There are more than a dozen fine beaches on St. John; here are five of the best strands on the least developed (and some would say the most beautiful) of the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Do you like to get active in the water? Then Cinnamon Bay Beach on St. John is the beach for you. This beautiful beach is the location of the Cinnamon Bay campground, which provides inexpensive beachfront accommodations, and vendors offer a variety of watersports activities, including kayaking, windsurfing, and diving equipment. You can also join a pickup volleyball game or hike the Cinnamon Bay nature trail.
Maho Bay Beach
This calm roadside beach is great for kids and families. The beach is shaded by Maho Trees, a typo of hibiscus with heart-shaped leaves and yellow flowers. Look for sea turtles while you swim in the shallow waters. A trail leads to the Maho Bay Camps, which offer tent lodging as well as beach apartments.
Francis Bay Beach
Francis Bay Beach is one of the longest strands on St. John, a mecca for beach walkers as well as sun-worshippers. The sunsets at this west-facing beach are fabulous. Snorkelers will encounter many tropical fish (and the seabirds that feed on them). The Francis Bay Trail is good for bird-watching, too.
Part of Virgin Islands National Park, Trunk Bay is the most popular beach on St. John. The park's world-famous underwater snorkeling trail -- complete with interpretive signs -- begins here. You can also visit the Annaberg Sugar Plantation ruins during your day at the beach. Trunk Bay is considered the most beautiful beach on St. John despite the occasional crowds.
One of four public beaches on Hawksnest Bay, Gibney Beach is a quiet strip of sand fringed by palm trees. The beach has a bohemian reputation and an interesting history -- part of the beach was once owned by Robert Oppenheimer, known as the father of the atomic bomb. Today, it's mostly owned by the U.S. National Park service. This north shore hidden treasure is unmarked from the road, accessible only via a gravel path and on foot. There are a pair of tourist cottages that you can rent on the beach, too.