St John, USVI Snorkeling Trip Report: Post 2017 Hurricanes
There has been a fair amount of discussion on this website about the state of the snorkeling in St John, USVI post 2017 hurricanes Irma and Maria. I have just returned (July 2019) from two weeks on the island where I was able to snorkel every day.
Below are my thoughts on the current condition of many of the most popular sites. Overall, I still believe that St John offers some of the best snorkeling from the shore in the entire Caribbean with many of the sites still in great condition. However, the impact of the hurricanes is very evident, and it will be a number of years before the snorkeling returns to the island’s pre-hurricane pristine state.
I will be comparing my experience with the descriptions and rankings in the St John Snorkeling Guide you can get on this website.
Honeymoon & Salomon Bay – guide ranking: 3 snorkels - my updated ranking: 2 snorkels - The main reef at Honeymoon is pretty beat up. This is probably a combination of the hurricanes and all the new activity on the beach (daily catamaran trips to snorkel, paddle boarders, etc.). However, there was still a good amount of fish and the water consistently offers some of the best visibility on the entire island.
Caneel Bay Beach – guide ranking: 5 snorkels - my updated ranking: 1 snorkel – We did the long swim over from Honeymoon and the damage was very evident from the point we entered the bay. The reef was completely destroyed by the storms and there has not yet been much recovery. We did see a very large spotted eagle ray and a giant Caribbean Spiny Lobster. I would not waste the energy on the swim.
Hawksnest Beach - guide ranking: 2 snorkels - my updated ranking: 2 snorkels - Most of the Elkhorn Coral was surprisingly still healthy and there was a fair number of fish, turtles and sting ray.
Maho Bay - guide ranking: 2 snorkels - my updated ranking: 1 snorkel – Maho is just a large grassy area to search for turtles and rays. They were still some there. Other than that, the beach does not offer much for snorkeling, but is a nice place to hang out and relax.
Francis Bay - guide ranking: 2 snorkels - my updated ranking: 3 snorkels - Francis never really contained very much coral and that is now even more so the case. However, there were a good amount of fish and many turtles. Still a nice long snorkel with some interesting sea life.
Waterlemon Cay - guide ranking: 4 snorkels - my updated ranking: 4 snorkels - The sea life was still abundant, but there seemed to be fewer large fish around the point and at the drop off on the west side. Impressive amount of soft coral including a large sea fan area.
Long Bay & Pelican Rock - guide ranking: 5 snorkels - my updated ranking: 4 snorkels - The soft coral here appeared to fair the best from the hurricanes versus any other site on the island. The protection of the interior bay may have helped that outcome. Still a great snorkel site, but the amount of sea life seemed to be decreased a bit.
Blue Cobblestone Beach - guide ranking: 5 snorkels - my updated ranking: 5 snorkels – Still a great spot with abundant sea life. The coral was noticeably damaged, but not enough to diminish the snorkel.
Kiddel Bay - guide ranking: 5 snorkels - my updated ranking: 5 snorkels – Probably my current favorite spot on the island. The coral was also noticeably damaged, but the sea life was very active on both sides of the bay. Big and small fish. Always worth the drive.
Grootpan Bay - guide ranking: 5 snorkels - my updated ranking: 4 snorkels – I will preface this by saying that the conditions were a little tough for the snorkel (winds out of the southeast) creating poor visibility along the right side rock wall and around the point on the left. There seemed to be a lot of damage from the storm. We still saw a lot of sea life, but not like in past years.
Indians – (not in snorkeling guide) my updated ranking: 4 snorkels – Still a great snorkel area with unique features. Noticeable damage, but it remains one of the best sites reachable by boat.
The Caves – (not in snorkeling guide) my updated ranking: 3 snorkels – Fun to explore with some very large fish to see at the drop off points. Saw the biggest barracuda I have ever seen here.
Spyglass Wall – (not in snorkeling guide) my updated ranking: 5 snorkels – The healthiest coral patch I saw during the entire trip. Impressive coral towers and large fish off the deep end of the wall. A very fun snorkel, but you need good conditions as the area is very exposed.