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Beach snorkeling in the Caribbean.

Bucks County...
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Beach snorkeling in the Caribbean.

We are two middle age, low-maintenance beach bums (Cape May, NJ) who love snorkeling. We usually head south to the lower Florida Keys or the Caribbean mid-February. Our idea of a perfect vacation is an uncrowded place with a hot shower, quiet sleeping, decent drinks, good, reasonably priced food, no floating skyscrapers, and a beach to hang out from which we can snorkel. The idea of spending five grand a week at some froufrou place just does not cut it for us.

Our trip to Bonaire was great for snorkeling and otherwise, but the lack of any real beaches precludes a return visit (at least for now).

We have read great things about beach snorkeling on Roatan and it sounds like an ideal place for us to visit, but the number of negative online posts about the island vis-à-vis bugs, crime, and disease is enough to make us cross it off our list. We have no desire for a Rooseveltian trip-up-the-amazon excursion.

So here is the question: What are your recommendations for a place where we can hang out and snorkel directly from the beach?

To help stir the pot, here is a list of places we found of interest online but which we cannot make a definitive decision. We are not tied to any of them, so please feel free to add your own suggestions.

Anegada, BVI

Eleuthera

Providenciales, Turks & Caicos

Roatan

St. Croix, USVI

St. John, USVI

St. Lucia

Vieques

Thanks.

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Cape May County, NJ
Caribbean
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North America
Bonaire
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Roatan
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Bay Islands, Honduras
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Baltimore
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1. Re: Beach snorkeling in the Caribbean.

The only two places on your list that I've been to are St. John & Providenciales. If you want to snorkel from the beach, there's almost no comparison between St. John (very good) & Providenciales (not so good). We found that Provo had basically two snorkeling sites off the beach, neither of which were very good. St. John, on the other hand has several outstanding snorkeling areas, particularly Trunk Bay & Waterlemon Key. There are others, too. Also St. Thomas, in Nazareth Bay, is excellent we found. There is a small "resort" there called Secret Harbour, which is nice but not posh, and the beach & snorkeling are quite nice.

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Atlanta, Georgia...
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2. Re: Beach snorkeling in the Caribbean.

Spent a week on Eleuthera in 2007 and spent a week on St. John back in May of this year so I can only comment on these. Eleuthera is a much longer island (nearly 100 miles). We stayed in North Eleuthera and ventured as far south as Rock Sound but not all the way south. The beaches and snorkeling were great. Lots of difference between the Atlantic and Caribbean side of the island in terms of surf and water temp but both were great while we were there. There were fewer people on the beaches in Eleuthera when compared to our experience on St. John (0-2 families vs. 2-40 families). There was more variation and character on St. John than Eleuthera (some sand, some rocks, more terrain and scenic vistas) and more options for hiking on St. John. Overall, the convenience and options offered on St. John and it's relatively small size made for a better experience but Eleuthera was still fantastic. A win-win in my book. Hope to check out some of the other locations you referenced and will be looking forward to reviewing other responses in this thread!

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Bourbon, IN
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3. Re: Beach snorkeling in the Caribbean.

I've snorkeled St. John and St. Croix. St. Croix isn't as touristy but St. John had better snorkeling.

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kod
Nokomis, Florida
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4. Re: Beach snorkeling in the Caribbean.

While St John is great for snorkeling off pristine beaches, it does not meet your other criteria which includes reasonably priced lodging right on a wonderful sandy beach with great snorkeling. In St John you have to drive to such a beach as well as in most cases bring your own food and drink. I stayed in a privately owned condo at Sapphire Beach in St Thomas a couple of years ago. No restaurant on site except for a small snack bar but ti was not expensive and the snorkeling was good.

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St. Thomas
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5. Re: Beach snorkeling in the Caribbean.

kod is correct, if you're talking about a condo or a house. But St. John does have some very nice camping.

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Minneapolis...
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6. Re: Beach snorkeling in the Caribbean.

Been to St. John once and will definitely be returning. We went with high expectations on the snorkeling and it did not disappoint. Many beaches to snorkel from – you would be hard pressed to hit them all – but we had fun trying. We chose to eat “reasonably” by hitting happy hours. Drinks were good. . . but we made most of them at our villa :). Not sure what your budget is but it is not a budget friendly destination once you add villa, car rental, etc. We spent 3 nights in Cruz Bay and 7 nights in Coral Bay – 2 very different areas with different vibes. I will let others with more experience chime in on St. John.

