By STACY TUCCOLO
The perfect water conditions, a plethora of pristine coral reefs, bays and cays and an array of lively underwater sea creatures make snorkeling one of the most popular activities at St. John. What’s a cay you say? A cay is an island or reef of sand and coral and there are plenty to be seen and experienced around the island of St. John. Whether it’s their first time or a favorite pastime, St. John snorkelers can coast along at their own speed and depth to partake in this inexpensive, fun and easy water adventure. The calm, crystal clear, 80-degree turquoise water provides the ideal setting for snorkeling amongst rocky coastlines, coral reefs, shipwrecks and colorful sea creatures beneath the water’s surface. All you’ll need is a snorkel, mask, fins and of course a swimsuit (unless you’re at the swimsuit-optional section at Solomon Bay where the ordinance against public nudity is apparently not enforced) to walk straight into snorkeling nirvana from the beach. Or you can take advantage of one of many guided snorkeling tours and chartered boat expeditions widely available on the island. Most resorts offer snorkeling as one of many available water sports and there are several independent outfits offering lessons, equipment and guided tours.
Consider yourself warned! Once you’re coasting along the gorgeous waters of St. John taking in all there is to see beneath the sea, you may not want to get back to dry land! There are a few things to consider as you embark on your flipping adventure. First, remember to wear waterproof sun block or you’re likely to get scorched! And, though snorkeling is not a team sport, it is a buddy sport. In other words, when heading out into the open water, it’s wise to bring a friend – just so you can keep an eye on one another! It just makes sense. If you get into deep waters and one of you becomes fatigued, gets a cramp or becomes injured somehow, it’s good to know someone’s got your back and can offer their help. Also, enjoy the fantastic view but please don’t touch! You are an observer and a visitor to this amazing ecosystem and it’s important that you respect it. Please do not overturn rocks or touch the coral and other sea life. The survival of this underwater world depends upon us.
Bays, Cays and Rays
There are so many amazing snorkeling sites from the island and unlimited stunning views with every flip, flutter and turn as you skim through the water! Gardens of coral and colorful sea residents create gorgeous displays of color, activity and excitement. Shipwrecks and sunken planes, now virtual underwater condos for thousands of sea creatures, create marvelous scenes of mystery and amazement. Check out a variety of snorkeling sites to take in all there is to see during your stay. Pick up a guide book such as “St. John Beach Guide” or “St. John Off the Beaten Track”, for information about each place. Some favorite snorkeling sites for residents and visitors of St. John are: Cinnamon Bay, Francis Bay, Flanagan’s Cay, Hawknest Bay, Jumbie Bay, Maho Bay, Saltpond Bay, Solomon Bay, Trunk Bay and Watermelon Cay.
Francis Bay has one of the longest beaches at St. John with equally impressive snorkeling beneath the sea. This rocky underwater metropolis is filled with sea turtles and amazing blue angel fish. Stick toward the right side of the bay for the best snorkeling views.
One of the most fantastic snorkeling sites from the Island is Flanagan’s Cay, just off the south eastern coast of St. John. Skim along the water and view the most amazing coral heads that reach as far as 12 feet high, hawksbill turtles, spotted eagle rays and a plethora of underwater wildlife in only 20 feet of water!
A very popular snorkeling site, Saltpond Bay should definitely top your must-see list. Getting to the water requires a short walk, but this helps keep the crowds away and your experience here is definitely worth a short jaunt. With a gorgeous reef on one side, a reef in the center of the bay and rocks on the other side, there’s plenty to see beneath the water’s surface. Be sure to look for the bigger than life sea turtles!
This is said to be one of the best snorkeling sites from St. John because the peaceful, warm, crystal clear water off the coast of this white sandy beach hosts a plethora of marine life and a hub of activity beneath the sea. The white-sand beach wraps around a small cay that is home to a variety of sea creatures. Located on the northeastern side of Leinster Bay, this snorkeling site requires a short walk that is well worth it.
Hit the Deck!
One of the best ways to experience snorkeling adventures beyond the beach is to jump into the water from the deck of a chartered boat! Sailboat and motorboat snorkeling excursions are widely available on the island and a great way to take in all there is to see at a number of snorkeling sites at St. John. Some charters will island hop so you can snorkel at a few different locations in a given day and many provide breakfast or lunch and beverages. Most rent and sell snorkeling equipment so check out the options available before you book your charter. What’s your idea of the perfect snorkeling adventure? There are so many options and snorkeling sites available at St. John, it’s easy to decide what you want and plan your perfect day.
Here’s a list of some of the most popular independent businesses on St. John that offer snorkeling equipment, boat charters and guided tours:
Offering full and half day sea kayaking and snorkeling excursions around St. John and neighboring cays.
Blue Tang Yacht Charters
(340) 776-9070 phone
(340) 776-0669 fax
Board this 51-foot Sea Ray and enjoy a full breakfast, snorkeling with equipment provided, a delicious lunch and champagne.
Cinnamon Bay Campground
Offering snorkel gear rentals.
Coral Bay Watersports
Watersports of all sorts. Rentals, sales, videos. Diving, sailing, boating, snorkeling.
Cruz Bay Watersports
Toll Free (800) 835-7730
Offering guided scuba and snorkel trips, wreck and reef dives with rental gear.
East End Divers
Scuba diving on the east end of St. John with customized boat tours catering to small groups.
Offering luxury day sailing aboard a Hinkley with beach shopping, dive and snorkel trips, reef and wreck dives and snorkel gear for sale or rent.
Low Key Watersports
(800) 835-7718 Toll Free
Daily scuba and snorkel tours for beginners and experts alike with snorkel gear rentals, retail shop and full photo and video services.
M/Y Cinnamon Bay
Charter a private yacht for groups or individuals to snorkel St. John.
(888) 842-6632 Toll Free
Crewed & bare-boat charter boats. Offering day excursions for scuba diving other water sports.
If you want to bask in crystal clear, warm Caribbean water and experience one of the most amazing underwater worlds on earth filled with lively sea creatures and colorful coral while, grab your snorkel, fins and mask and head for the waters of St. John. Prepare to be amazed, because there’s truly no other place it in the world.