Snorkeling Salt Pond Bay
A Short Hike To A Long Swim

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.

Nice view of snorkeling Salt Pond Bay

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.

Getting To The Beach

Salt Pond Bay Trail - About 1/4 mile long downhill

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.

Water Entrance For Snorkeling Salt Pond Bay

Snorkeling Salt Pond Bay water entrance

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.

Where To Snorkel

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 did.

Southern Stingray we spotted in front of Salt Pond Bay Beach

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.

Cool sponge and Gray Snappers on the left side of Salt Pond Bay

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.

The best snorkeling area at Salt Pond Bay, the left point and the two rock islands in the middle.

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.

Lively reef on the farther rock island Salt Pond Bay

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.

What We Saw Snorkeling Salt Pond Bay

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.


Intermediate Phase French Angelfish at Salt Pond Bay
Scrawled Filefish and Long Spined Urchins
  • Angelfish: French, Queen
  • Barracuda, Great
  • Butterflyfish: Banded, Foureye
  • Chromis, Brown
  • Chub
  • Damselfish: Bicolor, Longfin, Sergeant Major, Threespot, Yellowtail
  • Drum, Spotted
  • Eel, Spotted Moray
  • Filefish: Orangespotted, Scrawled
  • Goatfish: Spotted, Yellow
  • Grouper: Coney, Red Hind, Rock Hind
  • Grunt: Bluestriped, French, Porkfish, White
  • Hamlet, Barred
  • Herring, Redear
  • Hogfish, Spanish
  • Jack: Almaco, Bar
  • Lizardfish, Sand Diver
  • Mojarra, Yellowfin
  • Parrotfish: Queen, Redband, Stoplight, Striped, Yellowtail
  • Porcupinefish
  • Porgy, Pluma
  • Silversides
  • Snapper: Gray, Lane, Mahogany, Schoolmaster, Yellowtail
  • Soldierfish, Blackbar
  • Squirrelfish
  • Surgeonfish: Doctorfish, Ocean
  • Tang Blue - schools
  • Trumpetfish
  • Trunkfish: Smooth, Spotted
  • Wrasse: Bluehead, Puddingwife, Slippery Dick, Yellowhead


Beautiful healthy Elkhorn Coral
Spotted Drum, Schoolmaster Snapper and Bluestriped Grunt sheltering in a Pillar Coral at Salt Pond Bay
  • Blue Crust
  • Brain: Grooved, Maze, Symmetrical
  • Corky Sea Finger
  • Elkhorn
  • Encrusting Gorgonian
  • Finger
  • Fire: Blade, Branching
  • Lettuce
  • Mustard Hill
  • Pillar
  • Sea Fan: Common, Venus
  • Sea Plumes
  • Sea Rod: Bent, Black, Porous
  • Staghorn
  • Star: Lesser, Lobed, Mountainous
  • Starlet: Lesser, Massive

Other Creatures:

  • Crab, Giant Hermit
  • Feather Duster Worm: Magnificent, Social, Split Crown
  • Sponge: Black Ball, Branching Vase, Lumpy Overgrowing, Yellow Tube
  • Stingray, Southern
  • Tube Worm, Christmas Tree
  • Turtle
  • Urchin: Long Spined, Rock Boring, West Indian Sea Egg

Driving Directions

Salt Pond Bay Parking Area
Bus stop and vendor at Salt Pond Bay parking lot
  1. From Cruz Bay head east out of town on Route 10/Centerline Road. Follow this to the intersection with Route 107/Salt Pond Road in Coral Bay.
  2. Turn right on Route 10 and follow past the turn to Concordia Eco-Resort.
  3. Just as the road turns right, there is a parking area straight ahead with a sign for Salt Pond Trail. Park here.
  4. The bus stop is on the right edge of the parking area.
  5. The trail down the hill to the beach is in the far (south) side of the parking area behind a gate that is easy to walk around.

Facilities at Salt Pond Bay

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.



Now check out Kiddel Bay

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