St. John island has the best beaches in the Caribbean. Along the famous North Shore of St. John visitors will find several miles of award-winning national park beaches, each one more enticing than the next.
Honeymoon & Solomon Beaches
From Cruz Bay, the first publicly accessible beach by foot is Honeymoon and Solomon beaches. Follow a short trail out of town to reach these popular lounging spots among nudists and photographers, although the former is technically not allowed on national park beaches.
Traveling by car will give you the most options, as you hit Hawknest Beach first, offering easy parking, a short walk to the water, and on-site bathrooms and changing areas. Recently renovated, Hawksnest Beach is a 5-minute drive down North Shore Road from Cruz Bay.
A super secret beach location for those fortunate to know, Denis Bay offers visitors complete privacy, a white sandy beach and excellent snorkeling just feet from the water’s edge. Positioned between Hawksnest and Oppenheimer, the entrance to the access trail to Denis Bay beach is about 20 yards into the Peace Hill walking path from the parking lot. The trek down to Denis Beach is less than a half mile and relatively easy to navigate, however proper hiking shoes and keeping an eye out for cactus along the trail are highly recommended.
Gibney and Oppenheimer Beach
Continuing your drive along the North Shore Road of St. John island, you will see a white picket fence along the left side. This marks the area of private land owned by the Gibney family. Immediately following the Gibney driveway is the entrance to Oppenheimer Beach, the only beach on St. John that is managed by St. John’s Parks and Recreation department. Oppenheimer Beach has a gated entrance and access can be arranged in advance through Parks & Rec. The beach is one of the nicest on-island, with substantial parking area down below and a full-service building you can rent by the day for events. If you’re not renting the Oppenheimer beach house, you’ll have to find a legal parking spot up top and walk down, or continue down North Shore to the next great beach!
Jumbie Beach is a few hundred yards down the road and offers visitors a small parking lot to the right, across from the access trail on the left. Despite its name, Jumbie Beach is quite small, with not much sand to spread out. The small beach matters little to those who frequent this beach, though, as the snorkeling in the area is known to be outstanding. As the currents flow around to Jumbie Bay, small fish congregate, attracting large tarpon and pelicans who feed glutinously on the plethora of seafood throughout the day.
Trunk Bay Beach
Iconic Trunk Bay beach, as photographed from a popular nearby overlook, is a familiar view to many, one that represents all St. John and the Virgin Islands National Park have to offer. While entrance into the Virgin Islands National Park is free, beachgoers at Trunk Bay pay an entrance fee. Currently the park charges adults $4/day or $10/annually and children under 16 are admitted free. Trunk Bay beach is the only national park beach on St. John with a lifeguard on-duty during high season (Dec-May) and a hot/cold food vendor just steps from the water. Trunk Bay is also home to the only underwater snorkel trail, with monuments below the water describing the coral, sea fans and colorful tropical fish. Beginning, intermediate and experienced swimmers will enjoy the safe, clear cove at Trunk Bay. Rent beach chairs and snorkel gear from the retail shop on the premises. Families with young ones will feel safe enjoying the calm, clear Caribbean waters of Trunk Bay. One-way open-air taxi fare from Cruz Bay, St. John up North Shore Road to Trunk Bay beach is $6-$8 per person, depending on how many riders are in the cab.
Cinnamon Bay Beach
With nearly all the amenities as Trunk Bay, without the entrance fee, Cinnamon Bay beach is popular among locals and visitors alike. Enter from North Shore and pick a spot in the ample parking lot or grab an open-air taxi cab from Cruz Bay, just $7-$9, depending on how many riders are with you. While the walk is a bit further from the parking lot at Trunk Bay, Cinnamon Bay beach is the idyllic spot for those looking to spend a full day on the best beach on St. John.
