Good Snorkeling Spots in St. Croix?
By Tom Turner
Can anyone share specific information on good snorkeling spots in St. Croix? My wife and I have been roped into a two week stay there in January 2014. I have not had much luck in locating quality snorkel spots. We have found info on snorkel spots online, but I am afraid that it is not what we would consider “good” snorkeling. Please help us out to find where to go. Thanks.
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Laura – Jun 11, 2013 – Great Snorkeling at Tamarind Reef and Teague Bay
We have been to St. Croix expressly for snorkeling in March 2013 and June 2012 (and a long time ago). There are some wonderful spots.
We stay at the Tamarind Reef Hotel, on the north shore east of Christiansted because there is fantastic beach snorkeling at their house reef. Just feet from shore we have seen a wide variety of sea life. Here’s an excerpt from our TripAdvisor post, “It’s the rare snorkel that we don’t see at least one Hawksbill Turtle. We’ve also seen Spotted Eagle Rays, Blue Tang, Trumpetfish, a variety of parrotfish, damselfish, and wrasse, the Caribbean Spiny Lobster, Fourspot Butterflyfish, Porcupinefish, Smooth Trunkfish, and Scrawled Filefish among others, many on every snorkel. There are a variety of hard and soft corals, anemone, and urchins, as well as a healthy bed of sea fans.” The beach area is lovely, with chairs and cabanas. It’s maintained by Jerry and Mimi in the Fun Sun Hut (or something like that). They have snorkel gear for hotel guests, rinse buckets, and a shower. Visitors not staying at the hotel can rent chairs, cabanas, and gear for modest prices. It’s never been crowded. They do a great job maintaining the area and advise on a safe entry/exit to avoid urchins. There are kayaks as well, and a short trek over to Green Cay allows for more snorkeling with a somewhat different seascape.
We have also chartered so that we can enjoy other spots. We very highly recommend Bilinda Charters and now have spent four full days with Captain Dee. This is a more expensive option than snorkeling from shore, but we economize in other ways (hotel, meals, no rental car). These charters have been the highlight of our trips. Dee has lived on the island for a very long time, knows the waters, winds, currents, snorkeling spots, and is great at identifying sea flora and fauna. She tailors the outing to suit your desires (and weather conditions). With Dee we have snorkeled in Christiansted Harbor, at Green Cay, and twice at Teague Bay, right inside the reef just south of Buck Island. We have seen many of the species I listed above on these snorkels; additionally, Teague Bay has some very healthy finger and Elkhorn corals.
Finally, on this trip we did a SNUBA outing in Cane Bay, and then lingered for snorkeling within the bay and to the wall. The seascape was very different from the other spots (I’ve not yet identified all the species we saw), although the density of things to see was not as high.
I don’t know what the weather is like in January. Strong northeast winds (versus the prevailing easterlies) will kick up sand and make the water very murky on the north side. We had a few murky days this last trip, only one of which was bad enough to seriously detract from the experience.
We posted snorkeling photos on TripAdvisor reviews for Tamarind Reef and Bilinda Charters. We also posted photos on Bilinda Charter’s Facebook page. Our ID is ShouldSave4Retrmnt.
Carol & Mike – May 29, 2014 – Snorkeling at Tamarind Reef
Thank you very much for the recommendation for snorkeling at Tamarind. We thought the snorkeling there was awesome, the beach was clean, and the price was good for renting a tiki with two lounge chairs at $10. We also enjoyed snorkeling at The Buccaneer and were more impressed with those two spots than we were at Buck Island, Shoys, or Chenay.
Becky – Nov 22, 2014 – Snorkeling Buck Island St Croix
Has anyone snorkeled Buck Island? I’ve heard different reports. I know the reef has been protected for a long time but I’ve heard the reef is overfished… which is true for much of the Caribbean. I would love to hear a first hand report. Thanks.
Anonymous – Mar 8, 2016 – St. Croix Snorkeling
A few of us just came back from St. Croix. We snorkeled daily at different beaches.
Cane Bay was very good although swimming out to the wall felt like we were swimming really far off shore.
Isaacs Bay is gorgeous, although a walk from where you park your car.
We also rented a licensed boat captain and spent the day at Buck Island which is really fabulous. We saw a lot of fish among the coral on Buck Island but not many on other beaches.
The only issue while we were in St. Croix was the pull of the undercurrent. It made for a bit rough snorkeling in that we didn’t want to bump into some of the coral and had to really watch where the water was taking us.
Had been to the Bahamas years ago and loved the swim and all the fish. Don’t remember much coral though.
Jerry – Nov 21, 2016 – Buck Island Snorkeling Review
We were skeptical having heard mixed reports. We decided that $75 was a reasonable price to pay for the boat ride and time at the beach even if the snorkeling wasn’t great. We were blown away!
