For its size, no island in the world has more world-class beaches than St. John. There are a few exquisite stretches of sand on the South Shore and East End, but most are found on St. John’s famed North shore, where each scalloped bay is more picturesque than the next.

palm tree on st john beach
palm tree on the beach in st john

Here — exclusively for guests and friends of Island Abodes — is our short guide to St. John beaches. This is just our personal take, but it’s based on many, many (did we say many?) hours at each and every one of these spectacular beaches. We’re sure you have your own favorites and insights. Send us your thoughts and we’ll include in the next update.

NORTH SHORE

Salomon Bay

This is the closest beach to town, accessible via an easy 15 minute hike starting right behind the Virgin Island National Park offices. Or, drive up the start of Northshore Road, 1/4 mile past Mongoose Junction, park adjacent to the sign marking the start of the National Park, and then hike down. You’ll be rewarded with a very special beach that you might have all to yourself. Good snorkeling on either end of the beach. No facilities.

Honeymoon Beach

Honeymoon can be reached by trail from Salomon or down the same trail adjacent to the VINP sign on Northshore Road. This is one of the few St. John beaches that offers concessions, with food & drinks at Binkins on the Beach, water sports rentals (mainly SUPs and kayaks), from VI Eco Tours, a gift shop, and wash rooms. It’s a perfect stretch of white sand that slopes gently into the water. A half or full day here is time well spent indeed.

Caneel Bay Beach 

Although Caneel Bay is home to several amazing beaches, they are pretty much inaccessible after the 2017 hurricanes destroyed the resort. Even before that you had to be a guest to officially access them. If you really want to check them out, one option is to ask your charter boat captain to pull in fairly close so you can swim to shore. You can also book a tour with VI Eco Tours to explore the waters around the resort.

Hawksnest Beach

Hawksnest is a dreamy beach is the first one from town with parking right along the shore. While that makes it super convenient, parking can sometimes be at a premium in high season. There’s good snorkeling on either side, and you can wade or swim over to Gibney/Oppenheimer beach to the right.

Gibney or Oppenheimer Beach

A couple hundred yards up Northshore Road from Hawksnest, at the end of the white picket fence, are metal gates that spell “Oppenheimer” across the top and lead down to the beach. There’s parking for a few Jeeps on the road side of the gates. This is a beautiful, tranquil little beach with perfect sand. On the right side of the beach as you’re facing the water is a small community center building owned by the VI government. The entire beach is public so you’re free to enjoy all of it, but don’t wander inland as it’s private property beyond the sand.

Denis Bay

Just past the Oppenheimer gates you’ll pass Easter Rock on your left and then reach the parking area for Peace Hill. Park there, walk about 20 yards and then veer right down a smaller unmarked trail. In about 10 minutes you’ll be rewarded with an incredible beach that you might have all to yourself. Hike back up to Peace Hill for an unbelievable sunset experience.

Jumbie Beach

Jumbie often gets overlooked on the way to iconic Trunk Bay. But this is a little gem of a beach. There’s parking right on Northshore Road and then a 350 foot easy hike down to the sand. One of the coolest things is the unique sea level view of Trunk Bay.

Trunk Bay

Unless you stopped at Jumbie, your first glimpse of Trunk Bay will be from the overlook. Stopping for photos is not optional. There’s a $5 per person admission fee. For that you get access to wash rooms, showers, concessions, and sometimes lifeguards. The beach is a short walk from the parking area; when you reach the sand you’ll instantly know why this is consistently named on of the world’s best beaches…it’s simply perfect. Be cautioned that during high season, or any time cruise ships are in port on St. Thomas, the beach can get crowded. If that’s not your thing, visit early in the morning or late in the afternoon (or anytime during offseason) for an otherworldly beach experience.

Peter Bay

Located just past Trunk, beyond the Northshore Road switchbacks, is the entrance to the exclusive Peter Bay subdivision. While all the beaches in the USVI are public, there’s no easy way to get to Peter Bay Beach unless you’re a resident or guest. If your heart is set on checking out the sand, which is very nice, one option is to swim or snorkel or paddleboard from Little Cinnamon next door.

Cinnamon Bay (and Little Cinnamon)

Cinnamon Bay used to be known for its campground and cottages that led out to the longest stretch of sand on St. John. Since the 2017 hurricanes only the amazing beach remains. There’s plenty of parking and a short walk to the beach. Head left when you hit the shore and a brief hike will take you to Little Cinnamon, an exceptional small beach that will make you feel like you’ve left the world behind. Or, head down to the right end of Cinnamon in the direction of Maho Bay and explore the rocky outcroppings where you can find your own private oasis. Good snorkeling at this end of the beach. Watch out for blowing sand on windy days.

Maho Bay

For many residents and visitors, Maho is a beach lover’s heaven. This is the most protected bay on the North shore, with the calmest waters that gently lap at the shore. This is also where green sea turtles congregate; they’re so accustomed to snorkelers that they will swim right along with you. Be sure not to touch or disturb them. There’s parking at either end. Food and drinks are available at Maho Crossroads, and you can also rent a SUP or kayak. Maho Bay is an experience not to be missed.

