Northeast of Cruz Bay on St John, Maho Bay is a great beach for swimming but it's quite poor for snorkeling. Ironically, many other reviews will state that Maho Bay is considered the best on the island. Years ago, the water quality was better and it was teeming with stingrays and sea turtles. Presently, there really isn't much to see in the murky sand flats. The best ...
Northeast of Cruz Bay on St John, Maho Bay is a great beach for swimming but it's quite poor for snorkeling. Ironically, many other reviews will state that Maho Bay is considered the best on the island. Years ago, the water quality was better and it was teeming with stingrays and sea turtles. Presently, there really isn't much to see in the murky sand flats. The best Maho Bay snorkeling is typically experienced very early on calm mornings before the hordes of tourists stir up the sand into the water. The typical visiblity is limited to about 15 feet.
This more protected sandy bay is ideal for families, even during the winter swells. The Maho Bay snorkeling is known for its turtle grass beds offshore in the middle of this shallow bay that are frequented by hawksbill turtles and green sea turtles. The marine life includes starfish, hermit crabs, and southern stingrays. Also, keep on the look out for the angel fish known to frequent these waters. While the bay is mainly known for it's sand flats and grass beds, there are some interesting rocks along the west edge of the bay. Sadly, there are a shocking number of long term moored boats crowding this formerly scenic bay.
Most of the coral surrounding St John is dead from the 2005 bleaching event and the post-bleaching disease known as white plague. Hundreds of years of coral growth was destroyed over a few months in September and October 2005 across all depth zones. Some estimates are that over 90% of the coral experienced bleaching with 60% coverage was lost. New growth has been hampered by run-off polution from construction, septic and fertilizers along withsand smothering following storms such as the September 2017 hurricanes Irma and Maria. Oddly though, there are a few very small patches of extremely healthy coral growth, such as at the Cruz Bay entrance, Gallows Point, southeast tip of Cinnamon Cay and the northeast side of Watermelon Cay.
To reach the Maho Bay snorkeling from Cruz Bay, head east along North Shore Road (Route 20) to Maho Bay. There is limited roadside parking at this usually quiet beach. If you do choose to drive instead of the convenient taxis, make sure to arrive well before 9am if you want to get a parking space.
To reach the snorkeling on St John by air, you will need to first fly into the island of St Thomas using Cyril E. King Airport (STT). Then, you will need to take a taxi to one of the two docks with ferries heading over to St John, preferably Red Hook (30 minutes from airport). The hourly ferry lands in Cruz Bay (15 minutes) where there are plenty of taxis to the beaches and numerous independent rental car companies. While the taxis regularly serve all the beaches, if you do prefer a rental car you'll need to reserve several months in advance. The minimum reserved rental is a week. It is unlikely you'll be able to find a car available for a day when you walk up. When renting, you'll noticed that most tires are bald which makes driving the steep roads challenging especially when wet. The best bet for good tires is on the newer 4 door Jeeps, but don't expect much. Just take a taxi to the beach.
Note: When snorkeling off St Johns USVI, be aware of potentially dangerous marine life including lionfish and sea urchins. Also, the coral reefs are in distress so be careful not to walk on or touch the coral. The best St John snorkeling for water clarity and sunny weather is from February to May since it can be quite rainy during other months.
Overall, Maho Bay is the 3rd most popular snorkel dive spot of all 18 snorkeling dives in St John.
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