Maho Bay is located about 1.25 miles past Cinnamon Bay or 5.2 miles past Mongoose Junction going east on Route 20.
There is a Virgin Islands 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.)
Trails 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 Morning
Beach Maho Flower
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.
The waters off Maho Bay are calm and shallow. The sea bottom is a mixture of soft sand and seagrass, where you can observe the creatures that inhabit this important environment such as turtles, rays and conch.
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.
The 438-acre estate Maho Bay, belonged to Harvey Monroe Marsh, who
passed it on to 11 of his heirs, each owning an equal share. The
Virgin Islands National Park purchased three of these shares in
the 1970s and in 2003, the Trust for Public Land, a not-for-profit
conservationist organization bought one share.
From the Trust for Public Land Website
"The Trust for Public Land (TPL) signed a contract in September 2006 to purchase the majority of the 419-acre property, which was owned by 11 heirs of Harvey Monroe Marsh. The acquisition became final in 2007, giving TPL 6/11 interest in the property. While the property has not yet been subdivided, TPL now owns a total of seven interests, with the National Park Service owning an additional three. The 11th is being retained by one of the heirs. As part of the agreement, the heirs are also each retaining a six-acre lot, with the ability to build up to two homes.
TPL will retain 18 acres of the property, located away from the beach, and will sell the property for limited development unless funds can be raised privately to help repay a loan covering the cost of the purchase."