ActivitiesEco TourismSnorkeling

Waterlemon Cay Paddle boarding

There’s perhaps no more adventurous way to discover a tropical beach or hidden cove than from the water. I suppose it taps into the “Columbus” in all of us. First foot steps on a coconut palm lined sandy beach. The blues and aquas above and below your paddle board. It’s a truly unique experience. And so, after countless hikes out to Waterlemon Cay, I decided to do something different. I decided to paddleboard to Waterlemon Cay!

I called my friend Lucy, an avid paddleboarder and owner of SUP-St John to see if she wanted to join me. She said she hadn’t been out to Leinster Bay in a while – and  agreed to come along. So we arranged a day; and met up in Cruz Bay. I loaded her SUP onto my Jeep. We took North Shore Road. It’s the most direct route and it passes along most of St John’s famous beaches like Caneel Bay, Trunk Bay, Hawksnest Bay, Cinnamon Bay and Maho Bay. Along the way we chatted about island life – and 20 minutes later we arrived.

Quicksilver Dry Bag back packWe pulled into the lower parking area of Annaberg Plantation; along the edge of Leinster Bay, St John. This is the start of the Leinster Bay Trail out to Waterlemon Cay. It was late morning. Visitors were already unpacking snorkeling gear from rental Jeeps. It was the kind of day where the clouds are a crisp white. The ocean is a stunning cobalt blue. And the aquas of the shallow water shimmer with streaks of sunlight. A perfect day to be on the water. I pulled down a shiny new 11′ SUP ATX Adventure Premium board. And Lucy pulled down her 12′ Fanatic Falcon Air. The SUP ATX boards are perfect for getting started on SUP. They’re stable, wide and the deck pad covers the full length! For those with more experience … the Fanatic Falcon Air is a great choice.

We brought the boards down to the water’s edge; and gathered up our dry bags. I carry a Quicksilver backpack/dry bag. It’s super comfortable for hiking. And it’s small enough to bring on a paddle boarding adventure. I’ve owned it for several years; and trust it with my Nikon DSLR/iPhone/GoPro/etc. I’ve used it for flotation –  never had it leak! Great for those 10 minute downpours that pop up in the tropics! And the mesh pockets on the sides are perfect for 2 frozen bottles of water.

An uneventful launch – and we’re making our way over the crystal clear waters of Leinster Bay.

Waterlemon Cay 360° Paddleboard Guide


We ran parallel with the Lameshur Bay Trail that runs along the shoreline. We stayed about 60 to 100 yrds out – in about 15′ of water. To the east you can see Waterlemon Cay approximately 3/4 of a mile away. As we traversed Leinster Bay, Lucy gave me some pointers. Proper position of your hands and paddle. Proper posture for balance and strength. If you’ve thought about SUP paddle boarding but were hesitant … don’t be … A little instruction and you’ll be up and paddling in no time!

Once we rounded the point I could see The Windy Hill Ruins sitting on a hilltop over Waterlemon Cay.

Conditions were perfect. A light steady breeze coming from the east. No significant waves. And not much marine traffic. As we came to the point that divides Leinster Bay from Waterlemon Bay – I looked back over my shoulder. From here I could just make out the windmill and rambling ruins of Annaberg Plantation. This is a big part of what being on the water is all about. It’s a unique vantage point. Just you surrounded  by water with an unobstructed view of the islands! Once we rounded the point I could see The Windy Hill Ruins sitting on a hilltop over Waterlemon Cay.

We chose to follow the shoreline into Waterlemon Bay. It added about 1/2 mi to the trip. But I would suggest it to anyone making this same trek. It allows you to stop at the little sandy beach – where the Leinster Bay Trail turns into the Johnny Horn Trail. Behind the beach you’ll find some narrow donkey trails that lead to an amazing set of early ruins. You can also head up the trail ( bear right at the split ) and visit The Old Danish Guardhouse Ruins and The Windy Hill ruins.

After a short stop for some hydration and a quick bite – we headed for Waterlemon Cay. A short paddle and we put up on the sandy coral cobble “tail” that runs from the southern end of the Cay. I’ve snorkeled here dozens and dozens of times. But I wasn’t about to let this trip pass without snorkeling. We spent about 30 minutes rounding the far side of the Cay. The sometimes dangerous currents that surround Waterlemon – were still.

Snorkel gear stowed away – we began the trek back to the parking area. This time we made a b-line from the Cay to our launch point. The wind from the east – put the wind at our backs for the return. That shortened the time and effort required to make the approximately 3/4 mi return trip.

Back at the parking area – Lucy and I loaded the boards; and began the drive back to Cruz Bay. We both agreed, it really was a great day! A day that I would recommend to everybody looking for a St John adventure!

Thanks again to Lucy for the  paddle boarding tips [ one of these days I’ll get some paddle boarding lessons ] and a fantastic St John day on the water.