Cinnamon Bay beach marks the waterside border of the ultimate Caribbean campground location. Rent a bare site to pitch a tent, upgrade to a canvas covered cottage, or go full luxury in one of Cinnamon Bay’s comfortable beach bungalows. Cinnamon Bay campground offers day beachgoers several amenities, including an on-site restaurant (the T’ree Lizard), convenience store, and a beach shop offering hourly and day rentals of kayaks, stand-up paddleboards (SUP), sailboards (windsurfing), masks, snorkels, flippers, sunglasses, suntan lotion, beach chairs and more. Cinnamon Bay also has showers, bathrooms, changing rooms and covered picnic tables for park-goers. During Dec and January, Cinnamon Bay generates surprising surf, delighting those with boards and a sense of adventure. On Sundays, join a friendly game of volleyball with the locals, who play on the far east end of Cinnamon Bay beach (i.e., to the right). BYOB (beer, and ball, if you have one). No glass bottles allowed.
Across from Cinnamon Bay beach, yet still within the Virgin Islands National Park is a newly revived walking trail through the Cinnamon Bay ruins called the Cinnamon Bay Loop Trail. Originally a Danish road, the well-maintained and relatively flat trail (unusual for St. John) is about a half mile long and meanders through old structures and their descriptive monuments, including an old sugar mill and an old bay rum still. Fully shaded, the Cinnamon Bay Loop Trail is a welcome activity after a long day in the warm tropical sun.
Maho Bay Beach
A favorite among locals and visitors alike, Maho Bay beach offers the most convenient parking and beach access on St. John island. With a recently refurbished pavilion on the western side of the beach, and an expanded parking lot on the opposite end, Maho Bay beach is highly rated by parent’s everywhere, an d anyone saddled with heavy coolers and beach chairs.
While the land where Maho Bay campground was is now owned privately, Maho Bay beach, with visible access and parking right from Centerline Road (drive slowly, please). Maho Bay beach is favored by swimmers, who can enjoy taking “laps” from one end of the calm bay to the other, and also by snorkelers who befriend the local sea turtles, of both the Green and Hawksbill varieties, who enjoy the sea grass along the far east side of the bay.
Maho Bay beach also offers stand-up paddleboard (SUP) users, windsurfers and kayakers easy loading and unloading into the water, just feet from the parking lot. Those coming by cab from Cruz Bay, St. John will pay $9-$18 per person, depending on how many are sharing the ride.
Frances Bay Beach
Out of the way from most beaches on North Shore Road, Frances Bay Beach is a hidden treasure on St. John. Picnic tables randomly scatter the white sandy beach, a stone’s throw from the Frances Bay Walking Trail, newly restructured to include a volunteer-built wood walkway that is wheelchair accessible. The Frances Bay Walking Trail, just a half mile around a picturesque salt pond, is a bird watchers dream. Birds of all kinds, including egrets, yellow legs, black necked stilts, herons, wilson’s plovers, pin tail ducks, whistling ducks, and even an occasional pink flamingo are known to grace the salt pond at the center of the Frances Bay walking trail.
Those looking for a little more adventure are encouraged to continue back down the Frances Bay beach road and head to the Annaberg ruins, where you can park in the lot and tour the area (complete with a paved walking trail and picnic tables at the top), or hike the relatively flat (again, highly unusual for St John) mile-long national park trail along the rocky shores until you reach the white sandy cove of Waterlemon Cay. For the trek, we recommend wearing footwear that is more stable than your regular beach flip-flops. Moorings conveniently place in the area attract large sailboats for the day, but you can suit up with your snorkel and swim a short distance to a small island (sand bar?) for an exotic underwater experience.
Salt Pond Bay
The most popular beach along the south shore of St. John island is Salt Pond Bay beach. Located a little over 12 miles from Cruz Bay, Salt Pond Bay offers visitors a taste of the drier side of the island. While cactus and hermit crabs may be more prevalent here, the shores of Salt Pond Bay offer award-winning underwater showcases of Caribbean color. Salt Pond Bay is deep enough to foster the amazing underwater life, including vibrant coral, thick sea fans and schools of fish representing every color of the rainbow. Snorkel a bit on the calm south side of Salt Pond Bay beach, then follow a short trail around the salt pond (yes, there IS a salt pond!) to the north shore of Salt Pond (Drunk Bay), where you will find dozens, if not hundreds, of unusual guests to greet you. Drunk Bay is a see-it-to-believe-it sort of place.
