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waterlemon cay virgin islands national park

Waterlemon Cay

Waterlemon Cay is an extremely photogenic island that is one of the most gorgeous areas of Virgin Islands National Park on St John .

Virgin Islands National Park

Waterlemon Cay, St. John Overview

Waterlemon Cay is one of the most heavily photographed points in Virgin Islands National Park, St John. The iconic island sits in the middle of a spectacular coral reef outlined by sand and brilliant, clear turquoise water. Visitors enjoy hiking the Leinster Bay trail around the bay as well as swimming and snorkeling out to it.

Waterlemon Cay is located near the Annaberg Plantation ruins. The hiking trail that leads visitors to the popular viewpoint shares a parking lot with Annaberg.

In this post we’ll cover everything you need to know about America Hill ruins and the hike to them including:

waterlemon cay virgin islands national park

Waterlemon Cay | Virgin Islands National Park, St. John USVI

Things to Know Before Visiting Waterlemon Bay

Closed-toed sandals or hiking boots are your friend.
  •  FOOTWEAR: We recommend wearing closed-toe sandals or hiking shoes/boots if you plan on hiking to the popular overlook featured above. While a fair section of the trail is through sand, much of it is not and could cause problems for folks wearing flip flops.
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.
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.
Please, Wear Sunscreen.
  • SUNSCREEN: 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 that we’ve been using for years and buy in bulk.
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.

waterlemon cay virgin islands national park

Waterlemon Cay from America Hill | Virgin Islands National Park, USVI

Best Time to Visit Waterlemon Cay

The best time to visit Waterlemon Cay is in the morning around sunrise to capture the light sweeping across the hills and illuminating the water with vibrant blues and greens. Afternoon is to be avoided for photos as the reflection off the water is harsh and makes “snapping the sick pic” pretty tough.

Getting to Waterlemon Cay

Waterlemon Cay is a 20 minute drive from Cruz Bay where the main island ferry lands. To get to Waterlemon Cay visitors should use the Annaberg Sugar Plantation parking lot.

Waterlemon Cay itself can only be accessed by water via swimming or boating. Most folks who visit this area stick to the beach and viewpoint which are accessed via the Leinster Bay trail.

leinster bay trail virgin islands national park waterlemon cay ruins hike

Waterlemon Cay Ruins | Virgin Islands National Park, St. John USVI

Waterlemon Cay Trail Info (Leinster Bay Trail)

The Leinster Bay trail is lovely trail that starts at the Annaberg Ruins and ends at the junction with the Johnny Horn Trail. Hikers should note that the Leinster Bay Trail becomes the Johnny Horn Trail at a junction after .8miles. At this point taking a left turn leads hikers (after another .1miles or so) to the famous viewpoint overlooking Waterlemon Cay and bay.

Leinster Bay Trail Length: .8miles each way

Time Needed: 1.5hours

snorkeling maho bay virgin islands national park st john sea turtles

Waterlemon Cay Snorkeling | Virgin Islands National Park, St. John USVI

Snorkeling Waterlemon Cay

Waterlemon Bay offers warm, crystal clear waters and abundant sea life making for excellent snorkeling opportunities. There are abundant corals here, sea turtles, sharks, fish, rays, and more.

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.

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waterlemon cay virgin islands national park

Waterlemon Cay | Virgin Islands National Park, St. John USVI

Best Photo Spots Waterlemon Cay

The best spot to photograph Waterlemon Cay is is from the ruins at the end of the Leinster Bay trail (a left turn at the trail’s terminus leads hikers to the ruins after another .1miles or so). This point is one of the most famous next to Trunk Bay in the park.

Waterlemon Cay 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. 

With that being said, Waterlemon Cay 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

Nearby Waterlemon Cay

There are many amazing spots near Francis Bay including: America Hill Ruins, Maho Bay, Annaberg Ruins, Cinnamon Bay, and Francis Bay.








Waterlemon Cay Photos | Virgin Islands National Park, St. John USVI

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Will Pattiz

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

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