Leah Randall – St. John has been a seasonal island home for me since 2004 and a permanent home since 2013. I want nothing more than for you to appreciate this island as much as I do, so allow me to share some of my favorite beaches with you. Whether you’re a resident or a visitor, I hope this article is relevant and gives you fresh information. If you have some favorite spots to add, by all means, please share in the comments. Hope you like my picks!
1. Cinnamon Bay
Cinnamon Bay is a very popular beach and it’s no secret why. Cinnamon is one of the longest stretches of beach on St. John with its east side relaxing beautifully in to the lazy palms. Cinnamon is impossible not to love.
Cinnamon comes packed with everything from fresh water showers and restrooms to a café ready to make you a painkiller and a meal! On the main beach, you will find leaning, tall palms – the exact photo everyone wants for their screen saver. Cinnamon Cay (a cay is a small island) is within swimming distance and is completely worth a snorkel.
One thing that should not be missed at Cinnamon is the National Park Museum. The Park doesn’t just protect 66% of St. John from development, they also do great archaeological work to teach us more about St. John’s past. Discover colonial and Taino artifacts, intricate pieces of Delftware and porcelain, and even cannonballs. Make sure to stop by and support St. John’s effort to catalog the history of our beautiful island.
2. Maho Bay
Located mid-island, Maho is one of the best beaches St. John has to offer. With incredibly easy access (you literally park and walk across the road!), calm waters, and tall palms, Maho is a definite don’t miss! Maho’s ocean floor is mostly sand and seagrass which is the type of environment sea turtles and stingrays love. You are likely to see one if not both of these docile creatures here. Remember to only observe these magical creatures. Do not touch!
Don’t write off Maho and think she doesn’t have a reef to offer you. If you snorkel to the east towards Little Maho out to the small point, you will find a healthy reef full of life. The last time I snorkeled this reef, I saw the longest speckled moray I have ever seen, an octopus, a lobster, and countless varieties of coral and fish.
I happen to think Leinster/Annaberg/Waterlemon is about as good as it gets. If I had to select one spot to see on all of St. John, this is it – a definite don’t miss! First off, as soon as you step out of your car, vistas of blue and teal water sparkling in the sun spread before you.
Walk to your right, you will see the road take a sharp turn up. This takes you to the Annaberg Sugar Mill Ruins. Oh my gosh, GO! The ruins. The views. The flowers on the way up. All of it. Soak it in. These are the views that rock you to your core and it’s why we love these islands.
When you are done, go back down and turn right down the tree covered path bordered by the surf. This walk takes about 20 minutes but it’s fairly easy and level. After 20 minutes, you will be at the beach. Waterlemon is one of our fly fishing spots on the island. The long stretch of shallow water extends to a drop off where you can catch a variety of fish. Walk around to the point and snorkel across to the small island. Waterlemon Cay is a stunning snorkel. I did this just the other day and found abundant elkhorn coral, schools of sergeant majors, blue tang, and a rare flounder.
Last time I was at Waterlemon with my boyfriend, we got very close to a pelican. We have a joke that everytime we see a pelican, it is the same bird, and his name is Fredrick. Fredrick is quite dignified, dates a flamingo named Francine, surely has an English accent, and undoubtedly will appear in my future blogs. He is quite the mover and shaker, so maybe you will see Fredrick too!
All in all, this spot is insanely awesome and I seriously say, do not miss it!
4. Hansen Bay
Far from the ferry dock and the hustle and bustle of Cruz Bay, you will find a pristine, locally loved oasis known as Hansen Bay.
A fact that is not well known about the beaches of St. John is how they are owned. Outside of the National Park, all the coastlines of St. John are public. It is access to these stunning shorelines which is regulated and restricted. At the East End’s Hansen Bay, the two ladies who own the property leading up to the shoreline have made a strong and noticed commitment to making Hansen Bay a beach which can be loved and enjoyed by all.
For a donation to their operations and a small fee of $2.50 to park, you are welcome to enjoy the beach, picnic tables, and a variety of water sports and toys. They often have cook outs to be enjoyed by all. This is one of the only beaches on St. John which allows dogs! While out this way, take the drive along the East End (Rt. 10) for some really spectacular views!
5. Salt Pond
When it comes to feeling close to nature, your destination is Salt Pond, Ram Head and Drunk Bay. Go out to Coral Bay and head south at the Triangle. (The first large intersection in Coral Bay.) Drive 3 miles and park at the lot near the sign for Salt Pond near the end of the road. Heading out, you will see views unlike anything else you’ve seen on your stay. Gaze out over John’s Folly toward Leduck – the bird’s eye views of shallow reef laying under the constant swell of the Caribbean Sea will never disappoint.
Once you reach Salt Pond, pack up the things you need and walk down the trail (0.25 mile). Salt Pond is a beautiful white sand beach with great snorkeling. The beach on its own could be a destination for an entire day but if you are looking for more to do, hike out to Ram Head or walk over to Drunk Bay to beach comb for treasures.
The hike up Ram Head Trail is enough to get your heart pumping but you will not notice because of the captivating cobblestone beaches, rocky points ravaged by the swell of the sea, and panoramic vistas. Ram Head is the perfect spot to watch the sunrise or gaze at the full moon. One of the best things about the hike is returning to the crystal blue waters of Salt Pond to dive in.
Remember to do something different every day. Don’t be afraid to go off the typical path. Allow yourself to become a short-timer rather than a tourist by understanding, appreciating, and respecting the sites you are seeing. Give a little more love to St. John by bringing a trash bag with you and picking up a few non-native items on the coastline which belong in the dumpster rather than in the sand. Enjoy!