The US Virgin Islands are located in the Leeward Islands of the Caribbean, to the east of Porto Rico. They comprise approximately 50 islands but the three main islands are St. Croix, St. Thomas, and St. John, around which the most accessible snorkeling can be found. In particular, much of the coast of St. Johns comprises the Virgin Islands National Park, which supports a variety of tropical habitats including some of the best coral reefs in the Caribbean.
St. Croix is 60km south from most of the other islands but has its own airport. Two good beach locations include Canes Bay and Shoys beach, with the former having a coral wall near to shore. Other interesting snorkeling spots include the Old Frederiksted Pier on the west coast and Buck Island. Only accessible by boat, Buck Island has a marked snorkel trail and is a good location to spot green sea turtles and occasionally eagle rays.
The islands of St. Thomas and St. John are to the north and are linked by frequent ferries between Red Hook and Cruz Bay. A good family beach for snorkeling exists at Coki Point Beach on St. Thomas, while a more demanding site, requiring a 45min boat trip, can be located off the Cow and Calf Rocks.
St. John is the most natural of the islands and has numerous easy access snorkeling spots. A group of spots is located around what was the Caneel Bay Resort, destroyed in the 2017 hurricanes. These beaches can only be accessed by boat at present as the resort is no longer open.
The beaches include Honeymoon Bay to the south, the main Caneel Bay beach, and both Scott Bay and Turtle Bay to the north, separated from Hawksnest beach by Hawksnest point. Hawksnest Beach has landward access and parking is available but the beach can be a little exposed and subject to surf. All areas support a range of corals, including some significant stands of elkhorn coral.
Other areas on St. John include Leinster Bay (also known as Watermelon Cay), which is 25mins in a taxi from Cruz Bay. Also, the wide flat beaches of Great Lameshur Bay, where bigger marine fauna may be found, including eagle rays, nurse sharks, and green sea turtles.
Clearly, some of the more interesting habitats in the area are based around the coral patches, which most notably include, elkhorn coral, varieties of staghorn corals, pillar coral and brain coral, as well as the brilliantly colored orange cup coral (only truly visible at night).
The extensive areas of healthy coral, in turn, support a wide variety of reef-associated fish species including angelfish, butterflyfish, puffers, hinds, parrots, tangs and grunts in abundance.
The open bays include extensive areas of seagrass beds that are favored by a wide variety of fish including southern stingrays and gently grazing green sea turtles. In the more exposed areas, larger species may be found including barracuda, nurse sharks and lemon sharks.
If you are planning a snorkeling trip to the USVI, we recommend the excellent Reef Fish Identification: Florida Caribbean Bahamas (also available in ebook), the reference guide to ID the fish you will encounter snorkeling the island’s coastlines.
Seawater temperatures are uniformly warm with the coolest period (78.8°F/26°C) occurring January to April, and the warmest water in September/October (84.2°F/29°C). The water temperatures mirror the atmospheric temperatures with the hottest periods between May to November (89.6°F/32°C) but tempered by the cooling breezes, which tend to be almost uniformly easterly in direction.
Rainfall also increases to a peak in September-November with maximum precipitation of 155mm in October. There is always the danger of tropical storms and hurricanes, with the greatest probability from August to October.
450+ spots have been featured on Snorkeling Report with the help of people like you. Share your favorite snorkeling spot and help us cover the world map. Your contribution will help the snorkeling community find sites and enjoy the underwater world!
Common in seagrass meadows, for example in Hawksnest Beach (Caneel Bay) and Buck Island
Occasional sightings in sandy/grassy areas
One of the most beautiful fish in the Caribbean. Occasional on reef spots
Common on reef spots
On all reef spots
At reef, but pretty uncommon
Bays with coral reefs and seagrass meadows with sea turtles
Protected bay with reefs, fish and occasional sea turtles
Free shore access
You must be logged in to post a comment.
A small island in northern Lesser Antilles, Anguilla has good snorkeling both on its main islands and its offshore cays and reefs. Corals, colorful reef fish, as well as occasional rays, nurse sharks and sea turtles can be observed in the shallows. (...)
Saint-Martin is a small picturesque island in the north of the Caribbean, divided into a French part in the north and a Dutch part in the south. Its 67km of coastline and 35 beaches make it a popular destination for beach holidays. Saint-Martin offers snorkelers great opportunities to explore the un (...)
St Barthélemy, often nicknamed St Barts by English speakers, is by no means a top snorkeling destination in the Caribbean, but if you spend some days on the island, you’ll have fun discovering its underwater world. A dozen of decent to good snorkeling spots are found off the beaches of the islands, (...)
Made up of two main islands and many small islets and reefs, Antigua and Barbuda has one of the richest marine ecosystems in the Lesser Antilles. The country provide dozens of good snorkeling spots, from coral reefs to shipwrecks, mangroves and sandbanks where stingray abound. In nearshore shallow w (...)
Hosting the largest coral reef in the Lesser Antilles, the islands of Guadeloupe boasts some of the Caribbean's most abundant marine life. This French archipelago comprises seven islands, each with great snorkeling spots, in particular in the tiny Îles des Saintes and the Pigeon Island, that captiva (...)
For many people, a trip to the Dominican Republic is one thing above all else: a relaxing all-inclusive vacation on a beautiful white-sanded beach. But if you love snorkeling, leave your beach towel for a while and go exploring the island’s underwater world. Even if snorkeling in Dominican Republic (...)
Made up of a main island and fifty uninhabited islets, Martinique is the southernmost region of the French West Indies. Martinique is famous for snorkeling with green sea turtles, especially in the shallow coves of the southwestern part of the island. But you will find all along its coastline dozens (...)
Saint Lucia is a pristine Caribbean island located a few dozen kilometers south of the French island of Martinique. If it is reputed for its spectacular mountainous landscapes, its underwater wonders are not amongst the most famous in the Caribbean. Still, the island’s preserved marine environment a (...)