Buck Island Reef National Monument in the US Virgin Islands is one of only three underwater protected national monuments in the US park system. Buck Island is an uninhabited 176 acre island located about a mile and a half north of St. Croix. Buck Island is about a mile long and a half a mile wide. Its highest point is 328 feet above sea level.
The park was established in 1961 by president Kennedy. President Clinton enlarged the underwater protected area to 19,000 acres. The underwater park is known for its protected coral reef and for its excellent snorkeling and scuba diving in clear warm Caribbean waters.
Buck Island Activities
The coral reef in the underwater protected area of the national monument has an underwater snorkeling trail. To protect the fragile coral reef this trail is reserved for snorkeling; no scuba diving is allowed. Along the snorkeling trail the water is shallow enough to allow close inspection of the lovely reef formations. Coral reefs are fragile, so look but do not touch.
The snorkeling trail is very kid friendly. Virtually anyone who knows how to swim can learn to snorkel. The snorkeling tour operators provide snorkeling instruction for inexperienced snorkelers.
Scuba diving takes more training than snorkeling. For those who have scuba experience, there are two locations in the park where scuba diving is allowed.
Non-swimmers can take a cruise on a glass bottom boat to enjoy the coral reef without snorkeling or scuba diving.
On Buck Island itself, visitors can picnic on the beach. There are picnic areas on West Beach and Diedrichs Point. The park service provides picnic tables and vault toilets. There are hiking trails on the island. Buck Island Reef National Monument closes at sunset, so no overnight camping is allowed on Buck Island.
Those who own boats or want rent a boat to try Virgin Island sailing can get a permit to anchor overnight at designated locations. Minimize bright lights, which will disrupt the sea turtles. Because it is protected fishing is not allowed within the national monument area. Those wanting to try Caribbean fishing must do so outside the national monument boundaries.
Getting There to Buck Island
Buck Island is about a mile and a half north of St. Croix and a little more than 5 miles from the town of Christiansted in St. Croix. There are five concessionaires that are licensed by the park service to offer excursions to Buck Island. The concessionaires are located along the waterfront in Christiansted.
Full day and half day excursions are available. The typical Buck Island trip includes snorkeling or scuba diving as well as a picnic and swimming on the beach. Select the excursion package that most appeals to you. Buck Island has about 50,000 visitors per year, so especially during peak tourist season advance reservations are a good idea.
An excursion to Buck Island Reef National Monument near St. Croix, US Virgin Islands will make a memorable addition to US Virgin Islands vacations.