Explore the US Virgin Islands by Boat
By Andrea Milam on 4th July, 2023
One of the best ways to see the islands is from the waters that surround them. Boat days are a true indulgence, and visitors often count their time on the water as the best day of their vacation. Whether you’re looking for a dreamy afternoon sail or a high-speed power boat to zip you from destination to destination, there are plenty of local operations that can offer you the day at sea of your dreams. Which sites you can visit will depend on the day’s weather conditions. Tell your captain what you’re hoping to do during your day on the water, then sit back, relax, and let the captain and their local knowledge guide you through a truly memorable experience.
Big Blue Excursions recommends: Snorkel at Henley Cay Teeny
Henley Cay— pronounced locally as “key”— is just across the channel from St. John’s Honeymoon Beach, and while it seems close enough to swim to, ocean currents and boat traffic make this destination one you’ll want to visit by boat. Just off the shore of this cay, you’ll find healthy corals in shallow water making for great visibility and a truly tranquil experience. “Being out on the ocean is what we love,” says Margaret Kemp of Big Blue Excursions. “It’s where we play, it’s where we work, it’s where we raise our family. Our passion is sharing what we love with others. We enjoy taking people to off-the-beaten-path places—islands and locations that you simply can’t get to by car when staying on St. John or St. Thomas.”
Dulce Vita Sails recommends: Cliff jumping at Thatch Cay
Thrill seekers will delight in leaping from a natural rock formation off Thatch Cay. It’s a relatively easy climb up to two different jumping spots of varying heights. If you’re feeling mildly adventurous, opt for the lower spot, about 25 feet above the water. Those who want to go all out should climb up to the highest point, about 35 feet above the water. The sea surrounding these jumping-off points is deep, but caution should always be observed. Dulce Vita Sails’ all-female crew will help you assess conditions and ensure your pursuit of adrenaline is safe and fun.
Love City Excursions recommends: Snorkel at Great and Little St. James
Beneath the surface of the sea that surrounds these private islands, unique underwater rock formations create ideal habitats for the elusive octopus as well as less shy turtles and stingrays. Ledges on the west side of Little St. James are home to coral ridges, banana yellow-hued French grunts, and even nurse sharks— generally docile creatures that are not aggressive toward humans. “Our charters are 100% customizable and no two days are the same,” says Katie Zachary of Love City Excursions. “We have the best captains who love to explore and get in the water with our guests to help them feel comfortable snorkeling in new locations.”
Salty Daze/Salt Deck USVI recommends: Flanagan Island
Located just outside of Coral Bay, Flanagan Island boasts some of the best visibility and snorkeling near St. John. This unassuming speck in the sea comes to life below the surface, where towering corals attract sea life like spotted eagle rays and turtles. Walk the shoreline to spot driftwood, ocean treasures, and small tide pools. Shallow snorkeling spots here are ideal for beginners, children, or cautious guests, while Flanagan’s south side offers dramatic edges, greater depths, and even underwater tunnels. “Don’t feel like exploring? Hang on the boat, hit the slide, and enjoy the protected anchorage for some rays and gentle breezes,” says Kate Nesbitt of Veteran- and Olympianowned Salty Daze USVI. “Or just peek over the edge and enjoy the crystal clear fish bowl below.”