Maho Beach, St. John, USVI
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Most Beautiful St. John USVI Beaches: Expert Guide & Tips

guide to The Best Beaches and Where to Snorkel on St. John, USVI

St. John, the smallest of the three U.S. Virgin Islands, is a jewel in the Caribbean renowned for its pristine beaches. As part of the Virgin Islands National Park, these beaches offer more than just sunbathing opportunities; they are a gateway to the underwater world.

You can expect abundant marine life to flourish among the coral reefs just a short swim from the shore. The island’s North Shore is particularly celebrated for its powdery, soft white sand and the crystal-clear waters that border it.

The versatility of St. John’s coastline is apparent as you explore from one shore to the other. The South Shore and East End each present a distinct character and seclusion compared to the more frequented North Shore beaches.

Each beach, embraced by lush greenery and flanked by hills, offers a peaceful retreat to travelers seeking tranquility. St. John provides a perfect backdrop for snorkeling among colorful fish, hiking to remote coves, or relaxing on the beach with a good book.

The Basics of Visiting St. John Beaches

Ready to dive into the crystal-clear waters of St. John and discover some of the Caribbean’s most enchanting beaches? St. John’s shores are a treasure trove, and while a week might not be enough to explore every hidden gem, you’ll certainly find spots that’ll have you coming back for more.

Before setting sail, snag the St. John Off The Beaten Path Guide app. It’s your secret map to the island’s best-kept secrets, complete with beach details and parking tips. Prefer something tangible? The guide’s also on Amazon. Also, don’t forget a map of St. John for those off-grid adventures where tech might let you down.

Whether you’re a snorkeling newbie or a pro, St. John’s underwater world won’t disappoint. So, pack your snorkel gear or rent from the pros at St. John Beach Bum or Cruz Bay Water Sports. Remember, the best island experiences are free—like lounging on a beach blanket or cooling off in the ocean. Don’t forget your beach essentials; you’re all set for an unforgettable journey!

Recently, the USVI passed a law requiring all sunscreen to be Reef SAFE. Check your bottles before leaving home, as some are only Reef Friendly. Products containing oxybenzone, octinoxate, and octocrylene are prohibited. There is a fine of $1000 for first-time violators. If you are unsure about your sunscreen, it would be best to buy it once you arrive on the Island.

St. John Quick Facts

  • Renting a Car: I recommend renting a car to get around St. John. Cabs are available, but they are costly.
  • Where to Stay: Westin St. John Resort
  • Where to Eat: Skinny Legs, don’t miss out on their delicious burgers and great gift shop.
  • Where to Drink: Grab a drink at Sunset at the Windmill Bar
  • You must Visit Maho Bay for a relaxing beach day and turtle sightings.
  • Must Do: Charter a boat to visit Lime Out &/or the BVI’s Soggy Dollar.

Don’t Forget Beach Essentials

St. John, USVI Beaches with Snorkeling Guides

St. John, part of the U.S. Virgin Islands, is renowned for its stunning beaches with crystal-clear waters and vibrant marine life. Whether you’re seeking soft white sand or captivating snorkeling experiences, this island is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world.

Our main attraction when traveling to St. John is snorkeling. Don’t get me wrong; we love relaxing on the beach too! However, on this most recent trip, we focused primarily on snorkeling. Below are our beach and snorkeling experiences.

Our Trusted Resources


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Trainline: for booking train tickets

Vuori & prAna: great sources for travel clothes

Columbia: great clothes and accessories for outdoor adventures.

International Drivers Permit: for getting your IDP

Travelex: for Travel Insurance

North Shore Beaches

The North Shore of St. John is a jewel of the Virgin Islands, celebrated for its stunning beaches and crystal-clear waters. You’ll find a variety of beach experiences, from secluded bays to underwater ecosystems. Here, comfort and adventure effortlessly merge, providing you with lifetime memories.

Honeymoon Beach

Honeymoon Beach can be accessed by hiking the National Park Lind Point trail or taking a shuttle provided by Caneel Bay Beach Club. You must reserve in advance, and it costs $12/person. There is a parking lot where the shuttle will pick you up and take you to Honeymoon Beach.

Caneel Bay Resort has been closed since the 2017 hurricanes Maria and Irma. Therefore, you cannot walk through the Caneel Bay Resort property from the parking lot to the beach.

If you choose to hike the Lind Point trail, it begins at the National Park Visitor’s Center in Cruz Bay and takes approximately 30 minutes.

