (340-778-1522, www.StCroixKayak.com) does an excellent tour. The St. Croix Water Sports Center (340-773-7060) also rents kayaks in addition to a number of other types of water sports equipment.

The Virgin Islands have been host to world-record fishing in recent years. The deep blue waters surrounding St. Croix are home to wahoo, mahi-mahi, tuna, and marlin. Captain Carl Holley (340-277-4042, www.FishWithCarl.com) and Fantasy Sportfishing (340-773-2628, www.CaribbeanSeaAdventures.com) offer excellent charter options. Closer to shore, you’ll find snapper, bonefish, and maybe tarpon. Call Salty Dog Charters (340-513-9273 or 340-719-1744).

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