St Croix in the US Virgin Islands – a paradise in the Caribbean. Of the three islands that make up the USVI, St Croix has the reputation as the most laid back and authentic. Visitors to St Croix will find pristine white sand beaches, turquoise blue water, friendly people, and a real sense of history and culture. St Croix is not a big island – you can drive from one side to the other in an hour. And it only has two main towns. The larger Christiansted on the northern coast, and the smaller quieter Frederiksted, 30 minutes away on the island’s west end.
When I travel, I try to seek out the “soul” of a place. I try to avoid resorts, I want to eat in plenty of local restaurants, and I want to explore the backroads. Basing our St Croix vacation in the quieter, less-developed Frederiksted gave me that opportunity. Plus the beaches on the island’s West End are fantastic! Let me show you everything I discovered in Frederiksted St Croix USVI.
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Where to Stay in Frederiksted
Frederiksted St Croix does not have any chain hotels, large resorts, or big condo buildings. Instead you will find scattered smaller boutique hotels. It’s truly a sleepy beachside town.
Cottages By The Sea
We stayed at Cottages by the Sea. This small hotel is a collection of cottages located directly on the beach, about 1 mile south of Frederiksted town center. The 27 cottages come in various sizes, and most have full kitchens and private patios. Several have direct ocean views. Ours had a “garden view”, but we could see out to the ocean from our bedroom window, and the beach was just steps away. The interiors are updated and well-kept. The bed may have been the most comfortable I’ve ever slept on while traveling.
The beach here was beautiful and peaceful. White sand, turquoise water, very little surf, and few people. We would spend most mornings intermittently relaxing in the property’s beach chairs and floating in the Caribbean.
I’ve since learned that we were lucky to get a reservation here. Many guests are regulars and visit annually for long periods of time, often booking for the following year at departure. I think we must have scored after someone else cancelled. Plan ahead if you would like to stay here.
The Fred is the newest hotel in Frederiksted St Croix. It occupies a restored historic estate on the beach just south of town. We were told multiple times by locals that this 22-room boutique hotel has a Miami South Beach vibe. We drove past several times and the music was definitely thumping. The Fred seemed to be the most upscale lodging in the area.
If I hadn’t been lucky enough to get our cottage at Cottages by the Sea, the Victoria House was lined up as my second choice. Like The Fred, it is also a recently restored historic estate. It sits in the middle of town, directly across from the waterfront. The views from the property’s forward rooms seemed great. The rooms look to have a beautiful Caribbean decor, and I read that the management & staff was awesome. But unlike the other two hotels I’ve mentioned, it is not directly beachside.
Things to Do In Frederiksted
While vacationing in a Caribbean paradise, beach time is the priority. And Frederiksted St Croix has some great beaches. But my wanderlust doesn’t allow me to stay at the beach all day every day. There is plenty more to do in and around Frederiksted if, like me, you want to get out of that beachside lounger from time to time.
Rainbow Beach – One of the most popular beaches in St Croix sits about 1 mile north of Frederiksted. In fact, TripAdvisor ranks a visit to Rainbow Beach as the #2 activity on the whole island. The beach is beautiful for sure, but so are others on the island. Perhaps it gets the high rank because West End Water Sports sits on the beach’s edge providing convenient water toy rentals. And then one of the island’s best eateries – Rhythms – is there too (more on that below).
Sandcastle Beach – Cottages by the Sea sits on Sandcastle Beach, and I’ve already extolled its virtues. All beaches in St Croix are public, so anyone can enjoy this beautiful beach where we spent our idyllic Caribbean days.
Dorsch Beach – This stretch of beach sits immediately south of Frederiksted. It’s narrower than the other two, but it seemed very popular with the locals. They would park along its length towards the end of every day, and eat, swim, listen to music, and watch the sunset.
Sandy Point National Wildlife Refuge
Sandy Point is another beautiful beach south of Frederiksted. This 2-mile long white sand beach sits at the very southwest tip of St Croix. This is the beach where Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman meet up at the end of Shawshank Redemption – supposedly Mexico, but actually St Croix. Sandy Point is only open on weekends and is closed altogether from April to August for turtle nesting season. The endangered leatherback turtle nests here, along with two other endangered sea turtle species – the hawksbill sea turtle and the green sea turtle.
Because we visited in May, we were not able to visit Sandy Point. But, the turtles don’t nest exclusively along the Refuge. Cottages by the Sea had a turtle watch station on the premises, and we were shown pictures of baby turtles hatching on the hotel’s beachfront a few weeks prior to our arrival. Turtle spotters patrol the beaches in the area nightly.
Fort Frederik is an 18th century fort located at the northern edge of the town center. From 1754-1917, St Croix belonged to Denmark. Forts were constructed to protect each of the island’s two main towns – Christiansted and Frederiksted (both named for Danish Kings). Fort Frederik is now a US Historic Landmark and open weekdays for self-guided tours. The admission is $5. Touring the fort provides a glimpse into the island’s colonial past. And since it was also used as a prison, it also offers some understanding of the hardships faced by the slaves used to help build the island’s sugar industry.
