The island of Saint Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands is a very popular holiday destination in the Caribbean. In 2023, experts estimate that the island will receive 140,000 visitors, a huge number for such a small place.
St. Croix is the perfect destination for a beach vacation as there is plenty to do.
Of course, check out the beautiful beaches and many water sport opportunities such as swimming at pristine Sandy Point National Wildlife Refuge, beach horseback riding with Cruzan Cowgirls, and scuba diving near Frederiksted.
Check out the history of St. Croix in the largest town Christiansted and go on a memorable hike to destinations such as Point Udall, the easternmost point in the United States.
The list of things to do in St. Croix is much longer than what we included above, which is enough to encourage most people to book their trips immediately.
However, before booking a trip to a new place, it’s always a good idea to research any practical concerns such as safety. Here are a few tips to ensure that your trip to St. Croix will be as safe as can be!
Is Saint Croix Safe to Visit in 2023?
St. Croix is a bit of a contradictory destination — although it has a high crime rate, it is still a safe destination for tourists to visit.
That is because almost all crime incidents affect locals, not visitors. While you should take some basic precautions, you don’t need to be on your guard constantly and can enjoy your vacation!
Although not many countries issue travel advisories specifically for the U.S. Virgin Islands to which St. Croix belongs, it is still a good idea to start your research on the island’s safety there.
For example, a look at New Zealand’s travel advisory can put your mind at ease. The New Zealand government doesn’t issue a specific travel advisory for the U.S. Virgin Islands, even though it is usually very cautious about the advice it issues to its citizens.
The Canadian government echoes the safety advisory about the U.S. Virgin Islands. It only tells its citizens to exercise normal precautions when visiting the American territory, including St. Croix.
That being said, St. Croix certainly has its fair share of problems. Mainly, the high crime rate is cause for concern for many visitors and locals.
Common crimes tourists might encounter include:
- Bag snatching
- Other forms of petty theft
- Sexual harassment and assault
Violent crime is also a problem in St. Croix, but most violent crime incidents occur among locals and in areas of the island where tourists rarely venture.
As with anywhere else in the Caribbean, nature is another concern for traveler safety when visiting St. Croix. The Irish government warns its citizens visiting the U.S. Virgin Islands that hurricane season runs from July to October.
Although prices are cheaper to visit then, you will be taking a risk. In St. Croix, hurricane season is most intense in late August and September. The island is frequently devastated by hurricanes.
In 2017, Hurricane Maria devastated St. Croix, and some islanders are still struggling to recover. Hurricanes on St. Croix are becoming stronger and more frequent. It’s best to avoid traveling to the island during hurricane season.
If you must visit during hurricane season, keep an eye on weather alerts and any evacuation orders from the government. Read up on safety procedures and follow local advice.
Crime in St. Croix
Crime in St. Croix is a serious problem. The crime rate, especially the violent crime rate, is very high. However, this problem primarily affects locals, not tourists.
Take the crime rate as advice to encourage you to be safe, not as a sign that you need to cancel your trip. St. Croix has a crime problem because the entire U.S. Virgin Islands has a crime problem.
The homicide rate alone is very high. In 2012, the last year that the World Bank was able to obtain crime statistics, the homicide rate was 49.28 incidents per 100,000 people. That is higher than almost all other regions in the United States.
The rates of other crimes are also high in the U.S. Virgin Islands. According to Numbeo, the U.S. Virgin Islands scored a 71.70 out of 100 on the site’s crime index.
Respondents are primarily concerned about theft from vehicles, drug abuse, minor property crimes, and violent crimes such as assault and armed robbery. Violent crime is a serious concern in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
What is even more concerning is that St. Croix has the highest rate of violent crime of the islands, according to reports from locals and visitors.
Foreign citizens have been affected by violent crimes in the past, including murder, and families are often frustrated with the ineffective response by local authorities as they try to get justice.
There are a few reasons why St. Croix has such a high crime rate. One reason why it has the most violent crimes compared to its neighboring islands is very simple — St. Croix is the biggest island in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
It has the largest population, so statistically it makes sense that it will have more crimes than neighboring islands. Another reason why the crime rate is so high in St. Croix is the drug trade.
The U.S. Virgin Islands struggles with drugs, both in terms of abuse among local people and in terms of trafficking. The island chain is often used by criminals to traffic drugs into the United States mainland.
Since St. Croix has many major ports such as Christiansted, the National Drug Intelligence Center assesses that traffickers often use the island for their illicit trade. Many crimes on the island are drug-related.
Crimes are often related to confrontations between rival gangs or committed by people struggling with addiction. Finally, locals from St. Croix and the other U.S. Virgin Islands point to the ineffective nature of authorities as a cause for crime.
Authorities do not keep accurate, up-to-date crime statistics or analyze the causes of crime.
They do not keep statistics about social factors that affect crime rates, such as youth unemployment. Plus, many police officers on the island are corrupt and have ties to organized crime.
If St. Croix has such a high crime rate, then how come so many people still visit? Well, that’s pretty simple to answer: the crime rate almost exclusively affects locals.
