St. Croix and St. Thomas are two of the three islands that make up the U.S. Virgin Islands. These beautiful islands in the Caribbean are popular with U.S. couples since they’re a short flight from the East Coast and no passport is required.
But how to choose which island to visit? When planning a couples’ trip or honeymoon to the U.S. Virgin Islands, many people wonder which is better, St. Croix or St. Thomas?
(The third island, St. John, is located so close to St. Thomas that many people visit both islands in one trip. There’s an easy ferry between the two.)
In this article, we’ll compare St. Croix vs. St. Thomas in a variety of categories so you can decide for yourself whether St. Croix or St. Thomas is best for you. We’ll answer common questions like, is St. Croix or St. Thomas more expensive?, what is the prettiest Virgin Island?, is St. Croix or St. Thomas more popular?, and are beaches better in St. Croix or St. Thomas?
Overview of St. Croix vs. St. Thomas
So, is St. Croix or St. Thomas better? There’s actually no clear answer to this question; it depends on what you’re looking for in your Caribbean honeymoon or romantic retreat. Both islands are gorgeous, with green mountainous interiors ringed with white sand beaches and dazzlingly clear turquoise water.
St. Thomas is a busier tourist destination, known for luxury resorts and upscale shopping. It tends to have a more “American” feel. Its capital, Charlotte Amalie, is also the capital of the U.S. Virgin Islands and is a cruise ship port.
Located about 40 miles south of St. Thomas and about twice its size, St. Croix is a less touristy island with a quiet, more secluded feel. The two towns in St. Croix are the capital, Christiansted, and Frederiksted.
There are more things to do in St. Thomas, as well as more restaurant choices and more options for accommodations. St. Croix has resorts, restaurants, and activities, but offers less choice in all three categories.
Is St. Croix or St. Thomas more popular? St. Thomas receives more visitors overall, so you could say it is the more popular island, but St. Croix is popular as well. St. Thomas is more popular with travelers who like history, who want nightlife, or who want a lot of options for their dining and activities.
St. Croix is more popular with those who are interested in tranquility, relaxing on secluded beaches, and natural activities like hiking. Both are popular with couples who like scuba diving and snorkeling, although St. Croix has more of the top sites for this.
What is the prettiest Virgin Island? There’s no clear answer to this question, either, as both St. Thomas and St. Croix are stunningly pretty.
Getting to St. Thomas vs. St. Croix
It’s pretty easy to get to both St. Thomas and St. Croix. There are airports on both islands, and you can find direct flights to both from the U.S. These tend to take about 3 hours from the East Coast.
Getting Around St. Croix vs. St Thomas
It’s easy to rent a car in both St. Croix and St Thomas (just remember that they drive on the left side of the road here). While there are mountains on both islands, St. Thomas tends to have more steep and winding roads. The roads on St. Thomas are busier, since it’s a more crowded island, so driving on St. Thomas is more difficult and less enjoyable than driving on St. Croix. Parking also tends to be easier to find on St. Croix.
You can also take taxis on both islands.
Cost of St. Croix vs. St. Thomas
Is St. Croix or St. Thomas more expensive? There is actually not much difference in costs between the two islands, so neither is really more expensive than the other.
Beaches on St. Croix vs. St. Thomas
Are beaches better in St. Croix or St. Thomas? This depends on what you’re looking for. Both St. Croix and St. Thomas have beautiful beaches, but St. Croix offers more secluded beaches that are less developed than those in St. Thomas, while beaches in St. Thomas have more amenities.
The most famous beach in St. Thomas is Magen’s Bay Beach, which can also get crowded. Other top beaches in St. Thomas are Coki Beach, Hull’s Bay Beach, Sapphire Beach; these all have amenities like watersports equipment rentals, restaurants, and bars as well. A less developed beach in St. Thomas is Lindquist Beach, which is part of a protected area.
