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Beaches on St. Croix, St. Croix's insider take:

With well-preserved reefs and easy points of access, St. Croix's beaches have long been popular for snorkeling and shore diving. Some of the best beaches are near hotels, so gear is often available for rent at beachside sport shacks. Here are three of our favorite sandy spots.

Sandy Point National Wildlife Refuge
St. Croix's best beach is Sandy Point, the longest and most pristine stretch of sand in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The 360-acre beachside reserve is a national wildlife refuge that's home to more than 100 species of birds and an important nesting site for endangered leatherback turtles. It's not the easiest place to find, but once you get there, you'll be rewarded with almost four miles of white powdery sand and some of the clearest water in the Caribbean. Head west on Melvin Evans Highway (Hwy. 66) from the intersection with Emancipation Drive (Hwy. 70), drive past the sign for the park, and follow the newly paved road to the beach parking lot. Be sure to bring plenty of water and a picnic since there are no concessions in the refuge. Sandy Point's beaches are open only on the weekends and are closed to the public during the leatherback nesting season (April–August), although the Fish & Wildlife Service does offer nighttime turtle-watch programs at this time.

Cane Bay
Located along scenic North Shore Road (Hwy. 80) about 20 minutes west of Christiansted, Cane Bay is a family-friendly beach with plenty of shade under the palms. It's also wildly popular with divers, who come here for the Wall, a massive coral shelf that drops to depths of 3,200 feet a few hundred yards from the shoreline (for diving excursions, stop by the Cane Bay Dive Shop). If you get hungry, head to the upscale-casual Eat @ Cane Bay for a cooling cocktail and a bowl of smoked-duck and chipotle chili.

Shoys Beach
Shoys Beach is surrounded by an affluent, gated community, which makes the picturesque cove something of a local secret, although it is open to the public. Pass the security checkpoint just east of the Buccaneer resort, follow the main road approximately one mile to a gravel parking lot, and then head down the sandy pathway bowered by sea grape and mahoe trees that spills onto a gorgeous quarter-mile arc of sand cupping Punnett Bay. Chances are you'll have the place nearly to yourself during the week; families from the surrounding neighborhood relax here on the weekends. Bring along everything you might need, as there are no vendors or services on the beach.

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