The U.S. Virgin Islands is home to a dizzying variety of underwater attractions, from the amenity-packed beaches of St. Thomas to the wild marine parks of St. John. Add to this year-round sunshine and visa-free access for US travellers and it isn’t hard to see why it’s such a holiday hotspot. The region is packed full of superb snorkeling spots bursting with schools of fish, sea turtles and wrecks. But which to choose? From sprawling marine parks to mangrove forests, we’ve rounded up seven of the best places for snorkeling in the US Virgin Islands
Where are the best places for snorkeling in the US Virgin Islands?
This tiny island located off St. Croix is the region’s only underwater national monument. In fact, President John F. Kennedy even called it ‘one of the finest marine gardens in the Caribbean Sea’. The marked snorkel trail winds across 704-acres of coral reef, flora and fauna. There are 250 recorded fish species here and it’s one of the few places where you can see the endangered hawksbill, green and leatherback sea turtles too.
To get here, you’ll need to book a day trip with a local snorkel company, but once the boats have moored up you’ll get lots of opportunities for some solitary snorkeling too.
This north shore site is popular with divers and snorkelers looking for easy access to epic underwater adventures. You’ll only need to swim out around 450-ft to reach the reef wall, which drops dramatically to critter-filled deep waters too. Marine highlights here include elkhorn and brain coral, lobster, reef octopus and Nemo fish.
Just off the southeast coast of St. Thomas are two huge rocks that could easily be mistaken for whales (or a cow and her calf). This dive site is popular with novice divers and keen snorkelers, thanks to its relatively shallow depths of just 40-ft. Expect to see lobsters and critters, as well as elkhorn coral. If you’re lucky, you might spot a sea turtle. You can take a snorkel tour to the site or hop on the ferry from Charlotte Amalie, which takes around 45 minutes.
Another popular St. Thomas snorkel site, Coki Point Beach is located on the shore’s northeastern coastline. It’s ideal for beginner snorkelers and families thanks to its sandy-bottomed entry point and easy access. The coral ledges near Coral World’s underwater tower are brimming with schools of blue tang, parrotfish and shoals of squid.
If you’ve had your fill of coral reefs and sugar-sand sea floors, Hurricane Hole is an excellent option. The mangrove forest is bursting with coral, as well as sponges, starfish and snappers. The easiest way to get here is by booking a tour from Coral Bay or a kayaking trip from St. Johns.
Leinster Bay, also known as Waterlemon Cay, frequently ranks as St. John’s best snorkeling site – and the attention is totally deserved too. The site encompasses seagrasses, corals, sands and cobblestones, which makes for a snorkel trip packed full of variety. Highlights include schools of angelfish, trumpetfish, barracuda and the odd green sea turtle tucking into an afternoon seagrass snack. It’s roughly 25 minutes from Cruz Bay and a little tricky to find, which means you’ll usually be on your own too.
For a more dramatic underwater experience, there’s Haulover Bay. This small, pebbly beach is difficult to reach, but it’s worth the extra effort once you’re in the water. The snorkeling here is some of the most dramatic in the region, featuring ledges and walls packed with marine life. In deeper waters, you’ll bump into huge jackfish, mackerel, blue tangs, parrotfish, sea cucumbers and colourful corals.