Ditleff Beach is a small protected bay with a stretch of shoreline
consisting of sand and broken up pieces of coral. Hurricane Marilyn
brought back the sand that Hurricane Hugo took away, and a new
layer of sand extends past the vegetation line. One can now relax
in soft sand and still enjoy the shade produced by the maho and
seagrape trees that line the beach.
If arriving by boat, Ditleff Beach lies on the eastern side of
Rendezvous Bay, about half way to the Ditleff Point headland.
Experienced snorkelers can access Ditleff Point by snorkeling
from Klein Bay.
The land access to the beach is a story in itself.
While the coastlines and beaches of the Virgin Islands are
public domain, the question of land access has not been formalized.
land access to Ditleff beach goes back to the first inhabitants
of St. John who had a settlement there some two thousand years
ago, attested to by the finding of prehistoric artifacts uncovered
in the area.
Poor whites and freed slaves lived here during colonial
times. During subsistence farming days, a family lived in a house
whose foundation still exists, lying just inland from the southern
end of the beach.
After that Ditleff Beach was used primarily as access to the
sea for fishing and the gathering of whelk and conch as well
as recreationally for swimming, snorkeling, diving and fishing.
Original trails were replaced by a bulldozed road, which, for
many years, St. Johnians and visitors used as access to the coastlines.
Local Man Confronted by Keep Out
of the writing of this book, the Ditleff Point peninsula is
owned by developers who have cut up the property into residential
lots, some selling for as much as $4.5 million dollars for
the raw land. The developers intend to construct a gate at
the entrance to the peninsula and close off the traditional
access to the beach.
This may not be allowed to happen. On St. Thomas, developers
were fined for restricting the historical access to Linquist
Beach. But conventional wisdom is that “money talks,” and
what has traditionally been the domain of all Virgin Islanders,
may very well be restricted to a select few. Enjoy it while you
From the beach, it is possible to walk along the shore towards
a dramatic rocky point. An extensive fringing reef protects the
coast and beach from the action of southeasterly swells coming
in from the Caribbean. This shallow reef also creates a series
of small tide pools. You can often observe small fish and crustaceans
within this miniature marine environment.
Further south along the coast there is a narrow shallow passage
between the peninsula are some large offshore rock formations
where small fish and marine creatures can be observed.
The sand and coral beach on the western side of Ditleff Point
offers fine snorkeling for those of all levels of experience.
The water near shore is shallow and deepens gradually, providing
an easy entry over sand and seagrass.
Beginners can stay in the shallow, grassy area just offshore
or snorkel along the fringing reefs located on either side
of the beach. Much of the coral is in good condition and
colorful. There are many small fish to observe around and
under the coral heads. The grassy area just off the beach
is a habitat for turtles, squid, rays and starfish. If you
see piles of shells around the coral reef, look for an octopus
in nearby holes or crevices.
Those willing to venture out a little further, can explore
the undersea grasslands of Rendezvous Bay. There are acres
of grasslands in the Ditleff Point and Rendezvous Bay areas
found in about 15 feet of water. Although the basic environment
does not change much, if you snorkel this area long enough,
(about 10 - 15 minutes) you will begin to see the interesting
animals that frequent the seagrass meadows. There are many
green turtles here. The larger ones may be accompanied by
remora who attach themselves to large sea creatures such
as turtles or sharks.
Also commonly seen here are rays. The southern stingray is
dark gray in color, and it is often accompanied by a jack,
who swims just above the ray. There are also at least two large,
impressive and graceful spotted eagle rays. They are black
with white spots, have a defined head and a long thin tail.
You may also find conch, starfish and squid. During the night,
lobster and octopus come out of the reef and frequent the grasslands
in search of food.
One of the most exciting snorkeling areas on St. John can be
found on the seaward side of the fringing reef, south of
the beach. Beginning about half way between the beach and
the southern tip of the point are a series of incredibly
beautiful ledges formed by the outcropping of the coral.
The base of the reef is in about 15 feet of water. The ceiling
of the ledge ranges from about three to six feet and extends
laterally approximately the same distance. To appreciate
this area, you must be able to dive down to the bottom and
still have enough breath to explore under the ledge.
This is a unique and fascinating environment, combining the
color and beauty of the various corals and sponges with an
abundance of fish, eels, lobsters, octopus, shrimp, crabs,
plume worms and other creatures which are attracted to the
shelter of the ledge.
The rocky area at the end of the peninsula can be explored
when the seas are calm and there is a minimum of surf breaking
over the shallow reef. This extremely exciting area is only
recommended for the experienced, confident and physically fit
Around and between the huge rocks are channels, arches, underwater
canyons, chambers, tunnels and “painted” walls.
As you will be in relatively open and unsheltered water, you
will probably get to see bigger fish than those commonly found
closer to shore.