In fact, Frederiksted has a nickname – Freedom City. It was here, at the fort, where a slave uprising began in 1848, ultimately leading to the ending of slavery on the island. The historic Danish Customs House sits next to Fort Frederik, and in front stands a statue commemorating the uprising.
Just south of the Fort, a long pier juts out into the ocean. While St Thomas is one of the busiest cruise ports in the Caribbean, only one cruise ship docks at St Croix each week. And it is here at the Frederiksted Pier, not in larger Christiansted.
The Pier is also a popular diving and snorkeling spot on the West side of the Island. Several dive shops can be found right across the street in town.
Downtown Frederiksted is not large – approximately 5 blocks in both directions. You can easily explore the whole area in less than an hour. It’s an eclectic mix of beautifully restored 2- story Victorian buildings and buildings crumbling from time, neglect, and hurricanes. In between, you’ll find hidden courtyards, unexpected street art, free-roaming chickens, and shops scattered here and there. Some may call it a bit run-down. I personally love the authenticity found in this sort of place.
A Convenient Base
St Croix is not a big island. As I’ve already mentioned, you can drive from one side to the other in an hour. From Frederiksted, it’s easy to see everything else that St. Croix has to offer. I’ve outlined some of our other island adventures and dining choices in other St Croix posts. Click here to read about our half day adventure snorkeling Buck Island Reef – one of the great coral reefs in the Caribbean. And click here to check out some of the other great things to do on St Croix.
Where to Eat in Frederiksted
We stayed in Frederiksted for 5 nights. During our stay, we had a chance to eat at many of Frederiksted’s most popular restaurants. Here’s my take on each.
Rhythms at Rainbow Beach
This is a beach side bar and restaurant located at the south end of Rainbow Beach. We ate lunch here and both of us opted for the daily special – a sandwich featuring a freshly caught tuna steak with a ginger aioli. It was delicious. The accompanying fries were also crisp and flavorful. Rhythms sits right above the ocean with a commanding view of the Caribbean and Rainbow Beach to the north.
TripAdvisor: #3 in Frederiksted Google: 4.6 My grade: A
Polly’s at the Pier
This is the most popular place in Frederiksted for breakfast. It features a breakfast menu of build-your-own breakfast burritos and scrambles. Wraps and rice bowls for lunch. It has an indoor dining area, a patio in the back, and a few tables out front with a view out across to the Frederiksted Pier. TripAdvisor ranks it #1 for Frederiksted and #2 for the entire island. We ate breakfast here one morning. I thought the food was pretty average, and the servings were small.
TripAdvisor: #1 in Frederiksted Google: 4.6 My grade: B-
Louis & Nacho’s Beach Bar
This beachside bar shares a space with two other popular Frederiksted St Croix eateries. Louis & Nachos is on the upper floor. Turtles Deli and Smoke STX BBQ are located in an adjoining building, and use the open space directly underneath L&N for a dining area. The menu features tacos and nachos, and the view out across the Caribbean is great.
I tried a couple of different kinds of tacos and they were OK. In fairness, I can be hard to please when it comes to tacos. But, the flour tortilla was too flimsy for the filling, and they seemed to use a universal remoulade on all the tacos. Also, my mahi mahi taco was filled with shrimp. When I pointed this out, I was told that it was indeed mahi mahi. Sure tasted like shrimp though. I did enjoy the unique filling for the jambalaya taco which featured a flavorful combination of Andouille sausage, chicken, shrimp (or was it mahi mahi?)
TripAdvisor: #7 Google: 4.4 My grade: C+
Turtle Deli serves up the largest sandwiches I have ever seen. To get one of these monsters, you place your order in a ground floor building offset from the main building. The kitchen is then located just next to the outdoor dining area underneath Louis & Nachos, where you pick up your food when ready. The ingredients were fresh… with the exception of the bread. It had a tendency to fall apart and made eating such a large sandwich difficult.
TripAdvisor: #2 Google: 4.5 My grade: B
I seldom order sausage at a BBQ joint. Pulled Pork or Brisket are my BBQ mainstays. But I guess I was in the mood for something with more fat after our long journey to Frederiksted. This was our first meal after arriving on the island. We stopped in here because we were really hungry, and we figured it would be fast (it was). Smoke STX shares the ordering counter, the kitchen, and the outdoor dining space with Turtles Deli. The sandwich packed a lot of flavor, and the bun held up much better than Turtle’s bread.
TripAdvisor: #10 Google: 4.5 My grade: B+
(One of my favorite meals on St Croix was at a BBQ joint near Christiansted called Blues’ Backyard BBQ and Grill. You can click here to read about this fun dining spot on the island. It gets an A from me.)
I generally don’t seek out vegan food when I travel. But I noticed that this small cafe had some rave reviews on Google, and so checked it out. Rastafarianism is prevalent throughout the Caribbean, not just Jamaica, and Rastafari eat vegan. So, vegan restaurants are common in St Croix. Roots-N-Kulchah is located down one of Frederiksted’s side streets and features a few tables inside with a few more outside in a small courtyard. The chef features just three menu items each day, chosen from his board of options depending on the availability of ingredients. I ordered the day’s curry served over a sweet potato. It was packed with flavor and fresh ingredients. And beautifully plated!