A small rocky point only separates Honeymoon from Soloman. Caneel Bay Beach Club offers bathrooms, showers, a walk-up bar, food, and beach games at Honeymoon Beach.

This beach offers fine white sand with shade and easy entry into the water.

View their website for options for renting beach items and cabanas. This beach belongs to the Virgin Islands National Park. If you need any information on visiting, go to the park visitor center.

Salomon Beach

At Salomon Bay, serenity awaits. This beach is less frequented and offers a peaceful retreat into nature.

Accessibility is by the Lind Point Trail, which starts near the National Park Visitor Center in Cruz Bay, ensuring a quiet atmosphere.

Remember that there are no amenities, so it’s best to pack water, snacks, and snorkel gear.

Caneel Bay – Closed

The iconic Caneel Bay Resort remains closed, but the beach echoes memories of luxury. Though facilities are inaccessible, the views along Caneel Bay are as breathtaking as ever.

Caneel Bay has 7 beaches that are all part of the Virgin Island National Park.

  • Turtle Bay Beach
  • Scott Beach
  • Paradise Beach
  • Salomon Bay beach
  • Honeymoon Beach
  • Hawksnest
  • Caneel – Closed

Henley Cay

Located in the Caneel area, this cay is only accessible by boat or kayak. Beware that the kayak ride will be a 30-minute paddle, but it will offer great views. The reef is healthy with great visibility.

Hawksnest Beach Cruz Bay

Hawksnest Beach

Hawksnest Beach was the closest accessible North Shore beach to Cruz Bay. There was ample parking when we visited on a Tuesday morning. Unfortunately, there were large swells, so we didn’t get a chance to snorkel.

Hawksnest Beach is a favorite among the locals. Two pavilions can be reserved by contacting the National Park Service. Hawksnest has limited facilities: no running water and pit toilets. It is part of the Virgin Islands National Park.

Denis Bay

You can access Denis Bay by a short tree-covered hike off of Peace Trail or via boat. It has a white sandy beach, but there are no facilities.

Peace Hill Trail – a short trail that leads to plantation windmill ruins with great views of Hawksnest Bay to the (west) left and Denis and Trunk bay to the east (right).

Gibney / Oppenheimer Beach

The snorkeling is best in front of Oppenheimer on the east side. Unfortunately, the reef is recovering from damage caused by a nearby construction site runoff. This beach is off the beaten path and mostly private due to the limited parking.

There are three parking spots at Oppenheimer. Do not block the gate, as the old Oppenheimer house is now a recreation center. One parking spot is across from the Gibney Beach entrance.

Jumbie Bay

Limited parking. Jumbie doesn’t get many visitors, as most visitors are attracted to Trunk instead. It’s a great toe-in-the-sand beach for people looking for a more intimate setting.

Trunk Bay

Recently, Trunk Bay was voted #1 in the World’s 50 Best Beaches 2024.

This is one of the most beautiful and often visited St. John USVI beaches, so numerous facilities exist. Showers, bathrooms, changing areas, a gift shop, and a snack bar exist. There is a $4.00/person entrance fee.

Trunk Bay is more of a toes-in-the-sand beach with crystal clear turquoise water and a large sandy beach. Although this beach is densely populated by tourists, it does not detract from its beauty.

After snorkeling, I visited the snack bar for drinks and snacks. There, I had one of the best Bushwacker cocktails of the trip.

If you haven’t rented a vehicle, a taxi stand is at Trunk Bay, part of the Virgin Islands National Park.

Cinnamon Beach on St. John, USVI old Plantation structure

Cinnamon Bay Beach

With a long stretch of soft white sand, Cinnamon Bay offers both relaxation and a snorkeling haven. Its waters are clear, and the beach is less crowded than Trunk Bay, making it an ideal spot for a day of underwater exploration.

There is parking at this beach, but it is busy if you arrive later in the morning. This beach has various facilities, including water sports toys, volleyball, souvenirs, camping, food, and drinks.

An old Danish building on this beach gives excellent photo opportunities, not to mention the Island’s history. This almost mile-long beach was probably my favorite.

Cinnamon Bay trail hike to American Hill. It ends at the American Hill Great House with wonderful views of Maho, Francis, Mary Point and Tortola.

A Taxi Stand is available at Cinnamon Bay if you haven’t rented a vehicle.

Little Cinnamon

A turtle while snorkeling at Maho Beach

Maho Bay Beach

Maho Beach is the type of beach where you can spend the day floating and having a cocktail. This St. John USVI beach has it all! The water is calm, making it great as a family beach.