Most violent crime incidents are drug-related and occur in areas where the drug trade has primacy, far away from popular tourist areas on the island. In other instances, violent crimes occurred when victims and perpetrators knew each other.
As with most tourist destinations in the world, petty theft is the most common crime that you might encounter in St. Croix.
Petty theft rates are not nearly as high here as they are in many other destinations, including other Caribbean islands, but it is still a good idea to take precautions to protect your valuables.
Hotel and vehicle break-ins often happen in St. Croix. However, the most basic precautions such as locking your hotel room doors or rental car doors are usually enough to deter thieves.
People often get taken in by the relaxation they feel on vacation and forget to take basic precautions. Don’t take many valuables with you on vacation. Leave cash and credit cards in a hotel safe and only take the cash you need for the day with you.
Don’t flash valuables as that attracts unwanted attention.
Don’t leave valuables unattended, for example at the beach, as thieves usually take advantage of distraction. Occasionally, more violent forms of theft occur in St. Croix.
Avoid dangerous areas such as deserted beaches and alleyways, especially at night. If you are checking out St. Croix’s famous nightlife, then go with a group and take a reputable taxi to go back to your accommodation.
Crimes Against Women
Unfortunately, many of the foreign victims of violent crime in St. Croix are women. If you are a female traveler to the island, take additional precautions.
The Canadian government adds a section for women’s safety in its official travel advisory for travel to the U.S. Virgin Islands. Female travelers are sometimes victims of verbal harassment, inappropriate touching, or even assault on the island.
Take safety precautions such as staying in at night, especially if you are traveling alone. Be careful when exploring the famous nightlife of St. Croix. Always keep an eye on your drinks and never accept food or drinks from strangers.
Criminals sometimes drug travelers to rob or assault them. If you are visiting St. Croix to meet up with a romantic interest, take precautions to protect your safety.
Many foreign women that have been killed in the U.S. Virgin Islands, such as Sarm Heslop, were either the victims of domestic violence or were suspected to be the victims of domestic violence. Families often struggle to get justice due to the ineffective local police.
Avoiding Bad Areas
Since certain areas of St. Croix have much higher rates of violent crime than others, knowing which areas to avoid is crucial to staying safe.
These areas tend to be far away from popular tourist destinations, but it is still a good idea to know what to avoid. Poor neighborhoods such as the housing projects often have high rates of crime.
Avoid housing projects such as the Mount Pleasant Housing Project in Frederiksted and the VI Housing Authority in Kingshill. Avoid deserted areas, especially at night.
Don’t walk down any deserted alleyways in Christiansted or on deserted beaches. Some beaches, such as Ha’Penny beach, have a reputation for crime. Trust your instincts and get out of the way if a destination feels unsafe.
Things to Consider
Here are a few additional safety tips for visiting St. Croix:
- Only use mineral sunscreen. In St. Croix and the other U.S. Virgin Islands, common chemical compounds found in sunscreen are illegal as they damage marine life. You can get mineral sunscreen in most stores on the island.
- Booking a hotel is safer than a vacation rental. Hotels are exclusively in safe areas of St. Croix, while you have to do additional research for rental homes or apartments. Plus, hotels tend to have better security.
- If you rent a car, be careful. Many of the roads haven’t been fully repaired after the hurricane damage. People also drive on the left in St. Croix — the only place in the United States where this happens.
- Ask for local advice before exploring new areas. They can tell you if there are any areas to avoid.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are a few additional questions you might want answered before you head to St. Croix:
How safe are the Virgin Islands for tourists?
The Virgin Islands, not just St. Croix, are safe for tourists overall. Although the islands struggle with a high crime rate, most incidents don’t affect foreign visitors.
Do they speak English in St. Croix?
Yes, they speak English in St. Croix. English is both the official language and the most widespread language on the island, although the dialect that locals speak is a bit different from what you hear in the mainland.
Which is better: St. Thomas or St. Croix?
St. Thomas is a better choice if you like lively vacations as it is more developed, while St. Croix is better for a relaxing vacation in nature. If you are concerned about safety, St. Thomas might be better as it has a slightly lower violent crime rate.
Why do people visit St. Croix?
People visit St. Croix primarily for the beautiful nature. It is less developed than other popular tourist destinations in the Caribbean, so it is perfect for hiking, scuba diving, and snorkeling.
Are there bad areas to avoid in St. Croix?
Yes, there are bad areas in St. Croix. Avoid poorer neighborhoods in the towns of Christiansted and Frederiksted as well as the port areas. Avoid deserted areas such as beaches and alleyways at night.
So, Should You Visit Saint Croix?
St. Croix is safe to visit, and thousands of people do so each year. However, the crime rate outside of the main tourist areas is high, so make sure you stay alert, especially at night.
So, with so much to see and do, and a relatively safe atmosphere (for tourists, that is), what are you waiting for — book your trip today and experience for yourself all that this tropical paradise has to offer. Happy travels!