Hawksnest Bay in the early
Hawksnest Beach is a St. John locals' favorite and the 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 north shore beach that you can drive to from
Cruz Bay and the parking lot is close to the beach, so there's no need
for a long walk carrying your beach accoutrements. In the late afternoon,
many native St. Johnians come to Hawksnest to "take a soak"
Starting from Mongoose Junction, go 1.8 miles east on route 20. Park in
the Hawksnest parking lot.
Hawksnest Beach provides ample parking, although on some weekend afternoons,
especially when a birthday party or a popular holiday brings more people
out, it may be somewhat tight.
There are pit toilets, but no running water, thus no showers, sinks or
Between the parking area and the beach is a shady wooded area. There
are two pavilions (covered decks with tables) that are often used for
family parties, get-togethers and meetings. These are available on a first
come first serve basis after obtaining permission from the National Park
(776-6201). Uncovered picnic tables and barbecue grills are also available.
Hawksnest faces east and is lit by morning sun, so if you enjoy a refreshing
swim in the early morning light, Hawksnest is an ideal destination. Conversely,
Hawksnest gets shade earlier in the afternoon than other beaches, a plus
to some, a minus to others; it's your choice.
Little Hawksnest is a beautiful and almost forgotten stretch of white
sandy beach just to the west of Hawksnest Beach. If you want to get away
from the crowd to enjoy a little privacy and serenity, Little Hawksnest
is an easy two-minute rock scramble to the west or left, if facing the
European settlers named the bay, Högsnest. The Geographic Dictionary
of the Virgin Islands, written shortly after the United States took control
of the territory, explains that this name is probably "compounded
from the Danish Hög, meaning Hawk, with Dutch or English Nest."
The term "hawk" either referred to the American kestrel, the
little hawk that inhabits the island, or to the hawksbill turtle, which
used to nest on the sandy shore.
Snorkeling Hawksnest Bay
It is best to snorkel Hawksnest on days when the bay is calm and there
are no north swells to churn up the water and diminish visibility.
The reef that begins just a few yards off the center of the beach is
the most popular snorkel at Hawksnest. Snorkel around the perimeter or
over the top of the reef where there is sufficient depth. Here you will
find many large and healthy examples of the elegant orange elkhorn coral
that looks more like a small tree than the colony of animals it actually
Hawksnest Bay is home to an abundance of fish and sea creatures, which
seem content to observe you observe them. Have fun!
To the right facing the water, there is a formation of black rocks that
separates Hawksnest Beach from Gibney Beach. Snorkeling around these rocks
is an excellent way for beginning snorkelers to practice and gain confidence
in a safe, shallow and non-threatening environment while still being able
to observe colorful fish, corals and sea creatures. Look for schools of
small fish such as grunt, fry and goatfish. Watch the parrotfish grazing
the algae and the spunky damselfish defend its territory against all intruders
regardless of size.
top of page
Little Hawksnest is a beautiful almost-forgotten stretch of white sandy
beach just to the west of Hawksnest Beach. If you want to get away from
the crowd and enjoy a little privacy and serenity, Little Hawksnest is
just a two-minute rock scramble to the west, or left if facing the sea.
top of page