Looking to dive into an underwater paradise where you can swim alongside turtles? Well, get over to St John where turtle encounters are practically guaranteed.
I went to St John for the first time recently and I made it my mission to find as many turtles as possible (if you’re regular reader of this blog then you know I love turtles!!).
I found that the best place to swim with turtles on St John was on Honeymoon Beach.
You can even join this snorkeling and boat tour like I did which will take you to several of St John’s best snorkeling spots and includes a swim with turtles experience.
In the rest of this guide, I’ll cover all of the exact locations where you can swim with sea turtles in St John!
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Where To Swim With Turtles In St John, USVI
The US Virgin Islands are home to three different species of sea turtle. You are most likely to see green sea turtles and hawksbill sea turtles in St John.
Leatherback sea turtles can also sometimes be spotted but they are much rarer to see.
If you’re now wondering where to see turtles in St John, keep reading as I’ll tell you the exact spots and locations!
1. Honeymoon Beach, St John
Based on my experience, I found that the best place to see turtles on St John was at Honeymoon Beach which is located within the Virgin Islands National Park.
Honeymoon Beach is a picturesque white sandy beach that looks like something from a postcard and the best bit is that a large population of turtles call it home.
When I visited this beach, I must have seen at least 10 or more turtles swimming around. It was insane!
The turtles are super friendly here and are used to snorkelers so they won’t get spooked if you swim near them (just remember not the get too close and don’t touch them).
I booked this snorkeling and boat tour which includes a snorkeling stop at Honeymoon Beach as well as several other top locations.
I thought the tour was amazing as I saw a ton of turtles and got to explore more of the island. The guides were also super knowledgable, fun and friendly so we all had a great time.
- Snorkeling & Boat Tour (Top Pick 🏆)
This area also has an extensive coral reef home to a variety of marine life that you can explore.
Check out how close you can get to the turtles at Honeymoon Beach in the video below:
2. Maho Bay
Maho Bay is a favorite amongst both locals and tourists due to its beautiful white sandy beaches and towering coconut palm trees.
I found that the best place for spotting turtles was in the middle of the shallow bay as it has an extensive seagrass bed which happens to be green turtles favorite food!
I saw 3 or 4 turtles within minutes when I snorkeled here!
As well as turtles, you’ll be able to swim with rays, tropical fish and maybe even an octopus.
My favorite thing about Maho Bay is the fact that the waters are super clear and very calm so you’ll get an excellent view of the turtles.
For the ultimate luxury experience, you can book a private full-day boat charter and explore St John at your own leisure.
This tour is completely customisable so you can choose where your guide takes you – I’d recommend visiting Maho Bay for some time with the turtles.
💡Tip: Bring a waterproof camera like the GoPro Hero 10 to get some photos and videos of you with the turtles.
Check out the beautiful sea turtle spotted at Maho Bay in the video below:
3. Francis Bay
Francis Bay is a bit quieter than Maho Bay and it’s ideal if you are looking for some peace and quiet. I thought that it has a super laid back vibe.
Many people start their day snorkeling at Francis Bay then work their way south towards Maho Bay (Maho Bay has one of the biggest turtle populations on the island).
I found that the best place to see turtles here was along the rocks which are located on the right side of the bay. I saw around 4 turtles here just munching on some seagrass.
As well as turtles, you’ll be able to see a wide variety of tropical fish, rays and other marine animals.
Check out one of the amazing sea turtles of Francis Bay in the video below:
4. Waterlemon Cay
Waterlemon Cay, which is located in Leinster Bay, is perfect for snorkeling as it has a healthy seagrass bed and vibrant corals.
In fact, Waterlemon Cay is often considered to be one of the best snorkeling spots on the whole island.
Snorkelers are often able to spot sea turtles, starfish, tropical fish, rays, conchs and even sometimes dolphins.
Waterlemon Cay is extremely photogenic and a fantastic spot for underwater photography. Don’t forget your waterproof camera.
Check out the sea turtles at Waterlemon Cay in the video below:
5. Hansen Bay
There’s so much to see at Hansen Bay including sea turtles, conchs, stingrays, soft corals and a wide range of tropical fish.
