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.
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.
Hawksnest Bay looking west
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.
Kids Playing at Hawksnest
Hawksnest Thru Seagrape Trees
Rock Scramble to
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.
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 looking east
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
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!
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 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.