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Best Snorkeling in St John: Amazing Trunk Bay Underwater Trail

Best snorkeling in St John

The best snorkeling in St John, USVI can be discovered at beautiful Trunk Bay, part of the Virgin Islands National Park. Trunk Bay is one of the most beautiful beaches in the whole world. You’d do yourself well to visit this glorious white sand beach even if you don’t snorkel. If you love to go snorkeling or you’d like to try it for the first time, stick your head under the water. You’ll see that the beauty of Trunk Bay continues well below the surface.

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Visiting Trunk Bay is possible if you’re staying on the island of St John or any of the neighboring US Virgin Islands. Justin and I didn’t actually stay in St John. We were on a cruise aboard the Emerald Princess that stopped at Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas. The island of St John isn’t too far from St Thomas, and it’s possible to take a ferry there for a half day or full day trip.

Booking a Snorkeling Tour to St John

Our cruise ship docked at the Crown Bay Marina in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas. Justin and I were super excited to go snorkeling on the neighboring island of St. John, especially because it would be Justin’s first time snorkeling! I had gone in the past and quickly became obsessed, and I knew that Justin needed to experience seeing the fish underwater, too. I love snorkeling so much that I also booked an additional snorkeling tour in Bonaire on this very same cruise.

You have a couple of options if you’re on a cruise ship. It’s possible to book a half day snorkeling trip to Trunk Bay from St. Thomas. If you’d like to spend more time in the port of Charlotte Amalie later that day, this is a good option. There’s also this fantastic snorkeling tour to Trunk Bay where you’ll spend five or six hours there. You won’t feel terribly rushed around, you’ll go snorkeling at Trunk Bay, and you might have time to see a couple of other sites while you’re there.

Taking the Ferry to St. John

To get to Trunk Bay from St. Thomas, you’ll need to take a short ferry ride. The journey takes about 30 minutes one way. Trust me, the journey is well worth the opportunity to witness some of the best snorkeling in St John. On the ferry ride, you’ll be able to soak up the gorgeous scenery and views of the US Virgin Islands.

Ferry between St Thomas and St John
Ferry between St Thomas and St John
Ferry between St Thomas and St John
Ferry between St Thomas and St John

Our tour operator also told us many interesting facts about the islands, as well as some details about himself. He moved to the US Virgin Islands from the United States to live in a tropical place all year long. It’s possible to travel to the US Virgin Islands with a US passport whenever you like…or even move there! We’re both Canadian, so we don’t exactly have the same options ;)

When we got to St. John, we boarded a small shuttle bus that took us to the beach. Our driver’s name was Puff, and he wore a huge gold chain around his neck that with gigantic letters that spelled out PUFF. It was very easy to remember which bus to get back on at the end of the tour! Puff stopped the bus at the side of the road a couple of times as we traveled through the hilly terrain in order to slowly view the beautiful scenery of St. John.

Trunk Bay and the Virgin Islands National Park

Trunk Bay, Virgin Islands National Park

It’s no exaggeration when I write that Trunk Bay has to be one of the most beautiful regions of the island with such breathtaking views. Trunk Bay used to be owned by Laurence S. Rockefeller, and he donated it to the National Park Service over 50 years ago. Nowadays, it is one of the most pristine beaches in the entire Caribbean. It is also one of the top places to snorkel in the Caribbean, too.

Trunk Bay Beach

Trunk Bay is part of the Virgin Islands National Park and the beach is immaculate. There wasn’t a single piece of garbage to be found. The park staff take very excellent care of the area and keep it very clean. The beach features 0.3 miles of white sand, beach ramps, and accessible paths. It’s one of the best beaches on St. John.

When we arrived, a park ranger spoke to everyone in our small group to ensure that we would stay off the coral reef while snorkeling. Protecting the coral reef is taken very seriously here, and I’m glad that they’re so diligent about this. A life guard on duty keeps watch over everyone in the water to make sure that no one swims too closely to the protected coral reef areas in the water. It’s also very important to only wear reef safe sunscreen in the water to protect the coral reef, too.

Best Snorkeling in St John at Trunk Bay

Trunk Bay Beach

While you’re welcome to bring your own snorkel gear, our tour guides provided us with snorkeling equipment for the tour. Trunk Bay has to be one of the best snorkeling beaches in St. John. You can step out right from the sandy beach and into the water. There are so many bright and colorful fish not too far from the shore. Trunk Bay is a fantastic place for beginners who are just learning how to snorkel, too.

Coral reef island at Trunk Bay St John

From the shores of Trunk Bay Beach, you’ll see a tiny island in the middle of the water. The island is surrounded by fragile coral reef, so you shouldn’t swim too closely to it. From that island, you can follow the Trunk Bay Underwater Trail. This is a 225 yard long underwater snorkeling trail. There are underwater signs to read where you’ll learn a thing or two about the marine life at the Virgin Islands National Park. There’s also an excellent chance that you’ll spot tons of vibrant fish.

