Just got back to Tampa after 10 days on St Croix -- my 23rd trip to St Croix, my girlfriends 7th. We averaged 2-3 forty-five minute snorkels a day, and following is our report:
TAMARIND REEF - Did not spend much time here. The sea was active and water cloudy most of our trip. Bummer because we love to snorkel here. The great thing about this reef is that you can call ahead to check water conditions -- call 340-718-4455 and ask for Mimi in the Beach Shack. She will give you an honest assessment and you will not waste time driving out here only to be disappointed with conditions.
SHOY BEACH - Same as Tamarind. High seas and cloudy water. We went out but visibility was difficult.
CANE BAY - Did a number of snorkels here on relatively calm days. Water was somewhat cloudy, but the further out we went, the better. A few people we talked to were a little freaked out over the currents and did not stay out too long. We are pretty strong swimmers and did not have much trouble. We like to go out from the boat ramp and swim right once we pass the reef. We swim down the beach, and keep zig-zagging our way out toward the wall. Saw lots of sea fans, squid, rays, a turtle or two, and beautiful sponges and coral -- not to mention about every fish on the identification chart! We were here one day when there was a cruise ship in, and were dismayed to see passengers standing on the reef. I wish the cruise ship companies or volunteers would be there on cruise ship days to help instruct snorkelers and help police the reef. In one case I snorkeling by a swimmer who was standing on the reef only inches from sea urchins --a potential MAJOR ouch! I had a talk with him.
RAINBOW BEACH - A beautiful beach, but we were disappointed with the snorkeling here. It may have been that we were not in the right places at the right times. We did see and follow a huge sea turtle one day, but the bottom was mainly sand and seaweed, void of a lot of the colorful corals and sponges that can be found on other St Croix beaches.
THE PIER - Delightful! Colorful! Wow! Waters here were pretty calm during our entire visit. Colorful sponges, coral, fish outstanding. If I could build an underwater house here I would...
SAND CASTLE BEACH - Using the hotel pool as a starting point, we snorkeled points going toward Sandy Point for up to a mile from the pool, and points going toward Frederiksted for up to a mile from the pool. The word here is STARFISH! There seems to be more starfish here than ever before. Even the locals I know told be the same thing. We found starfish mainly in an area about a tenth of a mile from the pool heading toward Frederiksted in 8-10 feet of water. One island resident I know told me a friend of hers had taken a photograph of a big group of 10 starfish
grouped together here. However when we came across them, it was one at a time.
The best snorkel we had at Sand Castle was about three tenths of a mile from the pool heading toward Frederiksted. We swam out about to a depth of 20 feet, and came across an amazing barrel sponge garden. The sponges were huge. It looked like someone was sculpting big clay pots on the ocean floor. Absolutely remarkable! I dove down so many times to photograph them that I could not hear for hours when we finally got back on shore!
I hope this helps future visitors. If you are looking for additional information in addition to this forum and are book/kindle people like me, there are two books on Amazon that I would recommend:
DIVE THE VIRGIN ISLANDS by Lawson Wood - Mainly a dive book, but if you have a boat you can snorkel many of the locations on St Croix that he lists. Has good general information on the marine environment and underwater photography.
ST CROIX SNORKELING GUIDE by sarjim enterprises - A colorful, visual guide to the underwater environments of 5 St Croix beaches. Has a few words to get you going, and lots of photos to show you what's there. Looking at this book is the next best thing to being there, and boy do I ever want to go back right now! CHEERS!