St. Croix is one of those hidden gems, not just for divers looking for great diving in lesser known locales, but for anyone wanting to get away from the crowds and more visited places that have become way too ‘touristy’. Here divers will find healthy, pristine reefs, a few wrecks, great macro diving, plus the famous ‘Wall’.
Because it’s off the beaten path, Saint Croix is one of the more affordable islands in the Caribbean. You’ll not only find great deals on dive packages, but everything else from accommodations, to great places to eat, to transportation, and more, is all very reasonably priced.
The ‘Wall’ runs along the north shore for several miles, and is awesome diving. This reef is just offshore at around 30 to 50 feet down. You then swim out over a wall that drops down to 3200 feet. Swimming along the face between 60′ to 110′ there is an incredible diversity of marine life, from dense corals and sponges to turtles, lobsters, crabs, and a wide assortment of colorful reef fish.
In particular, was a spotted drum about a foot long, which was unusual since they are mostly encountered as small juveniles. There are also some gorgeous lavender colored tube and vase sponges, with pinkish insides, that seem prolific in the waters around this island.
Over near Salt River, the location where Columbus landed in 1493, are several sites to the east and west of the reef where it protects the harbor. You’ll find huge coral heads with some small caves and giant swim-throughs. These are just plain fun, and dives there are always going to end way before you can tire of this part of the wall.
There are tons of crevices that provide ample hiding places for large lobster and crab, and by taking your time and looking in and under the ledges, you’ll see them lurking. This area also attracts hawksbill turtles. An especially large one was nonplussed enough with divers to allow us to swim alongside for a good while.
One dive that’s a must do, is the Frederiksted Pier. This pier is immense as one might expect with something built to accommodate cruise ships. However, it’s not being used these days, and underneath is a veritable smorgasbord of sea life. Very “fishy”, to say the least, with lots of critters.
Spider crabs and red & blue banded coral shrimp are everywhere, and several octopus sightings – even during the day. We were actually surprised at the number of octopi. They were flattened against pilings, or lodged in the strangest places. One little guy in particular, was hanging out in the top half of what appeared to be an old broken wine bottle. As one might imagine, this is also one of the best possible night dives.
On both the west-end north of the pier, and the northeast side of St. Croix are several wreck sites. All the vessels were made safe before being intentionally sunk, and are shallow enough for most divers. Some penetration is possible, but they don’t require technical diving skills.
Most of the sites are sandy bottoms teeming with garden eels, and frequented by southern stingrays. These wrecks have been submerged long enough to have healthy growth over much of them, yet the structures are still quite visible. Highlighted in the clear water, with the right lighting, they make excellent photo opportunities.
In short, this island seems to have been overlooked by many dive travelers and is still waiting to be discovered by the masses. For those wanting a great dive destination, take time to explore what St. Croix has to offer. It’s hard to beat either the first-rate diving, or the great prices.