Of the U.S. Virgin Islands, St. Thomas is the most developed, and possibly the best-loved. It stretches across just 31 sq. miles but it boasts one of the world’s most beautiful harbors, best beaches and richest marine life. The surrounding waters are teeming with more than 500 species of fish, 40 types of coral and hundreds of invertebrates, as well as green turtles. 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. From secluded bays to bustling beaches, we’ve rounded up seven of the best places for snorkeling in the St. Thomas.
Where are the best places for snorkeling in St. Thomas?
Unlike many Caribbean islands, St. Thomas’ reefs are easily accessible from the shoreline. That means there’s no need for pricey boat trips or day-long excursions. Sea temperatures average 26– 29 C (79-84F) all year round, which makes it a popular year-round snorkeling destination too. That said, for the best water clarity, you’ll want to avoid the windier winter season and hurricane season between July and October.
Located on the eastern side of the island, Sapphire Beach boasts prime snorkeling conditions. The shallow rocky ledge and reefs are brimming with tropical fish and colourful corals. The reef is well protected too, with some of the best-preserved brain coral in the region. You might even get lucky and spot the odd turtle and ray.
As well as offering underwater adventures, this snorkeling spot offers brilliant amenities on dry land. There’s a range of food trucks and cafes dishing up local specialities and drinks, snorkel rental shacks and sun bed rental. Little ones will love looking out for iguanas and ducks in the nearby man-made pond too.
Magen’s Bay Beach is St Thomas’ most popular beach, for good reason. The one-mile stretch of pristine white sands is pure tropical paradise. The waters here are calm with practically no undercurrent, which makes it particularly popular with families. While it’s by no means brimming with marine life, you’re still likely to catch a glimpse of something interesting, particularly along the bay. Plus, it’s a popular spot with turtles. As well as snorkeling, you can hire paddle boats and kayaks. You can rent snorkel gear from the stall at the beach too.
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.
If you’re looking to swim with turtles, hotfoot to Brewers Bay Beach. Located on the University of the Virgin Islands campus, the beach is also home to the Center for Marine and Environmental Studies. Waters here are crystal clear, with excellent visibility. While there isn’t much in the way of corals and tropical fish, you’re almost guaranteed to bump into green sea turtles and hawksbill turtles nibbling sea grass a short swim from the shore.
The beach is just four miles from the airport terminal too, though it feels worlds apart. You’ll need to bring your own chairs and umbrellas, though there are food trucks nearby for a pick-me-up.
If you’re looking for a secluded snorkelling spot, Lindquist Beach is your best bet. The 21-acre protected parklands boast pristine white sands, calm waters and no sign of any cruise ship tourists. Just off the shore, there are dense seagrass beds frequented by hungry turtles and rays too. If you have the energy, it’s worth swimming to the colourful reef a little further on. It’s teeming with angelfish, butterflyfish, pufferfish, parrotfish and grunts. The tide pools are brimming with critters too.
While there aren’t many amenities at the beach, there is a lifeguard. There’s no need to bring your own umbrella though, the swaying coconut groves and sea grape trees provide plenty of shelter. If you’re thinking about making a day of it, you can rent a a shed for the day too.
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.
Located on the east side of the island, Secret Harbor Beach is a haven for wildlife enthusiasts. The protected bay boasts calm and crystal clear waters, lined with palm trees and hammocks. It offers diverse snorkeling too, with three different ecosystems. The rocky coastline is brimming with tropical fish while the seagrass meadows offer up the opportunity to get up close to sea turtles and rays. The colourful coral reef is popular with octopus and squid too.
Visitors can make use of amenities at The Secret Harbor Resort, including the on-site restaurant and bathrooms.