Travel, USVI

#TBT: St. John | Waterlemon Cay

This week’s Throwback Thursday post is a little late (at least it’s still Thursday!) since a certain someone has decided that naps are for weenies. Maybe I should start scheduling these things in advance (posts, not naps, although that would be awesome).

Waterlemon Cay (pronounced “key”…and no, that’s not a typo, it’s not supposed to say watermelon) is the best-known snorkeling spot on St. John, for good reason. I’m very emotionally attached to some other spots, like Salt Pond Bay, but that doesn’t mean Waterlemon didn’t blow my mind. Actually, most snorkels on St. John blew my mind – most of my previous snorkeling experience comes from Maui, and the reefs around St. John are just so much healthier and more vibrant. (I still love you, Hawai’i!)

Caribbean hiking views

The fastest way to get to Waterlemon Bay is to hike the 0.8 mile Leinster Bay Trail, but if you have time, taking the Johnny Horn Trail from Coral Bay is a cool alternative that offers excellent views of the bay. You could always just hike up a ways from the bay to find some good views and old ruins, too.


Leinster Bay

Waterlemon Cay

For the shortest swim, keep hiking past the beach and enter the water in the rocky area (watch your step so you don’t hit any coral or impale yourself on a sea urchin) and head straight for the cay. The current can be very strong on the outer edge of the cay, so pick a route where you won’t have to fight it, or, if you’re not a strong swimmer, sit this one out unless it’s a calm day.

Waterlemon Cay

The swim over from shore takes you across a deep, sandy channel full of turtles and rays.

Southern Stingray

We saw this same barnacled turtle both years we went to St. John – it was being serviced at the Shell station (har har har) by sharksuckers both times! In 2013:

Turtle, now with more Remora

…and 2014:


Big, beautiful Spotted Eagle Ray:

Spotted Eagle Ray

Sea cucumber!

Sea Cucumber

The underwater landscape gets progressively cooler as you near the cay and swim around the outer edge (we’ve gone counter-clockwise every time). Take your time exploring all the nooks and crannies of the reef.

Underwater hiking

Waterlemon Cay

Waterlemon Cay

It's gorgeous down here So many pretty colors
Flamingo Tongue Waterlemon Cay


Waterlemon Cay

Once you’ve swum around the cay, I highly recommend walking up on land and taking a breather on that sweet strip of sand. We saw an iguana sunning itself on the cay once. I really don’t know how it got there.

Turtle, meet Stingray

If you want more snorkeling once you’ve crossed the channel back to shore, try cruising eastward, I found some very cool coral along the rocks there. If you swim in toward the bay, you’ll be in starfish heaven.

Love love love this

On your way home (if you came via the Leinster Bay Trail), stop by the Annaberg Plantation (and then drive by the sign that says WARNING! MANCHINEEL TREE and think “huh, what’s a manchineel tree”, look it up on Wikipedia, and then spend the rest of your trip thinking you’re seeing manchineel trees everywhere).

View from the plantation

More St. John next Thursday! Man, we really need to take Nora there. Maybe the sound of gentle waves will be so soothing that she’ll actually nap.

Flowers @ Annaberg

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