St. Croix offers pristine beaches, including secluded spots where you’ll likely be the only ones. Some of the best beaches in St. Croix are Jack’s Bay Beach, Judith’s Fancy Beach, and Turtle Beach on Buck Island. Sandy Point National Wildlife Refuge offers a lovely beach and the chance to see some rare wildlife; it’s closed during turtle nesting season but open otherwise.
One of the best beaches with amenities in St. Croix is Rainbow Beach, which has a popular bar with live music. Since this beach is on the west coast of St. Croix, it’s an excellent place to watch the sunset.
Things to do in St. Thomas vs. St. Croix
History buffs will enjoy both islands, but will find more historical sites to visit on St. Thomas. These are mostly in the capital of Charlotte Amalie, such as Fort Christian, Drake’s Seat, the 99 Steps, and the second oldest synagogue in the Western Hemisphere. Bluebeard’s Castle is a Danish fortress dating from 1689 that can be toured. There’s also a Pirate’s Treasure Museum with exhibits from old shipwrecks.
In St. Croix, you can wander the small capital of Christiansted, which has the history Fort Christiansvaern and the Apothecary Hall Museum, plus charming shops and restaurants. Frederiksted also offers quaint streets to explore, as well as historic buildings like Fort Frederik and the Customs House. Another historic site on St. Croix is an 18th-century plantation and sugar mill featuring the Estate Whim Museum.
Couples who love to shop will prefer St. Thomas, as there are tons of boutiques and upscale stores offering duty free shopping. However, St. Croix offers plenty of small local shops selling unique handmade items.
Hikers will enjoy St. Croix, as there are more natural areas here that are fun to explore, including a lush rainforest on the island’s western side as well as rugged coastline. You can even come across the ruins of old sugar mills or military structures. Good hikes on St. Croix are to Point Udall, to Hams Bluff Lighthouse, to the Annaly Bay or Carambola Tide Pools, or to secluded beaches at Isaac’s Bay or Jack’s Bay.
You can fish, go horseback riding, go ziplining, take sunset sails, take excursions, and go on food tours on both islands.
If you love rum, you’ll find delicious rums to taste on both islands, but St. Croix offers the chance to tour two distilleries: Cruzan Rum and Captain Morgan.
St. Croix features a unique romantic activity: kayaking in a bioluminescent bay. Salt River Bay has microorganisms that glow at night when the water is disturbed, and you can take a tour in clear kayaks to enjoy the beautiful sight.
A unique thing to do in St. Thomas is take the St. Thomas Skyride for amazing views. You can also go kayaking with dolphins at Coral World Ocean Park.
If you’re interested in taking day trips, you will have more opportunities in St. Thomas. You can take the ferry to the third U.S. Virgin Island, St. John, or visit one of the British Virgin Islands. You can also take a ferry to the small uninhabited Hassel Island and Water Island from St. Thomas.
From St. Croix, a popular day trip is to Buck Island to visit the gorgeous Turtle Beach and snorkel the underwater trail at the National Monument of Buck Island Reef. Buck Island Reef is extremely popular snorkeling and scuba diving spot, offering acres of reefs and caves to explore.
You can even take a ferry between St. Croix and St. Thomas (it takes about an hour and a half) to do day trips to either island, depending on where you’re staying.
Snorkeling and Scuba Diving in St. Thomas vs. St. Croix
Both islands are a paradise for couples who like to snorkel and scuba dive, but St. Croix offers more of the top sites so it tends to be more popular.
Top snorkeling and diving sites in St. Croix are Shoys Beach, which has easy access to offshore coral reefs, Cane Bay Beach, Isaac Bay and Jack’s Bay beaches, and Buck Island Reef. Popular scuba diving sites also include Cane Bay Wall, Salt River Canyon, wrecks in Butler’s Bay, and Frederiksted Pier.
Some top St. Thomas snorkeling and diving sites are Cow and Calf Rocks, about 45 minutes by boat from Charlotte Amalie; Coki Beach; and Magen’s Bay Beach.
