from St. John Beach Guide ©
2006 Gerald Singer
Francis Bay is a beach that really invites you to settle down and
stay a while. It's an ideal beach for a picnic. The bay faces
west, leeward of the trade winds and tends to be calmer than
other north shore beaches.
During the week, there are not many visitors here, and because
the beach is so big, it is almost always possible to find a nice
If you are coming from Cruz Bay via Route 20, proceed to Maho Bay
where the road leaves the shoreline and turns inland towards
the right. From here, continue about 1.5 miles where you will
come to an intersection with the road that runs along the Leinster
Bay shoreline. Turn left and go to the stone building, which
will be on your right. You can park here and take the walking
trail or continue straight to the end of the road where you can
park near the beach.
If you are arriving from Cruz Bay via Centerline Road, turn left
at the Colombo Yogurt stand. Go down the hill and turn right at
the first intersection. This will take you to the Leinster Bay
shoreline where you will turn left and proceed to either the parking
area by the stone building and take the walking trail or directly
to the parking area by the beach.
Portable toilets are located at the main parking area where there
is also a dumpster for trash. Picnic tables and barbecues can be
found nestled between the trees at the edge of the beach.
The Francis Bay Trail runs
along the salt pond behind the beach and is an excellent place
for bird watching, especially early in the morning.
Snorkelers take note, Francis Bay can be crowded - not with people,
but with fish and sea birds.
Millions of fry frequent the shallow fringing reef along Francis
Bay's rocky north shore. These small silvery fish travel in close
proximity to one another in large schools that look like underwater
On the outskirts of these living clouds, in slightly deeper water,
lurk predators, such as jacks, yellowtail snapper, Spanish mackerel,
barracuda as well as some respectfully-sized tarpon and pompano.
Every now and then, one of these larger fish will attack, moving
quickly into the glittery mass. The fry are extremely sensitive
to minute changes in water currents and can sense the approach
of the hunters. In a burst of speed they move away from the oncoming
predators. Some are successful and some are eaten. Some breach
the surface of the water, fly through the air and splash back into
the sea. This splash, however, puts them into yet more danger.
Waiting pelicans, gulls and brown boobies swoop down in the vicinity
of the splash scooping up their unsuspecting prey.
In the midst of all this activity, large schools of French grunts,
oblivious to the drama around them, hover, almost motionless, over
and around colorful live coral. Parrotfish and blue tang swim about,
grazing on algae. Little damselfish defend their self-proclaimed
territories by darting menacingly at intruders that are often much
larger than them.
A closer look will reveal all sorts of beautiful and mysterious
sea creatures like small eels, feather duster and Christmas tree
worms, brightly colored sponges and gracefully swaying gorgonians
like the colorful sea fan.
In the underwater grasslands just seaward of the reef, snorkelers
may be fortunate enough to see large green sea turtles often accompanied
by bar jacks that follow along just inches above the turtle's back.
In this area, one may also see southern stingrays, conch and trunkfish.
Novices who feel more comfortable close to shore can have a rewarding
snorkel around the rocks on the south side of the bay between Francis
and Little Maho or over the seagrass that lies in shallow water
on the other end of the beach.
Bring your snorkel gear and join the crowd.