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ST. JOHN

“Hike” the world’s first underwater trail. The 400-foot-long Trunk Bay Underwater Snorkel Trail, located just off the shoreline in picturesque Trunk Bay, is marked with underwater plaques that lead the way and include fun facts on the many marine creatures that depend on the fragile coral reef. Bring your underwater camera to snap selfies with the sea turtles, eagle rays, pufferfish, parrotfish and barracuda you’ll likely meet on your incredible underwater adventure. Post-hike, catch some rays on the powdery white sand of Trunk Bay Beach, considered to be one of the most beautiful beaches in the world.

Snorkel or scuba into history in Cinnamon Bay. The underwater fish holding pen submerged in the bay was likely made by the Taino indigenous peoples or their ancestors long before Europeans ever set foot on the islands. Can you also spot the submerged historic village or sunken plane from the 1940s? After your dive, relax on the gently sloping white-sand beach, or rent a kayak from the on-site watersports rental facility and paddle the bay.

The Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument was established in 2001 to protect 12,000+ acres of submerged land off the island of St. John. Dive in and explore the diverse, complex coral reef ecosystem. You might spot an iconic queen conch (a large sea snail with a bright pink shell), spotted eagle rays, and perhaps even a lionfish with its striking red-and-white stripes and long, spiny fins. The monument includes Hurricane Hole, a mangrove-lined bay that shelters a unique coral community and seagrass beds. As the name suggests, it’s a popular anchorage for sailors as they “hole up” in the face of hurricanes.

ST. CROIX

Cane Bay Wall is rated as one of the top dive sites in the Caribbean. Located about 100 yards from shore in Cane Bay, The Wall drops from 40 feet to over 13,200 feet and teems with tropical fish, including reef sharks, stingrays, sea turtles, barracuda, parrotfish, angelfish and trumpetfish. Between March and April, you might be lucky enough to spot or hear the humpback whales as they migrate along the island in the Puerto Rico Trench. On rare occasions, you may encounter a whale shark!

Snorkel or scuba dive along the dazzling coral reef at Buck Island Reef National Monument, a federally protected island off the northeast coast of St. Croix. Even first-time snorkelers can easily explore the island’s coral grottoes via the underwater trail marked with plaques to help identify the fish who live here. The reef stretches around 2/3 of the island and teems with over 250 fish species and other marine life. Because it’s a national monument, visitors must book a half- or full-day trip with an approved tour operator to see the island. It takes about an hour to reach the protected island. Boats depart from Tamarind Reef’s Green Cay Marina or St. Croix Yacht Club in Christiansted Harbor. Popular charters include Buck Island Charters and Caribbean Sea Adventures.

The 300-acre Jack and Isaac Bay Preserve is one of the Caribbean’s most beautiful and biodiverse bays. Hike the 3.6-mile Jack and Isaac Bay Preserve Trail through the upland forest to the natural beach, where you can swim out and snorkel among 400+ species of fish, including four-eyed butterfly fish, trumpetfish and sergeant majors that inhabit the pristine offshore barrier reef. The beach is home to one of the largest nesting populations of green and hawksbill turtles in USVI, so keep an eye out for the delicate turtle nests.

ST. THOMAS

Coral World Ocean Park is an eco-adventure park where you can kayak alongside a dolphin, swim with a sea lion, or even pet a shark. Colorful aquariums, scenic nature trails and an Undersea Observatory Tower bring visitors face-to-face with the Caribbean’s incredible creatures. If you’re eager for an underwater adventure but not quite ready to pursue dive certification, give SNUBA a try. SNUBA allows you to breathe underwater using a hose and air pumped in from above the water’s surface. Following a lesson on how to use the equipment at the on-site dive shop, you can easily explore the coral-filled waters just beyond Coral World’s beach.

The stunning, white-sand Sapphire Beach is the ideal launching pad for snorkeling and scuba adventures, thanks to a reef situated just a short swim from the shoreline. Colorful tropical fish and rays mingle among the shallow reef’s beautiful brain coral, which features grooves and channels that look like the folds of the human brain and help build up coral reefs. Keep an eye out for parrotfish and pufferfish, which can puff up when threatened or stressed. If you’re lucky, you might see a sea turtle gliding gracefully through the water. Beware of the Snorkel Police, who will blow their whistle if you come too close to the precious coral. Post-dive, relax under the shade of the sea grape trees on the pristine beach.

Dive the Coral Bowl, also known as Joe’s Jam, an underwater dive site named after the bowl-shaped slope that starts at 30 feet and descends to 80 feet at its bottom. The sloping coral ridge is dotted with mounding star corals, and schools of fish swim along its varied levels. As you explore the magnificent underwater bowl, keep your eyes peeled for parrotfish, pufferfish, lobsters, nurse sharks, barracuda, eels and southern stingrays.

Explore more exciting water activities.

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