St Croix USVI Snorkeling Guide

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St Croix is part of the US Virgin Islands located in the Caribbean Sea near Puerto Rico. US citizens do not need a passport to visit. The snorkeling here is great, offering easy beginner areas to more advanced deep-water reefs suited for free diving. The main areas of the island are an underwater wall running across most of the north side of the island; and the west side of the island is sheltered from most weather. All the snorkeling locations in this review are reachable from shore, except for Buck Island. That is an uninhabited island offshore designated as a national monument, it is probably the most popular tour on St Croix with many tour operators to choose from. On the north side of the island Cane Bay is a popular shore dive location, but the reef is deeper and farther out. Not far from there is Davis Bay offering shallow and deep-water snorkeling with a spectacular beach and surrounding area. On the west side of the island is the popular Frederiksted Pier, however the best snorkeling is just south of town at Sand Castle.

That's not all of the locations though! There are several more to explore in the following snorkeling guide, offering their own unique features.

 

We also offer downloadable pdf maps that include extra detailed information about each location. We want to share the love of snorkeling and answer the ultimate question: “where do you go snorkeling?”

 

 

Snorkeling conditions on St Croix can change significantly with moderate wave action…

Visibility underwater can drop to near zero in shallow snorkeling areas as waves churn up sediment. Deeper areas should be fine. Be mindful of this and don’t get disappointed. Find the nearest resort and call ahead before driving across the island. A great measurement is at Tamarind Resort, their reef is right next to shore and they offer snorkeling rentals. Call and ask if anyone is snorkeling and how the conditions are. If conditions are not great there, it is safe to assume other shallow snorkeling areas on the island also have poor underwater visibility. The exception is possibly Isaacs Bay and Buck Island, conditions there did not seem to be affected while others were. Also be aware, several days can go by with these conditions. Check the wind speed forecast for the week and plan accordingly. Use the map below to open in google maps app. Simply click the snorkel spot and hit directions! There’s also a video link for each spot.

St Croix Snorkeling Map

(Click the box on the map header to open in Google Maps app)

 

Click to jump to each location: 

 

 

Buck Island

One of the most popular tours on the island, take a boat to snorkel a reef in a National Monument. The main reef area is on the far east of the island. Various combinations of tours will also stop at the beach area on the far west side of the island. The snorkeling off the west side beach is not great. The primary snorkeling area on the east side is an extensive ancient reef. The tour boats anchor behind the breakers to drop off snorkelers to explore a large area. Depths are less than 10 feet. There are breaks in the reef to deeper water, but the tour boats don’t let you go out there. Overall, the reef appears to have taken a battering over time. The healthy parts appear to be dwarfed by remnants of a greater time. Don’t let that dismay you, the tour out here is a great experience and fun for the whole family. Try to pick a day with low wind, waves can get choppy on the unprotected east side.

 

Butler Bay Wrecks

North of town is unmarked Butler Bay. There are two locations in this bay with artificial reef shipwrecks that are reachable from shore. These locations are common dive spots and will have buoys marking them. As you stand on the rocky beach at Butler Bay looking out to sea, the “shallow” shipwrecks will be to the left (south) and the “deep” wrecks will be to the right (north). The buoys will be farther out and may be hard to spot, each location is a 10-minute swim from shore. The shallow shipwreck is more suited for snorkeling at around 20 to 30 feet deep. The “deep” wrecks are 60+ feet deep and are suited more for diving. If you prefer a boat ride out here, dive shops do frequent these wrecks but not every day. Ask the dive shops in Frederiksted if they are going Butler Bay and make sure to ask about the “shallow” wreck. There are several dive locations in the Butler Bay area.

Butler Bay Shallow Wreck:

 

Butler Bay Deep Wrecks:

 

Cane Bay

Popular beach and beautiful bay area. Steep hills surrounding the bay make for great views and good times. The snorkeling here is wonderful, but the good stuff is farther out. It requires around a 10-minute swim to reach and is easy to find. The reef covers a large area. Start in the middle of the beach, at the concrete boat launch area and swim straight out. The good part of the reef starts around 20 feet deep, so moderate free dive skills are needed to get up close. Dive shops and restaurants in the bay offer all day fun in Cane Bay. Shore divers are a common sight.

 

Davis Bay

Great snorkeling options here both shallow and deep. To access, go to Carambola Resort and park outside the resort. If you are not a guest, they won’t let you drive in, however all beaches are public on the island. You are allowed to park outside the resort and walk in to use the beach. The best snorkeling is on the far west of the beach below the cliffs. Snorkel out and around the cliffs to the west follow along below them as far as you feel comfortable. The reef is right below the cliffs and sits in 10 to 15 feet of water. There is also a deep snorkel area straight out from the west side of the beach at Davis Bay. There should be a dive buoy farther out. Swim to that. Below is an extensive reef and drop off wall starting around 25 feet deep. The reef is healthy with many canyons and features along this reef. Great spot for freediving.

