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a person swimming in a pool of water

The island of St. John in the US Virgin Islands is multifaceted when it comes to its natural beauty. You could easily spend all of your days here hiking the verdant hills and lounging on the white sand beaches, but then you’d be missing half the fun. Arguably, the most stunning aspect of St. John is the abundant marine life, teeming in full color under the sea.

For those looking to explore more of this island beneath the surface, here are the top 10 snorkel sites we recommend checking out on St. John:

1) Henley Cay – Located across the channel from Caneel Bay Resort, Henley Cay can only be accessed by boat or kayak. Because of its remote location, its marine life has naturally been more protected in comparison to the beach sites with easier access. Diverse corals and gardens of sea fans thrive in this spot due to the currents in the channel. Fish friends to look out for here: spotted drum fish, angel fish, and trumpet fish. You can find more details on tours to Henley Cay here.

2) Scott Beach – This beach is a part of Caneel Bay Resort and currently must be accessed by water and guided tour only. We recommend joining us on one of our Caneel Bay tours where we’ll hop into kayaks on Honeymoon Beach and make our way over to Scott Beach. Off this beach, you’ll find rocky ledges of coral where the fish and lobsters love to hang out. Fish friends to look out for here: sea turtles, spotted eagle rays, and sting rays galore, as well as pufferfish.

a turtle swimming under water


3) Honeymoon Beach – Also a part of Caneel Bay Resort, this is the beach where VI Ecotours is based on St. John and is one of the most popular beaches due to its easy accessibility from Cruz Bay. We’ve got all of your gear here available to rent, as well as post-snorkel food and drinks through our beach bar, Bikinis on the Beach. The snorkeling here, all mostly shallow, is best on the west side of the beach between Honeymoon and Salomon. Fish friends to look out for here: parrotfish, blue tang, butterfly fish, hamlets, damsel fish, and an occasional turtle. (Getting to Honeymoon is fun – don’t miss out on the golf cart ride from the entrance of Caneel Bay! More details here.)

4) Maho Bay – This wide bay features plenty of snorkel sites to explore. Its main draw, snorkel-wise, is the abundance of turtle grass which means – you guessed it – plenty of sea turtles. They love to feed here and are often inquisitive of snorkelers. Other fish friends to look out for here: sting rays, balls of bait fish, and tarpon.

5) Waterlemon Cay – This incredible little cay can be accessed via Leinster Bay. It’s a bit of a swim, so if you’re not a confident swimmer, we recommend wearing life jackets for this one. It’s also important to be mindful of the weather when visiting this site, as there can be strong currents at times. The crystal clear waters surrounding this cay are worth the effort to get there, as are the lush corals and colorful reef fish, always busying themselves about the cay. Fish friends to look out for here: sea stars, conch, blue-striped grunts, and sergeant majors.

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6) Trunk Bay – This is the most snorkeled beach on St. John for good reason – its shallow, underwater snorkel trail means it’s an excellent option for all ages and experience levels. You’ll find underwater signage that helps you identify the common fish and coral in front of you. Fish friends to look out for here: scrawled filefish, red hind, and parrotfish.

7) Cinnamon Bay – The snorkeling off of this pristine beach is best to the right (east) when you’re facing the water. There you’ll find an interesting reef structure with plenty of coral and fish to inspect. Fish friends to look out for here: angel fish, squirrel fish, soldierfish, and hamlets.

8) Salt Pond Bay – This popular snorkel spot can be found on the other end of the island, just past Concordia when you’re headed out to Coral Bay. The center of the bay is where you’ll find most of the action, though we recommend that for expert swimmers only due to the distance from shore. Fish friends to look out for here: sea turtles, sting rays, hermit crabs, and flounder.

a person swimming in a body of water


9) Hawksnest Beach – This beach is a bit more exposed than others on this side of St. John, so we recommend checking the weather first and waiting for a calm water day. Here you’ll find a beautiful grouping of the endangered elkhorn coral and the creatures who live among it. Fish friends to look out for here: yellowhead wrasse, parrotfish, and blue tang.

10) Francis Bay – The longest sandy beach at the far end of the Northside of St. John tends to be a bit quieter than others and is popular with locals and those “in the know.” Here you’ll find the best snorkeling against the cliffs with lots of corals and sponges. Fish friends to look out for here: octopus, lobster, and schools reef fish.

For those wishing to explore on their own, we have snorkel gear available for rent. Or, if you’d prefer to get an insider’s peek into the reefs with an expert guide, check out our St. John snorkel tours.

Who’s ready to dive in?

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