Paddle boarding is also popular here because of the clear, calm water. Across the street is Maho Crossroads, a pop-up village with drinks, food, chairs to relax, and rentals.

Paddle-In Tiki Bar is a great place to relax and enjoy a cocktail. I had one of the best lime-in-the-da-coconut drinks from Paddle-In.

Francis Bay snorkeling

Francis Bay Beach

This fine white sand beach is large. It was a great beach to relax and float in the water. Pack a picnic lunch and enjoy the day here, snorkeling and lounging on the beach.

It’s large enough that you can find a private spot. However, it has very limited shade; we could have used a sunshade the day we visited.

Francis Beach‘s water tends to be calmer than most North Shore beaches. Francis Bay has a parking lot, where we found a spot quickly on a Wednesday afternoon.

There are picnic tables and B.B.Q. grills for public use. Portable toilets and a large dumpster are near the parking lot.

Walking the path to Waterlemon Cay to snorkel

Waterlemon Cay / Leinster Bay

This Cay is known for some of the best snorkeling on St. John. You will hike a flat path along the Leinster Bay Trail to get to this off-the-beaten beach.

The trail can be accessed from the Annaberg Sugar Mill Ruins parking lot. It is a flat one-mile hike, and at the end, you will be rewarded with beautiful turquoise water to cool off in.

Leinster Bay comprises two inner bays: Mary Creek on the west and Waterlemon on the east. Waterlemon Bay is a serene beach with many rocks. There are rough facilities here, so pack a cooler and bring drinking water.

Waterlemon Cay on St. John USVI

After snorkeling here, visit the Annaberg Sugar Mill Ruins. Several buildings are there, and wonderful views of the BVIs are at the top of the hill.

South Shore Beaches

The South Shore reveals a more dramatic landscape, where the hills meet the sea, creating a striking backdrop for your snorkeling adventures. This is where you can explore beyond the typical tourist spots and make memories that cling to your soul like the salt in your hair.

Salt Pond Beach, St. John, USVI

Salt Pond Bay

Salt Pond Beach is located on the South side of the Island. It’s very convenient if you are visiting or staying on the Coral Bay side of the Island.

Salt Pond Bay Beach is beloved for its crystal-clear waters and various marine life. It’s an ideal spot for snorkeling; you’ll likely see colorful fish and maybe even a turtle. Access is relatively easy, with a short trail leading down to the beach, where picnic tables await, allowing you to enjoy a meal with a view.

The parking lot is small, and this site has rough facilities, such as chemical toilets.

If you are an avid hiker, the Ram Head trail begins on the Eastern side of the beach and will take you to Drunk Bay. Make sure to take lots of water during this hike, which is a strenuous one-mile hike each way with little shade. You will be rewarded with a great view of Salt Pond.

Grootpan

You will need a 4×4 and confidence in driving on rugged terrain to access this area.

Grootpan Bay offers a quieter experience. The calm waters create a peaceful retreat for those looking to escape the crowds. The access is more rugged than other South Shore beaches, so wear comfortable shoes.

Great Lameshur

Great Lameshur Bay is noted for its pebbly beach and excellent snorkeling opportunities, thanks to the seagrass beds that attract sea turtles and rays. The unpaved road can make access challenging, but the isolation contributes to the bay’s untouched feel.

Lameshur

Lameshur Bay, just neighboring Great Lameshur, boasts similar characteristics but is usually less crowded. This beach’s water is typically calm, making swimming or floating the day away pleasant—white sand beach with some shade.

Parking is available, as well as picnic tables and grills. However, beware of the thorns on the ground around the picnic tables.

Sugar Mill Ruins and Lameshur Bay Trail

Here, you can explore historic ruins and hike the Lameshur Bay Trail. The trail offers stunning views and a moderate hike. It ends at the ruins, where you can learn about St. John’s sugar plantation history.

Europa

A hidden gem, Europa Bay, provides the ultimate private beach experience for when you truly want to disconnect. This spot is secluded and may require effort, but you’ll be rewarded with tranquility and untouched nature.

Accessed via the trail from the left of Lameshur, it is 20 minutes each way. Lameshur Trail leads to Europa Bay, Reef Bay, the Reef Bay Ruins, the petroglyphs, and the Par Force Great House.

East End Beaches

Seeking serenity? The East End of St. John offers secluded shores that promise a tranquil retreat from the world. Here, you can snorkel in peace, surrounded by nothing but the sound of your breath and the gentle caress of the Caribbean Sea.

