The fabulous folks at Arawak Expeditions in St. John offered to take us out on half day kayak and snorkel trip while we were in St. John, and we had a blast!
Jeff and I had kayaked a few times before, but our 13-year old niece Lydia had not. Our great guide Jessica made all of us feel very safe and comfortable right from the start. She showed us all the gear, gave us basic kayaking instructions, and helped us figure out how to “gracefully” enter the kayaks (ha!). Our group was small, just the three of us with Jessica and one other couple, Drew and Hailey. It was a perfect-sized group. We could pretty easily stay together, and Jessica could easily keep her eyes on all of us to make no one went off course or fell behind during the paddling or while snorkeling. She was also able to fix my kayak’s foot pedal — while we were in the water — after it fell off. Very impressive!
Jessica has a degree in marine biology, and that made her an awesome underwater guide in addition to being a terrific kayak guide. On our trip we stopped at two snorkel spots. The first was at Salomon Beach — a fairly deserted beach which can be accessed via a 15 minute hike from Cruz Bay or a 30 minute or so kayak. I felt like we were not the fastest paddlers ever, but she assured us that we were doing fine. At Salomon, Jessica was able to find a sea urchin on the bottom to bring up for us to feel. I was surprised that its spines were sort of “sticky” from the suction cups that help it move. Jessica was careful to place the urchin back on the bottom so as to disturb it as little as possible. She pointed out lots of different corals and fish and even things like Sergeant Major fish eggs, which look like purple paint on the rocks!
We thought the pacing of this trip was really good. Lydia and Erin were in one boat, and Jeff was in an individual kayak, and our arms were pretty tired by the time we got to Salomon Beach. After a half-hour snorkel, some water, and a little snack (we brought these along and Arawak loaned us a dry bag to put our stuff in), we were ready to go again. Our second stop was out at Henley Cay, a little further paddle, but a reasonable distance. This tiny, uninhabited island requires a boat to access it, so it gets a lot less traffic than any of the island’s main beaches and the corals and fish are nice and healthy. There is a beautiful soft coral grotto out at this cay, along with some gorgeous hard corals and lots of fish. We were able to spend almost an hour snorkeling around here.
It was one long paddle back to Cruz Bay from Henley Cay, but mercifully the wind was at our backs and helped propel us along. Our arms definitely felt the workout that afternoon and the next day, but it was that good sense-of-accomplishment burn and was totally worth it. We would highly recommend the folks at Arawak Expeditions if you’re planning a trip to St. John. It’s definitely a unique experience in the national park. Arawak’s office is located in Mongoose Junction, right in Cruz Bay. They offer full- and half-day kayak, stand-up paddleboarding, and fly fishing expeditions and also rent snorkel gear.
We love St. John (this was our 10th trip to the island!), and we really enjoyed getting a unique view of it from the water. What new discoveries of old travel favorites have you made? Leave us a note in the comments, and enjoy finding new ways to see your favorite destinations, whether it’s for a week or a weekend!
Disclosure: Arawak provided us with a half day kayak/snorkel trip in exchange for this review. However, all opinions are our own.