Trunk Bay, St. John — Photo courtesy of Karen Elowitt
The beaches on St. John are rightly known as some of the most perfect in the Caribbean, owing to their pristine white sand, gently swaying palms, and ridiculously calm, clear turquoise water. Adding to their appeal is the fact that these beaches are not urban: since most of St. John is undeveloped National Park land, you'll be surrounded only by jungle (and maybe some wild donkeys), instead of hotels and restaurants.
Cinnamon Bay beach, St. John — Photo courtesy of Karen ElowittThe north shore beaches are the best of the best: this seemingly endless string of sheltered coves and bays contain beaches which command awe and admiration from visitors from around the world. Starting with Caneel Bay, and continuing through Hawksnest Bay, Cinnamon Bay, Trunk Bay, and Maho Bay, these beaches offer absurdly clear water, powdery sand, and numerous watersports opportunities.
If you want a full suite of amenities such as bar, changing rooms, watersports concessions and even camping, Cinnamon Bay is ideal. For snorkeling, Trunk Bay is most renowned, due the underwater trail just offshore. And don't forget that you'll also find some smaller (but also sweet) beaches tucked into the north shore line, including Jumbie Bay, Francis Bay and Gibney Beach.
There are also some great beaches down on the southern tip of the island, but you have to work a bit to get to them. For example Salt Pond Bay, at the tip of the Ram Head peninsula, rewards you with quiet seclusion and great snorkeling, but only after trekking about 10 minutes down a rocky trail. And Little Lameshur Bay can be accessed by car, but you have to navigate a rough dirt road for about a half mile once you reach the end of route 107.
Leinster Bay, St. John — Photo courtesy of Karen ElowittTo the east, check out Leinster Bay, which encompasses Mary Creek on the west and Waterlemon Bay on the east. This area is better known for the snorkeling at its excellent shallow fringing reef than for its actual beach, which is rather rocky, except for a portion of Waterlemon Bay. You have to walk down a long dirt trail from the parking area to get to the good parts of the bay, but once you do you'll realize why it was worth the trek: the water is bathtub-clear, and the abundant sea creatures you'll encounter include small sharks, rays, and giant parrotfish.