Dining in St. Thomas vs. St. Croix
Foodies may wish to choose St. Croix, even though there are more restaurant options in St. Thomas. This is because there are some wonderful restaurants serving local cuisine here. Top restaurants in St. Croix include Harvey’s and Cast Iron Pot, which serve traditional Crucian cuisine; the award-winning Balter, which serves contemporary West Indian food; Savant, which offers creative seafood dishes in a romantic outdoor courtyard; and The Terrace Restaurant at the Buccaneer Resort.
Find great local food in St. Thomas at Gladys’ Café, enjoy breakfast and coffee overlooking the Red Hook harbor at Lattes in Paradise, and savor delicious fine dining at the historic and romantic Old Stone Farmhouse. Other romantic dinner options in St. Thomas include Mafolie Restaurant, Blue Orchid, Banana Tree Grille, and Havana Blue.
Shopping in St. Thomas vs. St. Croix
As we discussed above in the section on Activities, there is shopping on both islands but St. Thomas offers more opportunities for upscale and duty-free shopping. The best places to shop in St. Thomas are in downtown Charlotte Amalie, Yacht Haven Grande, and Havensight Mall.
Shopping in St. Croix is more low-key and local—you can find unique boutiques and shops in both Christiansted and Frederiksted—but there are some duty free stores here as well.
Accommodations in St. Croix vs. St. Thomas
You can find affordable accommodations and high-end resorts on both St. Croix and St. Thomas, but St. Thomas offers a wider range of choices, from luxury resorts to economical hotels to intimate B&Bs to are and condos.
Some of the top resorts in St. Thomas include all-inclusive resorts like the informal beachfront Bolongo Bay Beach Resort as well as the upscale Marriott’s Frenchman’s Cove. The Ritz-Carlton St. Thomas and Secret Harbor Beach Resort are other popular resorts in St. Thomas.
St. Croix may offer fewer hotel and resort options, but there are still wonderful places to stay in St. Croix. These include the top-rated Buccaneer Beach & Golf Resort, which has a golf course and tennis courts as well as a spa; the adults-only beachfront boutique hotel The Fred; and Carambola Beach Resort.
Nightlife in St. Thomas vs. St. Croix
Which is better for nightlife, St. Croix or St. Thomas? St. Thomas would be the choice here for anyone looking for a vibrant nightlife with lots of options. There are plenty of restaurants and bars in Charlotte Amalie, Red Hook, Frenchtown, and Haven Sight.
However, there are bars in St. Croix, as well as the only casino in the U.S. Virgin Islands, so there are nightlife options for couples staying here.
Safety in St. Thomas vs. St. Croix
With a generally friendly population that realizes the dependence on tourism, the U.S. Virgin Islands is a relatively safe destination for travelers. And as a U.S. protectorate, St. Thomas and St. Croix are governed by the same laws that we have in the United States. Both islands are considered safe for travelers.
However, there was an increase in the crime rate in St. Thomas during the pandemic, though most crime is not directed at tourists. Check out our article on safety in St. Thomas for details.
Visitors to either island should follow general safety precautions, especially when it comes to keeping valuables out of sight and staying in well-populated areas.
While in the ocean, look out for jellyfish and sea urchins, and if you’re snorkeling or diving be sure to avoid lionfish, which have poisonous barbs.
Dengue fever and the Chikungunya virus are two insect-borne illnesses to watch out for here. To protect yourself from insect bites, use repellent and wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants plus closed-toe shoes at dawn, dusk, or near stagnant water. Seek medical attention if you develop a high fever or body aches during or after your visit.
Best Time to Visit St. Thomas and St. Croix
The U.S. Virgin Islands are a great year-round Caribbean destination, with average air temperatures ranging from low 70s to high 80s and water temperatures in the low 80s.
Although the temperature is perfect all year, there is a best time to visit St. Thomas and St. Croix. Travel from April to June for dry weather, fewer crowds, and lower prices.
If you don’t mind traveling during the peak season, plan your trip between from December and March. Try to avoid July through October, as this is hurricane season.
Now that you’ve read our comparison of St. Croix vs. St. Thomas, what do you think? Is St Croix or St Thomas better for your honeymoon or couples’ vacation? Let us know in the comments!