Buck Island Reef National Monument isn’t your typical kind of weekend getaway. This tropical marine park located in the Virgin Islands, along the northeastern shores of the Caribbean Sea, offers a trip that brings you uncannily, yet adventurously, close to nature. The monument itself is located off the coast of the island of St. Croix.
Buck Island Reef National Monument was inaugurated in 1961, with the mission to preserve one of the most exquisite marine gardens in the Caribbean Sea. It was expanded further in 2001.
Today, the national monument covers nearly 30 square miles, including the surrounding waters of the rich and diverse coral reef. This island is a photographer's dream location as they get to capture breathtaking shots of water, beaches, and of course the rich coral reef.
The stunning barrier reef formed of elkhorn coral surrounds a part of the island and results in a picturesque coral structure, grottoes, sea fans, and gorgonians. Even the tropical fish here are vibrant and colorful and simply stunning to look at. Dive in and follow a famous underwater trail that takes both novice and skilled snorkelers across this rich and lively coral reef.
The monument in the park is the coral reef ecosystem surrounding the island and houses a number of endangered and threatened species, such as brown pelicans and hawksbill turtles. With nature trails, sandy beaches, and deep turquoise water, you couldn’t dream of a better weekend getaway.
The United States Virgin Islands can easily be reached via several daily airlines. Grab a plane from any state and land at the Henry E. Rohlsen Airport on St. Croix. From there, grab a taxi or rent a car and drive downtown to Christiansted or Green Cay Marina. Keep in mind that in the Virgin Islands, you drive on the left side of the road.
There, you’ll find many options in terms of boat rides that will take you to the small yet adventurous Buck Island. The boat trip is somewhere between 40 minutes to 1.5 hours long. At the island itself, the only way to go about and enjoy the scenic view is through walking, snorkeling, or swimming.
Buck Island Reef National Monument Park does not offer any camping opportunities. Matter of fact, there are no camping facilities on the entire island. Many private campgrounds can be found on St. Croix, though. Most are tent-only and also have cabins that can be rented.
Because the island of St. Croix is so small, many of the campsites are right on the water so you can look forward to easy swimming opportunities very close by.
At Buck Island Reef National Monument, you can rest and enjoy some quality time together with friends and family at the day-use area. There’s a picnic area at the West Beach and the Diedrichs Point, where you can find picnic tables, vault toilets, and charcoal grills. There is also a food shelter there.
Snorkeling is one of the most sought-after activities here and for the right reasons too. If you want to appreciate the beauty of the coral then there’s no better way than snorkeling. Beginners can take the Island’s grottoes and get short lessons from the boat crew right then and there. The snorkeling guided trip includes 6 people at a time, so you have a clear view and guidance when you snorkel. There is a maximum water depth of 12 feet in the grottoes. It is highly advised to always snorkel with a friend and in front of moored boats.
With all that water and so much to see, it's nearly irresistible to grab a boat and set out on a little cruise. Make sure to grab your anchoring permit from the Contact Station in Fort Christiansvaern, in Christiansted. The water is so clear that peering down from the boat gives a mesmerizing view of the marine life below.
Vessels over 42 feet must be anchored at West Beach.
While not as popular as the underwater trail, the scenic walking trail is just as much worth the effort. It is marked and begins from either Diedrichs Point or the West Beach Picnic Area and is at least 45 minutes long. Be aware that the trail is strenuous and may not be for everyone.
Bring water to keep yourself hydrated. The trail takes you through some of the most beautiful hillsides covered with pigeon-berry trees. On the southern side, the trail makes switchbacks through organ pipe cacti, bromeliads, and frangipani trees.
After you have tried and enjoyed everything that was to be done at Buck Island Reef National Monument, you can take a 15-minute boat ride from the reef to the very gem of the Caribbean, Christiansted National Historic Site.
This place demonstrates the economic, political, and architectural influence of Europe. The site even houses 18th-century buildings in an urban park. The entire trip to this historic site leaves one speechless and with unforgettable memories.
Marine lovers will have a field day here because the place is swarming with some of the most threatened marine species on the planet. Sea turtles of different species can be seen at the island, however threatened species are kept at a refuge. Many species of large lizards and other reptiles are also call the island home and two of them are endemic. Nearly 200 species of native and migrating birds can also be found here.
The concessionaires at Buck Island Reef can teach anyone how to snorkel and their most eager students are the kids. Families can relax and have a good time knowing that their kids are also splashing and snorkeling around the reef under expert guidance. The water in this area is usually very calm and crystal clear, providing a safe opportunity for the kids to have fun snorkeling.