Haulover North

At Haulover North, you’re greeted with a pebbly shoreline that gives way to golden sands underwater. It is a premier spot for snorkeling with a rich underwater snorkel trail that leads you through vibrant coral reefs teeming with marine life. Visibility is excellent, ideal for spotting tropical fish and sea turtles.

Haulover South

Haulover South contrasts its northern counterpart with softer sand and a more secluded setting. The waters here are calm and inviting, with shades of turquoise that painters try to capture. Your snorkeling experience here is private and serene, perfect for a tranquil day by the sea.

Hansen Bay / Pelican Rock

As you go to Hansen Bay, you’ll find an area cherished for its quiet and natural beauty.

The bay has a voluntary entry fee to preserve it, ensuring it remains a pristine spot for locals and visitors. Locals allow access to the beach across their private property.

Parking, facilities, restrooms, and water sports equipment are free, but a donation is appreciated.

Neighboring Island

Lovango Island

On the day we took a chartered boat, we snorkeled at Lovango. It’s a private island near St. John with a beach bar, village, and resort.

I highly recommend visiting for the day, whether on a boat charter or taking the Lovango ferry.

In conclusion, St. John, USVI Beaches

In conclusion, St. John, USVI, offers a diverse range of beaches that cater to every type of traveler. Whether you’re looking for an adventure-filled day of snorkeling or a peaceful escape to soak up some sun, this island has it all.

As we have discussed, the top beaches for snorkeling are Grootpan, Lameshur, and Waterlemon, all boasting clear waters and abundant marine life to explore.

For those seeking a more laid-back beach experience, Honeymoon, Cinnamon, or Trunk Bay are perfect options with calm waters and stunning scenery.

And don’t forget about Lovango Island for a day trip that will leave you feeling like you’ve discovered a hidden gem.

With so much beauty to discover on this small but mighty island, we highly recommend reading our blog post on visiting St. John to ensure you make the most of your trip.

Essential Water Safety Tips for Ocean Explorers

  • Know Your Limits: Even the most thrilling adventures have boundaries. Recognize your swimming abilities before diving into the ocean’s embrace.
  • Stay Weather-Wise: Keep an eye on the forecast. Sunny skies can quickly turn, and the sea’s temperament with them.
  • Buddy Up: Adventures are best shared. Always snorkel or swim with a companion to watch each other’s backs.
  • Life Jackets Are Lifesavers: Even if you’re a strong swimmer, don’t underestimate the power of a life jacket. It’s a simple precaution that can make a big difference.
  • Respect Marine Life: The ocean is a living tapestry of wonder. Admire from a distance to protect both the sea’s inhabitants and yourself. Use the rule of staying 10 feet away.
  • Stay Hydrated: It’s easy to overlook thirst when surrounded by water. Drink plenty of fluids to keep your energy up for those bucket list moments.
  • Protect Your Skin: Protect yourself from sun rays with sunscreen and protective clothing to keep your adventures burn-free.
  • Understand Rip Currents: Knowledge is power. Learn how to identify and escape a rip current if caught in one.

Embrace these tips to safely cultivate your passion for oceanic travel and ensure your memories are as inspiring as the waves.

Frequently Ask Questions about St. John, USVI beaches

Which beach in St. John is considered the most beautiful?

Trunk Bay is often celebrated as the most beautiful beach in St. John. Its white sands and crystal-clear waters are a picture-perfect Caribbean paradise. It was recently voted #1 for the World’s 50 Best Beaches.

Are there any admission fees for visiting the beaches on St. John?

Most beaches on St. John are free to enter. However, Trunk Bay charges an admission fee, including access to amenities like the underwater snorkeling trail.

Can visitors easily walk between the beaches on St. John?

Due to the hilly terrain and distance between beaches, walking isn’t the most practical mode of travel. Renting a car or using local transportation options to explore different beaches is recommended.

What are some lesser-known beaches on St. John for a quieter experience?

For a more secluded atmosphere, seek out beaches like Denis Bay and Gibney Beach. They offer tranquility away from the more frequented spots.

Are there dining options available near the beaches on St. John?

Several beaches have nearby dining options. Cinnamon Bay offers a beachfront café, and many others have restaurants within a short drive.

How does Trunk Bay compare to other beaches on St. John?

Trunk Bay stands out with its underwater snorkeling trail and is often more crowded than other beaches. Other beaches like Hawksnest or Maho Bay offer unique charms and are less crowded.

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