The US Virgin Islands are a three island chain (St. Thomas, St. Croix and St. John) located in the eastern Caribbean, just 1100 miles southeast of Miami. The largest island, Saint Croix, has flown seven different flags during its long history–Spain, Great Britain, the Netherlands, France, the Knights of Malta, Denmark, and finally the United States as it remains today.
Although the US Virgin Islands remain under the US flag, the islands are an unincorporated territory with a non-voting delegate to the United States House of Representatives. Residents are US citizens, but have no vote in national elections and generally do not pay taxes to the Internal Revenue Service, though taxes are paid to the US Virgin Islands Bureau of Internal Revenue. Being a territory of the United States has a distinct advantage for US tourists—no passport is needed!
During the 17th century, the island chain was divided into two territories–one English (St. Thomas and St. John) and the other Danish(St. Croix). Sugarcane was the primary economic driver of St. Croix, produced by slave labor during the 18th and early 19th centuries. However, when slavery was abolished in 1848, the economy went into a steep decline until the US purchased St. Croix in 1917. Today tourism is the primary economic activity, accounting for 80% of the gross domestic product and employment.
Aside from tourism, there are a number of other industries on the island to help support the economy. St. Croix is home to HOVENSA, one of the world’s largest oil refineries. As a result, gas prices are slightly lower than average gas prices on the mainland and St. Croix’s sister islands.
No Caribbean island would be complete without a mention of rum; and St. Croix is no exception. It is the home of the Cruzan Rum Distillery, makers of Cruzan Rum and other liquors such as Southern Comfort. The Cruzan Rum Distillery was founded in 1760, and for many years used locally grown sugar cane to produce a single “dark” style rum. The distillery now imports sugar cane molasses from other Caribbean nations.
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St. Croix is replete with gorgeous beaches, world-class recreational activities, fine dining, casino, and golf; and the landscape of St. Croix is surprisingly diverse. By visiting only two of the main towns on the island, visitors can capture the diversity—regal 18th-century homes in Christiansted and a tropical rain forest in Frederiksted.
Music, art, and dance are a way of life for Crucians (the name for a St. Croix native) with Mocko Jumbies (traditional stilt dancers thought to chase away evil spirits), reggae and calypso, steel pan bands and pulsating salsa leading the way. Thanks to the Caribbean Dance Company, which is headquartered on St. Croix, traditional folk dance performances can be seen on the island all year round.
One of the most popular (and visually spectacular) events to occur on St. Croix is the Crucian Christmas Festival, a month-long celebration that culminates in January with the Three Kings Day parade. Check out the St. Croix Events Calendar for more information on exciting events in St. Croix.
Getting to St. Croix is a breeze. Most flights will fly into St. Thomas, but there are plenty who fly into St. Croix as well. To move between the islands, you have some choices. Inter-island airlines (usually a sea plane) can take as little as 20 minutes and the ferry (through some of the most spectacular waters in the world) is a short 90 minute ride. And should you decide to rent a car, you will notice a throwback to the days of Great Britain rule—they drive on the left side of the road!
If you are looking for a unique island experience, St. Croix ought to be on your list. To learn more about St. Croix including their wonderful events and festivals, please Visit USVI.
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