Davis Bay Shallow Snorkeling Area:

 

Davis Bay Deep Reef:

 

Frederiksted Pier

The most popular shore diving spot on the island. Snorkeling and freediving is also great here. The columns of the large pier are coated in corals. Marine life also tends to congregate among the columns. The pier extends more than a thousand feet from shore and underneath reaches depths up to 40 feet. The public is welcome when no cruise ship is docked. There are also ladders extending into the water along the entire pier. After you swim out, you can climb up a ladder and walk back.

 

Hams Bay

There is a small shallow reef in Hams Bay with hard and soft coral. The reef is only in a couple feet of water. As you stand on beach, walk to the north until the beach ends. Enter the water here and keep swimming north. The reef features are spread out and in water less than five feet deep. Waves can be breaking here, make sure you don’t get pushed to shallow. Overall, the reef is not spectacular, but it allows you to get close to coral. This is one of the few shallow reef areas on the west side of the island.

 

Isaacs Bay

Excellent snorkeling in secluded nature preserve on the far east side of the island. Some of the best shallow coral on the island that is reachable from shore. Take a short hike to beautiful Isaac Bay. Once at the beach, snorkel straight out for some large scattered coral in shallow water. The bay covers a large area and is mostly protected by a barrier reef farther out. Enjoy and explore around this large bay area. There is also a channel to deeper water on the far north east side of the bay below the cliffs. Reef features are expansive. Be mindful of currents if you venture out here.

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Northstar

Primarily a free dive location between Cane Bay and Davis Bay. Along most of the island’s north side, there is a deep drop off wall filled with reef features. At Northstar, this wall comes close enough to the island allowing shore access. The reef starts around 20 feet deep and drops to the depths below. Locate the point on the snorkeling map, there is an unmarked grass pull off parking area directly on shore. To reach the wall, swim slightly north west from shore. At the beginning, it is very shallow for quite a distance and the wall is roughly a 10-minute swim out. Free divers will have fun diving along the wall.

 

Protestant Cay

Small island in Christiansted harbor offering the only beach in town and some modest snorkeling. Fun little escape right in town. The harbor is mostly grass bottom, but sea turtles and urchin can be found along with the occasional boat wreck. The harbor is protected by waves making it a great place for beginner snorkelers. To access the island, ride a ferry across from town for a fee.

 

Sand Castle

This the best snorkeling on the west side of the island. Described as a “coral prairie” this is a gently sloping flat sand area with scattered corals and sea grass. The corals are not dense, but extend over a large area. Marine life stays close to the scattered corals. Stingrays and turtles were also found. This area is named after the nearby resort. The best snorkeling area is not actually in front of the resort. I feel a few unsuspecting tourists were told to go to Sand Castle Resort and assumed jump in right in front. There is not much to see right in front of the resort. The best area is just to the north, follow the open beach area until the first buildings. Maybe a five-minute walk. Near this area, the sand ends and the iron shore gets too thick to enter easily. The entry point is also located on the snorkeling map. Swim straight out from here for about 5 minutes. Keep swimming till you start seeing corals, this whole snorkel area is around 15 to 20 feet deep. Around this area, straight out from the first building, is a large bucket in the water. Bucket, or scoop from a large piece of equipment. Marine life and corals cling to it. After that, swim even further out and explore the coral prairie. You can start swimming back to Sand Castle Resort, but the coral prairie does not go much farther south from here. Most of it is north of the entry point. This area can get churned up and visibility will drop significantly in moderate wind. Pick a nice calm day to go.

People have snorkeled all the way to Frederiksted from here, or in reverse. The coral prairie extends most of the way to town. That is a longer swim around a kilometer, so only attempt if you are more advanced skill level.

 

Tamarind Reef

Fun little reef right near shore, easy for beginners. View coral up close in shallow water. Located within Tamarind Resort, the beach and reef are open to the public. Enter the water on the far east of the beach. The reef extends west along the shoreline within the small bay area. Enjoy reef features in less than 10 feet of water. Snorkel gear can be rented from a small shop on the beach. Even modest wave action can churn up the reef dropping visibility to near zero. Call the resort ahead and ask about conditions before traveling here.

(sorry, no video :( visibility was too poor to post the video)

Annaly Bay Tide Pool

Not a snorkel location, but a great natural aquatic feature to visit. Rock grotto areas create natural calm pool areas. To access, drive to Carambola Resort on the north end and park at the trailhead. Folks at the resort can point you to the parking area. The hike is around 1.5 miles to the west. When you finally get down to the beach, walk west till you get to some cliffs. You will need to scramble around these cliffs to get to the tide pool. This is best done at low tide as you need to scramble around near the water.

 

West Beach

A small rocky area south of Frederiksted. There is limited coral but fish congregate here. Lots of nooks and crannies to explore around. Located right next to shore, this area is great for beginners. Most of the shoreline is rocky, but you can find a sandy entrance just south the condominiums. Locate the point on the snorkel map, that’s a good area to enter. From there, the main snorkel area is right in front of the large condominiums. It doesn’t extend very far from shore; the deepest parts are around 10 feet. This area can get churned up and visibility will drop significantly in moderate wind. Pick a nice calm day to go.

 

 

Hey, check this out:

For even more detailed information on these snorkeling sites, download our St Croix Snorkeling Map. Full color maps in .pdf version. Extra notes, tips and tricks to maximize your experience. Download for offline use and take with you to the snorkel spot.