Maho Beach, St. John, USVI
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Best of St. John USVI Beaches – Ultimate Travel Guide 2023

St. John, USVI, has 16 Beautiful Beaches

If you’re searching for a tropical paradise for your next vacation, look no further than St. John, USVI. With its abundant options, St. John, USVI beaches are great for snorkeling. St. John Virgin Island offers the perfect escape for any water enthusiast.

Whether you’re seeking a serene spot to relax in the sand and soak up some sun or an adventurous snorkel spot to explore marine life, St. John has it all! Hiking enthusiasts will find some beaches accessible only by foot, while others can be reached by boat.

In short, St. John, USVI, is a haven for beach lovers and snorkel enthusiasts. So, pack your swimsuit and get ready to Snorkel St. John, USVI – the mecca of white sand beaches you won’t miss!

If you’re heading to St. John in search of amazing beaches and unforgettable snorkeling, you’re in for a real treat. With so many sandy stretches to choose from, you probably won’t be able to see them all during a typical one-week trip.

I suggest downloading the “St. John Off The Beaten Path Guide” app before you go. This handy little tool features detailed descriptions of each beach, including how to get there and the parking situation. Best of all, there’s plenty of information on the best snorkeling spots around the island so that you won’t miss a thing. A “St. John Off the Beaten Path Guide” book is also available on Amazon if you prefer it in book form!

Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced snorkeler, St. John, USVI, is a must-see experience. So grab your gear and get ready to explore!

One of the best free things on St. John Island is hanging out at the beach and snorkeling. We always pack a beach blanket, collapsible cooler, and yeti-type cups on such trips. There are many rental options if we want beach chairs and an umbrella.

Since we dive and snorkel often, we own our fins, mask, and snorkel. But, if you need to rent, there are many options for snorkel rental on the Island. There was only one day that we could have used an umbrella rental. Two places that I would recommend for chair, umbrella, and snorkel gear rental are St. John Beach Bum and Cruz Bay Water Sports

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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 arriving on the Island.

St. John, USVI Beaches and Snorkeling Guide

Our main attraction to 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.

Trunk Bay North Shore Beach

This is one of the most beautiful and often visited beaches on St. John. Because of this, there are numerous facilities located there. 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 with a large sandy beach. Although this beach is dense with tourists, it does not detract from its beauty.

We went to the snack bar for drinks after snorkeling, and I had one of the best Bushwacker cocktails of the trip there. A taxi stand is at Trunk Bay if you haven’t rented a vehicle. Trunk Bay is part of the Virgin Islands National Park.

Trunk Bay has the Virgin Islands National Park Underwater Snorkeling Trail. It is located on the protected side of Trunk Cay. The trail is between 8-15 feet of water, allowing the markers to be easily viewed in the clear blue water. The snorkel would have been our least favorite if not for this trail. We saw a few fish and reefs outside the Underwater Park on the protected side of the Cay. If the waves aren’t churning up the sea floor, there is good snorkeling from Trunk Bay towards Peter Bay and then back to Trunk.

Walking the path to Waterlemon Cay to snorkel

Waterlemon Cay / Leinster Bay – North Shore Beach

This Cay has the best snorkeling on St. John. To get to this off-the-beaten beach, you will hike a scenic route through three plantation ruins along the Leinster Bay Trail. You can access the trail from the Annaberg Sugar Mill Ruins parking lot. It is a flat one-mile hike, and you will be rewarded with beautiful turquoise water to cool off at the end.

Leinster Bay comprises two inner bays—Mary Creek on the west and Waterlemon on the east. Waterlemon Bay has a serene beach with beautiful white sand. However, there are very rough facilities here. So pack a cooler and bring drinking water.

Once at the beach, enter the water from the sandy beach and head towards the cay. It is about .2 miles away from shore. As you snorkel around the cay, you will be rewarded with sea turtles, colorful fish, coral, and starfish sightings. Keep your eye out for octopuses and eels as well. If you aren’t a strong swimmer, I recommend bringing a floating device with you, just in case. As always, beware of the current. It’s much easier to swim with the current than against it. Swim counterclockwise to swim with the current around the Cay.

Waterlemon Cay on St. John USVI

Cinnamon Bay Beach – North Shore Beach

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

We snorkeled on the right side (east) of the beach. It was easy to access, but we only saw a few fish and coral. If you go further near the Cay, there is good snorkeling around the little Island. For us, Cinnamon is more of a relaxing beach to take in the sights and sounds of a day at the beach.

Cinnamon Beach on St. John, USVI old Plantation structure

Maho Bay Beach – North Shore Beach

Maho Beach is the type of beach where you can spend the day floating and having a cocktail. This 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. It is a pop-up village with drinks, food, chairs to relax, plus rentals.

