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The Caneel Bay Resort, on the west coast of St John, has several beaches and bays suitable for snorkeling. It offers different marine ecosystems to explore, including coral reefs, rocky overhangs and seagrass beds. This diversity of environments allows snorkelers to spot a large diversity of marine species, such as green sea turtles, stingrays, and dozens of colorful reef fish species.

The Caneel Bay Resort, destroyed in the 2017 Irma and Maria hurricanes, is currently closed. The beaches and snorkeling areas can only be accessed by boat.

Caneel Bay Beach
Caneel Bay Resort boasts calm, gin-clear water bays. Here, Scott Beach.

How to get to Caneel Bay snorkeling areas

The snorkeling areas are all located inside the Caneel Bay Resort. Access is therefore mainly reserved for guests of the complex.  (The Caneel Bay Resort, destroyed in the 2017 Irma and Maria hurricanes, is currently closed. The beaches and snorkeling areas can only be accessed by boat.)

Like all beaches in Saint John, Caneel Beach, Scott Beach, Turtle Bay Beach and Hawksnest Beach are in theory public, but it is not allowed to walk through the resort to get there.

The only way to reach these areas if you are not staying at the Caneel Bay Resort is by sea, by kayak (mainly from Honeymoon Beach) or with your own boat.

Caneel Bay Resort snorkeling map, USVI

Water entrance for snorkeling Caneel Bay

You can enter the water from the beach of the bay you want to snorkel. Scott Beach has several areas of shallow rock ledges, so choose your access and exit point carefully.

Caneel Bay snorkeling exploration tips

The Caneel Bay Resort area is made up of several large sandy embayments with rocky headlands between them. Each of the bays and associated headlands have their own characteristics and support different marine ecosystems.

French and gray angelfish at Caneel Bay
A French angelfish (left) and a gray angelfish (right), both at intermediate phase, found along the rocky point between Caneel Beach and Scott Beach.

The headland to the right of Caneel Bay beach has a particularly good variety of fish species while the center of the bay has very healthy seagrass communities.

In Scott Beach, once in the water, the ledges can be followed to the right, with plenty of fish choosing the shelter provided under the ledges.

Swimming towards the headland to the right of Scott Beach numerous examples of elkhorn coral can be observed. Be aware of currents in this area.

The small beach at Turtle Bay has good reef to both the left and right. To the left are some good examples of staghorn coral.

To the right there are some spectacular rocky outcrops, however this area is subject to stronger currents and heading towards and around Hawksnest Point should only be attempted by the most experienced snorkelers. Numerous examples of southern stingrays can be noted in this area.

Red hind at Caneel Bay
The protected reefs of Caneel Bay allow to observe several species of groupers, including the red hind (photographed in area 3 on the map).

Hawknest Bay is very wide and is substantially composed of seagrass, hence is popular with green sea turtles.

The reef and shallow boulder strewn sands to the left of the bay support a wide variety of fish species, including large shoals of some of the more open water species.

Restaurants and accommodation nearby

Caneel Beach, Scott Beach, Turtle Bay Beach and Hawksnest Beach are the Caneel Bay Resorts house reefs.

The Caneel Bay Resort, destroyed in the 2017 Irma and Maria hurricanes, is currently closed. The beaches and snorkeling areas can only be accessed by boat.

 

  • Level required Beginner
  • Protected areaVirgin Islands National Park
  • Maximum depth15ft/5m
  • Water entranceFrom sandy beaches
  • LifeguardNo
  • Visitor numbersMedium
  • Access costsCost of a stay at Caneel Bay Resort, or by boat/kayak

MAP Spot

These snorkeling spots are accessible to beginners and kids. You will enter the water gradually from a beach, or in a less than 3ft. deep area. The sea is generally calm, shallow, with almost no waves or currents. These spots are usually located in marked and/or monitored swimming areas. It is not necessary to swim long distances to discover the sea life.

This level only apply when the spot experiences optimal sea and/or weather conditions. It is not applicable if the sea and/or weather conditions deteriorate, in particular in the presence of rough sea, rain, strong wind, unusual current, large tides, waves and/or swell. You can find more details about the definition of our snorkeling levels on our snorkeling safety page.