Trunk Bay provides some of the best snorkeling opportunities in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Located on the northwest edge of St. John, it’s part of the Virgin Islands National Park. Pristine white sand beaches blend into translucent blue-to-teal waters and create one of the most beautiful scenes of the Caribbean.
Trunk Bay gets its name from the leatherback turtles native to this area that are called trunks by the island’s locals. Before you head out to get your toes in the sand and soak up some sunshine, here is everything you need to know about Trunk Bay, St. John.
How To Get To Trunk Bay
If you’re starting from St. Thomas, you can hop on a ferry from Charlotte Amalie or Red Hook straight to Cruz Bay on the west side of St. John.
If you’re already in St. John and want to get to Trunk Bay, you’re only a 10-minute cab ride if you’re in Cruz Bay. If you’re in Coral Bay, it’s only 20 minutes away on the east side of the island. Cab drivers are typically posted up at Trunk Bay all day and can get you back to Cruz Bay or Coral Bay once you’re finished relaxing or snorkeling.
There is limited parking at Trunk Bay Beach, including one small lot and roadside parking nearby on North Shore Road. The earlier you arrive during the day, the better your chances of scoring a space since it’s a very popular spot on the island.
As it’s located within the Virgin Islands National Park, there is a $5 entrance fee. You can also buy an annual park pass, so you don’t have to worry about paying each time you go if you live here.
Accommodations Near Trunk Bay
There are plenty of places to stay on St. John and several within minutes of Trunk Bay. A short drive up the road, you can find many luxurious accommodations in suites, villas, and condos. Be sure to check out some of the local favorites like the Westin St. John Resort and Gallows Point.
Apart from resorts, you can also rent villas, tents on the beach, and small cottages. There are even properties with their own beachfront for a truly one-of-a-kind stay.
No matter your group size, you can find a unique place to stay in this little piece of island paradise. It’s also a popular wedding venue for couples seeking a romantic tropical location for their wedding vows.
Beachside Amenities at Trunk Bay
Thanks to an association with the National Park Service, Trunk Bay has many amenities for your convenience.
You can find modern restroom facilities, including showers, beach chairs for rent, and picnic areas. If you’re hungry or thirsty, there are refreshments like snacks, soft drinks, and even a limited selection of alcoholic beverages for purchase. More substantial food and drink are available a few minutes away at the entrance of Cruz Bay.
There are equipment rentals for snorkeling gear as well as chair and umbrella rentals for a lazy day on the beach.
The ranger station on site has maps of the entire area, and a staff member is typically present during regular operating hours, between 8:00 am and 4:00 pm, to answer any questions you might have.
What You Can Expect to See Snorkeling at Trunk Bay
The waters of this St John beach are famous for a reason. The clarity and light blue color make observing the native wildlife from a distance easy, especially when snorkeling in its waters.
Thanks to the shallow depth of Trunk Bay Beach, visitors can see many of the native coral, vibrantly colored tropical fish, and rays. The amount of different fish species on display is impressive, with angelfish, parrotfish, snapper, and tang, among many others.
While near the reefs, be on the lookout for sea urchins, stonefish, and crabs. Look, but don’t touch, as these aren’t animals you want to step on. Since Trunk Bay Beach is named after the turtles that inhabit the area, snorkelers also have the chance to see one of the leatherback sea turtles that gave this famous location its name.
Green sea turtles and hawksbill turtles call this area their home. As with the area’s more prickly or poisonous residents, keep your hands to yourself since touching them is not allowed.
Snorkeling Tips For Trunk Bay
Reef-safe sunscreen is a must when you snorkel here. It can keep you safe from the sun and protect wildlife and the environment from harmful chemicals commonly found in sunscreen.
Check the weather forecast before going on your snorkeling adventure. Rough seas can turn even the most tranquil of waters into a danger. When in doubt, ask for advice from one of the nearby National Park staff, and always abide by posted signs.
The underwater snorkeling trail provided by the National Park Service is just off the shore between Trunk Bay beach and Trunk Cay. Although not a path in the traditional sense, this does provide visitors of any skill level the best chance of seeing the marine life.
If you venture out to Trunk Cay to explore the coral formations, be careful not to stand on them since you could easily damage them or injure yourself. Make sure that wherever your feet land is sand, to do your part in helping protect this environment.
Go snorkeling with at least one other person in case anything goes wrong. There are no lifeguards on duty, so if you aren’t an experienced swimmer, it’s best to stay out of the water.
Brief History of Trunk Bay
The Amerindian inhabitants of St. John, known as the Tainos, established a village at Trunk Bay around 700 AD, which lasted until about 900 AD, when they apparently left in a hurry, evidenced by the archeological find of abandoned cooking pots still filled with food.
In colonial times, Trunk Bay was operated as a sugar estate and prospered until shortly after the emancipation of the slaves, when the entire island underwent a period of economic decline.
In the late 1920s, Paul Boulon Sr. visited St. John from his home in Puerto Rico. While there, he often spent time at the Fishing Club at Denis Bay, described by Desmond Holdbridge in his book Escape to the Tropics, written in 1937, as “a quaint institution, now non-existent, where no fishing was ever done.” It was during a Fishing Club get-together that he learned that Trunk Bay and 100 additional acres of land were for sale for $2500.