Trunk Bay Underwater Trail

Trunk Bay Snorkeling

When we swam the Trunk Bay snorkeling trail, the waters were a little bit choppy. This decreased our visibility underwater. While we could read some of the signs, not all of them were visible. I have to be perfectly honest. I wasn’t paying much attention to the signs because there were so many beautiful fish to admire. There were so many fish: small schools of fish, rainbow colored parrot fish, striped fish, bright blue ones, and ones with pointed faces. We also saw many types of gorgeous coral, as well as black sea urchins at the bottom (don’t put your feet down!).

Best snorkeling in St John: Fish at Trunk Bay, Virgin Islands National Park
Best snorkeling in St John: Fish at Trunk Bay, Virgin Islands National Park
Best snorkeling in St John: Fish at Trunk Bay, Virgin Islands National Park
Best snorkeling in St John: Fish at Trunk Bay, Virgin Islands National Park
Best snorkeling in St John: Fish at Trunk Bay, Virgin Islands National Park
Best snorkeling in St John: Fish at Trunk Bay, Virgin Islands National Park

Justin and I went snorkeling at Trunk Bay for about 1.5 hours before heading back to the beach. The time absolutely flew by. We could have stayed out for longer. In hindsight, it would have been nice to enjoy the stunning beach, too. Alas, we had to head back to St. Thomas.

The travel time between Trunk Bay and St. Thomas is about 45 minutes in total (taking the car ride and the ferry ride into account). While it’s a bit of a trek, it’s totally worth it. Trunk Bay easily has the best snorkeling in St John, and some of the best of the entire Caribbean. Book your snorkeling tour in St. John, USVI here.

Visiting Trunk Bay On Your Own

You don’t have to book a tour to visit Trunk Bay or the Virgin Islands National Park. If you have your own transportation, you can show up and visit Trunk Bay Beach for the day. There is a day use fee of $5.00 per person. Some of the Trunk Bay Beach amenities include a beach shop, a snack shack, snorkel gear rentals, restrooms, and showers.

More St John Snorkeling Sites

More than 40% of the Virgin Islands National Park is underwater. It makes sense that there are many St John snorkeling spots outside of Trunk Bay. If you’d like to try some other snorkeling sites or you find that the conditions aren’t favorable at Trunk Bay (ie. choppy waters), here’s where you’ll find more of the best snorkeling in St John. Many of these snorkeling spots also happen to be the best beaches on St John as well.

St John Snorkeling
St John Snorkeling

Maho Bay

Continuing northwest of Trunk Bay, you’ll find the shallow cove known as Maho Bay. It’s one of the best places to see turtles in the US Virgin Islands as it is an important habitat for sea turtles. You’ll have the best chance of spotting them in the early morning or late afternoon. You’ll also have the chance to swim around rocks and reefs with ample fish populations, including angelfish and octopus.

Cinnamon Bay

Cinnamon Bay is right around the corner from Maho Bay. It’s a really small bay and beach, and it’s also a great place to escape the crowds and tourists. In addition to fish, you might spot lobsters, crabs, and other invertebrates.

Waterlemon Cay

Waterlemon Cay is on the north end of St. John, closer to the British Virgin Islands / Tortola. Leave your car at the Annaberg Sugar Mill Ruin and take a short 20 minute hike to Leinster Bay Beach. The snorkeling at Waterlemon Cay is incredible. You might spot sea turtles, eagle rays, and even little sharks. Keep to the southern side of the cay as the north side can have strong currents.

Salt Pond

At the far southern end of the island, you’ll find some of the best snorkeling in St John at Salt Pond Beach. From the Salt Pond Bay Trailhead in the Virgin Islands National Park, hike to Salt Pond Beach. Then, you’ll swim out to the giant rock formation in the middle of the bay. There are tons of fish, stingrays, and sea turtles. As there is a little bit of a swim involved, snorkeling at Salt Pond might not be the best choice for beginners, unless you’re a decent swimmer.

Packing List for a Snorkeling Trip

St. John, USVI

You really won’t need to bring too many things along with you for a snorkeling trip in the US Virgin Islands. Bring your sense of curiosity and adventure, as well as a few important items:

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Have you ever gone snorkeling in the Caribbean and where?

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Peter Parker

Wednesday 11th of May 2016

Fantastic post Lauren. I Think US Virgin Islands are one of the most beautiful beachside places in the world.


Saturday 29th of November 2014

Awesome pictures! Trunk Bay is awesome in the morning before it gets too crowded. My other favorite snorkel spots in St. John are Waterlemon, Cinnamon, and Maho Bay for the turtles!

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