Buck Island Reef National Monument

Buck Island Reef National Monument

Quick Facts

Buck Island Reef National Monument

Virgin Islands

(340) 773-1460

Map Directions

Things To Do

Overview

Buck Island Reef National Monument was established by Presidential proclamation in 1961, and expanded in 2001, in order to preserve "one of the finest marine gardens in the Caribbean Sea." The park is now one of only a few fully marine protected areas in the National Park System. The 176-acre island and surrounding coral reef ecosystem support a large variety of native flora and fauna, including several endangered and threatened species such as hawksbill turtles and brown pelicans. The elkhorn coral barrier reef that surrounds two-thirds of the island has extraordinary coral formations, deep grottoes, abundant reef fishes, sea fans and gorgonians. At the eastern most point of the reef is the famous underwater trail; both novice and expert snorkelers will enjoy the passages through the reef. The island has an overland nature trail and white coral sand beaches. Visitors can take daily trips to the park for half or full day. Once there they can enjoy a leisurely swim in the crystal clear waters, or snorkeling or SCUBA diving through the fantastic reef to witness tropical marine life, or hike over the island enjoying native flora and fauna while getting a birds-eye view of the reef and sea below.

Map of Buck Island Reef

Latitude, Longitude: 17.786776, -64.620724

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Activities

  • Boating

    Anchorage is available overnight to boaters within the designated area. A permit is required to anchor within the designated area. Lights must be kept to a minimum because bright lights disorient sea turtles and other night time animals.

  • Hiking

    A marked hiking trail from either Diedrichs Point or the West Beach picnic area crosses the island (45 minutes at a walking pace). Wear shoes and a shirt and bring drinking water. From West Beach the trail goes through low-lying beach forest over gentle hillsides with turpentine and pigeon-berry trees to the island crest. A side trail to an observation point affords views of coral reef and darker, deeper waters farther out, as the island's underwater shelf falls in the Puerto Rican trench, 5,000 feet deep. The main trail goes down the south side in small switchbacks through frangipani trees, organ pipe cactus, and bromeliads. It ends at Diedrichs Point for an easy walk back on the shoreline to West Beach. For those less energetic, West Beach trail offers a hike through a manchineel forest to giant tamarind and sandpiper trees. Return via the water's edge to the picnic area.

  • Picnicking

    At West Beach and Diedrichs Point there are picnic tables, charcoal grills, and vault toilets. Diedrichs has a 20x20-foot shelter. Take all trash off the island with you. Firewood may no longer be gathered in the park. Do not empty ashes from the grill on the ground; grease attracts biting ants. Put cooled ashes in container/plastic bag and take them off the island. If you must leave ashes not cooled, extinguish them with sand and leave them in the grill.

  • Water Sports

    Beginners can snorkel Buck Island's coral grottoes with advice and a short lesson from the boat crew. Guides take six visitors at a time on the underwater trail - closed sunset to sunrise - whose signs tell what you see. Scuba diving is allowed in the Monument only at two designated scuba moorings; 30- to 40-foot shallow dives go through haystack formations of elkhorn coral.

Seasonality/Weather

Buck Island Reef National Monument is open year-round. There is no overnight camping on the island; the park is closed from sunset to sunrise to protect nesting sea turtles that come ashore at night.

Directions

Driving

Travel by car or taxi van to downtown Christiansted or to Green Cay Marina east of Christiansted. There are six concession companies that provide transport by boat to Buck Island Reef NM from these locations. REMEMBER YOU MUST DRIVE DRIVE ON THE LEFT IN THE VIRGIN ISLANDS!

Flying

Plane - American Airlines is the major carrier with flights into the Henry E. Rohlsen Airport on St. Croix, Virgin Islands.

Public Transportation

Public Transportation - Buck Island Reef National Monument is accessible by park licensed concessionaires or private boat and is a 5.5 mile (8.8 km) sail from Christiansted on St. Croix. Concession boats are available at Christiansted Wharf or Green Cay Marina. Privately operated boat must abide by park regulations and maneuvered slowly through Monument waters and watch out for snorkelers at all times.

Phone Numbers

Primary

(340) 773-1460

Links