Virgin Island Saver

Virgin Island Saver

Virgin Island Saver

St. Thomas waters are filled with snorkeling opportunities.  Most of the reefs and underwater habitats are within feet of the shore.  So grab the sunscreen (“It don’t matter if you’re black or white”), some fins, snorkel, mask and if you’re super safety-conscious, a flotation vest.  

In this article I’m going to explore the best and most accessible snorkeling beaches.  There are a nearly infinite number of reefs at less accessible beaches and off-shore locations but I’ll explore that in-depth elsewhere.

Let’s dive in! 

Coki Point Beach:

Ah, Coki Point Beach, a local beach legend.  This is the beach you go to if you want to see a ton of aquatic life and “interactive” fish.  Seriously, the fish here are well-trained.  You can bring cereal or buy dog food at the beach to feed the schools of fish that will surround you.  Don’t worry, nothing scary or aggressive. 🙂

There are a myriad of rock and reef formations to explore.  The water is usually crystal clear and gentle.  The snorkel spots start just feet from the shore and extend out a hundred feet or more from shore.  If I were to guess the water depth ranges from 3-15 feet. 

On cruise ship days, the beach and water can get a bit crowded but there’s plenty of room to move around in the water.  

After your snorkel adventuring there are shacks offering drinks and local food.  You can also walk next door to Coral World Water Park.  There you can swim with sharks, turtles, sea lions and dolphins.  They also have an underwater observatory for ‘exploring’ the reef while staying dry.  

Note: Marijuana is not currently legal in the Virgin Islands.  I only say this because locals aren’t shy about enjoying cannabis.  But that doesn’t mean you should join in. 

Brewers Bay:

The left side of Brewers Bay and turtle spots

One of the calmest bays on St. Thomas.  It is out west past the airport.  There are various rock and reef structures but the real star of this underwater show are the turtles.  

You are almost guaranteed to see turtles just about any day and anytime you show up.  I’ve seen squid, octopus, tons of turtle and lots of fish species.  But swimming with the turtles is my favorite reason for swimming at Brewers.

On a non-cruise ship day you’ll have the water mostly to yourself.  On a ship day you will have a few people in the water but it is seldom crowded.

The beach itself has both sandy and shelly sections.  The left side of the beach (when facing the water) is the best place to enter the water.  You won’t have to swim far to start enjoying the sea life.

There aren’t many amenities other than bathrooms and a couple food trucks.  So pack everything you need for a beach day.  There is ample parking.  If you are coming by taxi, be sure to discuss with your driver a pickup time and get their phone number.

Note: Another location where locals may be enjoying a smoke, but again, marijuana is not legal so proceed at your own risk.   

Secret Harbour Beach:

The waters and reef in front of Secret Harbour Beach

One of the calmest bays on the island is on the East End of St. Thomas.  On most days at Secret Harbour the water barely registers a ripple.  You can wade into the water waste deep and put your face in the water and start seeing sea life.  

Secret Harbour is a smaller beach with a pleasant little resort.  It can feel crowded on the beach but that doesn’t interfere with the snorkeling.  They have limited public parking so you may have to take a taxi or park your car along the road and walk in.

There is a fantastic beach bar and restaurant steps from the water – Sunset Grille.  The snorkeling isn’t world class but all-in-all Secret Harbour is perfect for a day of beach and water fun.

Sapphire Beach:

Snorkeling at Sapphire from the beach

I used to call Sapphire our blue-collar beach.  A decent beach with a decent little beach bar.  But things have changed for the better.

The resort at Sapphire is the custodian for the beach and does a great job managing it and keeping it clean.  Occasionally they get an influx of seaweed but it shouldn’t interfere with your snorkeling.  

There is a large swath of the bay covered in reef.  Some of the reef reaches right to the shore and extends out hundreds of feet.

They have a kiosk with snorkel gear rentals and other amenities including a gift shop, beach bar and pizza joint.  If your beach day extends into the late afternoon you can rinse off in the showers, change your clothes and head to the high-end restaurant right on the beach – Sea Salt.   

I recommend staying at Sapphire Beach Resort, so you can walk out of your room onto the beach.  If you drive in they have public parking.  Or, rely on taxis waiting at the taxi stand.

Lindquist Beach (Smith Bay Park):

Our next stop takes us to Lindquist Beach also on the east end of St. Thomas.  The snorkeling here is hit or miss.  Depending on the ocean currents the water can get a little cloudy some days.  And don’t worry, if that happens, you are still at one of the most beautiful beaches in the Virgin Islands.

Amenities are limited to a bathroom and showers.  So bring food, water, booze and snorkel gear.  

The beach is on the main road so taxis are an option if you are staying at a nearby resort.  Otherwise, there is ample parking if you drive in. They charge $7/person for admission to the park.  

Magens Bay Beach:

showing the two sides of magens with the best snorkeling

Our final destination brings us to Magens Bay, my favorite place in the world.  Magens has everything you could possibly want/need for a perfect beach day.  

They have a beach bar and concession stand with pizza and burgers.  There is a gift shop for souvenirs, bathing suits and beach toys.  The Yak Shack is a small shack that rents kayaks and stand-up paddleboards.  Bathrooms, showers, and pavilions also dot the beach.  A hiking trail, beach chairs and umbrellas, lifeguards, a taxi stand, tons of parking…I think that’s it. 

As far as snorkeling, Magens doesn’t have much in terms reefs but I’ve spent many hours drifting along the rocks on either end of the beach.  I’ve seen crab, lobster, stingrays, lots of fish and an occasional turtle.  

So you should walk to either end of the beach and enter the water.  All the action is in and around the rocks.  The water is relatively shallow along the coast from inches to a few feet.  So relatively safe for all ages.

Magens charges $7/person for admission to the beach.

Final Thoughts for Your St. Thomas Snorkeling Adventure

These are the best and most accessible beaches for a great snorkeling in St. Thomas…and for a memorable vacation experience.  

Please remember to use reef-safe sunscreen.  And reapply every 2-3 hours.  No exceptions.

Don’t touch or stand on the coral.  Don’t touch the sea life (I’ve heard there are criminal penalties if you touch a turtle). 

Be safe and be sexy.