Make A Splash: Your Guide to Water Adventures on St. Thomas

St. Thomas is a world-renowned sailing destination, and for a good reason. The island is home to over 40 beaches, two cruise ship harbors, and dozens of marinas dotted around the coastline. But St. Thomas offers more than just sailing; it’s also an excellent place for other water activities such as snorkeling, scuba diving, kayaking, windsurfing, and stand-up paddle boarding.

SNUBA and Sea Trek at Coral World Ocean Park

The waters of St. Thomas are undoubtedly stunning from the land, but they become even more breathtaking when explored from the water. Underneath the surface is an entirely different world waiting to be discovered. The island is teeming with marine life, and there are various ways to get up close and personal with the underwater creatures that call St. Thomas home.

Coral World Ocean Park is a marine educational facility and aquarium located on Coki Beach on the northeastern coast of St. Thomas. While experiencing the ocean’s wonders behind a glass aquarium wall is commonplace, at Coral World, you can go beyond the wall in two unique ways: SNUBA and Sea Trek.

SNUBA is a cross between snorkeling and scuba diving without requiring any certifications. With SNUBA, you breathe through a regulator attached to a 20-foot air hose, and a certified dive instructor ensures your safety. Immersing yourself in the Caribbean underwater paradise is what the SNUBA experience is all about. You’ll be up close and personal with colorful reefs and eye to eye with the marine life unique to the U.S. Virgin Islands. From tropical fish like Tarpic to sponges, coral, and more, abundant marine life can be seen and touched while SNUBA diving.

Sea Trek is another fantastic water adventure at Coral World. This guided underwater walking tour utilizes a specially designed helmet that allows you to breathe while walking on the ocean floor. As you descend below the surface, an experienced guide will direct you along the underwater trail that weaves through the vibrant coral reef surrounding the park’s Undersea Observatory Tower. Along the guided walk, you’ll be able to interact firsthand with parrotfish, sea cucumbers, arrow crabs, and stingrays.

Snorkeling on St. Thomas

Tropical fish swim in the reefs while snorkeling at Sapphire Beach on St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. Photo Courtesy of Snorkeling Dives.

If Coral World Ocean Park’s guided tours aren’t enough underwater adventure for you, St. Thomas has no shortage of unique open ocean snorkeling spots. One of the most popular snorkeling destinations on the island is Sapphire Beach, located on the southeastern coast. The beach features clear turquoise waters and stunning coral reefs. As you swim around the outcroppings, you’ll be surrounded by coral species like staghorn coral, elkhorn coral, and brain coral. In addition, keep your eyes peeled for tropical fish like blue tangs, sergeant majors, and parrotfish. If you’re lucky, you might even spot a sea turtle!

One of the lesser-known spots for snorkeling on St. Thomas is Brewers Bay, a small, secluded beach located on the island’s northeastern coast. The reef is teeming with marine life, and the waters are crystal clear, making it a prime spot for Green Sea Turtle and Hawksbill Turtle sightings.

For those looking for a more secluded snorkeling experience, Hulls Bay is an off-the-beaten-path beach and a local favorite on the North Shore of St. Thomas. With rocky outcrops for schools of fish to hide in and gentle waves for swimming and floating, Hulls Bay is perfect for a day of snorkeling and taking in the natural beauty of the island’s waters.

Secret Harbour (though it isn’t too much of a secret) is a popular snorkeling and scuba diving destination on the southwestern coast of St. Thomas. Home to a wide variety of tropical fish species, sea turtles, and octopi in a protected reef, the beach’s rocky side walls and clear waters make for excellent visibility while snorkeling.

Kayak/Stand-Up Paddleboard (SUP) Adventures

If you’ve never been stand-up paddleboarding, St. Thomas is the perfect place to try it out. Home to a vast selection of kayak and SUP adventure tours and calm waters around the island’s east end, kayaking and paddleboarding are a way to explore the island’s coves and geography from a different perspective. In addition, several rental companies on the island will deliver paddleboards right to your hotel or villa so you can head straight for the water.

Kayaking through the mangroves off St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. Photo Courtesy of Ornoth.

Some of the calmest, most paddle-friendly waters are found in the Cas Cay-Mangrove Lagoon Marine Reserve & Wildlife Sanctuary off St. Thomas, located near the island’s east end. Mangrove Lagoon is a protected area and home to mangroves, seagrasses, fish, and other marine life. Paddle through the lagoon’s tranquil waters and keep your eyes peeled for turtles, stingrays, and barracuda.

Water Island is just a short ferry ride from St. Thomas in Charlotte Amalie’s harbor and is perfect for kayaking and paddleboarding. Enjoy the sights of the plush, white sands, crystal clear waters and the island’s vibrant greenery. It’s also a great way to see St. Thomas from a different perspective.

Big Game Fishing in St. Thomas

St. Thomas’ location near an undersea canyon makes it one of the best places in the world to catch massive blue marlin, tuna, and wahoo. Boat charters with cockpit fighting chairs and towering, whip-like outriggers lure and land giant fish that weigh up to 350 pounds. 

Catching a needlefish while fishing off St. Thomas in U.S. Virgin Islands. Photo Courtesy of Clinton & Charles Robinson.

If big game fishing is your idea of paradise, St. Thomas comes equipped with charters to get you to the catch of a lifetime. Captain Alvin Fishing Charters is one of the best charters in the Charlotte Amalie area, offering access to some of the legendary fishing grounds of the North and South Drop. The charters vary in length, from three hours to an all-day affair and Capt. Alvin will fillet and clean up to 25 pounds of fish upon request. So here’s hoping you reel in a big one.

Double Header Sportfishing is yet another charter that will help you experience some of the best sportfishing in the world. With over 25 years of experience, Double Header offers guided fishing trips for a half, 3/4, or full-day excursion in either their 40 ft. sportfishing or 37 ft. diesel-powered, open fishing boat. If you choose an inshore charter, you’re likely to catch tarpon, rainbow runner and possibly shark. The offshore charter is perfect for fishing Mahi, tuna and marlin.

Sail the St. Thomas Coastline

Sailing around St. Thomas is an absolute paradise, thanks to the island’s low humidity, light winds, and 300 days of sunshine per year. Several charter companies on the island can set you up with a captain and boat for the day, or you can take a group lesson to learn the ropes yourself.

Sailing around St.Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. Photo Courtesy of Angela Rutherford.

Sailing the Cosmos has multiple tours available, from snorkeling and sailing around Sapphire Beach to sunset sailing with wine and cocktails. Take in the stunning views of the cliffs and coastline as you sail past popular spots such as Coki Beach and Lindquist Beach. Stop for a swim or some snorkeling, or sit back and relax on the boat’s deck with Sailing the Cosmos’ private “just sailing” package.

Max Charters, based in Red Hook, has been in business for over 20 years and offers snorkeling and swimming charters to Christmas Cove and the Virgin Islands National Park. For folks seeking a taste of luxury, Waypoints Yacht Charters allows you to splurge on an all-inclusive luxury yacht charter to sail around St. Thomas. Customize the perfect day on the water and sail to destinations such as Honeymoon Beach and Water Island. Then, sit back and relax as a private chef prepares delicious Caribbean cuisine and the captain and crew tend to your every whim.

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