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Fun In The Surf & Sun

St. Croix can offer many outdoor adventures. In the east, the terrain is rocky and arid, getting little water. But the western part of the island is lush, including a small "rain forest" of mango, tree ferns, and dangling lianas. Between the two extremes are beautiful sandy beaches, rolling hills, and pastures -- all of which can be explored. Watersports galore abound, including boating, sailing, diving, snorkeling, fishing, hiking, and windsurfing.

Fishing -- The fishing grounds at Lang Bank are about 10 miles from St. Croix. Here you'll find kingfish, dolphin fish, and wahoo. Using light-tackle boats to glide along the reef, you'll probably turn up jack or bonefish. At Clover Crest, in Frederiksted, local anglers fish right from the rocks. For more information on legal shore-fishing spots around the island, contact the tourist office in Christiansted or Frederiksted.

Serious sport fishermen, and those who don't have their own dinghy, can board the Island Girl II, a 38-foot Bertram special. It's anchored at King's Alley Hotel at 59 Kings Wharf in Christiansted. Reservations can be made by calling tel. 340/773-2628 during the day. The cost for up to six passengers is $550 for 4 hours, $750 for 6 hours, and $950 for 8 hours with bait and tackle and drinks included.

Golf -- St. Croix has the best golf in the Virgin Islands. Guests staying on St. John and St. Thomas often fly over for a round on one of the island's three courses.

Carambola Golf & Country Club, on the northeast side of St. Croix (tel. 340/778-5638; www.golfcarambola.com), adjacent to the Carambola Beach Resort, was created by Robert Trent Jones, Sr., who called it "the loveliest course I ever designed." It's been likened to a botanical garden. The par-3 holes here are known to golfing authorities as the best in the Tropics. The greens fee of $95 in winter, or $65 in the off season, allows you to play as many holes as you like. Carts are included.

The Buccaneer, Gallows Bay (tel. 340/712-2144), 3 miles east of Christiansted, has a challenging 5,685-yard, 18-hole course with panoramic vistas. Nonguests pay $100 in winter or $60 off season, including use of a cart.

The Reef, on the east end of the island at Teague Bay (tel. 340/773-8844), is a 3,100-yard, 9-hole course, charging greens fees of $20 for 9 holes and $35 for 18 holes. Golf carts can also be rented at an additional $15 for 9 holes or $20 for 18 holes. The longest hole here is a 465-yard par 5.

Hiking -- Scrub-covered hills make up much of St. Croix's landscape. The island's western district, however, includes a dense, 15-acre forest known as the "Rain Forest" (though it's not a real one). The network of footpaths here offers some fantastic nature walks. Buck Island, just off St. Croix, also has nature trails.

The St. Croix Environmental Association, Arawak Building, Suite 3, Gallows Bay (tel. 340/773-1989; www.stxenvironmental.org), has regularly scheduled informative hikes to more remote sections of the island, costing $10 per person.

Horseback Riding -- Paul and Jill's Equestrian Stables, 2 Sprat Hall Estate, Route 58 (tel. 340/772-2880; www.paulandjills.com), the largest equestrian stable in the Virgin Islands, is known throughout the Caribbean for its horses. It's set on the sprawling grounds of the island's oldest plantation great house. The operators lead scenic trail rides through the forests, along the beach, and past ruins of abandoned 18th-century plantations and sugar mills, to the tops of the hills of St. Croix's western end. Beginners and experienced riders alike are welcome. A 1 1/2-hour trail ride costs $90. Tours usually depart daily in winter at 10:30am and 3pm, and in the off season at 4pm, with slight variations according to demand. Reserve at least a day in advance.

Kayaking -- The beauty of St. Croix is best seen from a kayak. Try the tour offered by Caribbean Adventure Tours (tel. 800/532-3483 or 340/778-1522; www.stcroixkayak.com). You use stable, sit-on-top ocean kayaks, enabling you to traverse the tranquil waters of Salt River, of Columbus landfall fame, and enjoy the park's ecology and wildlife. You also explore secluded mangrove estuaries. The highlight of the excursion is a dip for snorkeling on a pristine beach and paddling to where Christopher Columbus and his crew came ashore some 500 years ago. The tour, lasting 3 hours, costs $45 per person and includes water and a light snack.

Safari Tours -- St. Croix Safari Tours (tel. 340/773-6700; www.gotostcroix.com/safaritours) offers a tour in a 25-passenger open-air bus run by a hip tour guide who knows all about the botany, cuisine, and history of the island. Tours crisscross the island with stops at plantation houses, historic Frederiksted, and the Salt River landfall of Columbus, and a drive through the rainforest, with a stop for lunch. There are lots of photo ops. The cost of the tour is $55 per person, including admission fees to the botanical garden, rum factory, and museum.

Tennis -- Some authorities rate the tennis at the Buccaneer, Gallows Bay (tel. 340/773-3036), as the best in the Caribbean. This resort offers a choice of eight courts, two lit for night play, all open to the public. Nonguests pay $8 daytime, $10 nighttime per person per hour; you must call to reserve a court at least a day in advance. A tennis pro is available for lessons, and there's also a pro shop.

Windsurfing -- Head for the St. Croix Water Sports Center (tel. 340/773-7060), on the small offshore island in Christiansted Harbor and part of the Hotel on the Cay. It's open daily from 10am to 5pm. Windsurfing rentals are $35 per hour. Lessons are available.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.