A Full Guide to Buck Island Reef National Monument

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A Full Guide to Buck Island Reef National Monument

Posted on June 20. 2014

Located in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Buck Island Reef National Monument is the underwater gem of the U.S. National Park Service. The secret has been out for snorkelers and scuba divers for five decades now, and with the recent publicity around Buck Island Reef National Monument’s 50th anniversary, more and more people are discovering its submerged beauty every day. Here is all you need to know about visiting and snorkeling at Buck Island Reef National Monument.

Why go to Buck Island Reef National Monument?

Featuring a unique underwater trail, Buck Island Reef National Monument is an unspoiled snapshot of Caribbean marine life that you will be hard-pressed to top anywhere else in the Caribbean. Close to two-thirds of the island is surrounded by a massive coral reef, which provides a home to an abundance of colorful marine life.

Where is it?

Buck Island Reef National Monument is located about 1.5 miles off the coast of St. Croix.

How to get there

Since it is a protected area, the only way to get to Buck Island Reef National Monument is by an approved tour operator or with your own personal boat after applying for and receiving a permit from the National Park Service. The six Buck Island Reef tour operators (http://www.nps.gov/buis/planyourvisit/feesandreservations.htm) will typically take you to the island and lead you through the underwater trail before allowing you to explore the island independently. If you choose to come on your own private vessel, you can apply for a permit at the National Park Service visitor center at Fort Christianvaern in Christiansted.

When is the best time to go?

The park is open all year-round, and with the wonderful weather of the U.S. Virgin Islands, there is certainly no bad time to visit. During the winter, you will definitely find more crowds, so if you crave seclusion, try visiting during the low season.

How much does it cost?

There is no fee to enter the park, but if you don’t have your own boat, you will need to sign up with a tour operator, and their prices can vary. A good estimate though is around $100 for a full day tour, but half-day tours are often available for slightly less.

Sea Turtle at Buck Island Reef National Monument

What should I expect at Buck Island Reef National Monument?

The most famous fish you will cross paths with on the underwater trail are Blue Tang, Doctor Fish, Parrot Fish, and Yellow-Striped French Grunts, along with a host of many other brightly colored tropical varieties. Nurse, Lemon, Blacktip, and Whitetip sharks are also known to frequent the area, and by following the trail plaques, you will be gently guided through this underwater kaleidoscope.

Above the water, turtles are known to stop by Buck Island in the spring and summer to nest, and the aptly named Turtle Beach on the western edge of the island was voted one of the world’s most beautiful beaches in the world by National Geographic.

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