The Heavenly Caribbean Escape You Never Knew You Needed

January 25, 2018Travel Ideas
— Leah Collins, Share the Experience
Paradise and Adventures at Buck Island Reef National Monument

Pristine white sand, abundant marine life, sun twinkling off the aquamarine waters — a place like Buck Island Reef National Monument is the ideal destination for beach lovers and anyone looking to get away from the bustle of everyday life. This rich, vibrant park in the U.S. Virgin Islands is one of America's great sunny getaways, and it's an outstandingly under-the-radar spot to escape to.

Experience a Gem of the Virgin Islands

Dark twilight sky over the ocean and beach at Buck Island Reef National Monument
National Park Service

Spanning the entirety of 176-acre Buck Island and its surrounding waters, Buck Island Reef National Monument is accessible only by boat. The island itself is uninhabited and provides crucial habitat for wildlife like brown pelicans and endangered leatherback turtles.

Leatherbacks are among many sea turtle species that inhabit the waters around Buck Island, coming ashore to nest on the island's beaches during the nighttime hours. The park also offers a wide variety of recreational opportunities for visitors.

Two baby green sea turtle hatchlings in the sand crawling towards the sunset-lit ocean

Green sea turtle hatchling

National Park Service

Buck Island Reef National Monument preserves one of the most pristine coral reef ecosystems in the Caribbean, and exploring this rich underwater landscape is one of its main attractions.

Guided snorkeling trips take visitors along an underwater "trail" through the reef, with signs that describe the sights along the way. Scuba diving is also permitted within designated areas, including a chance to explore haystack formations of Elkhorn coral at a depth of 30 to 40 feet. 

On land, you'll find pristine beaches, plus picnic areas with tables and charcoal grills. A walking trail traverses the island from Diedrichs Point to the West Beach (about a 45-minute walk) and leads hikers through low-lying beach forests and hillsides covered in bromeliads, frangipani trees, and organ pipe cactus. This trail also provides access to a spectacular observation point, allowing you to gaze out over the coral reefs to the deeper waters of the Puerto Rican trench beyond, where the depth plummets 5,000 feet.

Plan your trip

Coral and fish under water at Buck Island Reef National Monument
Susanna Pershern/NPS

Despite being a sun-drenched tropical paradise where, even in the dead of winter, the temperature rarely dips below 73 degrees Fahrenheit, Buck Island Reef remains one of America's least known national parks.

Roughly 39,000 tourists visited the park last year, compared to over 400,000 who flocked to nearby Virgin Islands National Park. That makes it a perfect place to fit in your annual beach time without the crowds.

Buck Island Reef National Monument is open year-round during daylight hours. Camping is not permitted on the island, but boaters with the appropriate permit may anchor overnight within a designated area. Six independent National Park Service concessionaires offer trips to Buck Island from the "mainland" of St. Croix.

One of five National Park Service units in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Buck Island Reef National Park gives visitors a rare opportunity to explore a treasured marine ecosystem.

The next time you feel like you need to #FindYourPark far away from the daily grind, start planning a trip to this tropical national park paradise. 

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