The Annaly Bay tide pools are a series of large, naturally formed pools found on St. Croix’s beautiful North Shore. While accessing these pools is a bit of a challenging hike, it is worth every single step. On your way to the tide pools, you will hike through a portion of the island’s rainforest and enjoy breathtaking views of Renaissance St. Croix Carambola Beach Resort, Davis Bay, and the seemingly endless Caribbean Sea. Plan accordingly, and the Annaly Bay tide pools will be a day of scenic hiking, playing in the refreshing Caribbean waters, and soaking up natural beauty that you will never forget.
Before you can enjoy the tide pools themselves, you have to hike down to Annaly Bay. This beautiful hike is approximately 2 miles each way, with the trail beginning at the Renaissance St. Croix Carambola Beach Resort. If you go to the resort, the guard at the entry gate will direct you as to where to park your vehicle, and where the trail begins. There are signs marking the beginning of the hiking trail as you cross a wooden bridge from the paved resort road into the rainforest. The hike is somewhat challenging, but once you get there all that effort will be rewarded. Breathtaking is an understatement. As you hike along the trail, and once you reach the tide pools, you will be fully surrounded by the sights and sounds of nature in all her glory.
The hiking trail winds through the lush rainforest where you will likely see millipedes, butterflies, hermit crabs, lizards, huge termite nests, and larger-than-life botanicals. As you hike, make sure to watch where you are stepping because the trail is steep and uneven in areas, and it’s often traversed by tree roots. You may also encounter nests of ants, but if you continue to move at a steady pace they shouldn’t bother you. As you crest the hill you will have a panoramic view from high above the Renaissance St. Croix Carambola Beach Resort towards the east. Then, the rainforest gives way to open areas of waist-high grass leading down to the rocky beach. The terrain of the trail, especially in the more open areas, can be rough, rocky, or muddy, and the trail can be difficult to find and follow. Make sure to watch your step and stay on the trail by looking for natural trail markings and foot-worn paths.
The beach at the end of the trial is comprised of smooth rocks and pebbles instead of sand, and the surf can be quite rough on this beach, so it is not great for swimming. But don’t worry, the real draw of taking the time to get to Annaly Bay are the tide pools. At the far west end of the beach you will need to climb over (or ‘Spiderman’ around) the rocks to get to the tide pools. Luckily, there are many natural hand and foot holds in the rocks for you to use to hold yourself up as you climb around the rock walls of the cliff face to the first tide pool. Please be extremely careful as you traverse the rock walls because the rocks are often sharp, wet and slippery, and the waves break against them where your feet will be resting. Again, just take your time and make sure you are wearing sturdy, non-slip shoes or water socks.
Once you make it to the first tide pool, there is a little area of rocky beach where you can leave your backpack and take a dip in the refreshing saltwater. The Annaly Bay tide pools are formed by waves and tide pushing seawater through a small crevice into a basin and trapping it there, thus forming swimming pool-sized tidal pools. Luckily, since the crevice continuously allows water to both enter and exit the basin, the water is prevented from becoming stagnate even though it is seemingly still and calm. Some of the tide pools reach depths of about 4-5 feet, so you can actually float and swim around inside the pools. The elevated rock walls that form the basin protect the pools from incoming waves by acting a breakwater. As the larger waves break over the rock walls of the basin the water cascades down like a waterfall into the tide pools. Standing underneath the water as it falls over the basin wall is the great way cool off, plus the sound of the waves crashing against the basin is oddly soothing. There are more pools than just the first large one you come to, so you can continue climbing over the rocks to the west to check out the other pools. The pools also make for easy snorkeling if you bring your own gear. You may see colorful tropical fish, crabs, sea urchins, and more.
Once you have had your fun and cooled off at the tide pools, you hike back out the same way you came in. I recommend giving yourself plenty of time to make the hike back before it gets dark. There are no lights on the trail, which can make for an unnecessarily dangerous hike back to the resort. While the tide pools are the proverbial pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, the hike itself is beautiful as well. Take some time to explore and enjoy the diverse scenery of the hiking trail as you go.
Now, the all-important safety lecture. First, if you have never been to the tide pools I suggest taking a guided tour with a local hiking guide for your first excursion so you know what to expect and how to get there safely. Once you leave the resort area the trail and the tide pools themselves are remote, and there is no cellphone signal. Please take extra care to ensure you are prepared, and take your time as you hike to and from the tide pools in order to prevent injury – it’s a long way back to civilization. I recommend wearing sturdy shoes and plenty of sunscreen and/or other sun protection, especially since there is very little shade once you reach the tide pools. You will also want to bring lots of drinking water, and maybe a snack or bagged lunch to keep your energy up for the hike back. Do not bring valuables with you just to be safe. If you choose to bring a cellphone or camera to take pictures or video, keep it with you and put it into a bag that will keep it dry if it’s not waterproof. Also, please treat the hiking trail and tide pool areas with respect. There are no facilities or trash receptacles, so if you bring it in please take it out with you.
Personally, when I do this hike I wear board shorts and a tank top over a bathing suit, I slather myself in sunscreen, and I wear socks and comfortable tennis shoes for the hike. I also generally wear sunglasses and a hat to keep the sun out of my eyes. I carry a small backpack or dry bag with a pair of water socks (or shoes that I don’t mind getting wet when climbing into and around the tide pools), along with extra sunscreen, water, and a few granola bars or bags of trail mix. The tide pool hike is a great morning hike. Not only is it cooler in the morning, but hiking to the tide pools in the morning leaves lots of time to enjoy the pools and hike back out in the afternoon, long before the sun goes down. The Annaly Bay tide pool hike is great for couples, families, even small groups, as long as everyone is prepared and is physically capable of making the hike. The tide pools are one of St. Croix’s most popular destinations, and with good reason, so make sure you put them on your to-do list!
– Jennie Ogden, Editor
ALERT : Please consider going with a trained guide as the terrain can be quite precarious. Also, be sure to check the wind and sea conditions before taking this adventure.