A Food-Lover's Guide to St. Croix, the Most Affordable Caribbean Island
A few weeks ago, my husband Peter and I ran off to St. Croix for a few days with little expectations, plans, or clothes. (You know, 80-degree weather and all.) To make things even more unexpected, I became a vegetarian two weeks before our trip. My husband blames Lent; I blame my need to be difficult (for fun).
Along with St. John and St. Thomas, St. Croix is one of the United States Virgin Islands, which means you don't need a passport to get there. It is also, apparently, the often forgotten island — which is good news for those of us who don't forget it: There are minimal tourists inhabiting the tiny island, it's super affordable (especially as far as tropical getaways go), and we loved the food.
You'll find mostly anything you need to know about restaurants via the locals. Everyone is so friendly and willing to suggest their favorite place, especially if you look slightly lost. We would ask one question, and get a recommendation for about five places!
When it comes to dinner, though, you need to be on island time. We were on New York dinner time, and realized that many of the restaurants closed before we even had a chance to get there. There are weird hours for almost every restaurant, so just do the work and find out timing in advance.
Without further adieu, here's my food lover's guide to St. Croix.
A Food-Lover's Guide to St. Croix
The One Food You Should Try
Conch, a sort of sea snail with a chewy, rubbery texture, is a Crucian specialty. You can find it everywhere from high-end restaurants to beachside shacks; it might be doused in butter sauce, served ceviche-style, or deep-fried.
A Restaurant That's Worth Seeking Out
In Christiansted, Ital In Paradise is so unassuming, my husband almost turned back around. But I'm glad we didn't! The guy who takes your order is also the chef. After waiting a few minutes, he came out with the most beautiful plate of rice, collard greens, and fish for my husband and lentil balls for me. After finishing up, I went ahead and ordered more because I loved them so much.
The Dish I'd Fly Back For
I'd fly back for the rum French toast from Toast. It's seriously so good. We went while they were in the middle of switching their menus around, but the food was so delicious and fresh. Again, you could see the owner and chef making the food from your table.
If You Want Super-Fresh Fish
Rowdy Joe's is the place to go for super-fresh fish. Order the fish tacos with mango slaw!
The Best New Restaurant
Chef Digby Stridiron is a native of St. Croix and something of a local superstar. Not only is his year-old restaurant Balter the talk of the town, but the 33-year-old is also a culinary ambassador of St. Croix and a champion of sustainability. This is the table to book if you're after West Indian food done very, very well.
Farmers Market Finds
On Saturday mornings, bring your tote bag to La Reine Farmers Market (not to be confused with Le Reine Chicken Shack, which is where I've heard you should go for the best rotisserie chicken in the Caribbean). Here you can find fruits and veggies, spices and hot sauces, and fish so fresh they look like they might jump off the table.
Now for Some Bad News
If you are a coffee-lover, be prepared to be a bit disappointed. To be honest, I don't think coffee is the island's thing, but Toast did the iced coffee justice.
Bonus: A Non-Foodie Thing You Should Totally Do
Hike to the Carambola tide pools. It's a collective five-mile hike, and there's no food in sight. It's steep and you need to be careful and somewhat fit. I wouldn't bring children, but it was a life-changing experience that totally lived up to everything we could have imagined.
Getting There & Staying There
There were no direct flights to St. Croix (STX) from New York, so we flew through Miami (and got stuck there for a few days on our return because of a blizzard).
The island is small, but you'll want a car to fully experience it. I would recommend booking your car in advance; we made the mistake and thought this wasn't necessary and almost all of the cars were rented.
Note that they drive on the left-hand side of the street. This can seem scary, but it was one of the most fun things we did, taking in all the beauty the island offers by just driving around.
We stayed at The Buccaneer Hotel, which we'd heard from friends is the best place to stay on the island. We highly recommend the hotel; they offer accommodations that really can't be matched on the island (which goes for the rate card, too).
If you're looking for a less pricey option, there are a handful of hotels in the $100-per-night range, as well as sweet and colorful Airbnbs like this one (isn't it cute?).
Have you been to St. Croix? What are your best bites?