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Getting to Trunk Bay, St. John

View of Trunk Bay St John from the overlook

St. John, Virgin Islands is absolutely gorgeous! It is an amazingly beautiful island – white sand, deep blue water, and lush green hills. This is quite possibly the most perfect Caribbean Island we’ve ever seen. And there’s no better way to enjoy the island than a visit to Trunk Bay Beach.

Visiting Trunk Bay

The island of St. John is almost entirely a National Park – beautiful, unspoiled, and quiet. Everyone who visits this island will eventually find their way to here – a crescent of beautiful sand, a small barrier islet just off the beach (called Trunk Cay), and surrounded by the hills of the Virgin Islands.

The crescent-shaped stretch of sand that is the beach at Trunk Bay is the most visited beach on the island. More importantly, it is consistently ranked as one of the top 10 beaches in the world. And we would absolutely agree with that!

But the real reason many people visit is to enjoy the Trunk Bay snorkeling course. Located just off shore, a short underwater snorkel course takes snorkelers around the Trunk Cay islet while giving them the chance to see fish, reefs, and learn a little something about the island. It takes about an hour to go around the island while snorkeling the course, which is maintained by the Virgin Islands National Park Service.

People snorkeling in Trunk Bay at the underwater snorkel course
Snorkeling around the barrier island

The north end of St. John Island is a stark contrast to the crowds on neighboring St. Thomas (including the popular Magens Bay Beach in St Thomas). For this reason, visiting St. John is one of our favorite cruise ship shore excursions in St Thomas.

Coming to Trunk Bay in St. John for the day is one of the best things to do in the Virgin Islands.

Here’s everything you need to know about experiencing one of the best beaches in the world:

The Trunk Bay Shore Excursion

All of the major cruise lines that stop in Charlotte Amalie or Crown Bay, St. Thomas offer a Visit Trunk Bay excursion or a St John shore excursion, and the latter will likely include a stop here. Prices vary by cruise company but run between $69-$109.

During our Caribbean cruise, we were convinced we could get here on our own, for less money, and have more fun if we went without the group – and we were right.

In the process of researching how to get from St Thomas to St John, we learned that all the cruise shore excursions take the same Red Hook Ferry to St John. There’s real no reason to do the cruise ship shore excursion at all!

Based on our experience, we were able to visit for about a third of the cost, plus we got almost two more hours at the beach than the people on the official shore excursion.

The town of Cruz Bay, St. John
Arriving in Cruz Bay

How to Get to St John

If you want to skip the expensive shore excursion, you can visit on your own! Here’s how to get here from St Thomas.

It was so easy to get there on our own from the Crown Bay cruise ship terminal in St. Thomas. We made sure we were one of first off the ship and hailed a cab to Red Hook ferry terminal early in the morning. The taxi to Red Hook ferry terminal cost us $13 per person.

There are two options for the ferry from St. Thomas to St. John. The most common option leaves from the Red Hook Ferry St Thomas terminal. The ferry costs $6 and takes 20 minutes. The ferry leaves Red Hook at: 6:30am, 7:30am, 8:00am, 9:00am, 10:00am, 11:00am, and 12:00pm. The return ferries from Cruz Bay are are at: 1:00pm, 2:00pm, 3:00pm, 4:00pm, 5:00pm, and 6:00pm.

Of particular interest to cruise ship visitors, there is a single ferry directly from Charlotte Amalie to Cruz Bay. The ferry leaves Charlotte Amalie at 10:00am and the return ferry leaves Cruz Bay at 3:45pm. This ferry takes 45 minutes and costs $12. Given the limited amount of time it gives on St. John, we don’t recommend this option.

The beach and ocean from Trunk Bay Beach
View from the beach

Getting to the Beach

Getting to Trunk Bay is also very easy. When you get off the ferry from St Thomas, you’ll be arrive in Cruz Bay. In Cruz Bay, grab a taxi to take you out to the beach, a distance of about 3 miles. Most taxi drivers will stop to let you take pictures from the lookout. Cost of the taxi is $6.

The bay and the beach are located within the Virgin Islands National Park. As such, there is an admission charge of $5.00 per adult to enter. (Note: If you have the America the Beautiful National Park Pass, admission is free.)

Facilities at the Beach

There are limited concession facilities at the beach. The Trunk Bay facilities are open from 8:00am-4:00pm daily. This includes a snack bar that serves lunch and snacks, showers, and restrooms. The snack bar is open from 9:00am-4:00pm.