As Hansen Bay faces the south, it is protected from large waves meaning the bay here is very calm so it’s an excellent snorkeling spot for beginners.
The crescent-shaped beach is extremely picturesque and features soft white sand, coconut palms and sea grapes.
Check out the sort of sights you can expect at Hansen Bay in the video below:
6. Haulover North
Haulover North is great for intermediate and advanced snorkelers but should be avoided if you’re a beginner due to the strong currents.
There’s so much to see underwater at Haulover North including a wide variety of corals, colorful fish, sea turtles, sharks and lobsters.
The beach and shore at Haulover North is super rocky (not sandy) and may hurt your feet as you walk on the beach and enter the water.
Make sure you bring along some snorkel boots like these to prevent the rocks from hurting your feet.
- The best snorkel boots (essential for Haulover North)
7. Cinnamon Bay
Cinnamon Bay is actually St John’s longest beach. It was actually one of my favorite places on the island to relax as there’s so much room.
I spent an entire day here just relaxing on the beach reading my book and taking a dip in the ocean to look for turtles.
I found that the best place to go snorkeling was around the small cay that sits just off the beach. It features dramatic rock crevices which are home to lots of coral and fish.
The far eastern side of the beach is also a great spot for snorkeling and you’re highly likely to spot turtles here.
Cinnamon Bay is often ranked as one of the most beautiful and pristine beaches on St John.
It also features stunning towering palm trees that line over ½ mile of the soft, white sandy beach.
Check out the beautiful sea turtles in Cinnamon Bay in the video below:
8. Salt Pond Bay
This protected cove is one of St John’s most popular snorkeling spots and you can often spot turtles there (as well as lots more marine life).
You will need to hike a little bit to reach Salt Pond Bay as it sits away from the road. The hike is totally worth it though as the beach is stunning.
Due to the hike required to reach the beach, it’s never overcrowded with tourists meaning you can just enjoy your time with the turtles without fighting the crowds.
Check out the video below which shows a sea turtle spotted at Salt Pond Bay:
9. Scott Beach
This beach is super quiet and not many people know about it so you won’t have to fight the crowds to see the turtles here.
Turtles aren’t the only thing you’ll find at Scott Beach. This paradise beach is also home to stingrays, spotted eagle rays, nurse sharks and even the odd dolphin.
Turtle populations have skyrocketed at Scott Beach in recent years. This is mainly because the area was closed off to the public for some time due to a hurricane in 2017.
As the turtles were left undisturbed, the population was able to flourish meaning there are more turtles there than ever before.
Did you know you can also swim with turtles in St Thomas, USVI?
Best Time Of Year To See Turtles
You can see sea turtles at any time of year in St John. This is because the island has a resident population of sea turtles that live there all year.
The sea turtles love to feed on the seagrass and live amongst the reefs (all of which are present on St John).
The best time of day to see turtles in St John is early morning or late afternoon as this is when the turtles are most active.
Why not use these fun snorkeling Instagram captions for any photos you post from your stay in St John?
Tips For Swimming With Turtles
First time swimming with turtles?
To ensure the turtles remain safe, there’s a few key things to bear in mind when swimming with them in St John, USVI.
Remember that all of the different turtle species are endangered so it’s important that we do all we can to help their chances.
- Don’t be too loud. Try to be as quiet as possible when swimming up to a turtle as loud noises will scare them away.
- Do not touch the turtle. Turtles are wild animals and should be respected.
- Do not get too close. This might scare the turtle and they could bite you if they get really scared (don’t worry this is super rare!).
- Do not feed the turtles. They don’t need help finding food.
- Always approach a turtle from the side. This gives them a clear view of you and a clear path ahead of them if they want to swim onwards.
- Don’t disrupt the turtle’s natural behavior. You can enjoy the turtles by watching them do their thing but try not to disturb them.
These key tips protect both you and the turtles.
And that’s it!
St John is a great place to go swimming with turtles due to the abundance of healthy seagrass beds.
There’s plenty of beaches all over St John where you have a super high chance of spotting a turtle.