We took Caribbean Sea Adventures half-day tour and they were great. They gave the beginners a great snorkel lesson to keep them from hurting themselves or the coral but let my wife and I along with a few others go ahead with our own guide. I thought it was great that they cared about the reef so much but at the same time didn’t want to take away from our snorkel time.
Right when we jumped in there were big healthy brain corals with schools of parrotfish, Blue Tang, Yellowtail Snapper, grunts, and French Angelfish.
We swam to the outside of the reef and you could see some places where Hurricane Hugo damaged the coral. Once on the outside we saw turtles, barracuda, and two Nurse Sharks.
We snorkel on every vacation and this was the best so far.
Snorkeling St. Croix, USVI January 2014
By Tom & Jan Turner – (Jamestown, PA) – Feb. 22, 2014
We wanted to share our experience with snorkeling St. Croix in the US Virgin Islands. On January 16, we made our escape from the frozen regions of western Pennsylvania, to go to a “new to us” snorkeling spot. We spent the next two weeks snorkeling, or trying to snorkel, almost every day. We found that wind and currents can be very difficult at St. Croix in January.
Our first day, we went to Cane Bay. Cane Bay is interesting because it is a rather short swim out to “the wall”, where the bottom drops out of sight, I am told thousands of feet. Not much to see for a snorkeler, but the deep, deep blue of endless water is very interesting. Other than this, the snorkeling was mediocre. We swam the entire bay, which does have a decent amount of hard and soft coral, some big fan coral and some really big sea rods. We saw all the regular reef fish (Blue Tang, butterflyfish, surgeonfish, Sergeant Majors, grunts, Yellowtail Snapper, Brown and Blue Chromis, Graysby, Coney, Parrotfish, Bluehead Wrasses, trunkfish, squirrelfish), along with some really big barracuda, Porcupinefish, and the first school of Ballyhoo we have seen that were not on a hook. There was a big sandy area that had all these worm looking things coming up from the sand. We identified them as Brown Garden Eels. Interesting. In the afternoon, we saw two Green Sea Turtles, one let us swim along with him for quite a while. We saw a really tall stand of Pillar Coral, a Banded Jawfish and a school of Saucereye Porgy.
We had dinner across the street at Eat @ Cane Bay. One of the better places to eat on the island, that we found.
During our two weeks, we snorkeled at:
-Salt River Bay, wavy and rough and could not get out to the reef. Saw a really big barracuda, five feet or so.
-Butler Bay, kind of rough and murky. Some decent coral, good swim with a sea turtle, first school of Caribbean Reef Squid since getting to the island, burrfish, Steeler Fish (Rock Beauties) and a post-larval juvenile trunkfish.
-Isaacs Bay, which was very rough and choppy with a very strong current. We went in at the east end and let the current take us to the west end. Lots and lots of dead Elkhorn Coral, decent amount of hard and soft corals, some regular reef fish, not a lot, and several lobsters.
-Great Pond, which was basically nothing. I don’t know if we went to the wrong spot or what, but it was shallow, very little wildlife and lots of turtle grass.
-Dave’s Pool in Frederiksted and did not see a whole lot. We did find a basket star here, some burrfish, typical reef fish, some Palometa, and the first lionfish that we saw.
-The cruise ship pier in Frederiksted. This was very interesting because of all of the growth (corals and sponges) on the piers, both the new pier and the old pier. Lots of regular reef fish, along with a scorpionfish and a six inch Highhat.
-Tried several times to go in at the Palms. We were staying just down the beach from it, but it was always too rough to really see anything. The one time we went in, we spent so much time trying to keep off the rocks, that we never really got to look at anything.
-We went to the south end of Veterans Shore Road, south of Frederiksted. Nothing really there to see. A nice beach, but no structure or anything in the water.
-Laura suggested snorkeling at the Tamarind. We also heard that the swim from the Tamarind to the Buccaneer was a good swim. We tried to do this a couple of times, but it was always too rough to get in the water. Unfortunately, we were never able to see this part of the island.
-We went in at Cheney Bay and swam out to Green Cay. Cheney Bay was pretty bland, and the swim out to Green Cay was void of any wildlife, except for an occasional conch. Green Cay was probably the best reef and coral that we saw the whole time we were there. The waves and currents were there, but there was no sand, so the water was very clear. There is great coral, at least on the east side of the cay, and lots of fish and wildlife. We saw a huge Southern Stingray, a Spotted Eagle Ray, all of the regular reef fish, many big barracudas, more Porcupinefish than we had ever seen in one place, one really big trunkfish, and a really big filefish, maybe about two feet long.
