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kayak whistling cay virgin islands national park st john

Whistling Cay

Whistling Cay is a small, beautiful island located across the water from Maho Bay in Virgin Islands National Park on St John.

Virgin Islands National Park

Whistling Cay, St. John Overview

Whistling Cay is one of the lesser visited spots in Virgin Islands National Park, St John. The cay itself sits in the middle of a spectacular coral reef and is visible from folks soaking in the sun from Maho Bay. The most popular way to access the cay is by kayak which can be rented on Maho Bay.

In this post we’ll cover everything you need to know about Whistling Cay and getting to it including:

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

Things to Know Before Visiting Waterlemon Bay

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.
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.

kayaking virgin islands national park st john

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

Best Time to Visit Whistling Cay

The best time to visit Whistling Cay is in morning to give yourself enough time to kayak over and back with plenty of time to spare. Morning is a great time in the Virgin Islands to get out before the crowds.

Getting to Whistling Cay

Most folks access Whistling Cay via a kayak rented from Maho Bay. Maho Bay is a 20 minute drive from Cruz Bay where the main island ferry lands. 

Whistling Cay itself can only be accessed by water via boating (or a heck of a swim). Kayak rentals are handled through a local vendor (reef2peak) who we rented from and had a lovely experience. The kayaks are located on the beach and can be rented via cash or card.

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

Kayaking to Whistling Cay

Maho Bay offers kayak rentals via a vendor (reef2peak) on the beach. We highly recommending taking one out for a spin. The vantage from the water is really unique and well worth the go.

We were able to watch sea turtles, fish and rays beneath our kayak as we paddled across the bay. If you’re feeling up for a little bit more of a paddle you can kayak over to Whistling Cay and snorkel the reefs around the island.

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

Snorkeling Whistling Cay

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

Whistling 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, Whistling 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 Whistling Cay

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








Whistling 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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