Last year we crewed a catamaran and sailed around the BVI’s with another couple. Spent 2 nights on Anegada. Very flat island. A little rain dampened our plans on snorkeling but our captain mentioned that the snorkeling wasn’t top notch anyway. If you like peace, quiet, solitude, this is the place for you. You can literally hang on the beach and not see a soul for hours. From where our boat was moored we walked probably about 3-4 miles on the beach to the Cow Wreck Bar and only saw 4 people. The most beautiful turquoise waters I have ever seen, but personally not enough bars, restaurants, activities for me to spend more than a couple days.

From our catamaran trip we gave Virgin Gorda the nod out of all the islands we hit, so that is where we are heading next year. If Anegada interests you, you may want to add Virgin Gorda to your list as you can ferry to Anegada for the day or split your stay between Anegada and Virgin Gorda. We snorkeled the Baths which was awesome and also several areas a short boat ride away that was the best snorkeling we have ever had. We are looking forward to the beach/shore snorkeling which I hear is very similar to St. John, although less beaches to choose from.

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7. Re: Beach snorkeling in the Caribbean.

Lots of places have one draw or another. St John, IMO, has many ... You'll likely have to pay a bit for shelter; but the beaches and snorkeling are fantastic! Rent a car/Jeep and you can cover most of the island. Top snorkeling spots would have to be Waterlemon Cay, Haulover North and Yawzi Point. All fairly challenging but wonderful marine life/corals/fish. The island has its share of bars and restaurants. Cruz Bay is loaded with great spots. Coral Bay is a bit quieter but you can still get a cold beer and some good food.

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8. Re: Beach snorkeling in the Caribbean.

Hi there - We've traveled to a lot of Islands in our time but STJ keeps bringing us back - 22 years and counting. I've been to some that were much more expensive & some a lot less but STJ has about everything that was tops on our list: some of the most beautiful beaches & fabulous, right off the beach snorkeling, great watering holes, you won't starve, its in the US with just a short sail away to the BVI's and we've actually have stayed in a variety of abodes - from camping to resort. The most expensive thing for us, is the airfare.

If you're a little open & adventurous and love clear, gorgeous water, it might just be a place to look into.

St. Louis, MO
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9. Re: Beach snorkeling in the Caribbean.

St John for a week is mt vote. There are so many beautiful beaches and you snorkel directly from beach. We are staying in a villa at francis bay and we love it because it is away from the crowds at Trunk Bay and at times feel like we are on a private beach. We have snorkeled everyday at francis, maho, trunk, and salt pond tomorrow. Rent a jeep though, you will need it here.

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10. Re: Beach snorkeling in the Caribbean.

Out of your list, I've done 4 of your desired destinations (st. John, T&C, Eleuthera, & Vieques). For beach snorkeling, I'd have to call it a tie between Eleuthera and St. John. All 4 have absolutely beautiful beaches. I would say that st John has the picturesque background due to the hills/mountains. But as soon as you stick you head in the water either of the two ('Lutra' or St John), will be equally impressive.

On Lutra you will probably have a hard time finding someone else on the beach....any beach, whereas on St. John you will probably have a hard time not finding someone unless you go early (my experience).

I don't want to diss Vieques but I went in 2010 in mid sept and a storm had just passed through and the waters and weather were not ideal. Beaches were churned up and it was overcast most of the time we were there. It is a place I'd like to go back to only because the reviews did not match what I was expecting and I could appreciate what it would've looked like if the weather was better. It is not flat but not as hilly as St John. I cannot give an honest beach snorkeling review for it except for the west end where one day I saw some manatees not too far away from where I was snorkeling and lounging on the beach. Reef looked pretty nice.

For a culinary experience, I think T&C and St. John are up high on the list although the meal at the Rainbow Inn on Lutra is one of our favorite meals that we still talk about. The filet mignon and the teriyaki snapper is one of the best meals we've had anywhere.

I'd say try them all yourself and come back and tell us how you like each one. Each one is a place I'd go back to but you have to know what each offers. They are all very different. Go to each forum and read so you won't be surprised or disappointed and your expectations are met. I've had a great time on each but knew what to expect on each island. Reading and preparing is half the fun!

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