Trunk Bay: Ultimate Beach Vacation Spot in St. John, Virgin Islands

By Tee1

The Trunk Bay beach and offshore coral reef are certainly the Virgin Island’s most photographed and breathtaking beach spots. Trunk Bay is a part of the Virgin Island National Park. It was initially gifted to the National Park Service by Laurence S. Rockefeller  for safekeeping.

Known as possibly the most pristine beach spot in the Caribbean, Trunk Bay is widely considered to be the most beautiful and best beach on the largely protected island of St. John. With expertly managed facilities for equipment rental (snorkel/chair) and showers, the Park Service knows what they are doing fortunately. The Trunk Bay beach attracts crowds with its silky coral sands, insanely clear and warm water.  This spot has been featured on millions of post cards (see the image below for the famous shot) over the years for very good reason.

The Trunk Bay beach is found In America’s Paradise, the USVI on the island of St. John.  As mentioned previously, it is part of the Virgin Islands National Park. It charges admission a small admission that should be gladly paid, to preserve the area. This well known beach spot was named after the leatherback turtle, endemic to the Virgin Islands. Its possible to tell the leatherback apart from “other modern sea turtles by its lack of a bony shell, hence the name. Instead, its carapace is covered by skin and oily flesh.”

Regularly, Trunk Bay is voted as one of the best beaches in the world. It is a simple place that exudes charm. There is a very basic snack bar and a lifeguard keeping an eye out for everybody, especially the for snorkelers enjoying the underwater trail and coral reef just offshore. There are two parts to this perfect beach. There is the main beach area and adjoining swimming area and additionally Burgesman Cove, located to the by Jumby Bay to the west.

the most pristine in the Caribbean

There is a small islet, Trunk Cay, found only 200 feet from the Trunk Bay Beach. It is a small grass covered islet with palm trees, rocky cliffs and coral sandy beaches. Underwater snorkeling trails around Trunk Cay are maintained by the VI National Park Service. Found in tropical environments, a cay is a small, sandy island found on the surface of a coral reef at low elevation.

Where is Trunk Bay? 18°21′N 64°46′W

Vacation to Trunk Bay Beach Paradise

St. John is a proud constituent district of the USVI, an unincorporated territory of the United States in the Caribbean Sea. St. John is the smallest of the three main US Virgin Islands, only 19.3 sq. miles. Its neighbor, St. Thomas lies 4 miles to the East. The other neighboring island, Tortola in the British Virgin Islands is also 4 miles away. Due to the hills, the islands seem to be on top of one another. Cruz Bay is the the thriving metropolis on the island with 2,700 people. An astounding 60% of this island has been protected as Virgin Islands National Park, since 1956.

[pullquote]St. John’s nickname is Love City[/pullquote]

This tiny island’s economy is based on tourism. As of the 2010 census, the population stands at only 4,170. Trunk Bay gets a lot of people to visit. These people frequently come from the cruise ships in Charlotte Amalie in St. Thomas. If you would like to visit the beach when it is less crowded, check the cruise ship schedule.

For a season once, I worked part-time on a 115 foot boat that took cruise ship people to Trunk Bay from downtown. My job was to make sure nobody drowned while they frolicked in the water. While some of the people were certainly annoying, it was a pretty cool experience on the whole. Seriously, I was paid (granted, not much) to sit on a longboard in the water and keep tourists from hurting themselves in possibly nicest beach in the world.

Not surprisingly, Trunk Bay is both most famous and also photographed beach spot in the USVI. There is more than 1/4 mile of some of the nicest sand imaginable here. Rightfully so, the National Park Service is quite proud of their showcase beach and underwater snorkeling trail.

The snorkeling is really amazing. Condé Nast Traveler magazine voted this as one of the 10 best beaches in the world. At times, near the entrances it might be a little more crowded than you would enjoy. If you are feeling a bit cramped, just walk to the left and the crowds will have thinned out. There is slightly less sun, but that’s not really a bad thing.

St. John’s Underwater Snorkel Trail

The 650 foot trail is good for everybody. It’s safe, easy and fun. Appropriate for all skill levels including novice snorkelers, children and older people too! The water is no more than 20 feet deep, making the coral easily accessible. Unfortunately over the past few years, the corals here as in many other places in the world are becoming bleached out. For now, there are still the most amazing fish everywhere. It is truly amazing. Bringing a fish id chart with you is a great idea.

[pullquote]Please do not touch anything. The corals need all the help they can get. If you touch coral, it dies and you could get hurt. It’s also against the law and will infuriate the locals.  [/pullquote]

Its pretty obvious, but the best spot for snorkeling here is around Trunk Cay, the small islet. More fish and corals are found on the western side because it is better sheltered from waves. There is a patch reef to enjoy which goes around the entire cay. As the water is shallow, there should be no problem seeing everything from the surface. Obviously, if you go down you will see more. Please do not touch anything. The corals need all the help they can get. If you touch coral, it dies and you could get hurt. It’s also against the law and will infuriate the locals.

For a mini adventure, snorkel around the islet. The water is slightly rougher and there is significantly less to see.

CAUTION! – Depending on the weather, tides and moon phase – there can be waves and a strong current on the far edge of the Cay. Use common sense, never exceed your abilities and always snorkel with someone.