You won't find major real estate developments on St. Croix. "It's really set up as a boutique hotel destination," one expert told T+L.
Looking for a stunning, not-too-touristy getaway in the U.S Virgin Islands? Unlike other islands in the area, St. Croix has largely avoided big real estate developments, focusing instead on preserving historic structures and converting them into small businesses.
"You come here, and you feel like this is what it was in the 1700s. And it's not overpopulated with all-inclusive resorts; it's really set up as a boutique hotel destination," said Chris Pardo, co-founder of hospitality firm Neighborhood Establishment, which is behind some of the island's most recent hotel openings, in an interview with Travel + Leisure.
In March 2023, Pardo and his team finished the redesign of the historic King Christian Hotel (nightly rates from $249), which dates back to the 18th century. The 74-key property boasts four buildings on the waterfront of Christiansted and offers guests modern amenities, chic tropical-influenced decor, and the convenience of being right downtown. To maximize the property's prime oceanfront location and stunning views, Pardo changed the layout and expanded the rooms, then furnished the spaces with materials that "blur the lines between modern and historic."
Custom terracotta flooring, crown moldings, tropical woods that can withstand the humidity, marble bathrooms, and hanging plants on the balconies create a sophisticated residential feel. Velvet-green drapes accessorize the windows, bringing "a richness that pulls in the tropical nature without being beachy," he explained.
While guests can spend their days lounging by the infinity pool, the hotel has also become a favorite of the local crowd thanks to a lively bar, a Mexican restaurant facing the waterfront, a coffee shop, and an ice cream shop. The front desk doubles as the lobby bar, the Peacock Lounge, and is open 24/7 to serve guests cocktails and wine.
Travelers craving a more intimate experience away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Christiansted should consider Pardo's other property, Waves Cane Bay (nightly rates starting from $449), which opened in 2021 on the quaint North Shore of St. Croix, steps away from Cane Bay Beach.
"Waves Cane Bay feels like another world to me," Pardo said. He painted the hotel's exterior black because he wanted the building to "become the background and let the vegetation and the ocean around it stand out."
With 11 suites with large private patios facing the water, guests wake up to the sound of crashing waves and the stunning scenery. Inside, soothing grey walls, natural wood from Indonesia, and all-black appliances in the kitchenettes are a calming foil to a day spent on the beach "getting blasted by the Caribbean sun," as Pardo put it.
Another highlight of Waves Cane Bay is Ama, the property's open-air eatery, built around a natural grotto. The restaurant sources its seafood from local fishermen and divers and pairs the dishes with a selection of fine wines and craft cocktails.
"It's a really romantic and soothing destination," Pardo added.
Divers will appreciate the hotel's proximity to one of the best diving spots in the area: The Wall, part of the Puerto Rican Trench, just 200 yards from Cane Bay Beach, where reef sharks, damsels, and other tropical fish live.
Pardo's next project is on Protestant Cay, a few minutes by boat off Christiansted's waterfront. The beachfront property, expected to be completed in 2025, will feature 115 rooms, a sushi restaurant, an infinity pool, beach access, and a dock with 16 boat slips. To encourage guests to explore the island, Pardo plans to make it easier for them to access the amenities of all three properties.
"St. Croix is so unique and diverse. We want people to see everything, so prompting people to see more than just staying at an all-inclusive hotel is what we're trying to do," Pardo said.
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