Scuba Diving & Snorkeling


Coral World boasts one of the world's largest coral reef tanks and a giant circular aquarium with more than 20 viewing stations. Visit the mangrove lagoon, the turtle pool or the open-air shark tank. One of the most popular exhibits is the touch pool, where you can feel starfish, stingrays and even a baby shark. Wear comfortable shoes if you plan to walk along the nature trail. A number of additional activities are available, including an up-close shark encounter and several special tours. New activities include two new water adventures – Snuba™ and Power Snorkeling.

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This popular beach is known for its clear, calm, warm waters. It is also a destination for snorkeling since brightly colored tropical fish flock to the coral reef just off the beach. Vendors even sell fish food so that you can attract a greater number of fish while you snorkel. Snack shacks and a beach bar offer refreshments, and water sports can be arranged at kiosks along the beach.

Local Expert tip: This beach can get crowded with locals and tourists alike in high season, so don't expect a tranquil, quiet experience. Sometimes people will try to sell you things, toddlers will have temper tantrums, and the music may be a bit on the loud side. The key is to just go with the flow, or don't go.

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Sapphire Beach
Photo courtesy of Karen Elowitt

This family-friendly beach is part of the Sapphire Beach Resort complex, near the east end of St. Thomas. The beach is wide, the sand gleaming white, and the surf is usually gentle, which makes it great for families with kids. There are terrific views of St. John and the British Virgin Islands. The dive shop rents water sports equipment and can also arrange parasailing, SCUBA and snorkeling excursions. Volleyball nets are set up in several spots on the sand. Refreshments are available at several beachside bars and restaurants around the resort.

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The appropriately-named Secret Harbour is hidden away in a quiet corner of the East End. Besides guests of the resort, few make the trip to this lovely secluded southwest-facing beach, which boasts some of the best sunsets on the island. The snorkeling is also superb, and you can rent equipment from the on-site dive shop. The newly-renovated beach bar and Sunset Grille serve up high-caliber food and drinks.

Local Expert tip: When you go snorkeling at the far west end of the cove, look for the two sea turtles who live in the water right near the rocky point.

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Mangrove swamps, nurse sharks, tropical fish, barracudas and snowy egrets are just a few of nature's wonders on view during these three- or five-hour kayak tours offered by Ecotours. Most tours ply the waters of St Thomas Marine Sanctuary, but they are also offered in Caneel Bay St. John and Hassel Island St. Thomas. Groups of two to fifty participants are led by experienced naturalists who provide excellent commentary on the indigenous flora and fauna of the area. The trips includes about an hour's worth of easy kayaking, a half-hour walk, and a half-hour stop for snorkeling and underwater exploration. It may sound strenuous, but the tours are easy enough for young children and fit elderly folks to participate in.

Local Expert tip: Leave your camera behind, unless it's completely waterproof. Everything gets wet on these tours, and besides, the guides offer professional photographs for sale.

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Snuba of St. Thomas

Want to see the underwater world but don't want to spend the time to learn scuba? Then Snuba is for you. This combination of scuba diving and snorkeling is safe and fun for anyone over the age of eight. "Divers" begin their tour in shallow water, breathing through a tube that extends to the surface. Eventually you will descend to a depth of 20 feet where you can view coral, tropical fish and other under-sea wonders. Tours take about 1-½ hours, and a pass to Coral World is included in the fee.

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The staff at this dive shop are more than just employees – they are all enthusiastic master divers themselves. Blue Island is PADI certified and they offer a huge assortment of diving trips, lessons and packages. Cave dives, night dives and wreck dives are just a few of the options. Blue Island also offers dives using Nitrox, a gas that allows you to go deeper than traditional scuba diving. All equipment – from fins to tanks – can be rented here.

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Aqua Action offers snorkeling and dive trips to about 40 different sites around the island. Colorful natural and artificial reefs harbor all manner of sea life, from huge moray eels to diminutive urchins. Some of the dive sites are known for their populations of turtles or sharks, too. AA offers both boat and shore dives, and group size is kept small. They also specialize in programs for divers with physical disabilities.

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Whether you're a beginning snorkeler or an experienced diver, prefer shore dives or boat dives, or even if you want to expand your scuba knowledge, this much-respected outfit can accommodate. A daily schedule of dives and snorkeling covers the basics, but you can also arrange a full day, four-dive trip or even a private charter.

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There are a plethora of fantastic dive sites around St. Thomas and Dive In's PADI certified divers can show you all the best ones. Even if you've never scuba dived before! Snorkeling trips and diving courses are also available.

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