Favorite North Shore Beaches of St. John
This is a short list of only a few of the beautiful beaches on St. John. When you rent a car from Varlack Ventures you have the freedom to explore St. John and all of the beautiful scenery. St. John is the most quiet of the three Virgin Islands, mostly because a large percent of the island is uninhabited and protected by the United States National Park.
Trunk Bay Beach
North Shore Rd., Rte. 20, about 2½ mi (4 km) east of Cruz Bay, Trunk Bay,
St. John, United States Virgin Islands
St. John's most-photographed beach is also the preferred spot for beginning snorkelers because of its underwater trail. (Cruise-ship passengers interested in snorkeling for a day flock here, so if you're looking for seclusion, arrive early or later in the day.) Crowded or not, this stunning beach is one of the island's most beautiful. There are changing rooms with showers, bathrooms, a snack bar, picnic tables, a gift shop, phones, lockers, and snorkeling-equipment rentals. The parking lot often overflows, but you can park along the road.
North Shore Rd., Rte. 20, about 2 mi (3 km) east of Cruz Bay,
Hawksnest Bay, St. John, United States Virgin Islands
Sea grape and waving palm trees line this narrow beach, and there are restrooms, cooking grills, and a covered shed for picnicking. A patchy reef just offshore means snorkeling is an easy swim away, but the best underwater views are reserved for ambitious snorkelers who head farther to the east along the bay's fringes. Watch out for boat traffic—a channel guides dinghies to the beach, but the occasional boater strays into the swim area. It's the closest drivable beach to Cruz Bay, so it's often crowded with locals and visitors.
Cinnamon Bay Beach
North Shore Rd., Rte. 20, about 4 mi (6 km) east of Cruz Bay,
Cinnamon Bay, St. John, United States Virgin Islands
Excellent snorkeling off the point to the right; look for the big angelfish and large schools of native fish. Afternoons on Cinnamon Bay can be windy—a boon for windsurfers but an annoyance for sunbathers—so arrive early to beat the gusts. The Cinnamon Bay hiking trail begins across the road from the beach parking lot; ruins mark the trailhead. There are actually two paths here: a level nature trail (signs along it identify the flora) that loops through the woods and passes an old Danish cemetery, and a steep trail that starts where the road bends past the ruins and heads straight up to Route 10.
Francis Bay Beach
North Shore Rd., Rte. 20, ¼ mi (½ km) from Annaberg intersection,
Francis Bay, St. John, United States Virgin Islands
Because there's little shade, this beach gets toasty warm in the afternoon when the sun comes around to the west, but the rest of the day it's a delightful stretch of white sand. The only facilities are a few picnic tables tucked among the trees and a portable restroom, but folks come here to watch the birds that live in the swampy area behind the beach. The park offers bird-watching hikes here on Sunday morning; sign up at the visitor center in Cruz Bay. To get here, turn left at the Annaberg intersection.
Native Plants & Animals
The 12,600 acres of paradise appeared above sea level approximately 120 million years ago and, primarily volcanic in its origin, it has a varied terrain offering moist subtropical forests as well as arid desert vegetation. Today's forests are vastly different from the ones in the early colonial period which were subsequently cleared for crops. Many of the slow growing hardwood trees that originally covered the island are rare now in the second and third growth forests. The annual rainfall on the island can vary from 45-55 inches in the moist forest areas to 25-35 inches in the drier parts. The moist forests can be found mostly along the island's north shore and at higher interior island elevations where evergreen and deciduous trees can grow as high as 75 ft or more. The eastern and southeastern areas and the low lying coastal areas have a much dryer forest vegetation with many sorts of cactuses. Along the shoreline you will find the mangrove forests - where mangroves grow in the ocean, their roots protecting the shorelines and acting as havens for many marine creatures.
The clear warm waters surrounding St. John support a diverse and intriguing complex of coral reefs. The term coral reef refers to an integrated marine community, a functioning assortment of creatures. Sunlight, clear water and the warmth, between 70 and 80 degrees, along with the cleansing water currents nurture the slow growth of a coral colony. Anchors, a swimmer's flipper, and the runoff of sediment from shore edge development can destroy instantly what has taken decades, even centuries to grow. Preservation of the reefs is one of the Virgin Islands National Park's primary goals.
