Cruise destination travel guide - St. John USVI - Trunk Bay - Shore Excursion Review
|Beyondships Cruise Destinations||
St. John is famous for its unspoiled beaches and Trunk Bay is one of its best known beaches. Its reputation is well deserved as this is one of the nicest beaches that I have visited in the Caribbean.
Trunk Bay is located within the Virgin Islands National Park, which is managed by the U.S. Park Service. As a result, the area surrounding the beach is tropical forest unspoiled by commercial development. It took about 20 minutes to get from Cruz Bay to Trunk Bay via safari bus including two stops to admire some impressive views.
During my visit, Trunk Bay was not crowded. In addition to the 30 or so people on the shore excursion, there was a sprinkling of vacationers staying on the island and independent travelers from the cruise ships in St. Thomas. Thus, while there were always people in sight, you could get off by yourself.
The beach itself is a long strip of white sand that curves like a question mark. Palm trees and other vegetation extend down to the sand, providing natural shade. Two small rocky islands punctuate the bay.
Breaking gently on the sand, the water remains shallow for some distance from the beach. Then it drops off so that it is over your head but not to great depths.
The water at Trunk Bay is incredibly clear. Standing neck deep in the water, I could clearly see my feet on the white sandy bottom nearly six feet below.
Indeed, the clarity of the water is one of the things that attracts snorkelers to this beach. Some 20 yards out from the shore is a snorkeling trail. At that point the water is much deeper but the snorkelers seemed to be able to view the aquatic life below from at or near the surface.
You have to watch out for snorkelers while swimming. Some are so absorbed in staring at the bottom that they do not look where they are going. As a result, collisions between snorkelers and surface swimmers are a real possibility.
Lifeguards are on duty at Trunk Bay in case any of the snorkelers or swimmers get into trouble. They stay in a stilted shelter near where the beach curves. When I was there, they seemed quite vigilant calling out via a bullhorn pointing out to swimmers that they should not grab the buoys that mark the snorkeling trail unless in distress.
Snorkeling equipment was included in the price of this shore excursion. A staff member had laid out the equipment just off the entrance to the beach. When the group arrived, he explained each piece of equipment. During our time at Trunk Bay, I noticed him standing in the shade by the shore answering various guests' questions about snorkeling.
Trunk Bay has a shop where you can rent snorkeling equipment as well as other beach paraphernalia such as chairs. Other facilities at Trunk Bay include a snack bar, bathrooms, and changing rooms.
It is possible to get to Trunk Bay independently. You take the ferry from St. Thomas to Cruz Bay and then a taxi to Trunk Bay. It may well cost less than the shore excursion and, at least in theory, you have more control over how much time you will have at the beach.
However, there is the hassle of finding and getting to the ferry in St. Thomas and of finding a taxi in Cruz Bay. On a day when there are several big ships in St. Thomas, this might not be easy. Then, of course, you have the problem of getting back before your ship sails.
On this shore excursion, we took a tour boat called Island Girl from the cruise ship pier at Havensight to Cruz Bay. It was also carrying guests who were taking other shore excursions on St. John. One of the crew members said that normally, the boat carries 300 people but because it was early in the season, there were only about 100 guests. You could sit either in the air-conditioned interior or on the open deck.
The journey to St. John took about 40 minutes. The boat bounced occasionally marking where various ocean currents meet. One of the crew members provided a running commentary, pointing out celebrity homes and telling about life in the Virgin Islands.
At Cruz Bay, we were met by several safari bus taxis. The guests were allocated to the various taxis according to the shore excursion that they were taking. Then we were off to the beach. The same taxi and boat brought us back.
Above: At one end of the beach, the sand gives way to a rock formation.
Below: The sea pushes further inland at the other end of the beach creating a bay within a bay.
Above: The water can be incredibly clear.
Facilities at Trunk Bay include bathrooms and changing facilities (above); a shop (below left) and a snack bar (below right).
Above: Palm trees and other vegetation provide natural shade of the beach.