How to Avoid Crowds at Trunk Bay, St. John, USVI
How to Visit Trunk Bay
Trunk Bay on St. John offers turquoise water, soft white sand, and a lush Caribbean setting . . . it's often named one of the top ten beaches by Condé Nast Traveler. This slice of paradise in the US Virgin Islands offers easy entry to coral reef for snorkeling and an intimate stretch of beach unmarred by development for sun worshipping. The Danes dubbed the beach “Trunk Bay” because Leatherback turtles once nested there and reminded them of large leather trunks. As part of of the National Park system, Trunk Bay’s amenities include a parking lot, a snack bar, showers and restrooms, picnic tables, barbeque grills, and a lifeguard.
No wonder Trunk Bay is one of the most famous and popular beaches on St John and in the Virgin Islands. And therein lies the problem: crowds. Although cruise ships cannot dock on St John, ships from St. Thomas anchor offshore and ferry in passengers for day trips. Taxi shuttles used by cruisers fill up the Trunk Bay parking lot early, and the small beach can quickly lose its peaceful charm.
The secret to enjoying Trunk Bay: knowing which days have no cruise ships in the area. Here’s some tips on how to pick the right day to visit Trunk Bay and how to make the most of your visit.
Get the Cruise Schedule
Pick up a copy of This Week in St. Thomas and St. John, a free weekly that can be found in most shops and restaurants in St. Thomas and St. John. Look in the very back for the cruise ship schedule. Some days may five cruise ships coming. Other days may have zero. Plan to visit Trunk Bay on a day with zero.
Don't Come on Popular Wedding Days
Avoid Wedding days. Trunk Bay is a popular spot for beach weddings. Most weddings are held on Saturday in early morning or late afternoon, especially in popular wedding months like June and July.
Early Birds Catch the Best Waves
Come early. If you arrive before 9 am, you get first pick of where to set up, and you may get the beach all to yourself for a while. Also, you may avoid paying a fee (about $4/person). Officially the park starts collecting fees at 7 or 8 am, but it’s island time, so often you can avoid the fee if you come by 9.
Don't Forget Snorkeling Gear
Bring snorkeling gear. Trunk Bay offers a 650-foot underwater snorkeling trail with signs pointing out facts about coral and sealife. You enter over soft sand. Like any popular reef, the coral is somewhat damaged by contact with humans, but still worthwhile. If you do not have snorkel equipment, it can can be rented from the gift shop for about $5. Be careful not to damage the coral by touching it!
Protect Your Valuables
Bring a dry bag. If you plan to snorkel or swim, you need a way to take your wallet and keys with you. Most of the visitors to Trunk Bay are probably tourists you can trust, but to be on the safe side, buy a small waterproof pouch you can attach to your swimsuit. You can get dry bags online or in dive shops. Alternatively, you may rent lockers at Trunk Bay.
We got this dry bag on Amazon. What I liked was that it has a waist belt and that the size is perfect for keys and wallet. I added an extra clip and attached it directly to my swimsuit to make extra sure it did not fall off. Nothing got wet. I found that I also used this bag on dry land when I was taking hikes. If you bring a dry bag like this, be sure to pack it well so that nothing else in your suitcase damages it and compromises the ability to keep water out. This bag just fits a passport.
BBQ for Lunch
Bring a picnic. You are going to want to stay all day, so bring lunch. If you bring charcoal, you can even use park barbeques and cook hotdogs or hamburgers. Trunk Bay also has a snack bar.
Use Coral-Friendly Sunscreen
Bring biodegradable sunscreen. Recent research shows that even small quantities of chemicals in sunscreen cause coral bleaching, a condition that leads to the death of the coal and collapse of delicate ocean eco-systems. If you must wear sunscreen, buy natural biodegradable sunscreen. For the best price and selection on coral-friendly sunscreen, buy online. Another option is to wear rash guard shirts. These can be purchased is sporting goods stores or online. Look for one with UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) of 30 or more. Rash guards allow you to use less sunscreen and may help prevent irritation from sand and salt water.
Don't Forget the Scenic Overlook
Stop at the famous Trunk Bay Overlook. Make sure you stop at the scenic overlook to Trunk Bay on the way to the beach or on the way home. (The pics at top are from the overlook.) The photo you take there will be one of your favorites.
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My Pics of St. John at Flickr
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If you want to see pics of Trunk Bay and other spots on St. John, check out my Flickr photo stream.
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