There is a lifeguard on duty close to Trunk Cay, but if you go down the beach to the west, you’ll be relatively alone. Lifeguards are on duty from 9:00am-4:00pm.

You can rent masks, snorkels, and flippers from the Beach Bum Snorkel Rental (a.k.a., snack bar). Cost is $10, plus a $25 cash deposit. Please note that snorkel gear must be returned by 3:00pm (and needs to be rinsed off), which effectively cuts your visit a little short.

One thing to consider. We always bring our own snorkel gear on cruises because it makes every beach day a snorkel day! If you enjoy the water, consider investing your own gear and bring it with you. Please check out our snorkel gear guide.

Have you been to this amazing beach in the U.S. Virgin Islands? Did you think it was as beautiful and relaxing as we did?

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Thursday 4th of January 2024

Hi! I loved your article. If the ride on the ferry takes 20 minutes, why are you suggesting 2 1/4 hours to get back? Just to be safe? Thank you.

Lance Longwell

Saturday 6th of January 2024

Cruise ships leave port at different times, so you'll need to adjust the schedule based on your exact schedule. If you allow 15-20 minutes from Trunk Bay to Cruz Bay, then the ferry itself is about 20 minutes (but can sometimes take up to 30 based on weather). From Red Hook, you'll need to take a taxi back to Charlotte Amalie. That can take 25-45 minutes. Keep in mind - everyone on a shore excursion is going to be coming back at the same time. The roads are all 2 lane. The traffic jams around Charlotte Amalie are legendary. And then, think about the number of cruise ships are in port. You don't want to cut it too close. The ship won't wait for you.

Natasha Millwr

Wednesday 13th of December 2023

How do you get back from Trunk Bay to Cruz Bay???? Are there available taxis? Don't want to get stuck. No one ever mentions how to get BACK from anywhere.

Lance Longwell

Friday 15th of December 2023

The easiest way is to make arrangements with the driver who drops you off. This is the standard in the Caribbean. If you don't want to do that for some reason (don't like the person or unable to plan your time), you're in luck. Taxi drivers do come through at fairly regular intervals. And if, by chance, they don't, just have the employee at the gear shop call for a taxi.


Thursday 8th of June 2023

On our cruise in November 2023 the cruise ship will dock 7am to 4pm at Crown Bay. What time should we catch a taxi at Crown Bay to go to Red Hook for the ferry? When going back to St Thomas what time should we get a cab at Trunk Bay to return to Cruz Bay for the ferry? Thanks for a great article and your help!

Lance Longwell

Monday 19th of June 2023

9 hours is plenty of time to get from St Thomas to Trunk Bay and back. You can check the current ferry times with the link in the article. I'd allow at least 2 1/4 hours from Trunk Bay back, just to be safe.


Friday 31st of March 2023

Great information. We are arriving at the Crown Bay Cruise Port St.Thomas in late April at 7:30 and the ship departs at 2:30. Do we have enough time to head to Trunk Bay. We really want to snorkel. What are your thoughts? Thank you

Laura Longwell

Tuesday 4th of April 2023

If you're happy with seeing sea turtles and starfish (not a reef), I would suggest getting on the first boat to Water Island. You can relax on the beach and snorkel right off shore.

Anne Charlotte

Thursday 2nd of February 2023

Hi! Our cruise ship will be in port at Havensight in Charlotte Amalie from 11:30am - 7:00pm. Do you think that’s enough time to go to St. John to Trunk Bay for a few hours and be back at our ship by 5:30ish?

We REALLY want to go to St John! But the timing and taxis make me a bit nervous.

Lance Longwell

Thursday 2nd of February 2023

Your ship will probably be in port before 11:30am. Ships are usually early. Try to get yourself among the first to get off and have a solid plan. The 4:00pm ferry from Cruz Bay to Red Hook would get you back by 5:30ish. If something should happen (cancelled ferry or whatever), there's also a 5:00pm which would be cutting it close, but could be a solid safety option. There's also a 3:45pm ferry from Cruz Bay direct to Charlotte Amelie port that would get you back by about 4:30 (note: often full), but that wouldn't give you a lot of time on St. John.

Trunk Bay is highly worth it. If you ultimately decide it's too much of a risk, there are some very good beaches in St. Thomas too.

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