The beauty and diversity of the U.S. Virgin Islands extends far beyond the white sands of the shore. St. Croix offers amazing beauty and variety below sea level as well. Nowhere else in the Caribbean can you dive a wreck, wall, pier and reef all in one day! Whether you are newly certified or an advanced diver, diving in the U.S. Virgin Islands is easy, accessible and offers an array of experiences for everyone. And because the U.S. Virgin Islands is a territory of the United States, you'll enjoy the added safety of diving within U.S. waters. This means that all dive boats are inspected by the U.S. Coast Guard and captains are USCG certified.
Sea life is abundant in the U.S. Virgin Islands. More than 500 species of fish, 40 types of coral and hundreds of invertebrates inhabit the water. Vibrant blue tang, silvery horse-eye jacks, queen triggerfish, spiny Caribbean lobster, spotted eagle rays, creole wrasses, and cleaner gobies are just a sampling of the marine life populating the underwater terrain. As sun sets, octopus, seahorses and moray eels make their appearance. Hawksbill, green, and leatherback turtles, call the USVI home and can be seen on many a dive. Lucky vacationers may even witness turtles hatching on one of the many turtle nesting grounds.
Most dive operators teach a full range of PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) and NAUI (National Association of Underwater Instructors) educational courses from Discover Scuba to instructor training. Specialty courses such as underwater photography, peak buoyancy, wreck, drift and boat diving are also available through many operators. Training for those with physical disabilities is available at several dive outlets.
More diving facts
The average water temperature is around 82 F (29 C) in the summer and 80 F (26 C) in the winter. Most visitors are comfortable in shorty-style wetsuits year-round.
Visibility generally ranges from 60-100 feet, but it can occasionally be higher or lower depending on weather conditions.
A recompression chamber is available on St. Thomas in case of dive emergencies
Also known as the "Diverse Virgin" St. Croix offers great diversity of dive sites. Here are a few of the local dive operators' favorite sites:
Butler Bay Wrecks
This bay, on the west end of St. Croix, includes two distinct sites featuring deep and shallow wrecks. Rosa Maria, a 177-foot steel-hulled freighter, is the deepest of the wrecks and was the first to be sunk intentionally. Brightly hued rope, stovepipe and barrel sponges can be found on the ship's hull. Blackbar soldierfish, mahogany snapper and French, queen and gray angels are regulars. Coakley Bay, a former oil refinery tugboat, is the newest of the wrecks. Suffolk Maid is a 144-foot trawler that ran aground during a 1980's hurricane. It is considered a shallow wreck. Creole wrasses are the predominant residents, but a green moray comes to visit every now and then. Virgin Islander, sunk in 1992, is a 300-foot oil barge and is the largest of the wrecks. It is heavily encrusted with sponges and coral. Look for tiny fans of pink Stylaster coral in the recesses and for stingrays beneath the ship. North Wind, a 75-foot oceangoing tugboat, was sunk at Butler Bay after being used as a prop in the TV movie Dreams of God-The Mel Fisher Story. Snappers, hinds, sergeants, fairy basslets and chromis inhabit this wreck.
This phenomenal site is known as one of the top macro dives anywhere. As you head out, catch a glimpse of the coral-encrusted pilings from the old pier. Scattered debris serves as shelter for moray eels and octopus. Closer inspection will uncover the real beauties of the pierhigh hats, grape-sized juvenile smooth trunkfish, sea horses, spotted scorpionfish and the rare roughback batfish. Golden-eyed shrimp and resting parrotfish live in the boulders of the shallows. This is an excellent day and night dive.
Salt River Canyon East & West Walls
The East Wall boasts vibrant sea life including soft corals, sponges and gorgonians all growing along a steep wall. The West Wall begins at about 30 feet, quickly drops to 90 feet and then plummets to 1,000 feet. The excellent topography -- including pinnacles, mini-canyons and swim-throughs -- easily makes this the most requested dive on St. Croix.
Rated one of the top dives in all the Caribbean, Cane Bay is one of the few places in the U.S. Virgin Islands where shore diving is possible. You start on smooth white sand that gradually slopes downward as more coral heads and 19th century anchors appear. There is no doubt that you will find the wall because, after a short swim, the bottom literally drops away. The colorful reef is on one side and the bottomless blue is on the other.
To learn more about diving in St. Croix and/or to schedule your dives, contact these dive operators:
- 211 King Street
- 2 Strand St Frederiksted
- Located in Christiansted
- Located in Christiansted
- Frederiksted 202 Custom House Street
- 2F Strand Street Frederiksted
1104 Strand Street Christiansted, Suite 109