Snorkeling in Saint Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands
Extending 22.7 miles (36.5 kilometers) long and 8 miles (12.8 kilometers) wide, Saint Croix is the biggest island that incorporates the US Virgin Islands.
Located in the Caribbean, Saint Croix is popular with tourist who wishes to have a warm and tranquil vacation.
With miles and miles of pristine coastline filled with stunning beaches, this tropical island is often included on the bucket list of scuba divers and snorkelers where vibrant reefs await your presence.
Snorkeling Conditions in Saint Croix
There are 2 primary reasons why aqua sports enthusiasts go snorkeling in Saint Croix: crystal clear visibility and warm tropical waters. It has been recognized that of all the islands, not just in the US Virgin Islands but in the entire Caribbean, Saint Croix has the best visibility. Some have claimed that they can see other snorkeling groups in the water as far as 30 meters (100 feet).
This also means that you can clearly see your surrounding reef and its inhabitants. The water temperature is soothingly warm, with an annual average temperature of 80OF (26OC).
While it seems that Saint Croix has the perfect snorkeling condition, you have to take note that there are factors that can affect the weather. Rain is extremely felt on each side of the island where the west coast receives substantial rainfall per year while the desert setting of the east coast gets the least precipitation.
Another factor is the predominant blowing of the trade winds, which affects the entire length of the island. Although strong winds can create rough water conditions, the waves are surprisingly small at Saint Croix courtesy from the natural protection of an extensive barrier reef that shelters at least 75% of the coast.
Best Snorkeling Spots in Saint Croix
For purposes of geographical reference and ease of locating the snorkeling sites, we will assign the twin cities of Saint Croix (Christiansted for the west coast and Frederiksted on the east coast) as our main reference point.
1. Buck Island
Location: 7 miles (11.2 kilometers) northeast of downtown Christiansted
Declared as a National Monument, this small island has an extensive barrier reef that is dominated by the population of elkhorn corals. Having a reef area of 4,554 acres (1842 hectares) it is recommended to tap the services of a snorkel guide for you to maximize your underwater adventure and see amazing marine life like spotted eagle rays, nurse sharks, lemon sharks, blacktip reef sharks, whitetip reef sharks and marine reptiles like leatherback sea turtles, green sea turtles, and hawksbill sea turtles.
But just in case you cannot find a snorkel guide as a huge crowd of snorkelers is always seeking for their services, you can still go snorkeling following a guided trail. With this, we suggest you assign the eastern tip of the island as your main entry point and follow detailed underwater signage that leads to a marked trail
2. Isaac Bay
Location: 8.7 miles (14 kilometers) east of downtown Christiansted .
Isaac Bay is pretty adventurous since you are required to hike for at least 20 minutes before you can reach the beach area. The hike towards the beach is already an attraction where you will walk along green grassfields overlooking the ocean. Once you arrive at the beach, you will be rewarded with an exclusive spot as only a few tourists visit the area. But the ultimate reward is on the reef, and you can only claim this reward if you go snorkeling.
The vast stretch of white sandy shore extends all the way out to the sea where it gently mixes with a nearby reef. Although it is facing an open sea, the waves are relatively mild, and the visibility is very clear that you can clearly see transparent drifters such as macro plankton.
3. La Grange
Location: 0.5 miles (0.8 kilometers) north of central Frederiksted
This former sugar plantation area is now a port of call for major cruise ships operating in the Caribbean sea. Located adjacent to the highway on Route 63, La Grange is popular with disembarking guest who wishes to have a quick snorkeling tour in Saint Croix.
While its long shoreline is dotted with rocky protrusion, your entry point can easily be located courtesy from the conspicuous sandy area. In general, your usual swimming direction will lead you towards the standing post of the harbor. You will notice that the concrete post is all encrusted with corals, sponges, and gorgonians.
Especially on a bright sunny day, the standing structures of the harbor has become a shelter for various tropical fish where you can see them swimming in and out of the shade.
4. Butler Bay
Location: 2.7 miles (4.3 kilometers) north of central Frederiksted
Despite being classified as a settlement area in Saint Croix, the coast of Butler Bay is relatively tranquil, scenic and has attracted both scuba divers and snorkelers to explore its underwater landscape. Aside from the patch occurrence of coral reefs, Butler Bay is known as the final resting place of several ships. This, in turn, has made wreck diving and wreck snorkeling very popular.
While most of the wrecks are accessible only for scuba divers, some wrecks are resting in a shallow area and can be clearly seen while you are swimming at the surface. But if you know how to hyperventilate and go freediving, then you can go up close and clearly see that most of the ships structure are covered with corals and other marine inhabitants.
Suffolk Maid is a 144 feet (44 meters) long steel hulled sea trawler where its remains are now resting at 20 meters (60 feet) deep. If you are an experienced free diver and can dive close to the wreck’s structure, you will see that it houses a unique set of marine inhabitants like the elusive Green Moray Eel which is not commonly seen in other snorkeling sites in Saint Croix.
Another attraction is the former oil-refinery tugboat named Coakley Bay which is now resting on the same depth level as the Suffolk Maid.
On top of these popular snorkeling sites, other minor snorkeling spots are scattered around the coast of Saint Croix with over 30 established points to choose from. Instead of naming them one by one, we would like to divert your attention and focus to a popular night attraction that has become a signature Saint Croix experience.
What we are talking about are the Bioluminescent Bays where the shallow waters glow as it reaches and touches the sandy shores.
There are only 7 known spots in the entire Caribbean to have this natural phenomenon, and Saint Croix is fortunate enough to have at least 2 bioluminescent bays located in Salt River Bay and Altona Lagoon. This phenomenon is caused by the reaction of the plankton-rich waters of Saint Croix where it illuminates when disturbed by the mild wave action.