TripAdvisor: #13 Google: 4.6 My grade: A
This small restaurant is located within a beautifully restored building on Frederiksted’s front street with views out to sea. Rise Caribbean focuses mostly on breakfast and lunch, only opening for dinner on Sunday nights. I had really wanted to try some of their Caribbean-inspired lunch entrees, but couldn’t work a lunch visit into our schedule. We managed to fit in our last breakfast here though, and my Bacon and Egg sandwich was perhaps the best I’ve ever had. The vegetable salsa sitting on top of the egg and bacon packed a ton of savory flavor.
TripAdvisor: #14 Google: 4.8 My grade: A
(Don’t let the lower TripAdvisor ranks on the last two restaurants fool you. Herein lies the reason to not make dining decisions based solely on TripAdvisor reviews. These two restaurants – two of my trip favorites – are ranked relatively lower on TripAdvisor. This has far more to do with the fact that they are newer, and have fewer reviews overall, than with their obvious quality. Consequently, I never base my dining decisions solely on Tripadvisor rankings)
69 Restaurant and Bar
This was our fine dining experience in Frederiksted. 69 Restaurant and Bar sits in a courtyard off the front street, and I stumbled upon it while waiting for our breakfast at nearby Polly’s. I was intrigued by the pictures of their fried red snapper I found online. And that dish, served with artichoke butter, was delicious. The rest of our food was mediocre. The fresh catch ceviche appetizer – featuring yellowfin tuna – was bland. Mrs TTs lobster ravioli was breaded and fried. The breading seemed to be the dish’s dominant flavor. The courtyard setting was nice and the quality of the roosters roaming through was upscale too. They were the prettiest we saw on an island full of roaming roosters.
TripAdvisor: #8 Google: 4.2 My grade: B-
La Reine Chicken Shack
Though not in Frederiksted, La Reine Chicken Shack is only a 20 minute drive away. It’s one of the most popular places to eat on the whole island with locals and tourists alike. The Shack is famous for its rotisserie chickens – roasted over open coals in the back. The food here is inexpensive and the menu features a lot of other Caribbean favorites, too. Not just chicken. They are also well-known for their excellent Johnny Cakes – a Caribbean staple of fried dough. A tourist couple we met at our hotel drove there two nights in a row just for the Johnny Cakes.
But if you visit, get there early in the day. We arrived around 5 pm and they were sold out of most everything. Chicken and Johnny Cakes was our only choice.
And I hoped for more from the chicken. I expected juicy smoky goodness after watching them slow roast over the coals. But instead, I found it quite bland. The Johnny Cakes were a revelation though. Warm, chewy, slightly sweet, and delicious. I could not fault our hotel friends for their repeat trips.
TripAdvisor: #9 (for St Croix as a whole) Google: 4.5 My grade: C+
Final Tips and Thoughts
Driving in Frederiksted
In order to see all that St Croix has to offer from your base in Frederiksted, I would definitely recommend renting a car. But note – the Virgin Islands are the only place in United States territory where cars drive on the left-hand side of the road. I personally did not find it difficult to adjust. Also, many of the roads in St Croix – especially around Frederiksted – are not in great shape. Lots of potholes everywhere. I rented a Jeep and I’m glad we did. Its tires and suspension were better suited for the driving conditions.
Beware of the Sandflies
I never saw a mosquito, but returned home with approximately 80 sandfly bites. I’ve since read that sandflies are a common issue in the Caribbean. Ironically, I had bug repellant with me. I never used it though, because these little buggers are truly no-see-ums. The bites really didn’t start to bloom until the last day of the trip and on the itchy plane ride home.
The Most Clever Way To Advertise Ever
One evening we were sitting on our patio, and a dog walks around the corner and sits next to us. She was wearing a vest with a large laminated card tucked inside. Of course, we had to pull it out and look. It was an advertisement for a local water sports company. She actually sat with us for a while. Ultimately we heard a whistle from the beach and she left. Mrs TT followed the whistle too, intending to return the card. The owner told her to keep it and introduced the dog as his director of marketing. Brilliant! There is no way we would not have looked at that card 🙂
We visited in mid May. Temperatures reached the high 80s during the days, but the usual beachside winds kept things relatively comfortable. The air conditioning at our cottage was definitely appreciated. Overall, it wasn’t nearly as humid as I expected. May can be one of the island’s rainier months, but we never experienced any. Of course, be aware that hurricane season in the Caribbean starts in June and extends into November.
I never felt unsafe during our visit. Crime against tourists is reportedly rare in St Croix.
Things definitely move slower on St Croix. Food is served a little slower and store clerks take their time. The pace of life is just different. No one is in a hurry. And isn’t that how a vacation should be anyway? It wasn’t difficult at all for us to adjust to Island Time. In fact, I really miss Island Time. And I know you won’t regret soaking up Island Time in Frederiksted St Croix US Virgin Islands!