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

We went to the right to snorkel and found some reefs and fish past the rocks. There were so many sea turtles that we lost count! The seagrass in the middle of the bay offers a place to view turtles and rays easily. Snorkeling to the east, you will visit Little Maho, a beach that can only be accessed by sea. If you continue snorkeling, you will be at Francis Beach. Most marine life is in 5-8 feet of water. It is also possible to snorkel from Maho to Cinnamon. Please remember the distance and current when doing this swim/snorkel. Only attempt it if you are a strong swimmer, and I would suggest using a float. Snorkeling from Maho to Cinnamon, you will see the best structure close to Cinnamon.

A turtle while snorkeling at Maho Beach

Salt Pond Bay – South Shore Beach

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.

We visited this beach on the first day of our vacation when we had cloudy skies and the previous day was rainy. It was great for snorkeling in calm water on this day versus on the Island’s North Shore. The beach had white sand with a few rocks and clear blue water.

It was a short hike from the parking lot to reach the beach. There was a small parking lot. However, there were what I consider rough facilities at this site: chemical toilets and a picnic table. If you are an avid hiker, the Ram Head trail begins on the Eastern side of the beach. You can also do a short hike to Drunk Bay.

We had a great snorkel at the rock hump near the center. We saw turtles, an eel, and stingrays. Snorkeling to the left, you will see various fish and reefs. You can snorkel to Blue Cobblestone Beach if you are a capable swimmer.

Salt Pond Beach, St. John, USVI

Francis Bay Beach – North Shore 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 an umbrella 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 that are for public use. Portable toilets are near the parking lot, along with a large dumpster.

Francis Bay offered excellent snorkeling for us on the right-hand side of the beach along the rocks. It would be best to be careful as it gets fairly shallow, but there were different types of fish and coral to be seen. We also did the left side along the rocks, again rewarded with coral and fish.

Francis Bay snorkeling

Honeymoon Beach – North Shore 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. View their website for options for renting beach items and cabanas. This beach belongs to the Virgin Islands National Park.

Snorkeling is best along the rocky point between Honeymoon and Salomon Beaches. This snorkel is shallow, and great care should be taken not to disturb the coral. Towards Caneel Bay, there is coral and sea grass that is home to rays and turtles.

Salomon Beach – North Shore Beach

Salomon took a heavy hit from the 2017 Hurricanes. Unfortunately, the beach is primarily coral rubble with only a small section of sand. Hopefully, it will someday be restored to what it was. It can be accessed by hiking the Lind Point trail or using the Caneel Bay Beach Club shuttle service. Salomon Bay is part of the Virgin Islands National Park.

Hawksnest Bay – North Shore 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 are available to reserve by contacting the National Park Service. Hawksnest has limited facilities here, no running water, and pit toilets. Hawksnest Bay is part of the Virgin Islands National Park.

Hawksnest Beach Cruz Bay

Lovango Island

On the day we chartered a private boat, we snorkeled at Lovango. It’s a private island near St. John with a beach bar, village, and resort. Lovango’s Reef is one of the best reefs we experienced on this trip to St. John. We even saw a nurse shark while snorkeling. I highly recommend visiting for the day, whether on a private boat charter or taking the Lovango ferry.

Reef Bay, with its hike, was one beach we wished we had more time for. However, the Reef Bay trail hike can be grueling on the trip back, so I recommend taking a boat back. The National Park Service offers a hike and boat trip, but we ran out of time on this visit. 

Note: When snorkeling, always swim with a buddy, never alone. Be aware of your surroundings (i.e., boats, currents, and changing weather). Don’t overestimate your swimming ability; error on the side of caution.

Check out my post on Traveling to St. John, USVI, and the Top 15 Bucket List things to do in St. John, USVI

What are the different types of beaches in St John?

St John offers a diverse range of beaches to visitors. The island boasts around 39 beaches that vary in size, terrain, and amenities. Some famous beaches include Trunk Bay, Cinnamon Bay, and Maho Bay. These beaches feature crystal clear waters, powdery white sand, and stunning scenery.

What activities can visitors enjoy on St John’s beaches?

St John’s beaches offer a wide range of activities for visitors. Beachgoers can go snorkeling and spot colorful fishes, rays, and sea turtles. The island’s beaches are perfect for swimming, paddle boarding, and kayaking. Visitors can also hike through the nearby trails, offering breathtaking views of the surrounding sea, landscapes, and wildlife. Additionally, beachgoers can relax in the sun, enjoy cocktails, and indulge in local cuisine from the many beachside restaurants and bars.

Are all the beaches in St John public?

Yes, all the beaches in St John are public, and visitors can enjoy them leisurely. However, some beaches have privately managed areas where beach chairs and umbrellas are available for rent. Visitors should note that nudity is prohibited on St John’s beaches and must follow beach rules and regulations.

Can visitors camp on the beaches of St John?

Yes, visitors can camp on some of the beaches of St John. The National Parks Service offers Cinnamon Bay, Maho Bay, and Hawksnest Bay campsites. Camping on the beaches provides a unique opportunity to experience the island’s beauty, stars, and nature. However, visitors must follow camping guidelines and regulations, respecting the environment, wildlife, and other campers.

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