Sandy Point National Wildlife Refuge is a true Caribbean gem found right here on the southwestern end of St. Croix. Most visitors go to Sandy Point to see one of the most pristine, white sand beaches in all of the Caribbean, but Sandy Point holds so much more. Within its 383 acres, Sandy Point is home to a pre-historic site, the longest continuous beach in the USVI, the largest leatherback sea turtle nesting site in the U.S., and three-quarters of the largest salt pond in the USVI.
Established in 1984, Sandy Point National Wildlife Refuge is managed by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. There are a number of conditions that make Sandy Point an ideal wildlife refuge for the island of St. Croix. First, the refuge provides critical a nesting habitat for three species of federally threatened and endangered sea turtles: leatherbacks, hawksbills, and green sea turtles. The two miles of continuous sandy beach, with its deep near-shore water access and the lack of a fringing reef provide particularly ideal conditions for leatherback sea turtles to nest. Many birds also call Sandy Point their home. Between the beach, the inland scrub plants and woodlands, and the salt ponds and their associated fringing mangrove forests provide a habitat for over 100 species of birds.
If you are one of those people who love history, Sandy Point contains the pre-historic Aklis Site, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. The Aklis Site is an important pre-Columbian archaeological site in the Caribbean dating back to 200-400 A.D., about 1,200 years before Christopher Columbus arrived in the West. The site is large by island standards, at least four contiguous acres. The site has yielded high-quality artifacts including tools made from conch shell and bone, pottery shards, and even complete ceramic bowls. According to Sandy Point National Wildlife Refuge manager Mike Evans, some of the artifacts are: ‘high-end ceremonial material, shell and bone material that’s been incised and etched with designs, [and] polychrome bowls with paint from 1,000 years ago.’
Just looking for a beautiful beach where you can soak up some sun and float in the turquoise Caribbean Sea? Simply put, the beach at Sandy Point is absolutely stunning. It boasts crystal clear blue water and a two mile long stretch of some of the softest, white sand you have ever seen. In fact, if it looks a little familiar that may be because the final scene of The Shawshank Redemption was filmed at Sandy Point back in 1994. There is no fringe reef off of Sandy Point and the sea has a deep sandy bottom right offshore, so if you are snorkeling you won’t see as much here as other places, but you might see sea turtles and rays in. Personally, I recommend that you float your way into bliss at Sandy Point.
The good news for visitors to Sandy Point is that there is no admission to visit this postcard-worthy beach and wildlife refuge. The park is open on Saturdays and Sundays from 10am until 4pm; however, the park is completely closed from April until the beginning of September for turtle nesting season. If you are planning a trip to St. Croix and wish to visit Sandy Point (and I highly recommend that you do), please plan accordingly. Enjoy some time at Sandy Point National Wildlife Refuge, where wildlife, history, and science meet the natural beauty of the beach and the waters of the Caribbean Sea.
– Jennie Ogden, Editor