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  • Catherine

Snorkel Like a Local

Snorkel Like a Local

Most everyone likes to snorkel on St. John and everyone has their favorite spots.

For me, the best snorkeling is found not necessarily by location (although, it is

important and I’ll reveal a few local treasures as you read on), but rather by the

hour of the day.

Most beaches are empty at 7am, but it is at this time many creatures are enjoying

their breakfast. It’s not uncommon to see Eagle Rays heading home from a night

of hunting, or Nurse Sharks finding a cool place to rest in the sand under a rock

ledge. Octopi have not gone deep into their holes yet and may even be exhibiting

a little friskiness, if you know what I mean.

In the morning hours as the sun rises over the water, the dappled light plays with

the fish fins to create brilliant color shapes in the water. Rock formations and

coral sparkle with a golden hue. You can find tiny shrimp and arrow crabs under

ledges. Lobster, too.

Some of the beaches that have this morning light at 7, or a bit after 7, are

Haulover South and North, and Pelican Rock. These are all unfrequented, East End

Beaches in close proximity to one another, and a 7-minute drive from A House of

Open Arms.

Haulover South (on the right side of Centerline Road) has lovely light on its white

crystal coral heads. No, this is not dead coral; this is its beautiful color. You put in

at the beach and aim for the point on your right, swimming across the bay. Round

the point for an incredible stretch of coral reef teeming with life. The left hand

point is equally lovely though the water is deeper here than at most popular

tourist beaches. The result is a perspective changing, truly local, snorkel


To get to Haulover North, travel about 5 minutes through the woods on the

opposite side of Haulover South to come to a more rugged beach. Often the

beach has mounds of Sargassum that you must walk through to get into the

water, but persist! This reef (on the left -hand side when you face the water) is

not to be missed. Large parrotfish, grouper and schools of blue tang populate this

underwater area. I’ve seen eagle rays, eels, and queen triggerfish move through

here with grace.

Pelican Rock is a bit harder to reach, but also worth it. From Hanson Beach,

snorkel along the shoreline on the left out to the outcropping known as Pelican

Rock. Hanson beach is privately owned but the new owners allow you to park

there for a nominal fee and even rent you kayaks, snorkels, or paddleboards if

you want to travel to Pelican that way. Thalia, the owner is lovely and helpful.

A perfect day on St. John can easily be had when one begins it with a morning


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