Scuba Diving in the U.S. Virgin Islands
This trio of Caribbean islands (St. John, St. Croix and St. Thomas) boasts sandy beaches, crystal-clear waters and fantastic diving and snorkeling sites. It’s also incredibly easy to get to from the U.S. thanks to plenty of direct flights and no passport required for American citizens.
St. Thomas is the most luxurious island with high-end shopping, big resorts and a bustling nightlife, while nature lovers will want to hop on a ferry to St. John with its lush parkland and pristine shores. St. Croix, the “Big Island”, features rum distilleries, sugar cane plantations and charming colonial towns. But the one thing that the islands all have in common? They’re a vacationer’s paradise.
The U.S. Virgin Islands are a U.S. territory, meaning that there is no passport required for U.S. citizens to travel there. Non-U.S. citizens will need a passport and visa depending on your country of origin. See TSA requirements for the most up to date information.
There are two major airports in the Virgin Islands: the Cyril E. King Airport (STT) on St. Thomas and the Henry E. Rohlsen Airport (STX) on St. Croix. You can reach St. John by ferry from St. Thomas.
The best way to get around any U.S. Virgin Island is by car—either a rental from the airport or a taxi. (Currently, there are no Ubers or Lyfts available.)
If you're returning from the British Virgin Islands (BVI) to the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI), you will need to pay a departure tax upon your return to USVI by air or sea. You will NOT need to pay this tax if you're traveling from the USVI to the mainland US.
Good to Know
The U.S. Virgin Islands are a U.S. territory.
Time zone: Atlantic Standard Time
Primary languages: English, Spanish and French Creole.
Currency: U.S. dollar. Credit cards are readily accepted.
Phone and internet: Phone service is available from any U.S. phone carrier. Internet is readily available including Wi-Fi at hotels. The international calling code is +1.
Voltage: 110 (Standard voltage for the U.S. and Canada is 120 so there’s no need for a power converter or plug adapter.)
Hurricane season runs from July to October in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
There are currently no travel health and safety notices currently in effect for the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Top Dive Shops in this Country
Water temperatures range from 80 degrees Fahrenheit in winter to 82 degrees in summer.
Average water visibility is 60 to 100 feet but can be higher or lower depending on the weather.
When to go
The U.S. Virgin Islands boast great diving conditions all year round.
The best time for whale watching is February to March.
The peak season for tourism is December to March.
What You’ll See
Divers can expect to see a wide variety of colorful marine life gliding through shipwrecks, caves, reefs and coral tunnels. Be on the lookout for seahorses, octopus, turtles, eels, lobsters, stingrays and more.
Best Scuba Diving Sites in the U.S. Virgin Islands
The Cane Bay Wall (St. Croix)
Located an easy 100-yard swim away from the beach, this gorgeous site (also called Salt River Canyon) features a 3,000-foot wall that offers fantastic diving for beginners (stick to the shallow reefs leading to wall) as well as those who are more advanced (float along the wall to vaster depths). Vibrant sea life can be found on both the east and west side of the wall including sponges, sea fans, parrotfish, grouper and more.
Frederiksted Pier (St. Croix)
Don’t forget your camera at this shallow dive site that’s great for all experience levels (depths range from 25 to 40 feet). The pillars are covered in sea life while turtles, seahorses, eels, lobsters and schools of kaleidoscopic Caribbean fish float through this underwater hallway. You might even spot the rare frogfish here. Frederiksted also offers one of the island’s best night dives.
Eagle Shoals (St. John)
Another great spot for beginners, this site is best known for its many tunnels, caves and arches that host a variety of shimmering fish, rainbow sponges and orange cup coral. One of the most popular sites is known as “The Cathedral” due to its large chamber that can accessed by several entrances and the beautiful way that light pours into it from above.
Cow and Calf Rocks (St. Thomas)
Located off the island’s southeast coast lies this collection of coral tunnels, wide canyons, gaping caves and spectacular ledges ready to be explored by all experience levels. It’s also great for snorkeling. Where does the name come from? The two biggest rocks that break the surface are said to look like whales—a cow with her calf.
Best Snorkeling in the U.S. Virgin Islands
Coki Point Beach (St. Thomas)
On the north shore of the island lies this family-friendly spot that features a popular beach and shallow waters with mild currents. Enjoy swimming with parrotfish, tangs, damsels and more and then head over to nearby Coral World Ocean Park—a five-acre marine park with fun for kids of all ages including a touch pool and aquariums.
Hurricane Hole (St. John)
You’ve never seen anything like this before—a sea of coral growing on mangrove roots that’s home to sponges, giant starfish and anemone. Located on the eastern side of the island this magical spot is great for all levels.
Buck Island (off St. Croix)
This tiny island located two miles north of St. Croix is America’s only underwater national monument and boasts over 250 species of fish, beautiful coral, spiky crustaceans and larger sea life like sharks and turtles.
Discover Unique Things to Do in the U.S. Virgin Islands
The Virgin Islands National Park
If you’re on St. John, you can’t miss this lush nature reserve—as in, two-thirds of the island is parkland. Sports enthusiasts will enjoy the more than 20 trails for hiking while stargazers will love camping overnight on the beach. And don’t miss sailing, kayaking and windsurfing in the shimmering turquoise waters.
Mountain Top Bar
Take the Skyride up to Paradise Hill for panoramic views of the Caribbean from St. Thomas’ highest vantage point. Once you’ve reached the top, unwind with the island’s most famous banana daiquiri.
The Pirate Treasure Shipwreck Museum
This St. Thomas museum is one for the kids (OK, and the adults). Discover the region’s exciting pirate history and multiple shipwrecks at this interactive museum that features rare coins, golden treasure, ancient weapons and real-life pirates.
Estate Whim Plantation
Step back in time and discover what life was like on this St. Croix sugar plantation in the 18th century (where it was just one plantation out of 200 on the island at the time). Tour the slave quarters, cookhouse, sugar mill, factory and the on-site museum to learn about the Caribbean’s diverse history.