The adventurous who are visiting Salt Pond Bay are encouraged to hike the Ram’s Head trail, approximately 3 miles to the tip of what original islander’s believed resembled a ram’s head (which it does). Not for the weary, Ram’s Head trail requires some decent shoes and includes a slight climb in a couple areas, as well as walking over large coral rocks along the shore line. For those who make it to the top, hang on to your hat! The breeze is mighty in spots, and the view of the south side of St John to St. Thomas and beyond (St. Croix and even Puerto Rico on a clear day) is unforgettable. Looking north and east, Ram’s head offers hikers views of Tortola, Norman, Peter, Virgin Gorda and more of the British Virgin Islands.
Reach Salt Pond Bay beach by car by following Rt. 10 (Centerline) to the Coral Bay side of the island (about 8 miles), then turn right on to Rt. 107. This intersection is also known as the Coral Bay sign corner, or the Triangle. Follow Rt. 107 for a little over 3 miles to Salt Pond Bay, with a parking area right off the road, leading to a wide walking path down to the beach, about ¼ mile.
Those on foot can walk down a national park trail that starts from Concordia Eco-Resort, or can take a taxi cab to Salt Pond Bay, $14-$20 per person, depending on the total number of riders with you.
Another unsung bay on St. John island that is popular among the locals is Kiddel Bay. Just past Salt Pond Bay, Kiddel Bay is accessible by 4-wheel drive and located down a very rocky side road off Rt. 107. This hidden beach covered with round rocks is arguably the best place to snorkel or dive from shore in all of St. John. A narrow, rocky cove, Kiddel Bay is an underwater wonderland, offering scuba divers deep, clear water and steep underwater cliffs, less than a hundred feet from shore.
Also hidden to most St. John island visitors, Grootpan Bay is a haven for shorebirds and snorkeling the colorful life under the shallow mangroves. Heading south, Grootpan Bay is one bay over from Kiddel Bay, two over from Salt Pond, and accessible by 4-wheel drive from a side road off Rt. 107.
Great Lameshur Bay
Those driving out to the south shore of St. John will find themselves at the end of the paved road and the beginning of the end of the south shore of the Virgin Islands National Park. Four-wheel drive only, travel carefully over the rocky entrance and the steep paved road down to the beach. The first beach you’ll see is called Great Lameshur Bay, famous for its clear visibility and round rock shoreline, snorkelers at Great Lameshur will find themselves in territory familiar to early Tektite aquanauts, researching life underwater for the GE Space Division in 1969
Little Lameshur Bay
Drive a little further, past the Virgin Islands Environmental Resource Station (VIERS) entrance on your right and the VIERS boat dock entrance road on your left, and you’ll find yourself at the last national park beach on St. John island accessible by car. The end of the road is a driveway leading up to the south ranger’s station. By foot, head down the Reef Bay trail to Europa Bay beach and eventually Reef Bay beach, about 4 miles away.
Little Lameshur has more white sand than Great Lameshur beach, but it still rustic, so watch where you walk and avoid prickly vines and cactus. Little Lameshur is not only favored for its peaceful quiet and remoteness, but also for its snorkeling, with rocky ledges attracting colorful reef fish on along the east side of the bay and sea grass along the western shore attracting regal, and surprisingly social, sea turtles.
A half mile hike down Reef Bay trail is the entrance to Europa Bay, one of the most secluded white sand beaches on St. John. Visitors are rewarded with privacy and your own tropical escape for the day.
Reef Bay beach is accessible by hiking down Reef Bay trail from Centerline Road (Rt. 10), or up and over the southern extension of Reef Bay trail, the entrance to which is at the end of Rt. 107, just a few yards beyond the parking area for Little Lameshur beach.
Those who follow Centerline Rd. (Rt. 10) into Coral Bay and choose not to turn right on to Rt 107 will find themselves on the long road to the East End of St. John island. Along the way to Haulover Bay beaches you’ll pass Skinny Legs and Miss Vie’s Snack Shack. Past Haulover Bay is the famous casual St. John apparel designer, Sloop Jones.
Haulover Bay is so named because island natives and early explorers would haul their boats from the western shore over to the eastern shore and back, far less effort at the time than rowing or sailing around the churned up waters of the east end. The western (right) side of Haulover Bay is calm and offers great snorkeling and even better sunsets. The eastern (left) side of Haulover Bay beach is rougher, but also offers excellent snorkeling on calm water days.