Snorkeling in St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands
Despite being the smallest of all the 3 US Virgin Islands, Saint John is one of the greatest when it comes to ecotourism. With 60% of its 50 square kilometers (19.3 square miles) land area declared as a national park, you can expect to see nature at its most pristine condition, even if it is outside the protected zone.
Marine life in Saint John is abundant where it houses over 500 species of fish, 40 coral species and several types of marine invertebrates.
Snorkeling Conditions in Saint John
If not for the Hurricane season that runs from June to November where it gets a good amount of precipitation, Saint John is otherwise known to possess a near-perfect weather condition. Its water temperature is conducive for aqua sports like snorkeling recording an annual range from 70 - 80OF (21 - 26OC).
If you want to experience the climax of this near perfect weather condition, then we suggest you visit Saint John from December to March. Although these months are considered as the peak of the winter season, the actual weather in Saint John is warm (but not scorchingly hot) and the waters are soothingly cool.
Most of your snorkeling spots in Saint John are located near the shore and may only require you to do shore entry.
Aside from the pristine beach, the good thing with your snorkeling spots around Saint John is that it is not dotted with tourism infrastructure and hotel strips giving you the ultimate feeling of being one with nature.
Best Snorkel Spots in Saint John
1. Trunk Bay
Location: northwest coast of Saint John
The small grass-covered islet of Trunk Bay is your prime snorkeling spot in Saint John. Its powdery white sand stretches all the way to the sea where it meets with a nearby reef area. There is no need to plan and establish your entry and exit points as Trunk Bay has an established snorkeling trail. All you need to is follow the signage.
As you enter the water, you cannot help but notice the crystal clear waters where visibility can reach over 30 meters (100 feet). Tropical fish is abundant in Trunk Bay, and you don’t need to go to deeper areas to see them. Schools of anchovies swarm the shallow sandy shores where you can see them actively swimming in groups.
You can do marine reptile interaction in Trunk Bay as it is known to have a good population of sea turtles. And if you are in the right time, you may see and interact with the biggest species in their family where some have seen leatherback sea turtles.
Located just south of Trunk Bay is a small strip of beach called Jumbie Bay. It features a secluded setting and away from the main tourist crowd. Your entry point is basically the 100 feet (30 meters) long sandy shore that has a gentle slope leading towards the shallow water.
It has the same snorkeling conditions with Trunk Bay except that boulders can be found underwater where the possibility of seeing lobsters, moray eels and other marine critter is high.
2. Maho Bay
Location: North coast of Saint John
Snorkeling in Maho Bay is ideal for beginners courtesy from the shallow and clear waters with a white sandy substrate that runs a few hundred meters away from the shore. Many newbies have considered its condition similar to a pool.
Once you are in the water, you will observe that there is a patch of seagrass interspersing with the white sandy substrate. In this area alone, you can see a good number of marine invertebrates like starfish and fish like stingrays that usually have a swimming companion such as the Jackfish.
Due to its crystal clear waters, you can easily spot sea turtles even if it is far from you.
3. Watermelon Cay
Location: North coast of Saint John
Located at the very end of the north coast of Saint John, Waterlemon Cay is one of the more adventurous spots since you are required to do a 20-minute hike before reaching the beach area. The hike itself is an attraction where you can pass by old abandoned stone houses and wildlife such as mongoose, deer and land crabs.
Unlike the white sandy shores of Trunk Bay and Maho Bay, your entry point in Waterlemon Cay is composed of small rocks, rubbles, and pebbles. With this, we highly advise you to wear reef boots for full foot protection while walking towards deeper water.
Just a few meters deep from your entry point is a seagrass bed where it is considered as the grazing grounds for sea turtles. Many have seen green sea turtles munching on the protruding shoots of seagrass and algae where you can follow them until you reach the reef where you can see eagle rays and small species of barracudas.
Just be aware that staying within the shallow reef is the best place to snorkel and going to the outer edges may expose you to strong currents.
4. Salt Pond
Location: South coast of Saint John
Similar to Waterlemon Cay, Salt Pond requires a short hike before you can reach your entry point, which is a vast white sandy beach. Your snorkeling spot is easy located courtesy from the protruding rocks situated in the center of the bay. With mild conditions and crystal clear water, your swim out towards the rocks will only take 5 to 10 minutes.
Once you arrive at the rocks, you will notice that this rocky protrusion is broken down into two separate segments and is entirely surrounded by marine life. Many have described it as a shallow pinnacle loaded with tropical fish like moorish idols, anchovies, surgeonfish, and damselfish.
Marine reptiles are also seen passing by this rock formation where many have seen green sea turtles.