St. John is a sanctuary for animals as diverse as sea turtles, and reef fish, mongoose, deer, gecko and iguana lizards. More than 30 species of tropical birds breed on the island including the the Bananaquit, also known as the Sugar Bird, the black smooth-billed ani, and two species of Caribbean hummingbirds. Many warblers and other birds seen in continental United States in the summer spend their winters in the dense forests.
PLEASE NOTE: IT IS ILLEGAL TO TOUCH, CHASE or HARASS SEA TURTLES.
The reefs of the Virgin Islands are a wonder of color and marine life. We have 3 species of sea-turtles, the Green and the Hawksbill being the most common and the rare Leatherback making an occasional appearance.
While exploring our reefs it's very important not to walk on, touch or fin-slap the reefs. We do have dangerous wildlife such as the Stonefish, Fireworms and Sea Urchins. If you remain on the sand you'll be safe. We also don't want to crush baby corals which might be on the reef starting to grow. Keep an eye out of them when wading in shallow waters, particularly near rock outcroppings.
Donkeys & goats roam the island freely. At one time the donkeys were the primary form of transportation. Carrying the island's inhabitants and cargo from Coral Bay to Cruz Bay on the historic trails that run the length of the island. Donkeys have been known to invade campsites startle you awake you at night with their loud braying. They look mild but don't believe it. Do not pet or try to feed them and keep your distance when photographing them. Both donkeys and goats cause havoc to un-gated gardens. The goats, cows and pigs you see around look unattended but are all the property of someone. It is a mystery to many on the island how they are identified.
The small Indian mongoose was brought to the islands in the 1800’s as a method for controlling rat populations on sugar plantations. The intent was unsuccessful however because rats are primarily night creatures and mongooses day. They adapted well and are now common Virgin Island creatures, living primarily in rock crevices and holes AND although they were unsuccessful at controlling the rat population their fierce hunting abilities have led to the 7 extinctions in the West Indies. Mongooses are monogamous. When the mate of a mongoose dies the survivor will never mate again.
The Sugar Bird is the official bird of the Virgin Islands and can be seen in large numbers swooping into the open aired restaurants offering bowls of sugar to attract them.
There are over 800 species of plants on St. John many sporting vividly colored flowers such as the large and showy Prickly Cactus blossoms. The tall and aromatic Frangipani trees and many brightly colored Hibiscus plants. Tropical fruit trees such as guavaberry, sugar apples, mangos, and bananas are also in abundance.
Plants are a core ingredient to the life style and traditions of islanders. Canoes were carved from trees, baskets made from vines, and, as in all earth-locked cultures, many ailments were treated with salves or teas made from roots, branches, leaves or fruits of indigent plant forms. Recipes for such treatments have been passed down through the generations.
The island is full of tales of aphrodisiacs. Besides the well known use of raw oysters and sea eggs (roe of the white sea urchin found in the shallow waters surrounding the islands) the islanders have ways of preparing the Cats Paw, a local vine, and the Irish Moss, a fan shaped marine plant that grows along the shorelines. When mixed with milk, honey, vanilla and often rum this sea moss becomes a choice St. Jonian aphrodisiac
Century Plants are the Christmas Tree of St. John. If you are on the island in the spring you will notice sudden upshots of tall asparagus like plants that grow often to close to 30 feet. The bright yellow buds sprinkle the hills across the island. This plant only blooms once in its lifetime, after a few glorious weeks the blooms fade and become hard as the tree dies. Residents search out these crisp remnants and take them home to decorate as Christmas trees.
You will recognize the Tourist Tree ... that is the tree that is red and peeling...
The tall cylindrical Kapok tree with its strong wood and carving ease has been used by
St. Jonians for canoe making since the 1700s. The fluffy seed pod was also used in the colonial era to stuff mattresses and chair pads, and now is often used to stuff boat cushions and lifejackets