The Virgin Islands hosts some of the finest marine life in the Caribbean.
Acres of coral reefs make up an ecosystem that supports a large variety of sea creatures and under water plants. Snorkelers can enjoy a leisurely swim in the crystal clear waters, diving through fantastic reefs to witness tropical marine life. St. Thomas and St John host a variety of snorkeling locations and famous underwater trails. Both novice and expert snorkelers will enjoy the passages through and over the reefs.
Fins, a Mask and a Snorkel
The big question for many is “should I buy or rent snorkel gear?” If you think that you will be snorkeling every day of your visit then it might make sense to purchase a set from either the local dive shops or K-Mart. If you are only planning to snorkel for one day then just rent. Important when either buying a mask or renting is to make sure that it fits properly. Hold the mask up to your face without using the strap and inhale through your nose until you have created a vacuum. If the mask stays attached to your face and no air leaks out then it is a good fit. Make sure your fins fit comfortably. They don’t need to be super tight but should fit snugly. Snorkels are one-size-fits-all. You can rent snorkel gear at the various snorkel beaches mentioned below. Most day sails and water sport tours operators will supply you with snorkel gear as part of their tour.
Some Good Advice
If you want to identify the different coral and fish species you can purchase one of the plastic underwater guide cards. They come with a band so you can attach it to your wrist. And if you want to take a photo underwater then get yourself an inexpensive underwater camera or a more expensive plastic underwater housing for your digital camera.
Wear a tee shirt to protect your back from the sun and a cap to protect your scalp. It is amazing how fast the tropical sun can burn you and wreck your vacation. Snorkel with a buddy — never alone. Please try not to stand on the coral as it is very fragile and some has already been stressed by a coral bleaching disease which has been invading our waters. Keep an eye out for sea urchins. If you step on one and it will hurt but they aren’t poisonous. Rocky coast lines and coral reefs near shore offer great opportunities to snorkel from beaches. Snorkeling from shore can be done without a guide.
Snorkeling from St. Thomas Beaches:
Coki Point Beach – On the north shore of St. Thomas right next to Coral World, Coki Point offers fantastic year-round snorkeling. Tons of fish hang around the coral areas adjacent to Coral World. Rent your snorkel equipment from the Coki Dive Club at Coral World.
Sapphire Beach – located on the East End of St. Thomas has shallow reef viewing along both sides of the beach.
Secret Harbor – Rent your equipment from the Aqua Adventure Dive Shop and have a nice protected snorkel and then enjoy lunch at the Secret Harbor Hotel’s beach restaurant and bar.
From St. John Beaches:
Leinster Bay – Easily accessible Leinster Bay, on the northern shore of St. John, offers calm, clear, un-crowded waters teeming with sea life.
Haulover Bay – A favorite with locals, this small bay is rougher than Leinster and is often deserted. The snorkeling, however, is dramatic, with ledges, walls, nooks, and sandy areas set close together.
Trunk Bay – The self-guided, 675-foot-long snorkeling trail has large underwater signs that identify species of coral and other marine life. Above water, the beach facilities offer freshwater showers, changing rooms, equipment rentals, and lifeguards making snorkeling downright convenient. Very crowded on cruise ship days.
By Boat Charter and Day Sail
Charters for half or full day trips can take you out to some of the less accessible and unique snorkeling areas. These tours will sail or motor to protected marine areas in the Virgin Islands National Park on St. John. Day charters often include lunch, drinks, and snorkeling gear.
Breathing Observation Bubble
This is an underwater scooter complete with a breathing and observation bubble attached to an air supply. Ride along while observing the beautiful of marine life. Available to anyone from ten years and up and doesn’t require experience. (See B.O.S.S. ad.)