Top 5 Snorkel Spots in St. John

Since I'm wrapping up my articles about my time on St. John, I figured I'd do a top five piece highlighting the best spots. The problem is, how do you choose your favorite beach locations in paradise? I thought about it in terms of where I'd return first if I make it back to the Virgin Islands and that turned into today's feature--Top 5 Snorkel Spots: St. John.

Top 5 Snorkel Spots in St. John - Blog

For a more in-depth analysis of each beach, check out the link within each summary!

1) Trunk Bay

Trunk Bay has to top my list of favorite stops during my visit to St. John. I’m struggling to find descriptors for it that don’t sound trite or cliché but they all seem to describe it so perfectly. From the white sand, the crazy clear water, to the plentiful sea life, it had it all. There was something special about visiting in the early morning that made it all the more memorable—seeing a rainbow arch up and over the bay and taking a swim in the warm ocean current is how I wish I could start every morning. Very Disney princess-esque, no? Don’t worry. I won’t burst into song.

The snorkeling was fun and easy; the underwater trail made it that much more simple and informative. It had plenty to do and see for all age and experience levels, which makes it appealing to me because you can bring the whole family and everyone will have something to do. I know the crowds can be a drawback, but if you go at certain times you can miss them altogether. And to be honest, I don’t mind the company—it always makes for awesome people watching. If people watching were an Olympic event, I’d have at least a bronze medal.

2) Waterlemon Cay

If you’re looking for a premiere snorkeling experience, it’s hard to beat Waterlemon Cay. While the trek in from the parking lot can be a drawback for some, if you want to get a real island experience, you can’t miss it. Trunk Bay is great for an overall beach and snorkel experience; Waterlemon is a snorkeler’s paradise. There are shallows along the bay where fellow snorkelers were finding squid and where there are often sea turtles resting. Swimming out to the cay offshore will yield an abundance of fish among the rocks and coral formations surrounding it. You can spend hours in and around the water here.

Plus, you’ll feel a greater sense of accomplishment because you had to work for it—that hike in felt like forever, particularly because I was in terrible footwear. Bone-headed move numero uno.


3) Cinnamon Bay

Cinnamon Bay has to be number three on my list. Side note: I feel a bit silly ranking these places at all. I mean, who am I to say which beach is the best? The worst beach on a bad day is better than the snowy inversion-driven sunless-days I’ve been dealing with at home for the past month, but I digress.

Oh yeah! Beautiful Cinnamon Bay. This beach is the biggest one I visited which means plenty of space to set up camp and lots to check out. Cinnamon Cay was a closer swim from the shore than Waterlemon Cay so you’re not quite as fatigued once you get out there. I loved seeing all the sea urchins tucked away in coral formations and chasing after schools of fish around the little sandy island. Just keep out of the way of errant tourists in kayaks and you’ll be fine!

4) Hawksnest Bay

It’s obvious once you visit Hawksnest Bay why locals love it. It’s a little more obscure than the more popular beaches listed above which means it’s not nearly as crowded. It’s a little light on things to see while snorkeling, although I did love being amongst the giant schools of fishing going around the rocks. Hawksnest is quiet, but not boring and has access to two adjoining beaches from the water (Gibney and Little Hawksnest Beach).

Hawknest feels more like somewhere you’d spend half a day, not necessarily stay to snorkel for hours on end. You probably wouldn’t go from beach to snorkeling more than once but would take one trip out and spend the rest relaxing on the sand.

5) Maho Bay

Maho is a perfectly lovely beach, but if we’re grading on the curve of where the best overall snorkel experiences are, I wouldn’t say it comes in last per se, but it’s probably the least awesome. Because there are yachts so often docked in the bay, the sea life was minimal in comparison. There didn’t seem to be as much area to explore as the other beaches and while I really hoped to see a sea turtle, none seemed to turn up. The beach was also pretty narrow and not very wide, making it seem more crowded than some of the other more spread out beaches. Still a beautiful place worth visiting, but if you're going to be on St. John for a limited amount of time, I would hit the previous four first.

There you have it!  My top 5 snorkel spots in St. John. What do you look forward to most? Snorkeling or enjoying a beautiful beach?

Interested in the St. John sea life? How about travel tips for the Virgin Islands?
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