Snorkeling Salt Pond Bay on the southeast shore of St. John is popular and requires a short downhill hike to the sandy beach. There is some amazing reef life, but you need a calm day and the stamina for a long swim to reach it. If the winds are from the south at all, do not try to snorkel this beach. If you snorkel the entire circuit we describe below you will be swimming over 3500 feet, or about 2/3 mile.
Note: This page is a sample from our popular St John Snorkeling Guide eBook available here.
Once you reach the best areas you will encounter many fish of numerous types, healthy hard and soft corals, fun topography, and other creatures too.
Salt Pond Bay can be reached by public bus or rental vehicle. It can also be accessed by trail from the Concordia Eco-Resort up on the hill above the bay.
The dirt trail from the parking lot down to the beach is about a quarter mile long and is moderately steep. Look for the large obvious trail behind the big gate at the south end of the parking lot. There is another small trail that begins a little left and closer to the road that goes to some ruins and then joins with the trail from Concordia Eco-Resort before meeting back up with the trail to the beach.
The water entrance for snorkeling Salt Pond Bay is sandy with some coral rubble. You could do it barefoot, but shoes would be more comfortable.
Between the boat moorings and the beach there is an area 20 feet deep
with sea grass beds. You can see turtles and rays in this area and we
We will describe snorkeling Salt Pond Bay as a circuit, beginning with the left side, then going to the rock islands far out in the middle of the bay between the points, and last coming back to shore along the right side.
Start swimming along the left side of the bay. It is mostly rocky, with a small amount of corals and sponges. There is an occasional Pillar Coral and a good number of fish along this rocky shoreline. Follow it out a good long ways, about 1100 feet, around the point, and you will come to an area that has huge boulders and valleys in deeper waters. This snorkeling Salt Pond Bay area is much healthier, has more fish, bigger fish species, many big sponges and lots of healthy hard corals and some soft.
From there you can swim over to the farther out of the two rock islands in the middle of the bay between the points. In the picture at the top of this page the tiny rock islands can be seen to the right of the last boat (not the big island to the left). The islands can also be seen between the points in the picture at right. The bottom on the swim across is up to 35 feet deep sand and sea grass. If you swam from the beach these rocks are a long swim, over 1500 feet straight out. Swimming across from the left side, the distance is about 600 feet.
The outer island is covered densely in very healthy hard and soft corals of nearly every kind, including Elkhorn, Staghorn and large Pillar Corals. On the east side of this island, we did not see a lot of fish, but around to the west side we saw many fish and some interesting canyons.
Then swim over to the inner island closer to shore. On the east side of it is one of the larger Pillar Corals we have seen. And we saw lots of fish congregating around it. We spotted an immature Spanish Hogfish operating a cleaning station here too. This island is also covered in soft and hard corals, but not as densely as the farther out island. And it is generally more shallow. There is a broad shelf from the north end of the island you can follow all the way to shore.
On your way back to shore along the right side of the bay there are some
fields of soft corals farther out, and sparse corals closer in. We saw
few fish in this area. Visibility is generally lower on this side when
there is an east wind.
Generally the visibility for snorkeling Salt Pond Bay was better farther out and not as good closer to shore. The depths for this snorkel range from 1 to 35 feet.
We saw a huge barracuda, one of the biggest ever. It was fun to watch a pair of Porcupinefish chasing each other. This spot had excellent corals, including Pillar Corals and soft corals. It also had many fish and other creatures.
At the bottom of the trail there is a pit toilet. The beach also has trash cans, picnic tables, and shade from trees behind the beach.