Francis Bay

Northshore Road jogs inland at the far end of Maho Bay. Keep bearing left for a couple of miles and you’ll reach Francis Bay. It’s a little harder to get to than some others, which means fewer people. The sand is perfect, the water is clear, and the view of the St. John coastline is to die for. No facilities. Good snorkeling on both end of the beach.

Leinster Bay and Waterlemon Cay

Head toward the Annaberg Ruins, park where you can, and start hiking along the shoreline. You can stop anywhere to swim or snorkel or chill, but keep going for 20-30 minutes and you’ll find some nice sand and an easy swim out to Waterlemon Cay. It’s definitely worth snorkeling to this perfect little island and walking around. On the way, you’ll likely see lots of fish, stingrays, turtles, and sea stars. Just be sure to give yourself time to get back to your Jeep before dark. Another way to get here is to park past the Moravian Church in Coral Bay and hike in on the Johnny Horn Trail. It’s a pretty strenuous hike, so be prepared with plenty of water.

EAST END

Haulover South

Take Centerline Road to Coral Bay, then veer left at the ball field, pass Skinny Legs, and keep on driving for 3 more miles. Easy parking on the road. The sand and pebble beach is right there. Pretty good snorkeling on either side of the bay. The water is typically very calm. This is a sweet spot if you want to get away from everyone else, and you can hike to another beach (North Haulover) without getting back in the Jeep.

Haulover North

Look for the narrow trail across the road from the beach. After maybe 300 feet it opens up to an incredible view of the Sir Francis Drake Channel across to Tortola. The shoreline is rocky and craggily usually with just a trace of sand her and there. The main draw is awesome snorkeling, especially to the left as you’re facing the water. Water shoes are highly recommended. Use caution getting in and out, and avoid completely when seas are rough.

Hansen Bay

Less than a mile down the road from Haulover you’ll find this delightful spot with soft white sand. It’s become a popular beach hangout for Coral Bay residents and guests, especially on weekends. While there, you’ll definitely want to paddle out to Lime Out, the floating taco bar for a delicious lunch and cold beverages.

SOUTH SHORE

Salt Pond

This very special spot is the most popular beach on the South shore. To get here, take Centerline Road to Coral Bay, go right at the ball field, than drive 4 miles to just past the entrance to Concordia (now closed). Where the road turns sharply right is the parking area. It’s a 10-15 minute easy/moderate walk down to the beach. Once there you’ll discover a perfect crescent bay with white sand, good snorkeling, and trails to explore the surrounding areas. Insider tip…if the seas are rough on the North shore, head to Salt Pond where it will almost certainly be calm. This is also the start of the Ram Head Trail.

Lameshur Bay

This off-the-beaten-path gem is located 1.5 miles past the Salt Pond parking area. The last stretch is unpaved so the short distance will take 15 minutes. There are actually 2 bays. You reach Great Lameshur first — a long, rocky, crescent beach where access isn’t super easy. Next door is the real charmer, Little Lameshur, with some of the best snorkeling on St. John. The beach offers soft, white sand and the bay is very protected and usually very calm (except when weather is coming out of the South). There are great trails around and cool ruins to explore.

Reef Bay

This is really 2 distinct places. There’s one Reef Bay beach at the end of the Reef Bay Trail, accessed mid-island from Centerline Road. The trail is awesome, moderate to strenuous heading down, and quite strenuous going back up. At the bottom there are ruins and an isolated coastline with ever changing sand and rocks. The crystal clear water is incredibly refreshing after the hike. The other Reef Bay (also called Parrot Bay) is accessed from the Reef Bay subdivision beyond Fish Bay, down an easy/moderate trail, about 10 minutes to the water. The trail head can be a bit tricky to find; look for other vehicles parked along the road for no apparent reason. This is an amazing spot with incredible views of St. John’s rugged Southern coast. There’s good coral here and there and a sometimes a surf break that attracts a few surfers. If you like to get off the beaten path, go here and you won’t be disappointed.

 

Hart Bay

This is an awesome pebble beach with sand here and there, located down an easy trail right in the Chocolate Hole neighborhood. There’s pretty good snorkeling in spots, with rock formations, coral, and sea life. The seas can get quite rough when weather is coming from the Southeast. We love the vibe of this usually deserted beach. If you’re staying at Down Yonder Villa or the Garden Suite, it’s a 10-15 minute walk to the trail head and another 10 minutes to the beach. Walk up Southshore Road towards town, take the first left on Chocolate East Road, then the first left on Tamarind Road, keep to the right and you’ll see a small sign for Hart Bay in front of a small parking area.

Chocolate Hole Bay

This is the other walkable beach from Down Yonder Villa or the Garden Suite. Same directions like you’re going to Hart Bay, except don’t turn left on Tamarind Road, keep straight on Chocolate East until you reach the Pond Bay development. There are two public parking areas, the first one is paved and the second one isn’t. The beach is mostly rocky with a little sand here and there, but it’s a great place to walk and explore. There’s surprisingly good snorkeling on either side of the bay, especially near the point.