Escape Island Glitz in St. Croix

1. Where to Stay

Club Comanche offers modern amenities in one of St. Croix's oldest buildings.Photo: Courtesy of Club Comanche

Ignore its lackluster website: Christiansted’s Club Comanche (from $135) is one of the island’s most elegant inns, with polished hardwood floors, mahogany and rattan furnishings, and plantation-era antiques throughout. The hotel’s 23 rooms are split between an eighteenth-century home and a newer extension, but accommodations in the main house have more charm. Either way, you’re steps from the waterfront as well as shops, galleries, and restaurants.

Settle into an idyllic, country-club-like atmosphere at The Buccaneer (from $310), a 240-acre resort with an arsenal of amenities, including a new spa, a private dock, and an eighteen-hole golf course overlooking the ocean. Dominated by a pink seventeenth-century Great House, the property has received a glossy makeover thanks to a $5 million renovation completed in January.

Find the intimacy of a B&B paired with the convenience of a modern hotel at the five-room Villa Greenleaf (from $200), where owner Jeff Teel oversees everything from airport transfers and car rentals to restaurant reservations—not to mention breakfasts of papaya-stuffed French toast and tomato and basil frittatas. Some of the spacious rooms overlook mango and mahogany trees in the garden, but book the Belvedere Suite for its screened-in terrace with ocean views.

2. Where to Eat

Locals head to eat@canebay for casual Sunday brunches.Photo: Courtesy of eat@canebay

Make reservations several days in advance for dinner at Sale e Miele (57C Company St.; 340-719-0510) a tiny, year-old deli-cum-trattoria in downtown Christiansted. Owners Michael and Rosaria hail from Florence, and their blackboard-scrawled menu, which changes daily, combines the best of Italy and the Caribbean. Expect prosciutto di parma with fresh cantaloupe ($12), native mahi alla puttanesca ($24), and panna cotta with blackberries ($7).

Linger alongside locals over Carolina-style pulled-pork sandwiches ($11) and hand-cut French fries ($2.50) at eat@canebay. Husband-and-wife duo Frank and Kat Pugliese left their more formal restaurant Bacchus (still worth a visit for its stellar wine list) to open this casual beach eatery eighteen months ago, which is most popular for its Sunday brunches featuring build-your-own eggs Benedict ($12.50), seafood-stuffed crêpes ($15), live reggae, and the latest island gossip.

Taste some of the best locally sourced food on the island at Rowdy Joe’s (east of Cane Beach, North Shore Road; 340-718-0055), where the fish is caught fresh daily. Inside, there’s a dark, cozy dining room accessorized by dartboards and TVs, while outside there’s a spacious patio. Locals come for the super-fresh fish tacos with mango-habanero slaw ($13). Save room for homemade ice cream like vanilla praline and espresso white chocolate ($5).

3. What to Do

Turtle Beach is a pristine place to swim and snorkel on nearby Buck Island.Photo: Courtesy of

St. Croix’s intermittently sandy coastline means beaches are spread out—and best explored by car. If you only visit one, Sandy Point is the island’s largest and most pristine—though, because it’s also a national wildlife refuge, the beach is only open on weekends. On the opposite end of St. Croix, Jack’s and Isaac’s Bay are remote, neighboring stretches, accessible only by foot, but worth the hike if you’re seeking seclusion. Buck Island’s famed white-sand Turtle Beach can only be accessed via boat: Book Captain Llewellyn Westerman’s six-man trimaran (340-773-9027; $75 or $95 per person for four or six hours) and get a local’s take on the islands.

Take a break from the sand and sea in Christiansted, which has an array of boutiques. There are plenty of jewelry stores to choose from, but everyone goes to Sonya Ltd. for Cruzan hook bracelets (from $40). Down the street, Whealan Massicott’s hand-fashioned earrings, necklaces, and rings, made of hammered silver and gold ($60-$2,000), can be found at ib Designs. You can also stock up on blown-glass Christmas ornaments ($12) at Mitchell Larsen Studio.

Tap into the locavore scene with a visit to Ridge to Reef Farm, a permaculture farm in the rain forest that’s been championing the island’s slow-food movement since 2003. The 200-acre campus regularly offers volunteer opportunities and workshops, but try to attend the monthly Slow Down Dinner (suggested $60 donation; BYOB), a six-course meal made only with local ingredients. Past dishes have included Creque Dam greens with honey mango vinaigrette, banana latkes with smoked mahi, and passion fruit tuna seviche.

4. Insider’s Tip

Frederiksted Pier is where islanders fish in the evenings.Photo: Flickr/lizsullivan

St. Croix is known for its sport fishing, but chartering a boat with Captain Carl Holley or other locals can cost up to $900 for the full day. For a cheaper, more laid-back experience, head to the on-island Kmart (Sunshine Mall, Rte. 70, 340-692-5848) and pick up a low-priced fishing rod ($15 to $20) and grilling equipment for a beachside meal. Then rent a kayak at Salt River National Park ($15/hour for single-seaters or $25/hour for double-seaters) on the north shore, where you can catch tarpin, snook, and mangrove snapper. Alternatively, head to Frederiksted Pier on the west side of the island, where locals gather at night to catch bluefish and snapper by moonlight.

5. Oddball Day

The Cruzan Rum Distillery has been producing the spirit for more than 250 years.Photo: Courtesy of Cruzan Rum Distillery

Prep for a day of exploring of St. Croix’s burgeoning cocktail culture with breakfast at Polly’s at the Pier (3 Strand Street; 340-719-9434) in downtown Frederiksted for organic juices and homemade muffins. Then it’s on to a tour of the Cruzan Rum Distillery ($4 admission). The historic facility dates back to 1760, and the rum-making process hasn’t changed much since then. Next, venture into the rain forest to see how locals drink their rum: The longstanding Montpellier Domino Club (Rt. 76 and Mahogany Rd.; 340-713-9052) is known for its spicy-sweet rum concoction known as Mama Juana. Nibble on the island’s best ribs and johnnycakes while you’re there, but steer clear of tourists who come to feed a cold one to the beer-drinking pigs. Take a break from the bottle at the Whim Plantation ($8 admission), an eighteenth-century sugar plantation turned museum dedicated to exploring the everyday life of colonial society in the islands. End the night at Salud Bistro, where bartender Jesse Card, who came to the islands by way of Portland and the Lower East Side, mixes modern takes on classic tipples. Try the new-age gimlet with barrel-aged green tea Hendricks gin, lime, orange bitters, and demerara syrup ($8).

6. Links

Go to St. Croix covers the basics and lists upcoming events like Agrifest, the island’s annual agricultural fair.

Jesse Card’s St. Croix Libation Society is a great resource for opinionated takes on restaurants and bars, but it’s currently getting a makeover. In the meantime, follow him on is a great resource for tracking down travel deals to the Virgin Islands., including St. Croix. Right now they’re promoting a package for $500 off bookings made by March 31.

Escape Island Glitz in St. Croix