The beautiful water of the Virgin Islands is home to 500 species of fish, not to mention amazing beaches and coral reefs. While just about everyone who visits the USVI spends time snorkeling in search of a turtle, recreational diving St. John (and the surrounding USVI and BVI) is wonderful and not at all hard to do.
We’ve had hundreds of family and friends stay at Great Expectations for a week or two’s vacation and every once and a while we get groups where one or more of the guests wants to get certified to SCUBA dive. While you may think it would take away from your vacation time, with a little planning, you can actually mix some great beach days, hikes and a few happy hours along with getting your PADI or SSI certification.
Regardless of where your home is, major SCUBA organizations now allow you to complete the coursework required for certification online or on your tablet. Make a plan to purchase the PADI eLearning package a few months before your trip. You learn online or on a tablet by reading, watching video lessons and testing.
Low Key Dive shop even has a special e-Learning PADI Open Water online package you can pre-buy (and schedule) so that when you arrive you are ready to complete your 6 instructional dives.
Consider when you arrive and depart St. John, dinner reservations and specific beach days, then pre-book your certification dives with the dive shop before coming. We recommend NOT diving on your last day on St. John and definitely not after pre-planned late nights.
Typically you will need to do 4 or 6 dives (2 confined water and 4 open water) following your coursework.If you didn’t do your 2 confined water dives at your local dive shop, don’t worry, you can do those 2 dives and your other 4 certification dives in the waters around St. John. Most dive companies do 2 tank dives in a 2-3 hour morning or afternoon. So 6 dives will take you 3 mornings or afternoons. For a Saturday arrival, consider Sunday, Tuesday and one other day to get out in the water and complete your diving lessons but still have plenty of time for the beach.
Once you pass, the dive shop will take your photo and order your certification card and you are free to dive with them or other dive shops in the future. A standard 2-tank trip will take you to various unique reefs and islands around St. John and cost you $125 with all the gear included.
Once get a few dives under your weight belt, you could even return to St. John for a future vacation. We recommend checking out the 2-tank weekly scheduled dive of the BVI’s Wreck of the Rhone National Park off Salt Island.
WARNING: One of the downsides to being able to stay underwater for dozens of minutes at depths reaching 100 feet is that snorkeling a St. John beach isn’t as thrilling. Sure, there’s always something fascinating about swimming near a turtle when they surface for air, but it can be pleasantly frustrating when you can’t follow him down to the bottom and stay for a while.
If you love snorkeling around St. John and have always wondered what it would be like to not have to hold your breath, you can sign up for a very affordable Discovery dive trip. Low Key Dive shop offers the SCUBA Discovery trip that lets you learn the basics about diving while actually doing it around the beautiful reefs of St. John. You will spend 15-20 minutes before the scheduled dive trip watching an instructional video and filling out a few forms, then proceed to the dive boat with certified instructors and other recreational divers.