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The largest of the U.S Virgin Islands, St. Croix is a prime vacation destination in the Caribbean. With diverse ecosystem and pre-historic sugar mill ruins, this 84 square mile island offers an abundance of land attractions, but what this place is the most well-known for is its wonderful marine life. The famous underwater trail and numerous shallow-water beaches offering fantastic conditions for those who decide to go snorkeling in St Croix. To find the best easy beginner areas and advanced deeper reefs, save this Top 10 Saint Croix snorkel spots list!
Cane Bay Beach
This popular beach is an excellent St. Croix snorkeling spot to visit if you are looking for a place that offers easy shore access and has amenities like restaurants, sunbed rental, and dive shops. The small parking lot close to the sand and a shady, grassy area make this beach very convenient and family-friendly.
Cane Bay has spectacular marine life to see both for divers and snorkelers. The reef starts near the shore, but the best part, the Cane Bay Wall lies offshore so make sure to have powerful snorkel flippers if you want to reach this area. Here you’ll find an extensive reef covered with coral and sponges and can spot many kinds of colorful Caribbean fish, stingrays as well as turtles.
It takes about 10-minute swim to get to the best snorkeling area, you need to start from the concrete boat launch and swim about 300 yards/270m. If you don’t find yourself confident enough to swim long distances in open water, book a guided tour at one of the dive shops.
One of the best and most popular places for snorkeling in St Croix is Fredericksted Pier where the cruise ships dock. This more than 1000ft long structure with depths up to 40ft/12m features vibrant marine life: the massive, coral-covered pillars provide shoals of fish, squids, and turtles with a hiding place, while the sandy bottom attracts eagle and stingrays to the area.
Keep in mind that snorkeling here requires planning since you can’t be in the water if there is a ship in the port. It is a good solution if you stay in a nearby hotel (The Fred Hotel is a great choice) so you can just walk to the pier whenever there is no ship in. To check the cruise ship schedule, visit the Crew Center website.
Another good St. Croix snorkeling spot is the small sandy-rocky area called West Beach. It is the best place to go if you are looking for a relaxed beach not so far from the cruise port since it lies just 1.4miles/2.3km from Frederiksted.
The best snorkeling area is in front of the Harbour Beach Village Condominiums. It is interesting that although there are not too many corals here but lots of fish right next to the shore in shallow water (maximum depth is about 10ft/3m) which makes it a great place for beginners or if you want to teach your kids how to snorkel. The only thing you need to keep in mind is that the water can get murky if it’s windy, so choose a calm day to visit West Beach.
No St Croix snorkeling trip can be complete without visiting Buck Island! This uninhabited island lies just about 1.5 miles/2.4km off St. Croix’s North East coast.
Buck Island features one of the three underwater trails of the US and enjoys high-level protection. It became a protected area in 1948 by the U.S. Government, in 1961, John F. Kennedy declared it a U.S. National Monument than in 2001, it was expanded by Bill Clinton and now it covers ~18,000 acres of sea and land.
With postcard-perfect beaches, clear blue waters, and teeming marine life, diving and snorkeling at its finest here. The Buck Island Reef National Monument is not only one of the best places for snorkeling in the US Virgin Islands but was ranked #2 on the ‘World’s Top 10 snorkel spots’ list by the Coastal Living Magazine.
The 4550-acre long reef giving home to more than 250 brightly colored Caribbean fish species including surgeonfish, doctor fish butterfly fish, blue tangs, parrotfish, angelfish etc… Moreover, also juvenile sharks , eagle rays, lobsters, octopus and sea turtles live here.
The snorkel trail lies in the lagoon where you find signs that describe the area’s marine life. Here you can go with a guide and wear a flotation vest (these are required by the park), then you can explore the reef on your own.
If you want to experience the best snorkeling in St Croix, make sure to add visiting this place to your vacation itinerary! Since there are no restaurants nor facilities on it, bring snacks and beverages or book a full-day Buck Island snorkeling trip that includes refreshments and lunch.
