from St. John Beach Guide
Maho is the only north shore beach that you can drive right up to. It's
the very informality of this beautiful and often-photographed beach that
makes it so special. It's right there by the side of the road, no parking
lots or signs, just the beach. Stately groves of coconut palms line both
sides of the road. Just pull over under a maho tree and there you are!
In addition to its convenience, Maho Bay is calm and shallow, making
it a great place to bring the kids, get them used to the water or teach
them how to swim.
Maho Bay is located about 1.25 miles past Cinnamon Bay or 5.2 miles past
Mongoose Junction going east on Route 20. Park off the side of the road.
There is a National Park pavilion on the extreme western portion of the
beach. A permit must be obtained from the park in order to use this facility.
This permit will also entitle you to use the bathrooms to the west of
the pavilion, which are otherwise locked and not available to the general
public. The park will explain the rules and conditions pertaining to the
use of the pavilion. (Call the National Park at 776-6201.)
At the eastern part of the beach there is a trail, called the Goat Trail,
which leads to the Maho Bay Campground at Little Maho Bay.
Maho Bay was named after the Hibiscus tilaceus or beach maho, a tree commonly
found on the St. John shoreline and throughout the tropics. The beach
Maho has a distinctive heart-shaped leaf and produces attractive yellow
flowers that later turn purple. The small green fruit of the maho is not
edible, but a bush tea can be made from the leaf.
Interestingly, Maho Bay, now a relatively narrow beach, was once one
of the widest beaches in St. John. The "horse kids" of St. John
took advantage of this characteristic, as well as the great length of
the beach, to have horse races on the sand. The narrowing of the beach
came as a result of the removal of sand by the government to construct
Cruz Bay roads and the Julius Sprauve School. This was done at a time
when the dynamics of sand production and sand loss were not yet understood.
In the summer, the genip tree by the side of the road produces some of
the sweetest genips on St. John.
Snorkeling Maho Bay
The waters off Maho Bay are calm and shallow. The bay is well sheltered
and is a popular anchorage for yachts from the Virgin Islands and Puerto
Rico, especially on long weekends. The sea bottom is a mixture of soft
sand and seagrass, although there has been a proliferation of algae lately.
In the past, Maho Bay was a great source of conch and sea turtles. The
stresses of sand removal, anchor damage and over-fishing have all but
eliminated the conch population, but sea turtles, now protected by law,
can still often be found here.
The shoreline on the southern coast of the bay provides an interesting
area to explore, as is the rocky shoreline and fringing reef on the north
going out towards the Campground at Little Maho Bay, especially around
the point that separates the two bays.