When the results of its summer renovation were finally unveiled last year, the King Christian Hotel looked like a brand new property. In addition to having one of the best locations in St. Croix, this Christiansted fixture has added exceptional elements of style and subtle luxury, all while preserving its original historical charm.
With a tiki bar, coffee bar, ice creamery, and in-house Mexican restaurant with a lively scene, this is certainly one of the hippest hotels in the U.S. Virgin Islands, but when it comes to what matters most—embracing the island getaway vibes—this King is sure to reign supreme for travelers seeking fast and fun escapes.
Here are some of the elements we loved the most on our recent visit.
Instead of a traditional lobby, the King Christian Hotel has created more of a lounge so guests enter a space that instantly feels like home (albeit hipper and seemingly decorated by Wes Anderson). Settle into the Peacock Room, a maximalism affair overflowing with color, from the stuffed peacock to the bright cobalt shelving lined with floral wallpaper.
Get into the holiday mood and order the Empress Gin and Tonic, a pretty affair of purple gin, rosemary, dried grapefruit, and juniper berries. If you’ve got room in your luggage, say yes to a pair of souvenir peacock ceramic mugs, which most of the cocktails are served in.
Start with your choice of three sizes of margarita—grande, muy grande, and fiesta, an 8- to 10-serving dispenser served with oversize sparklers to get your night off with a bang. Ordering the fiesta is by no means a bad move, as this could easily be the best margarita you’ve ever had. After all, El Leon, the Mexican restaurant at the King Christian, employs a man whose sole job is “juicer,” squeezing limes and drying fruit for this natural and complex cocktail.
Beyond the drink, the ceviche is a must try, as are the fish tacos. If you’re adventurous, try the Pastel Azteca, described as a Mexican lasagna with tender beef brisket, homemade tortillas, and cheese, given just a slight kick of sour from pickled onions. Desserts are all made in house. The flan, really more of a lighter cheesecake, won us over.
Location, Location, Location
You don’t need a rental car when you book at this boutique hotel. King Christian sits at the east end of the boardwalk of Christiansted, the main town on the island of St. Croix. It’s just a stone’s throw from a handful of bars, restaurants, and daytrip outfitters. The restaurant and sports bar Brew STX sits right next door, serving up fish tacos, burgers, bowls, and craft beer by the pint.
One door down is The Mill Boardwalk Bar Brick Oven PIzza, serving wood-fired margherita, barbecue chicken, and shrimp scampi pizzas, among other varieties of the comfort food. Walk a few more steps to Nate’s Boathouse, a local favorite for its fresh take on seafood and island fare, from crab-cake-topped fries and Asian sticky ribs to Escovitch-style whole fried snapper and fresh tuna topped with tart mango salsa.
Heading east from the King Christian, you’ll find Savant, on island for more than two decades. The outdoor courtyard drips with romance, so make reservations if you prefer supping on the Cassava Crusted Local Fish of the Day or any of the daily specials while surrounded by bougainvillea climbing limestone walls.
Buck Island Day Trip
Book ahead with outfitter Caribbean Sea Adventures for a half- or full-day trip to Buck Island Reef National Monument, home of the first underwater snorkel trail. The island’s white-sand shores are protected as a nesting site for hawksbill sea turtles (recognizable for their beak–green sea turtles have a rounded face).
If you can, spring for a private charter. Once you set foot on the beach and sink into that soft sand, rum punch in hand, you’ll find it hard to stick to any schedule.
Scuba the Famous North Wall
Three of the island’s most popular scuba shops are right on the boardwalk, whisking you to go dive the famous north wall. Dive Experience is located next door and owned by a Women Divers Hall of Fame member. Book a morning dive trip to drop down and mingle with eagle rays, sea turtles, moray eels and the occasional passing reef shark.
Not certified? No worries. Sign up for the Discover Scuba Course to get a taste of what scuba diving is all about.
This bar nails the tiki vibe, from the hanging brass helmets that serve as over-booth lighting to the killer soundtrack that sets the mood when it’s not karaoke night. The menu is a long and loving homage to tiki culture, with classics like the rum runner and the hurricane as well as only-here originals dreamed up by the bar staff.
We love that just about every drink is served in its own fun ceramic mug–like the Banana Bana that comes in a cute yellow tiki mug with its wee bum jutting out. Plus, many of the drinks come served flambe, making for a fun celebratory moment. The Puka Punch is served ablaze, earning points in our book for happy hour style.
One last thing: Monday night is karaoke. Here, the event manages to attract a mix of locals and off-islanders coming together for this love fest of total acceptance, good vibes, and sing-along camaraderie, perfect for those too shy to otherwise belt out their beloved theme songs.
Don’t Stop the Carnival
The legendary Herman Wouk novel “Don’t Stop the Carnival” is said to have been written about Hotel on the Cay, a St. Croix gem since 1965. The same hotelier that bought and revamped the King Christian just inked papers to this hotel, sitting on an island that’s less than a minute by boat. The revamp is much needed and something for sure to look forward to.
Until then, King Christian guests have free and unlimited access to the white-sand beaches on the cay, as well as free passage on the boat that runs every five minutes between the two.