Cinnamon Bay is one of our favorite beaches on St. John. If you haven’t been for awhile, watch this video of our recent visit to see for yourself what an amazing beach it is!
Cinnamon Bay, at about 1 mile, is the National Park’s longest beach. There is good snorkeling around Cinnamon Bay Cay, a short swim from shore. The clear waters will tempt you to spend your time swimming and snorkeling, while the beautiful turquoise water and sugar white sand will call you to spread your beach blanket and relax. Don’t forget to check out the hiking trail through the Cinnamon Bay Plantation ruins just across from the beach parking area (see a previous blog post)
Welcome to Trunk Bay, widely considered one of the most pristine, best-preserved beaches in the Caribbean. It has perfect blue water, and features a 225-yard long underwater snorkeling trail and .3 miles of a soft white sand beach to walk on. Trunk Bay is commonly considered one of the best beaches in the world and is certainly one of the most popular on St. John. In fact, in 2013 Travel + Leisure ranked this beach as one of the “Best Beaches on Earth.” Watch this video to see why a visit to Trunk Bay is a must on your visit to St. John!
On your way from Cruz Bay stop at the Trunk Bay overlook to take photos that will make all your friends back home jealous.
Trunk Bay is often mobbed, since it is the most popular stop for organized day trips from St. Thomas and the cruise ships. To avoid the crowds come early or late, but do come–this is what Caribbean beach dreams are made of.
One of the shortest and easiest hikes on St. John (about 100 yards) is the Peace Hill trail. The short hike up the trail from the parking area takes you up to the aptly named Peace Hill. At the top of the grassy knoll is a wonderful early plantation windmill ruin. Peace Hill looks over Hawksnest Bay to the West and Denis Bay and Trunk Bay to the East. From the top you can also see Cinnamon, Great Thatch, Tortola and Jost van Dyke. The views are worth the walk … so don’t miss this one! Watch this video to see the views for yourself and make sure to visit Peace Hill on your next trip.
Sometimes called St. John’s “secret beach,” Gibney is a little secluded beach that can be hard to plan a day around because there is only parking for a handful of cars. If you’re lucky enough to get a parking spot, enjoy a quiet day on a picturesque beach with gorgeous views across the bay to Hawksnest and Caneel. Watch this video to see the beauty of Gibney beach for yourself!
Gibney Beach takes its name from the Gibney family that established a home in the 1950s on the land behind the beach at the southern side of Hawksnest Bay.
Located about a 1/4 mi east of Hawksnest Bay’s parking area. Visitors can access this beach via the Oppenheimer Beach iron gate. Parking is very limited – and you should not block the gate-access! From here you’ll walk down to Oppenheimer Beach and follow the shoreline to your left as you face the water. Take care not to disturb the privacy of the Gibney family or their guests. About 100 yards down the beach you’ll find a wonderful white sand beach.
Like many of St John’s beaches, entry is shallow with moderate waves! Sandy bottom extends out 20 – 30 yards! Due to the September, 2017 hurricanes, Irma and Maria, many of the majestic coconut palms that once lined this beach are gone. But the survivors are making a comeback – and it won’t be long before the iconic shadow of a palm tree extends across this beach again!
Cinnamon Bay is the National Park’s longest beach. This great beach offers snorkeling, swimming, and a long, wide beach. . There is good snorkeling around Cinnamon Bay Cay, a short swim from shore. The clear waters will tempt you to spend your time swimming and snorkeling, while the beach will call you to spread your beach blanket and relax. Across from the beach and campground entrance/parking area is a hiking trail through the Cinnamon Bay Plantation ruins. Check out this video to see what a visit to Cinnamon Bay has in store for you.
Hurricane Irma destroyed the small archeological museum. This is what remains.
Here’s another view of the picture perfect beach. Plan to stay a while!
Hawksnest Beach is a favorite beach for both St. John locals and visitors alike, and a preferred beach for families with children. The reason for this is that Hawksnest is not only one of the most beautiful beaches on St. John, it is also the most convenient. It’s the closest beach you can drive to from Cruz Bay and the parking lot is close to the beach. Here’s a video of what it’s like to walk along Hawksnest Beach.
Hawksnest Beach also offers the closest reef to shore, coming right up to the sand. The snorkeling is easy and there is some great elk horn coral here. You do need to pay attention to how close you get the reef with your body and fins because the water gets pretty shallow in spots. It is best to snorkel Hawksnest when the bay is calm and there are no north shore swells.
For those considering a day trip to Anegada from St. John, you can easily do so. If you happen to be on St. John the first Sunday of the month, InterIsland Ferry Company has a reasonably priced day trip. Yes, it’s a long day but the change in scenery and the incredible beaches make it worthwhile. We did the trip ourselves in June and here’s a video of what it’s like to visit this paradise.
Anegada is the northernmost of the British Virgin Islands. It lies approximately 15 miles (24 km) north of Virgin Gorda and is about 55 miles from St. John. Anegada is formed from coral and limestone, rather than being of volcanic origin. While the other islands are mountainous, Anegada is flat and low. It is the only all-coral atoll in the VI and a mere 28 feet above sea level. Anegada is known for miles of white sand beaches and the 18-mile (29 km)-long Horseshoe Reef, the largest barrier coral reef in the Caribbean. Aside from the Lobster for which Anegada is mostly known, it is also great for surfing, it is the Virgin Island that is most exposed to the swell.
