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TRUNK BAY – Virgin Islands (Helpful Guide + Video)

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About Trunk Bay, St. John

Trunk Bay is the most iconic spot to visit in Virgin Islands National Park on the island of St. John and perhaps in all of the Caribbean for that matter. Trunk Bay has routinely been voted as a top ten most beautiful beach to visit in the world. The Trunk Bay Overlook provides the perfect overlook to capture the tropical paradise aesthetic the region is known for.

Crystal blue/turquoise water, white sands, sea turtles, palm trees, comprise this stunning destination. The small island inside of the bay is known as Trunk Cay (pronounced key) and makes for an even more beautiful capture from the overlook.

trunk bay virgin islands national park
Trunk Bay from the overlook | Virgin Islands National Park

Things to Know Before Visiting Trunk Bay

Please, Wear Sunscreen.
  • SUNSCREEN: Many sunscreens have been outlawed in the Virgin Islands due to reef-damaging ingredients. Goes without saying but we’ll say it anyway – wear sunscreen! The Caribbean is unforgiving on unprotected skin. We’ve made that mistake enough times to make lathering up a top priority. We highly recommend this one (which is reef-safe).
Sandals are your friend.
  •  FOOTWEAR: There’s nothing like the feeling of warm sand between the toes. There’s also nothing quite like the feeling of something sharp and pokey in the toes. The walk to the beach from the parking lot is short but best attempted with something between your feet and the ground, like these sandals that we love. and these sandals which have straps.
Goggles and flippers for the win.
Underwater camera housing… to ruin, or not to ruin.
  • UNDERWATER CAMERA HOUSING: So here we must add the caveat that we lost a camera to the depths in Virgin Islands National Park (at Maho Bay). Anytime you get your camera near water, let alone saltwater, you’re taking a risk. With that being said we have used this underwater camera housing in the past and had luck with it.
Rash guards are great for extra UV protection, especially after that inevitable burn.
  • RASH GUARD: We were told to be sure and pack rash guards for this trip not so much for the coral etc but for extra UV protection (especially for Will who burns easily). We got these inexpensive ones off amazon and we were sure glad to have them.
Do not touch our dear friend, the sea turtle.
  • Sea Turtles: Green Sea Turtles are protected under the Endangered Species Act. Believe it or not it is a felony to touch one. As tempting as it might be, resist the urge and admire from a distance. We’ve all gotten pretty good at social distancing – best to apply these practices to our sea turtle friends as well.

Best Time to Visit Trunk Bay

virgin islands national park stars
Trunk Bay at Night | Virgin Islands National Park

The best time to visit Trunk Bay is in the morning around sunrise when there are no crowds and spectacular views. With that being said, there is rarely a bad time to visit this gorgeous spot. Day time is great for relaxing on the beach and cooling off in the warm ocean.

Sunsets from the overlook can be spectacular as well. Low clouds frequent the area making for ideal conditions for dazzling colorful displays. 

What time does Trunk Bay Beach open?

As a national park beach, Trunk Bay Beach is open to the public 24/7. With that being said, restrooms and shower facilities are open 8am – 4pm.

Trunk Bay Parking

A burro approaches the car in the Trunk Bay parking lot | Virgin Islands National Park

There is limited parking available at Trunk Bay (about 40 spots or so). Overflow parking is available across the street in case you are unable to park at the main lot.

Where is Trunk Bay?

Trunk Bay is located on the island of St. John in the Caribbean and is part of the US Virgin Islands National Park. To get there, one must take the ferry from St. Thomas or boat over to St. John.

It is also known as “Trunk Cay” by some which refers to the small island in the bay.

trunk bay sunrise virgin islands national park
Trunk Bay Sunrise | Virgin Islands National Park

Getting to Trunk Bay + Map

Trunk Bay is a 10-minute drive from Cruz Bay where the main island ferry lands. Cruz Bay is easily accessed from the parking lot via a paved path that is no more than 1000ft from the parking lot.