-We found a spot that we called No Name Bay. If you drive to the east end of the island, just before you go up the hill to Point Udall, there is a pull-off on the left side of the road, with a small bay at the bottom of a short walk. We found this to be a very nice snorkel spot. Whereas there was a lot of big, dead Elkhorn Coral (I started calling St. Croix “The island of dead Elkhorn”), there were some good, healthy stands of Elkhorn, a lot of hard and soft coral, big colonies of Pencil Coral, two turtles and some big barracuda, and lots of regular reef species. We went in on the east end of the bay, and let the current take us to the west end. It was one of the nicer spots that we found while there.
We spent one day going through the rain forest, which is of particular interest to me, since I am a forester by trade. We also took a day and walked down to the tidal pools. No snorkeling to be had there, but a very nice spot to enjoy the surf and the pool and the scenery.
One of the activities that was really pushed was a snorkel boat out to Buck Island. We thought that we would do it, but after talking with several snorkel junkies who had gone, we decided to skip it. We were told that there was lots and lots of dead Elkhorn, and hardly any fish. We decided that we had seen enough dead Elkhorn around the island.
In closing, I think that the snorkeling is better at St. Croix than what we were able to experience. The weather was a major factor in messing up the snorkeling for us. If is was calmer, I expect that we would have had much better snorkeling than what we were able to do. From what we saw, though, I think there are much better islands in the Caribbean to go to if you want a specific snorkeling vacation.
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Susan – Feb 24, 2014 – Thank You
Thanks so much for the wonderfully descriptive post. I’ve been wondering for a while what snorkeling was like on St. Croix and your post gave me some very specific information.
Anonymous – Aug 28, 2014 – Similar Experiences
I was in St. Croix just the week prior. I definitely had some experiences with rough water, and wondered how usual that was. I haven’t snorkeled many other places so I don’t have basis for comparison.
Isaac’s Bay, which you have to hike down to (wear good shoes as there are thorns you can step on like I did… ouch), had quite a lot of small fish, and a lot of dead coral. The water was rough. You also need to watch out for sea urchins.
If you hike farther to Jack’s Bay, you find yourself on the most beautiful and secluded beach on St. Croix and that is where we found the most interest underwater as well. Lots of fish and a squid. Still rough enough to make me seasick after awhile.
We also went to Cane Bay which I found to be over-rated. The wall might be of interest for scuba divers.
There is a man-made trail at Rainbow Beach on the west side which was okay. The water was probably calmest there.
What I DO NOT recommend is trying to snorkel at Tamarind Reef. You will be lucky if you don’t get smashed by a wave into a boulder covered in sea urchins.
Susan B – Sep 19, 2014 – More Info From Our Visit in September 2014
We spent last week snorkeling St. Croix. We had 15-20 knot E-SE winds everyday which made places like Issacs and Jacks Bay too rough to even try.
Our best experiences were at the Frederiksted Pier where we swam with a giant fish ball the size of a two story house and at Shoys Beach which was literally carpeted with brain corals and had a great variety of sea life including an eagle ray, two large turtles, and a moray eel.
The important thing about getting to Shoys is to enter at the Buccaneer, go through the right checkpoint and follow the road to the parking spot off Punnett Point by the pyramid house. Walk through the tree tunnel and swim out to the point. This is just around the corner from Tamarind Reef Resort beach but don’t try to enter or exit at Tamarind it is too rocky. We also swam out to Green Cay, about a 20 minute swim from where we entered, and there is a lot of nice Elkhorn out there although very shallow and rough waves.
The spot mentioned in the above post, No Name Bay, is OK with a few larger stands of live Elkhorn but mainly lots dead. It is a beautiful secluded beach and an easy walk down.
There is a beautiful spot off Miss Bea Road in Green Cay Estate at the tip of Prune Bay but, unless there is absolutely no wind, the visibility is very poor most of the year.
Anonymous – Nov 21, 2015 – “No Name Bay”
The above mentioned “No Name Bay” is actually Boilers Bay. There is good snorkeling before the reef but really amazing past the breaking waves. It’s a little tricky to swim through without touching the coral but well worth the effort once past it.
Anonymous – May 23, 2019 – Great Snorkeling
My husband and two friends, and I snorkeled at Buck Island, St. Croix. It was so wonderful that the cruise snorkeling we’ve done has paled in comparison, as cruise ships are over-protective and you are pretty much squashed into one tiny area while trying to snorkel.
While at Buck Island my husband and our friend swam with a rather large Lemon Shark. It was very aloof and they were able to get within 10 feet of the shark.
My friend saw a sea horse with babies – all in single file! 17 babies is all she could count before they drifted off into dark oblivion!
It was just too amazing for words, all of it!! We cannot wait to go back!