Snorkeling and Beaches—All I can say is WOW! The Virgin Islands had the most beautiful beaches and snorkeling I have ever seen—I’ve been to lots of Caribbean islands, and there were the best in my opinion. I always judge snorkeling by seeing things I had never seen before—now I don’t think there is much that I haven’t seen. Here’s my beach/snorkeling pick list for St. John:
Most beautiful beach—Hawksnest (our favorite in general!)
Best beaches for seclusion—Jumbie, Gibney
Best snorkeling-Waterlemon Cay, Henley Cay, Jumbie, Salt Pond
Best all around beach (nice beach, good snorkeling, good food)-Caneel Bay
Other beaches we visited-Frances, Maho, Cinnamon, Trunk
Devers-our villa’s beach—very rocky but supposed to have good snorkeling on the right side. I saw a jellyfish shortly after getting in the water so I got out pretty quickly.
Reef Bay-pretty beach, but the water was way too rough for snorkeling that day.
Hawksnest- This was our favorite beach-just gorgeous! We went to this beach twice. The first time the water was very calm and clear. Saw lots of fish near the rocks in between Hawksnest and Gibney. Also snorkeled the reef in the middle of the bay. We saw a stingray with a fish following it, a baby squid, lots of fish and coral with some fish I hadn’t seen before. The second time we went the water was too rough and not clear enough for snorkeling.
Gibney-Swam here from Hawksnest—there were only a few people on Hawksnest, but noone on Gibney. This is a picture perfect beach second to Hawksnest. Saw much of the same fish as Hawksnest.
Cinnamon Bay-Also a pretty beach, but there were more people here. Snorkeled by the island –didn’t see anything spectacular, but did see a few trunk fish.
Jumbie-Loved this beach for solitude and snorkeling. There was just one other couple when we got there who had dinghied in, and they left before we did so we then had it to ourselves. I saw a fish that was shaped like a trumpet fish, but it had a blueish/purple face. Also there was a large piece of brain coral that had these red flower looking animals on it. When they "sensed" me hovering over them, one by one they disappeared into the coral, except for one that stayed around.
Trunk-Went there early in the morning hoping to beat the cruise ship rush. It was a beautiful beach, but the waves were quite large that day. We still managed to do some snorkeling on the trail and around the island. Saw more fish and coral than I had expected. Saw a large variety of fish, including a couple of the brown and white trumpet fish which I had never seen before that day. We left after about 2 hours when the cruise shippers started rolling in.
Francis Bay-This was also a beautiful beach, but it was a little rough that day and there was no visibility. We made the mistake of putting our stuff on a picnic table near the rocks. The waves kicked up and took my husbands flippers and snorkel with them. I was out in the water at this time, but he was sitting right there and didn’t notice for quite a while! We luckily spotted the flippers floating out in the water far, far away, so I swam out and got them. He owed me big time for that!
Maho Bay-We stopped by here, but the conditions were much like Francis and there was hardly any beach to sit on, so we skipped it.
Caneel Bay- The beach here was also gorgeous, very uncrowded and had great snorkeling to the right of the beach near the rocks and point. This was right after going to Frances and Maho, and the water was just so much clearer and calmer. We had a tough time deciding between the villa and Caneel Bay and being here almost made me wish we had stayed here, but I just don’t think I could give up our private pool, Jacuzzi, and garden showers at the villa. Back to the snorkeling! The snorkeling was almost as nice as
Salt Pond-This was also a pretty beach, but seemed to have more rocks than the others. The hike getting there wasn’t bad at all, but coming back, that was a killer! I’m so glad we went because we got to see more of the island and stop by Coral Bay. Again, I digress. Snorkeled mostly to the left of the beach near the rocks and point. I saw quite a few fish I hadn’t seen yet—but I don’t know what most of them are called! Saw quite a few trunk fish, and a hound fish pretty close up, so that was great. Also hung out for a while in the middle of the bay hoping to see a turtle, but had no such luck.