Snorkeling Trunk Bay

st john snorkeling virgin islands national park trunk bay
Snorkeling in Trunk Bay | Virgin Islands

The bay offers warm, crystal clear waters and abundant sea life making for excellent snorkeling opportunities and is home to sea turtles and rays which makes for especially cool underwater viewing. Compared to Hawaii, the bottom of the bay here is mostly sandy without much coral.

If you’re looking for snorkel gear this is the inexpensive set we used. We also liked this cool American Flag swimming cap!

If you’re looking for an underwater camera rig, we used this underwater camera housing in the past and had luck with it.

Virgin Islands Underwater Trail

The underwater trail is one of the coolest and most famous parts of Trunk Bay. This trail is located at the far end of the bay and closely hugs Trunk Cay. While the trail itself is relatively short, it’s still a really fun and unique activity for snorkelers.

Length: 600ft approximately
Time: 30mins

While you’re out there be sure to keep an eye out for sea turtles!

Best Photo Spots Trunk Bay

The best spot to photograph Trunk Bay is from the overlook right off the main road (North Shore Rd). Driving to this spot is simple and takes less than 10 minutes to get there from Cruz Bay.

Stopping in the pullout is not encouraged by the park service as it is a spot used by the tour buses and there really isn’t any parking to speak of. So, if you do stop there make sure to be quick! Alternatively you could park at a nearby pull off and walk to the overlook but beware oncoming traffic.

Trunk Bay Photos

We took over 15,000 photos for the film we produced on Virgin Islands National Park! I know, someone couldn’t give that shutter a break. Along the way we came up with some pretty spectacular photos.

Is there food at Trunk Bay?

Currently there is no food or refreshments available at Trunk Bay. In order to get some snacks & drinks we recommend going to Cruz Bay, just a 10 minute drive down the road to get some. Cruz Bay Landing has some solid food options and was a frequent stop for us.

One thing to note is that groceries are fairly expensive on the island and so we ended up eating out a lot because the price difference was not that much. We used grocery stores primarily for drinks and snacks while using restaurants for meals.

Trunk Bay Hotels & Resorts

Due to the long term closure of Caneel Bay (the only resort in the park destroyed by the 2017 hurricanes) and the ensuing battle with the park service over the future management of the property the closest hotels & resorts are back in Cruz Bay, a short ten minute drive away. Options include a Westin, Gallows Point Resort, St John Inn, & more. On the neighboring island of St. Thomas you’ll find more lodging options.

Trunk Bay After Hurricane Maria

Hurricane Maria had a devastating impact on the Caribbean islands, especially St. John, home to Virgin Islands National Park. Many of the photos of the park you’ll find feature locations that have been totally changed since the hurricane hit the island in 2017. 

Trunk Bay was devastated by the storm. In fact, most of it’s palm trees were totally leveled but a few remain. The lush green foliage is coming back but it’s a process that will take a long time.

With that being said, this spot is still stunningly beautiful and well worth the trip!

*all of our photos of the park feature it in its current condition, post-2017 hurricane Maria damage

More Great Spots Nearby

There are many amazing spots nearby including: Francis Bay, America Hill Ruins, Annaberg Ruins, Cinnamon Bay, and Waterlemon Bay. For a more complete guide on Virgin Islands National Park check out the one we made.

Virgin Islands Video

We created a video featuring Trunk Bay along with many other stunning destinations from the park. If you’re planning to visit we recommend you take 3 minutes to give it a watch!

Virgin Islands National Park Video (made after the hurricane damage)

Looking for more?

We created a beautiful, comprehensive guide on Virgin Islands National Park chocked full of breathtaking photos, videos, tips, and tricks from our extensive time in the park. Read more about the park and how to best enjoy by clicking the button below. We promise it’s worth it!

More from Virgin Islands National Park

We have written guides for just about every single location mapped and otherwise in Virgin Islands National Park and even ranked the best here.

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Will Pattiz

Co-founder of More Than Just Parks. Husband. Conservationist. Currently living in NYC.

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