Where Are the Best Snorkeling Spots in St John, US Virgin Islands?

Waterlemon Cay offers some of the best snorkeling on St John
Waterlemon Cay offers some of the best snorkeling on St John | © Larry Malvin / Alamy Stock Photo

St John is the smallest of the USVI, yet it teems with marine life – from green sea turtles to nurse sharks and seemingly everything in between. The US Virgin Islands State Park comprises land, reefs and lagoons, all of which enjoy protected status. Whether you are sailing around the island or enjoying some time at the beach, here’s our list of the finest snorkeling sites on St John.

Explore the snorkeling spots in St John for a day.

Hansen Bay near East End

If you are looking for a remote spot to snorkel in St John, Hansen Bay fits the bill. The seagrass beds draw green sea turtles and conch, while the patch reefs are home to endangered staghorn coral and sea fans. A wide variety of fish can be spotted such as Jacks and Pompano, plus gaggles of stingrays like to hang out – be sure to shuffle feet if coming in from the beach to avoid a sting.

Honeymoon Beach in Caneel Bay

Accessed easily by boat or beach, Honeymoon Bay is an ideal spot for beginner snorkelers, or those looking for a relaxing day surrounded by coconut palms. Abundant green sea turtles, southern stingrays, conch, and colorful tropical fish can be found in the calm waters off Honeymoon Beach. Feeling adventurous? Sail east to Caneel Bay where the reef is home to lots of colorful marine species, like French and grey angelfish.

Maho Bay near Windberg

Maho Bay Beach is known for its soft sand, clear waters and shallow entry. Most waters don’t get below 12ft (4m) deep, making it one of the best spots for snorkeling beaches on St John. Head to the western shoreline reef for blue tangs, wrasse, and even the occasional nurse shark. Watch out for the fire coral in this spot as well. Early morning risers should swim over the dense seagrass in the middle of the bay – this is where you’re most likely to spot green sea turtles.

Lameshur Beach near John’s Folly

Lameshur Beach is a quiet, relatively untouched beach on the southeast side of St John. A small rocky outcropping close to shore houses a variety of corals and schools of fish. Octopus, barracuda, Caribbean lobsters, and queen angelfish can be seen swimming around the crevices. More advanced snorkelers should head to Yawzi Point; it offers deeper canyons where elkhorn and brain coral populate the structure, and colorful sea fans wave in the water. The water is more tumultuous on this side, so proceed with caution.

Trunk Bay off North Shore Road

A popular spot to snorkel in St John, Trunk Bay features a self-guided 650ft (198m) underwater snorkeling trail, covered in less than 20ft (6m) of crystal clear water. Expect to see triggerfish, yellowtail snappers and indigo-blue tunicates with underwater plaques to guide your journey. Back on land, the creamy sand populated with lifeguards is maintained by the Virgin Islands National Park. There is an entrance fee, but the facilities include snorkel gear rentals, showers, restrooms, and more.

Waterlemon Cay in Leinster Bay

Fancy a little historic sightseeing alongside snorkeling? Waterlemon Cay is accessed through a flat, short hike through the ruins of three sugar cane plantations. The entry is rocky with a few urchins hanging out, so tread with caution. Novices should head to the western end, whilst the eastern corner is more suited to skilled snorkelers, due to the currents. Look out for green sea turtles, eagle rays, squirrelfish, and the occasional small nurse shark. Large cushion sea stars are also among the more unique creatures here.

Henley Cay in the Windward Passage

If you are sailing around St John, Henley Cay is a vibrant snorkeling site, only accessible by boat. This cay is located on St John’s stunning north shore. Strong currents feed an underwater forest of sea fans, soft corals, and gorgonians; the habitat teems with health because the spot is relatively remote. Spot nurse sharks, blue tangs and wrasses. If you’re lucky, you’ll see black and white geometric tunicates and rare blue encrusting coral. This is some of the best snorkeling on St John although only experienced practitioners should get in.

Haulover Beach near East End

Each side has something different to offer. Haulover North is a pebbly beach with strong currents and rocky patch reef. Filefish can be spotted hunting for food, plus reef squid sometimes hide in the outcroppings. Haulover South features submerged boulders and underwater caves for exploring. Keep an eye out for large jacks, permit fish, conch and a variety of rays. Both spots are suitable for intermediate to advanced snorkellers – check the weather conditions before you go.

Discover the top sites for snorkeling in St John for a day.

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