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  • Writer's picturePolly Clover

St. Croix vs St. Thomas: The Differences & Best One to Visit


personal snorkeling and looking at sea turtle under water

Choosing the best vacation destination can be both exciting and overwhelming. Where will you enjoy most? How can you plan a fun and relaxing trip? In this article, we’ll compare St. Croix vs St. Thomas to help you choose your perfect U.S. Virgin Islands getaway.


There are three main U.S. Virgin Islands: St. Croix, St. Thomas, and St. John. St. Thomas. They all have incredible beaches, delicious food, and unique Caribbean culture – but different experiences.


While St. John is stunning and well worth a visit, we’re comparing St. Croix and St. Thomas below. We’ll look at their similarities and what you can expect in terms of their geography, vibe, activities, and costs. We’ll also answer common questions to help you choose the best USVI vacation spot.


St. Croix and St. Thomas Similarities

Before we dive into the differences between the two islands, let’s look at what St. Croix and St. Thomas have in common.


  • US territories - Both islands are US territories and don’t require passports to visit if you’re a US citizen

  • Beautiful beaches - St. Croix and St. Thomas are both home to picturesque sandy beaches with clear-blue waters

  • Left-side driving - All U.S. Virgin Islands require you to drive on the left-hand side of the road, which can be tricky for some tourists but is usually fairly easy to get used to

  • Warm weather year-round - If you want a warm Caribbean vacation, you can find this on both St. Croix and St. Thomas year-round

  • Hurricane season - Hurricane season is mid-summer to late fall throughout the U.S. Virgin Islands, so plan accordingly when booking your vacation

  • Cruise ship docks - If you’re planning a cruise, cruise ships can go to both islands, docking at the Frederiksted Pier on St. Croix and Havensight and Crown Bay on St. Thomas

  • Airport - Both islands have an airport with direct flights from the United States mainland

  • Power outages - Although they don’t usually last long and it’s the perfect excuse to get outdoors, be prepared for occasional power outages on the islands 

  • Fun activities - It’s easy to have fun on either island, with beach activities, kayaking trips, and more (we’ll share specific activities for each island below)

  • Culture and history - The USVI as a whole has a unique culture and history that dates back thousands of years, and we recommend exploring this when visiting either island



person kayaking in St. Croix Salt River Bay at sunset
Salt River Bay, St. Croix


Visiting St. Croix – The Specifics

St. Croix is the largest, less touristy USVI. It’s one of the best vacation destinations for relaxing and enjoying nature. Below, we’ll look more at St. Croix’s geography, vibe, activities, and costs.



ocean and landscape scenery at Goat Hill, St. Croix
Goat Hill, St. Croix

St. Croix Geography

St. Croix is about 40 miles south of St. Thomas and 65 miles southeast of Puerto Rico. It's the largest U.S. Virgin Island, about 22 miles long and 7 miles wide. Although it seems small, it’s bigger than you may think, and there's a lot to see and do.


The east end of St. Croix has a dry, desert-like atmosphere. It also has rolling hills, beautiful beaches, and scenic hiking trails. Meanwhile, the west side is home to a tropical rainforest, some of the island’s best beaches, and St. Croix’s highest point, Mount Eagle, which you can also hike to. The popular area of Christiansted is in the middle of the island, with lots of dining, drinking, and shopping experiences.


St. Croix Vibe

St. Croix is known for its laid-back atmosphere. Island time is real here! If you want to unwind and enjoy a slower pace, we highly recommend visiting St. Croix.


There are secluded beaches and quiet trails throughout St. Croix. We especially love a peaceful hike to Jack and Isaac Bay and kayaking the bioluminescent bay at Salt River Bay National Historical Park.


Although St. Croix is becoming more popular, it's less touristy than St. Thomas. Most people on the island are locals, and it's important to treat St. Croix as their home and a place you're visiting. Crucians (St. Croix locals) always appreciate being greeted with a good morning, afternoon, and night.


St. Croix Activities

There are so many things to do on St. Croix, whether you’re looking to relax, get active, or enjoy good food and drinks.


Some of our favorite St. Croix activities include:

  • Visiting Point Udall, the easternmost point of the United States

  • Taking a kayak tour of the scenic Salt River Bay with Virgin Kayak Tours

  • Snorkeling or diving at the Frederiksted Pier

  • Going to local events like Jump Up, Art Thursday, and the Agricultural and Food Fair

  • Drinking locally brewed craft beer at Leatherback Brewing Company

  • Eating and drinking on the Christiansted Boardwalk

  • Seeing the beer-drinking pigs at Mt. Pellier Domino Club

  • Hanging out on the beach, especially Cane Bay, Rainbow Beach, and Sandy Point

  • A boat trip to Buck Island with Big Beards Adventure Tours


St. Croix Cost

St. Croix’s costs are higher than many places in the United States mainland and similar to big city prices. For example, the average meal out per person is $30. Of course, prices depend on where you’re eating, drinking, and shopping. There are also many activities to choose from, free and paid.


Accommodation prices also vary. Most Airbnb rentals on St. Croix for two people cost between $150 and $250 per night. Hotel prices are similar, with some costing a bit less or more.


You’ll also likely want to rent a car on St. Croix. Taxis can be very costly and there aren’t rideshare services. Car rentals are about $100 per day, give or take, depending on the kind of vehicle you rent.