Located east of Christiansted, Shoys Beach is one of the calmest Saint Croix snorkeling beaches. The reason why this spot is quieter than other places is that the entrance is hidden behind a gated community, therefore most people think it is a private area.
To get to Shoys Beach, take the road next to The Buccaneer Hotel and tell the guards you want to go to the beach so they will let you in. Leave your car in the parking lot at the end of the road and access the beach through the tunnel in the mangroves. The beach itself is wide with plenty of shade, but there are no facilities.
If you don’t mind taking some extra efforts to get to beautiful places, then you should visit Isaac Bay. It is a fairly remote spot that is accessible by a 10-15 minute hike from the parking at Point Updall.
The hike is not difficult, doable with kids too but bring plenty of water and snacks. A travel-size beach umbrella or a packable beach tent will come in handy too because there is not too much shade on the beach.
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The hike to the bay is awesome with wonderful views and so is the beach. It is a wide area protected by a barrier reef with corals in the shallow water, about 50 yards from the shore.
Tip: if you keep walking past Isaac’s Bay, you will get to an even more remote beach, Jack’s Bay. Most people stop at the first beach so there is a chance that you can have Jack’s Bay all to yourself!
Those who look for the most interesting beach to go snorkeling in Saint Croix should definitely head to Butler Bay. It is known as a wreck diving spot but only what not many people know that there is a shallow shipwreck too on the left side of the bay that lies about 20-30ft/6-9m deep, but is clearly visible from the surface too.
The wreck functions as an artificial reef promoting corals to grow on it and attracting marine life to the area. You can see barracudas and sometimes small sharks, and turtles around it.
The only thing you should keep in mind is that it takes about 10 minutes of swimming to reach the wreck, so go there only if you are a strong swimmer and have good equipment. If not, join a boat trip at any dive center that takes divers to the Butler Bay wreck and ask them to drop you at the shallow wreck.
Tamarind Reef Beach
Those who look for the perfect place to stay in St Croix with easy shore snorkeling should check out Tamarind Reef Resort east of Christiansted, on the north shore. This location has everything you need for a perfect Caribbean vacation: on top of the fantastic house reef, this nice sandy beach offers bathrooms, huts, water sport equipment, and beach gear rental, bars and restaurants.
The Tamarind Reef Snorkel Trail lies on the east end of the beach. You should swim to the west near the breakwater end to see the best part of it, which is considered as nice as the Buck Island Trail by many. Expect to see a variety of soft and hard corals as well as Caribbean reef fish such as parrotfish, trumpetfish, blue tangs, filefish, butterflyfish etc…
Tip: if you love adventures, rent a kayak and paddle out to the little islet of Green Cay that allows for more good snorkeling!
Privacy-seekers will certainly enjoy Smugglers Cove which is a secluded place on the east end of the island. If you come on a weekday, you might have it just for yourself. It is a pretty kid-friendly beach and a good snorkel spot for beginners.
To get to Smugglers Cove, drive on the East End Road and take the dirt track on the left where the road turns towards Divi. Make sure to pack your beach gear as well as food and drinks because there is no shop or kiosk around.
For snorkeling, the best area is around the remains of the old dock structure where many small fish gather. A little further out, the seabed is covered with seagrass where you can see sea stars, stingrays, and sometimes turtles too!
Rainbow Beach belongs to the island’s most popular beaches because of the wide variety of services available including clean bathrooms, umbrella, and chair rental service, water sports, volleyball court that add to the beach fun. Also, there is a small restaurant here, Rhythms Bar that serves great food and drinks at affordable prices.
This might be not the best spot for snorkeling in St Croix in terms of marine life, but in front of the restaurant area there are small coral patches and among the rocks, you can see some fish.
If you are here with your kids, it is worth taking them for an easy snorkel session because the water is calm and clear. Advanced underwater explorers should swim towards the white buoys at the north end of the beach where often rays and moray eels hang around.
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