If you’re going to St. John it’s probably because you’re in search of those famed idyllic beaches and the good news is, they don’t disappoint! Most, if not all, of St. John’s famous beaches are located on its north shore starting in Cruz Bay and stretching all the way across the top of the island. Since St. John is part of the Virgin Islands National Park, the majority of the island (especially its shorelines) are protected so you won’t find many resorts or houses directly on any of its beaches. Most people visiting St. John will stay in a vacation rental and drive to different beaches everyday. If you’re staying a week, you could hit up a different beach everyday and still not visit all of the best beaches on St. John. A lot of people spend the week “beach hopping” (one beach in the morning and another one in the afternoon) so they can check all of them out and find their favorites.
Here’s a breakdown of St. John’s north shore beaches that included which ones I loved, which ones I didn’t, which ones have the best snorkeling, and which ones require a decent little hike.
Salomon Bay: This is the first beach you’ll come to after leaving Cruz Bay, and it requires a little trek to get down to it. Once you come up the first big hill leaving Cruz Bay, you’ll come to a small parking area with a national parks sign. Park there and follow the trail down to either Salomon Beach or Honeymoon Beach. Because of the hike, Salomon isn’t usually very crowded. Honeymoon beach has good amenities and some boat excursions stop to snorkel the reef in front of Honeymoon beach so it’s often more crowded. If you’re looking for an easier hike to Salomon, start in Cruz Bay behind the National Parks Visitors Center and you’ll be hiking a bit farther but parallel to the shore the whole time (this saves you the exhausting hike back up to get to your car).
Caneel Bay: Caneel Bay is one of the few places where you’ll find a resort right on the beach (Caneel Bay Resort) but unless you’re staying there, you probably won’t visit the beach there. You’ll either have to park your car along the road and walk in or pay $20 to park at the resort. If you’re only on St. John for a short time, skip it. You’ll find better, more accessible beaches elsewhere.
Hawksnest Beach: Hawksnest is the first wide-open beach you’ll come to on the north shore and that convenience makes it popular. It’s a beautiful wide-open beach but it’s pretty narrow and often times crowded. There’s quite a bit of parking though so if you can find a spot it’s easy to stop, check it out, and see if you want to set up camp there for the day.
Gibney/Oppenheimer Beach: A little further down the road, but still on Hawksnest Bay is one of my favorite spots. You’ll recognize it by the white picket fence (where there’s a few parking spots and there’s also a few more spots just down the road in front of the iron gate). It’s a small beach and the parking situation isn’t the greatest but you’ll want to stop here because this is where the famous tire swing is! I couldn’t resist a photo op.
Jumbie Beach: The next beach you’ll come to is Jumbie. It’s marked with a sign and has about four parking spots across the road. There’s a short hike to the bottom where you’ll find a small beach that’s a little rocky in places. It’s not the best spot for swimming but what I love about this beach are the beautiful cacti growing everywhere.
Trunk Bay: St. John’s most famous beach (most visited and most photographed) doesn’t disappoint. There’s a $5 entrance fee but this beach has all of the amenities you could need including showers, restrooms, a snack bar, and gear rentals (snorkels and chairs). There’s an underwater snorkel trail and you’ll see some incredible coral and fish. Trunk can get crowded so go early in the morning or pick a day when there’s no cruise ships docked in St. Thomas, as it’s a popular excursion.
Cinnamon Bay: If you’re looking for a longer stretch of sand with all of the amenities, Cinnamon is hard to beat. It actually even has a campground. It’s easy to spend a whole day here as there’s plenty of parking, a full service restaurant, showers and changing rooms, gear rentals (including kayaks) and of course a beautiful beach.
Maho Beach: Maho Beach is my favorite beach on St. John. It has an amazing overlook, you can park right next to the beach, the water is super calm, the snorkeling is pretty terrific, it’s a decent sized stretch of sand, and it has a pair of epic palm trees. This is definitely a beach to spend the day at.
Francis Bay: Francis is the last main beach on the north shore, which usually makes it a little less crowded. It also faces a different direction than all of the other north shore beaches so it often has less wind.
Leinster Bay: Leinster Bay and Waterlemon Cay are pretty much the end of the road when it comes to north shore beaches. To reach Leinster, you’ll park at the Annaberg Ruins (ah-mazing!) and take a flat but long trail along the water’s edge until you come to a tiny (and thin) stretch of sand. While Leinster isn’t the best beach on the north shore, the snorkeling is a favorite spot. Wade offshore and snorkel across to Waterlemon Cay. It’s only about 0.1 miles at the closest point (keep hiking past the sandy beach) and one of the best places on St. John to find starfish.
So there’s my rundown of 10 of St. John’s best north shore beaches. But don’t take my word for it, part of the fun in a trip to St. John is exploring them all and finding YOUR favorite. Been to St. John? Come on over to Facebook and tell me which one you love best!
P.S. This post contains some affiliate links but I partner with Trip Advisor because I think they provide the most unbiased reviews.