Top snorkeling spots – Haulover Bay St John
Panoramic view of Haulover. Mouse over to scroll left and right!
Snorkeling Guide to Haulover North [Google map below]
A STAFF FAVORITE
Once the over-looked sister beach of the more popular Haulover South, Haulover North is now “on the map”, literally and figuratively, with avid snorkelers. And for good reason. With its off-the-beaten-path location and stunning underwater structure it should be on any snorkeler’s short list of top St John destinations. The beach at Haulover North is pebble and coral rubble with some flotsam and jetsam. Entry is easiest at the apex of the beach where the sandy bottom comes nearest the shoreline. Depending on wind and waves – this can be an easy snorkel or a bit of a challenge; but rest assured, well worth the effort.
Elkhorn and brain coral stand amid forests of seafans …and beautiful Caribbean fish!
What To Expect
Park along East End Road, just after you see signs that you’re leaving the Virgin Islands National Park. Follow a narrow path through the woods heading north-east. The beach is about 125 yards from the road. There you’ll emerge onto a cobblestone and coral beach. Rising above you to your right is the Dreekets Bay Development. To your left is the remote coastline of the VI National Park. Looking out beyond the bay and across Sir Francis Drake Channel you’ll see Tortola’s south-western shoreline. But I digress, you’re here to snorkel!
Swimming west ( to your left as you face the water) is the best snorkeling. As you’ll see the underwater structure and currents form an interesting reef system that extends all the way from the shoreline into deeper water! Huge coral heads covered in Elkhorn and Fire Coral stand amid forests of seafans that are home to a myriad of colorful Caribbean fish species. Schools of tangs and wrasses mingle with parrotfish and French Grunts. And yes, there is the occasional barracuda and nurse shark! But to truly see and enjoy this destination you’ll need to dive down among the coral canyons. Here you’ll find an amazing variety of corals, tunicates, sponges, gorgonians, marine algae and hard and soft corals.
Looking for a little beach time?
All you have to do is look to Haulover South. Located just across the street – on the south side of East End Road – you’ll find the visitor-favorite Haulover South. Convenient access, decent snorkeling and a short stretch of sandy beach make this a great choice for soaking up some St John sun with sand between your toes! And keep an eye out for St John’s only floating bar, Angel’s Rest. Enjoy a unique part of St John and get rid of some of those soggy dollars while you quench your thirst with a cold beer or island drink!
Snorkeling Guide to Haulover North
Snorkeling is best along the western side of the bay where corals and sea fans grow in abundance – almost to the waters edge! Much of the nicest corals are in 5′ to 20 feet of water with many large rock and coral outcroppings to explore. You’ll see lots of fish including Queen and Stoplight parrot fish, Red Hind, wrasses, a variety of Damsel fish, Trumpet fish, puffers, reef squid and more! You’ll also see lots of hard and soft corals and sea fans. There are several large well-established brain corals, Elkhorn, firecoral, colorful sponges and tunicates as well as sea anemones.
NOTE: Because of the surf at Haulover, I don’t recommend exploring the shallow parts of the reef along the shoreline. Three feet of water can quickly become less than a foot leaving you on the jagged coral covered bottom!
From Cruz Bay – take Rte 20 ( North Shore Road) or Centerline toward Coral Bay. Continue past Coral Bay, Skinny Legs heading east. As you descend a steep hill you’ll see signs indicating you are leaving the Virgin Islands National Park. At the bottom of the hill is parking on your left or further up on your right. On the left side of the road is a narrow path leading to Haulover North. Haulover South is on your right – visible from the road. Total driving distance is approximately 8 miles.
CAUTION! - Depending on the weather, tides and moon phase – there can be a strong current if you swim past the western point. Use common sense and never exceed your abilities and always snorkel with someone.