At Buck Island, a short boat ride from Christiansted or Green Cay Marina, the reef is so nice that it's been named a national monument. You can dive right off the beach at Cane Bay, which has a spectacular drop-off called the Cane Bay Wall. Dive operators also do boat trips along the Wall, usually leaving from Salt River or Christiansted. Frederiksted Pier is home to a colony of sea horses, creatures seldom seen in the waters of the Virgin Islands. At Green Cay, just outside Green Cay Marina in the East End, you can see colorful fish swimming around the reefs and rocks. Two exceptional North Shore sites are North Star and Salt River, which you can reach only by boat. At Salt River you can float downward through a canyon filled with colorful fish and coral.
The island's dive shops take you out for one- or two-tank dives. Plan to pay about $70 for a one-tank dive and $95 for a two-tank dive, including equipment and an underwater tour. All companies offer certification and introductory courses called resort dives for novices.
Which dive outfit you pick usually depends on where you're staying. Your hotel may have one on-site. If so, you're just a short stroll away from the dock. If not, other companies are close by. Where the dive boat goes on a particular day depends on the weather, but in any case, all St. Croix's dive sites are special. All shops are affiliated with PADI, the Professional Association of Diving Instructors.
Anchor Dive Center. Folks staying in the Judith's Fancy area are closest to Anchor Dive Center. The company also has facilities at the Buccaneer hotel. Anchor takes divers to more than 35 sites, including the Wall at Salt River Canyon. Salt River Marina, Rte. 80, Salt River, St. Croix, 00820. PHONE: 340/778-1522 or 800/532-3483. www.anchordivestcroix.com.
Cane Bay Dive Shop. This is the place if you want to do a beach dive or boat dive along the North Shore. The famed Cane Bay Wall is 200 yards from the PADI Five Star facility. This company also has shops at Pan Am Pavilion in Christiansted, on Strand Street in Frederiksted, and at the Divi Carina Bay Resort. Rte. 80, Cane Bay, St. Croix, 00820. PHONE: 340/718-9913 or 800/338-3843. www.canebayscuba.com.
Dive Experience. Handy for those staying in Christiansted, Dive Experience runs trips to the North Shore walls and reefs in addition to offering the usual certification and introductory classes. It's a PADI Five Star facility. 1111 Strand St., Christiansted, St. Croix, 00820. PHONE: 340/773-3307 or 800/235-9047. www.divexp.com.
N2 the Blue. N2 takes divers right off the beach near Coconuts restaurant, on night dives off the Frederiksted Pier, or on boat trips to wrecks and reefs. Rte. 631, Frederiksted, St. Croix, 00820. PHONE: 340/772-3483 or 877/579-0572. www.n2theblue.com.
St. Croix Ultimate Bluewater Adventures. This company can take you to your choice of more than 75 sites; it also offers a variety of packages that include hotel stays. Queen Cross St., Christiansted, St. Croix, 00820. PHONE: 340/773-5994 or 877/567-1367. www.stcroixscuba.com.
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