Located in the Caribbean about 40 miles east of Puerto Rico you’ll find the US Virgin Islands. If there was ever a tropical chain of islands known to have something for everyone, the Virgin Islands would be it. There are three main islands: St. Thomas, St. John, and St. Croix, all with unique and individual characteristics. All of the islands have soft, white sand beaches and warm blue sea water. The diversity of the US Virgin Islands means that scuba divers find that these islands fit their diving needs better than most.
Scuba Diving on Each Island
In St. Thomas, the PADI Wreck Diver course is well-known and liked. Whether you want to see an artificial reef or check out the lost real boats that have sunken as the result of an accident, wrecks are fascinating to witness and learn about. Ships, airplanes, and even cars are great to explore and usually filled with aquatic life. Each wreck dive offers a chance for discovery, potentially unlocking a mystery or seeing something others have missed. The PADI Wreck Diver Specialty course is popular because it offers rewarding adventures while observing responsible wreck diving practices. You need to be at least 15 years old and have earned a PADI Adventure Diver certification or higher in order to enroll in the Wreck Diver Specialty course.
In St. John, the PADI Underwater Naturalist course helps divers enjoy all that the island has to offer. The PADI Underwater Naturalist Specialty course will allow you to see new things, even on the most familiar and popular scuba diving sites. When you know more about symbioses, underwater ecology, and aquatic plant and animal habitats, you’ll notice behaviors and see creatures you may have previously missed. Learn more about the local ecosystem and get a closer look during your next scuba diving adventure. PADI (Junior) Open Water Divers who are at least 10 years old are eligible to take the Underwater Naturalist Specialty course.
For St. Croix, the PADI Digital Underwater Photographer and PADI Drift Diver courses will add to dive experiences. Underwater photography is one of the most popular diving specialties, and with so many underwater cameras to choose from, it has become easier than ever and more fun to capture images of your underwater scuba diving adventures. The PADI Digital Underwater Photographer course gets you going quickly, whether you use a point-and-shoot camera or a sophisticated dSLR like the pros. PADI (Junior) Open Water Divers who are at least 10 years old are eligible to take the Digital Underwater Photographer course. Because underwater photography is also popular with snorkelers, there is an option for avid snorkelers and skin divers to complete the course.
The PADI Drift Diver Specialty course teaches you how to enjoy going with the flow as you scuba dive down rivers and use ocean currents to glide along. It feels like flying — except that you’re underwater using scuba equipment. Drift diving can be relaxing and exhilarating at the same time. If this sounds like fun, then the Drift Diver course might be for you. If you’re a PADI (Junior) Open Water Diver who is at least 12 years old, you can enroll in the Drift Diver specialty course.
Best Scuba Diving Sites in the US Virgin Islands
The Pier, St. Croix – This site lives on the island’s west end and is renowned for the dramatic life-encrusted pillars stretching from depths of 25-40 feet. It’s home to turtles, seahorses, frogfish, eels, and lobsters, not to mention schools of reef fish. This is a macro photographer’s scuba diving dream.
The Wall, St. Croix – This site on the north shore plunges straight down into the abyss and the Salt River Canyon divides the wall into east and west. Sponges and sea fans line the vertical drop off and large pelagics, such as horse-eye jacks, cruise just offshore. Swim-throughs, canyons, and cuts in the reef house parrotfish, grouper, and soldierfish.
Coral Bowl, St. Thomas – Starting at about 30 feet, Coral Bowl slopes down to 80 feet. Full of crevices and overhangs, you can find lobsters and eels hiding in protected holes. Look for turtles and stingrays swimming by the reef’s edge.
Cartanser Senior, St. Thomas – This old freighter sank in the early 1970’s and lies on the west side of Buck Island. Now in several pieces, the wreck sits in 50 feet of water, leaning on her port side. Great for photography, as the wreck attracts lots of colorful fish.
Eagle Shoals, St. John – This site has many tunnels, arches, caves, and overhangs, which protect a wide variety of fish. One of the caves has several entrances and is referred to as “The Cathedral.” Look for colorful sponges and orange cup coral along with queen and French angelfish.
Carvel Rock, St. John – This cluster of rocks sticks up from the surface and below it’s encrusted with sponges, sea fans, and corals. Usually navigated as a drift dive, you glide around the rocks looking for stingrays, tarpon, silversides, nurse sharks, squid, and octopus.
When to go Scuba Diving
The weather in the US Virgin Islands is fairly consistent, which makes scuba diving possible to do year round. The average air temperature ranges between 79-83°F. The islands get a little more rain from June through October, which coincides with the Caribbean’s hurricane season.