The sand is even whiter and pinker than on St. John (since it is of coral and limestone) and that gives the water an absolutely amazing turquoise color. The island is very laid back and relaxed. It is amazing how chill you will feel during your time here.
We rented a Mini-Moke for the day (as seen in the video above) and it was an absolute blast exploring the island on this dune buggy like vehicle. You can easily see the whole island in a day if you want to. We would recommend checking out Cow Wreck Beach to truly have lobster in paradise! The Anegada Beach Club was also a great place to hang out.
Located along North Shore Road, between Hawksnest Bay and Trunk Bay, is Jumbie Beach. Because Jumbie is often overlooked for more popular beaches like Trunk bay and parking is fairly limited – Jumbie Beach is a great spot to enjoy a quiet stretch of St John beach. Check out this video to see what it’s like to visit this gem!
Jumbie is a small beach, only about 60 yards long. There’s parking for about 6 vehicles in the designated parking across the road. Then it’s just a short walk along a narrow path.
There you’ll find a crescent shaped beach of white sand. Sea Grapes offer some shade especially in the late afternoon. Entry is shallow. Waves and surf are usually calm to moderate. But due to it’s orientation, wind and weather Jumbie can have high surf at times!
Jumbie Bay is more exposed to the trade winds than most of the neighboring north shore beaches and the water can get choppy on windy days. On the positive side, the breeze can be refreshing and the rough water is very dramatic!
From the beach at Jumbie Bay you can see Trunk Bay and the islands of Jost Van Dyke, Green Cay, Whistling Cay, Trunk Cay and Great Thatch.
There’s certainly no shortage of ruins on St John, and most of our favorite hikes include a ruin or two. One of our favorite ruins can be found by hiking the America Hill spur of the Cinnamon Bay trail. Not only are the ruins attractive, the views of the north shore of St John are stunning. Watch this video to see what you will experience on the great St. John hike.
The trail starts 100 yards past Cinnamon Bay’s entrance on North Shore Road. The trailhead is marked by a sign for “Cinnamon Bay Trail” (there’s another sign along the way for the America Hill spur). It’s adjacent to the Cinnamon Bay Ruins and there is a place for one or two cars to park or you can just park at the Cinnamon Bay beach lot. This is a great hike to take before heading to the beach at Cinnamon Bay.
The hike up is steep at first, and fairly exposed, but as you cross the gut it levels out a bit and becomes shadier & cooler. Once you reach the America Hill Spur, which is not very far up Cinnamon Bay Trail, it’s only about five more minutes to the ruins. The walls of the house are mostly intact, and you can see where the remains of the front steps were.
The ruins were once home to sugar cane plantations and bay rum distilleries, the most prosperous on island. Today, the remnants of the old rum factory are still prominent, and when you reach the top of your hike, you’ll be able to see the ruins and enjoy the stunning views over to Maho Bay, Francis Bay and Tortola. These unforgettable views, with the ruins and forests all around, make this hike one of our favorites and certainly worth the effort.
The Reef Bay Trail in the U.S. Virgin Islands National Park holds the secrets of St.John’s tropical forests, sugar mill ruins, and ancient petroglyphs. The two-mile trail explores the depths of the island, featuring a steep rocky terrain, 40 foot waterfall, and a freshwater pond near the trail’s end. When adventuring from your St. John Escape vacation home, pack a light lunch, plenty of water, and a swimsuit to take a dip.
Watch this video to see what this classic St. John hike is like:
You will find off road parking at the Reef Bay trailhead along Centerline Road about halfway between Cruz Bay and Coral Bay. The rocky trail descends steeply from 900 feet above sea level to the rocky beach at Reef Bay. Bring plenty of water, bug spray, and wear sturdy walking shoes.
The National Park Service is currently not offering their guided hike option that included a return to Cruz Bay by boat. This means you will have to hike both down and back up the trail. The long steep, uphill walk back is far more difficult than the descent. This should not be a problem for those in good physical condition who may even enjoy the challenge. Make sure to pace yourself and bring plenty of water. It may also be a good idea to plan a picnic either at the petroglyphs or at the beach near the sugar factory. A cooling swim at Genti or Little Reef Bay is another pleasant way to prepare for the walk up the valley.
A hike through the tropical forests of St. John wouldn’t be complete without some beautiful water features. Along the Reef Bay trail you will sometimes find a stunning 40-foot waterfall, with a freshwater pool at the base. Whether or not you see the waterfall depends on how recently it has rained. Fresh water at the bottom provides a home for a shrimp, frogs, fish, hummingbirds, and dragonflies. This is a great spot to take a rest or have your lunch.
There are some historic elements along the Reef Bay Trail that will catch your attention. The sugar mill ruins along the Reef Bay Trail remind you of a different era on the island and carry a dark shadow of history. Another historic element is visible on the rocks surrounding the freshwater pool near the trail’s end. Here, you will see some mysterious carvings. Archaeologists believe that these carvings are in fact sacred symbols carved by Taino Indians over 1,000 years ago. These petroglyphs are a great historic treat at the end of a great hike.
Awaiting you at the bottom of the trail is lovely Reef Bay beach.