Breathin’ Those Bubbles: Top 3 Snorkeling Sites In St. John

With sea creatures ranging from tiny fish to large squids on the ocean floor.

St. John USVI
Feet in the sand just before snorkeling. Photo: Amanda Dettmann

All summer long St. John in the Virgin Islands is 85+ degrees which means what? Optimal snorkeling season. No winds. No rain. The best part is the crystal clear water along with sand that’s more like a foot massage than anything rock-related. St. John has some of the most incredible snorkeling spots in the world, with sea creatures ranging from tiny fish to large squids on the ocean floor.

No need to fear, though. These three snorkeling spots are not only top-rated for safety by myself, my family, and St. John locals but also provide the most bang for your snorkeling buck—seeing the most sea creatures per area in the shortest amount of time. This list is in no particular order, but I recommend choosing where to go based on:

  1. Your snorkeling ability.
  2. The size/type of sea creatures you’d like to see, ranging from sea turtles to giant stingrays.


St. John USVI
Trunk Bay’s breathtaking view. Photo: Amanda Dettmann

This beach is part of the Virgin Islands National Park, which means it’s huge. Trunk Bay is known for its visual—one huge double-rock island growing with greenery in the center of the water. All around this island is prime snorkeling. This beach’s snorkeling can range from beginner to pro, so feel out your level and swimming ability before deciding how far out to go.

Trunk Bay has the largest fish, the longest schools of fish, and everything from jellyfish to stingrays on the ocean floor. You’ll see it all here. This water is also the clearest with the softest sand of any beach—a plus in my book!

*Helpful tip: The trickiest thing is finding a parking spot, so I recommend taking a taxi in for the day—they’re always waiting in the parking lot to drive you back anytime.


St. John USVI
Near the reef at Hawksnest Beach. Photo: Amanda Dettmann

This is the best beach to snorkel in my opinion. I’ve seen fish of all shapes, sizes, and colors as well as miniature squids and large schools of fish. The snorkeling area is not far out at all and only takes a minute or two to reach the best spots. The amount of coral at Hawksnest is unreal, so you can snorkel for a good half hour before heading in. This beach is best for beginner snorkelers, but the farther you go out the more challenging it becomes.

*Helpful tip: Be careful when snorkeling near the shallowest spots where the coral is very close underneath your body. Large waves sometimes come out of nowhere and might knock you against habitats or prickly sea urchins. Ouch!


St. John USVI
Maho Bay’s crystal clear waters & twin palms. Photo: Amanda Dettmann

If you want to swim with sea turtles, this is where it’s at! Maho Bay is a very wide beach which means plenty of space to find your spot in the sand even on top tourist days. The right side of the beach is the least rocky, and there you’ll find the sandy bottom of the ocean along with the turtles’ prime swim spots.

Turtles also come up for air every so often, so don’t freak out if you see a turtle head right beside you getting some fresh air. Most turtles will swim near each other, so you might see 3-5 turtles in the same area in the water. People near us on this trip even saw a mama turtle with her baby.

*Helpful tip: A larger parking area was recently added to Maho Bay, so make sure you don’t miss out on this incredible opportunity with stress-free parking!

Amanda spent one week in St. John.

Amanda Dettmann


Amanda is an avid traveler who calls Maine her home, but her favorite places include Amsterdam's Christmas markets and Shakespeare's Globe in London. She is passionate about poetry, theatre, and teaching writing to kids and adults with disabilities. She thinks the best part of traveling is hearing strangers' incredible stories. Her ultimate mission? To find the tastiest cappuccino in the world.

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