The first thing people will tell you about St. John in the US Virgin Islands is how you have to go snorkeling at Trunk Bay. And so, I did. I’m going to give you the low down on what I thought but first, here’s what you should know about it:
- The majority of the island of St. John is part of the Virgin Islands National Park, which means it’s highly protected and kept in pristine condition.
- This means that a trip to Trunk Bay isn’t entirely unlike visiting the Grand Canyon or Yellowstone (a lot of rules and regulations, park fees, and swarms of tourists).
- The National Coral Monument is the big draw (besides the pristine beach) and it’s what you’ll be snorkeling around.
- Trunk Bay actually has an underwater snorkeling trail that guides you along in the beginning and the underwater plaques contain info on the various species of fish and coral you’ll see as well as the local ecosystem.
- Trunk Bay has great facilities including restrooms, showers, a snack bar, and a gift shop where you can rent snorkel gear.
So now that you know all of that, here’s how my day went:
We saved Trunk Bay for the last day of our trip hoping for sunny weather and as soon as we saved few rays we high tailed it over there. We stopped at the famous overlook to take some pics first because, really, who can resist that view?
We arrived at Trunk Bay by about 10:30 AM so we didn’t have any problems finding parking. We paid the entrance fee ($5) and set up camp at the far left end of the beach near the rocks in hopes of a little seclusion (the snorkeling happens at the far right side of the beach). And then I headed into the water! The water was chilly at first but all that swimming will warm you up in a hurry. I found the first marker and followed the trail from there. The markers were interesting to read but honestly the snorkeling didn’t get good until after the trail was over. I’m not sure what most people do but I snorkeled all the way around the little island. You have to go pretty far out before you’ll start seeing anything much. At first the coral seemed pretty brown, yellow, and orange but after awhile I started seeing some pretty amazing fish and purple fan coral.
Once you reach the end of the island, I would suggest turning back if you’re not a confident swimmer. While the interior side of the island is calm and sheltered, the backside is pretty windy and choppy (at least on the day I was there) and I think nervous swimmers might get kind of freaked out being so far away from the shore in such conditions (but check it out for yourself when you’re there).
Now the other side of the island (heading back to the beach) had some amazing coral formations. I call it “brain coral.” That’s a very technical term.
I’m not sure how long it took to snorkel around the little island but I’m a pretty strong swimmer and I was left feeling a little winded. Also, I wasn’t wearing fins. Dumb.
Overall, I’m not sure if Trunk really lived up to the hype for me, but then again I had just come back from snorkeling in Turks and Caicos (ah-mazing) and I’ve snorkeled quite a bit in Hawaii so it’s all perspective. I still think it’s a must do on St. John (definitely something everybody should see for themselves!) but the real gem here you guys is the beach!! Oh wow. St. John has some pretty amazing beaches, but it’s possible that this was my favorite. I’m sure it can get pretty crowded in the afternoons and I would definitely avoid going on days when there’s a cruise ship in port in St. Thomas.
But seriously, Trunk Bay is pretty amazing even if you’re not into snorkeling. And don’t miss the view from the lookout above. It’s got to be the most popular picture spot on St. John. Have you been there? What did you think?