The US Virgin Islands, Part II

the three virgin islands

St. Croix

Christiansted was our main hub, a quaint town full of ruinous stone buildings and colourful houses hugging a boardwalk speckled with boats and bars. The seaplane terminal is there, as well as private boats to charter and tour boats that take you on scuba and snorkeling trips. I’d recommend the Kindered Spirit for charters, a Buck Island snorkel tour, and Brewpub for some delicious micro-brews and 2for1 drinks on Tuesday eves.

Frederiksted is a cross between a deserted colonial town and one big souvenir shop, since the islands only cruise ship harbor is there. Frederiksted beach is nice, with Coco’s beach bar serving Big Beard Pale Ale, an island local. Rainbow beach is even nicer, Rhythms bar grilling shrimp kebabs which always seem to run out.

Cruzan Rum distillery

Between the two cities is the Cruzan Rum factory, where I went on a distillery tour whose main attraction is the unlimited rum tasting that follows. Estate Whim, the islands main historical attraction, is an old cane plantation turned museum which closes on Tuesdays, when you can still walk freely around the plantation grounds without paying the $10 entrance fee. There’s also a gas station on the main road through the island, but they’re out of gas, as of last Wednesday, yet still open… bizarre.

It was the weekend of AgriFair when we arrived, the year’s biggest event, comparable to a state fair but with much better food. Goat curries, kalaloo and roti competitions are held between vendors, but every stall seems to serve the same, scrumptious menu.

The east side of the island, Point Udall, is the easternmost part of the United States. It’s

Point Udall

commemorated with a strange stone statue that kind of looks like a large sundial or metaphorical compass, but nearby is the hiking trail to secluded Isaac and Jack’s bay –beaches  well worth the hike to see and bathe topless in privacy.

On the north side, we visited Cane Bay, yet another beautiful beach, and Salt River Bay, the landing point of Christopher Columbus in the 15th century that fills with bioluminescent water after dusk. We hiked to the Carambola Tide pools, a seductive little lagoon nestled in black rock boulders that protect you from the splashing waves. The trail head pointed us 2.1 miles to the “falls” which we couldn’t figure out where to find or how to spot in the dry season, but once a few big waves hit the lagoon wall, the rocks poured down water above our heads, turning one side of the lagoon into a narrow cave.

Carambola Tide pools

St. Thomas

We landed in St. Thomas in the east harbor, Red Hook, and flagged down a safari bus for the $2 trip to Charlotte Amalie. They’re called safaris because they’re 350hp+ trucks whose flatbeds have been turned into rows of bench seating, resembling a typical, African safari jeep. We went to a beach somewhere near Red Town whose name I never learned, accompanied by our Uncle who admitted he hadn’t been to a beach in 10 or 15 years. We met 3 Americans there who didn’t think it was weird to try and ‘charm’ me and Ursula despite his presence. Though we expressed some awkwardness, they insisted on buying shots and buckets of coronas, while blaring techno from their portable boom box. Our uncle took the opportunity to make a new friend nearby instead of trying to keep refusing their offers for a drink.

We went to Morningside beach for another day of sun, an extension of the Marriot Resort in Charlotte Amalie where my uncle decided to have my celebratory birthday meal. He also took us to breakfast one morning in Frenchtown, and then stuck by our side for a night out at the Fat Turtle where he sat quietly near by while we danced and drank with crew from Donald Trumps

Estate Whim plantation

private yacht (it probably wasn’t really Trumps boat, but it sounds nice). My uncle then took us on a 1 hour driving tour at 1 am through the pitch black roads which prevented us from actually seeing anything he was talking about. He really liked escorting us around, or so it seemed.

The day we left St. Thomas, we spent the afternoon at the airport-side Emerald beach, where we watched plane after plane take off, and met a South African captain and Quebecois chef from some other private boat. We drank painkillers and bushwhackers, and I indulged in the free wifi at the bar to start reading the flood of birthday wellwishes starting to come in.

St. John

Most of St. John island is a national park, but Cruz Bay is a little town with a pretty nice beach and everything you would ever need including $1 happy hour and amazing barbeque ribs from Candies o   little shack. We met a guy there who had been backpacking the tiny island for 4 weeks, and he gave us a map circled with all the important points of interest we had to see in our day or two there. We hitchhiked to all the trail heads, hiking through the rain forest to see some ancient petroglyphs, snorkeling at Waterlemon Bay and bodysurfing waves at Cinnamon Bay.

me and Ursula at Cinnamon Bay

We ferried between St. John and St. Thomas, and had to fly between St. Thomas and St. Croix since they’re about 80 miles apart. We went back to St. Croix for the eve of my birthday, and on the 26th I had to swap Ursula for Matt, another friend from NYC who landed at the same time her flight departed. Me and Matt then spent a couple more days on St. Croix at his friend’s apartment, before flying back to St. Thomas where we boarded a 45 minute ferry to Tortola, to begin a long weekend of island hopping the British Virgin Islands.

 

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