Visiting St. Thomas – The Specifics

St. Thomas is smaller in size than St. Croix, but with about the same population and many tourists. It’s also the best island vacation spot if you want to book a resort or enjoy a more lively atmosphere. We’ll look more at St. Thomas’ geography, vibe, activities, and costs below.



views from Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas
Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas


St. Thomas Geography

St. Thomas is about 40 miles east of Puerto Rico. It’s about 13 miles long and 4 miles wide. Although St. Thomas is smaller than St. Croix, they have similar populations of about 50,000 people, so St. Thomas is a bit more congested.


Like St. Croix, the island’s landscape is picture-perfect, but you’ll see more buildings and homes. St. Thomas’ beaches are stunning, including the world-famous Magen’s Bay. Although St. Thomas isn’t known for hiking, there are trails to beaches, most of which you can also drive to.


One significant difference between the two islands is how hilly St. Thomas is. The turns, steep hills, and rough roads can make it difficult to drive, but the elevations offer incredible views of the ocean and nearby islands from just about anywhere on the island.


St. Thomas Vibe

St. Thomas is known as the most lively U.S. Virgin Island. It’s touristy, and there’s a lot more hustle. That said, you can still expect to be on island time, as St. Thomians often go at a slower pace.


Although St. Thomas isn’t quite as laid-back as St. Croix, it’s a nice place to relax, with so many beaches that are perfect for spending the day. Like Crucians on St. Croix, St. Thomians are kind and appreciate speaking to one another. Don’t forget to say good morning, good afternoon, and good night.


St. Thomas Activities

St. Thomas is slightly more developed than St. Croix and feels a bit more like the mainland than the other U.S. Virgin Islands. It’s ideal for a more built-up vacation destination where you can enjoy nightlife, scenic beaches, and shopping.


A few of the best things to do on St. Thomas include:

  • Hanging out on Magen’s Bay Beach, one of the most popular and beautiful USVI beaches with a restaurant, bar, and beach rental shop

  • Strolling through the historic Charlotte Amalie, where you can find shops, restaurants, and bars

  • Drinking craft beer at Leatherback Brewing Company and Taphus Beer House

  • Visiting Water Island or St. John for a day trip (both easily accessible by ferry)

  • Taking the Skyride to the top of Paradise Point to see some of the best views of St. Thomas

  • Snorkeling or diving at Coki Beach



views at Coki Beach, St. Thomas
Coki Beach, St. Thomas

St. Thomas Cost

Like St. Croix, St. Thomas's cost of living is higher than many places stateside and similar to big cities. However, costs are comparable between both islands.


A comparison of St. Croix vs St. Thomas costs shows that rent prices are about 5% higher on St. Thomas, while restaurant prices are 6% lower.


Most Airbnb rentals on St. Thomas for two people are between $170 and $350. Hotel prices are similar, but you can splurge if you prefer to book a resort.


You may also want to rent a car on St. Thomas, which is usually $100, give or take, per day. There are safari buses on St. Thomas, but they aren’t easy to come by all over the island. Taxis are also available but can be pricey.


St. Croix vs St. Thomas: Overview


St. Croix

St. Thomas

Geography

The largest USVI, with various landscapes, including secluded and popular beaches, a rainforest, and arid high-desert

The most built-up USVI, with beautiful beaches, and more buildings, shopping, and dining

Vibe

Relaxed and less touristy

Lively with a touch of laid-back island vibes

Activities

Snorkeling, diving, kayaking, hanging out on the beach, hiking, dining, and drinking

Enjoying nightlife, snorkeling, diving, hanging out on the beach, shopping, and dining

Cost

$200+ per person per day, including activities and accommodation

$200+ per person per day, including activities and accommodation

Best For

A low-key, relaxing vacation with fun activities and fewer tourists

An active vacation mixed with relaxation and many comforts of the U.S. mainland


St. Croix vs. St. Thomas: FAQs

Learn more about St. Croix and St. Thomas with answers to common questions below.


Which is better: St. Croix or St. Thomas?

St. Croix and St. Thomas are both incredible U.S. Virgin Islands. It's nearly impossible to pick which one is better because it depends on what kind of vacation experience you're looking for. 


St. Thomas is best if you want to visit a more built-up, lively island. At the same time, St. Croix is also fun but a bit more laid-back and has more nature to explore.


Which is the nicest U.S. Virgin Island to visit?

All U.S. Virgin Islands are nice. St. Croix and St. John are known for their nicer scenery and outdoor activities, while St. Thomas is known for its nicer shopping and dining but has great beaches and scenery, too.


Which U.S. Virgin Island has the best beaches?

All U.S. Virgin Islands are tied on the best beaches! No matter which island you visit, you’ll find magical beaches with clear-blue water.


How far is St. Croix from St. Thomas?

St. Croix is 45 miles south of St. Thomas. While there is a ferry ride between the two islands, it’s a bit rough and not the most enjoyable. That said, you can take a half-hour flight from St. Croix to St. Thomas with Cape Air or Fly the Whale for $109+. 


St. Croix vs. St. Thomas: Conclusion

We hope you found this article helpful and are ready to book your next trip to the U.S. Virgin Islands! Whether you unwind on St. Croix or enjoy a lively atmosphere on St. Thomas, you can't go wrong with either option.


If you’re planning a trip to St. Croix, be sure to explore the beautiful Salt River Bay for a unique experience. Virgin Kayak Tours offers guided kayak and paddleboard tours. You can also rent kayaking or stand-up paddleboarding equipment for a self-guided trip around the bay. 




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