ruins. It is home to some of the largest mangrove forests
in the Virgin Islands, as well as coral reefs and a
submarine canyon. Every major period of human
habitation in the Virgin Islands is represented: several
South American Indian cultures, the extermination of the
Caribs by the Spanish, attempts at colonization by a
succession of European nations, and enslaved West
Africans and their descendants.
This location is the first and only positively
documented of two sites associated with Columbus on
what is now U.S. territory. On Nov. 14, 1493, on his
second voyage to the New World, Columbus came upon
the island that the then-dominant Caribs called
Cibuquiera (“The Stony Land”). Columbus named it
Santa Cruz (“Holy Cross”), which helped give the island
its name today. The fleet of 17 vessels (including the
Niña, veteran of the first voyage) dropped anchor off the
Salt River inlet.
The Visitor Center at Salt River Bay is open
November through June. The hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. When the Visitor
Center is closed, information may be obtained at the
National Park Service visitor contact station at Fort
Christianvaern, part of the Christiansted National
Historic Site. (Hours are 8 a.m. to 4: 45 p.m. Monday
through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 4: 45 p.m. on weekends and
holidays.) Park staff may be available for scheduled tours
ashore at Salt River Bay. Those wishing to visit may
contact rangers at 340.773.1460 two weeks in advance;
rangers will do their best to meet your requests. Scuba
diving, snorkeling, kayaking, and hiking tours can be
arranged, too. Contact the Virgin Islands Department of
Tourism at 340.773.0495, or the St. Croix Chamber of
Commerce at 340.733.1435, for more information.
Visitors are sure to encounter some of St. Croix’s rich
cultural diversity in the form of arts, crafts, and music
at festivals that happen throughout the year. “Mocko
Jumbies” (talented dancers who perform on stilts), reggae
and calypso music, steel bands and salsa—all are among
the vibrant sights and sounds that add to the island’s
broad cultural mix. St. Croix is also the home of two
large rum producers: Cruzan Rum, distillers of the
Single Barrel brand, and Diageo of Captain Morgan
fame. Both distilleries are open for tours.
And did I fail to mention that St. Croix is a diving
destination for experienced and newbie scuba divers
alike? There are more than 70 moored dive sites along
the northern and western shorelines, with attractions
that range from deep walls to reefs alive with tropical
fish, rays, dolphins, and sharks. As you might expect,
there are a number of certified dive shops to help you
explore these underwater beauties.
Blessed with captivating natural beauty, extraordinary
historic sites, and lively cultural traditions, St. Croix offers
a mix of attractions that are worthy of your cruising
plans. For more information about St. Croix, log on to
www.visitstcroix.com. For more information about the
U.S. Virgin Islands, go to www.visitUSVI.com.