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Haulover Bay South Side

St. John Virgin Islands Beaches: Hawksnest Bay

Excerpted from St. John Beach Guide

Why Hawksnest?
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" after work.

Getting There
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 flush toilets.

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.

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Hawksnest Bay looking west
hawksnest bay st john usvi
Hawksnest Bay Afternoon

Hawksnest faces east and is lit by the St. John 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.



hawksnest bay st john usvi
Kids Playing at Hawksnest
hawksnest bay st john virgin islands
Hawksnest Palms
hawksnest seagrapes
Hawksnest Thru Seagrape Trees


hawksnest bay st john usvi
Rock Scramble to
Little Hawksnest


Little Hawksnest
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 sea.


public hawsnest st john virgin islands
Hawksnest Bay


The Name
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.

hawksnest bay
Hawksnest Bay looking east

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 is.

Hawksnest Bay is home to an abundance of fish and sea creatures, which seem content to observe you observe them. Have fun!

St. John Life Blog Entry - Hawksnest Snorkel

hawksnest nosrkel
shallow beginner snorkel
along black rocks

Beginner Snorkel
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.

Little Hawksnest Snorkel
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.