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Trunk Bay

St. John USVI Beaches: Trunk Bay

Excerpted from St. John Beach Guide © 2006 Gerald Singer

See Video - Trunk Bay Morning

See Video - Typical Afternoon at Trunk Bay

St. John Life Blog: Trunk Bay Images

"Trunk Bay is the most beautiful beach in the world. I beg your pardon, Magens Bay in St. Thomas, but there can only be one first. I'll make you, first minus one. Trunk Bay has sands white and sparkling, water crystal clear, little fish peeking at your toes,gently rolling swells or mightily pounding surf, all surrounded by coconut palms gracefully waving a welcome. There are also old ruins, if you are nostalgic, sun as hot as you like it, and an under-sea trail for snorkeling and sightseeing. Again our thanks to Rockefeller, who bought our most valuable beach and gave it to the National Park. What an insight into the future! This was once private property with a 'No Trespassing" sign. Today it belongs to all people for their enjoyment and use.
From "Me and My Beloved Virgin" by Guy Benjamin

trunk bay st. john
Kids Playing Trunk Bay

Why Trunk
Why Trunk? Because it’s just so especially beautiful!

Trunk Bay has the most modern and convenient facilities and receives the most visitors of any beach on St. John. It is a breathtakingly beautiful beach, with perfect soft white powdery sand extending into the sea. The beach is bordered coconut palms, seagrapes and beach mahos and the lush tropical vegetation extends into the flat valley floor where the Trunk Bay facilities are located. The turquoise and blue water is crystal-clear and the panoramic view from the beach picture-perfect.

The beach is over a quarter-mile long with a spit of sand that juts out in the direction of Trunk Cay giving the bay a heart-shaped appearance.

st john beaches: trunk bay
Trunk Bay

Getting There
Trunk Bay is three miles from Mongoose Junction heading east on Route 20. Park in the parking lot and stop at the small building that leads to the beach to pay your entrance fee applicable between 7:30 AM and 4:30 PM. The fees are $4.00 for adults and children younger than 16 enter free. Annual passes are available at $10.00 for an individual and $15.00 for a family. Golden Age and Golden Access National Park Passports are accepted.

The Name
The Geographic Dictionary of the Virgin Islands speculates that the name Trunk Bay “may be from either Trunkscildpatt (the giant leatherback turtle) or Trunkfish.” My choice would be that of the impressive leatherback, which can be as much as nine feet long and weigh over 2,000 pounds.

trunk bay st. john
USPS Trunk Bay Stamp

United States Postal Service Trunk Bay Stamp
"St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands May 16, 2008 — a new stamp in the Scenic American Landscapes series that features a photograph of Trunk Bay, St. John, was dedicated today in a first day of issue stamp ceremony at the U.S. Virgin Islands National Park.... Read More

“The stamp is a beautiful rendition of Trunk Bay,” said Priscilla M. Maney, District Manager/Executive-in-Charge of the U.S. Postal Service, Caribbean District.  “St. John is known world-wide for its beautiful beaches and abundant plant life. The 94-cent, St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands international letter rate stamp fully captures its natural wonder. Now millions can enjoy the picturesque beauty of the U.S. Virgin Islands as this stamp carries letters and packages to destinations near and far,” said Maney.

st john beaches: trunk bay palm
Trunk Bay Palm Tree

Showers, bathrooms and changing areas are available between 7:30 AM and 4:30 PM.

Also available are public telephones, picnic tables, barbecue grills and a covered pavilion. (To reserve the covered pavilion for a private event, call the National Park at 776-6201.)

A gift shop provides just about everything you might need while at the beach, such as sun screen, towels, insect repellent, hats, tee-shirts, bathing suits, film, batteries, books, post cards and souvenirs. Lockers, snorkel equipment, flotation devices and beach chairs are available for rent. The gift shop is open from 9:00 AM to 3:30 PM. Rental equipment must be returned by 3:00 PM.

The snack bar is open between 9:00 AM and 4:30 PM.

The organization, Friends of the Park, operate a kiosk staffed by volunteers where you can by books and other park related material. It has been described by one Park Ranger as “a miniature Visitors Center.”

Brief History
The Amerindian inhabitants of St. John, known as the Tainos, established a village at Trunk Bay around 700 AD, which lasted until about 900 AD, when they apparently left in a hurry, evidenced by the archeological find of abandoned cooking pots still filled with food.
In colonial times, Trunk Bay was operated as a sugar estate and prospered until shortly after the emancipation of the slaves, when the entire island underwent a period of economic decline.

In the late 1920s Paul Boulon Sr. used to visit St. John from his home in Puerto Rico. While there he often spent time at the Fishing Club at Denis Bay, which is described by Desmond Holdbridge in his book Escape to the Tropics, written in 1937 as “a quaint institution, now non-existent, where no fishing was ever done.” It was during a Fishing Club get-together that he learned that Trunk Bay and 100 additional acres of land were for sale for $2500.

Paul and his wife, Erva bought the property and built a house on the hill overlooking the eastern end of the beach where they and their four children would spend their summer vacations there. One of the family’s favorite activities was to explore the bay and the little caves around Trunk Cay in their genuine “Old Town” canoe that they had specially sent down from Maine.

The house went unoccupied for several years around the time of World War II. In 1947, Mrs. Boulon and her son Paul returned to St. John, fixed up the house and opened a small hotel that attracted the more adventurous New York literati, journalists, psychoanalysts, theater people and even vacationing FBI agents.

The actors, Richard Widmark and Henry Fonda, and the nuclear scientist, J. Robert Oppenheimer, were frequent guests.

John Dos Pasos, whose books include, Manhattan Transfer, USA Trilogy, Adventures of a Young Man and Orient Express, met and wooed his wife at the Boulon’s guest house, on Trunk Bay, an appropriate venue for this famous author who once summed up his life’s works as “man’s struggle for life against the strangling institutions he himself creates.”

John Gunther, author of such works as Inside Europe, Inside Asia, Inside Latin America, Inside U.S.A., Inside Africa, Inside Russia, Inside Europe, Inside South America, and Inside Australia also vacationed with the Boulons at Trunk Bay. As there was no good road to Trunk Bay at the time, he arrived by sea and came ashore in a dinghy along with his entourage and his luggage. When the dinghy reached the beach, the Boulon’s hotel staff offloaded the luggage and helped the dinghy passengers ashore. Gunther insisted on personally carrying his briefcase, which contained the notes for his work Inside Africa. As he was exiting the craft, he fell into the water causing someone to remark that “Trunk Bay is now Inside Gunther.”

In 1958, The Boulons sold Trunk Bay to Laurance Rockefeller, with the exception of their houses and property on the hillside and small beach on the eastern headland of the bay. Rockefeller then donated this land and most of his other St. John holdings to the National Park. During the ten years that the Boulons operated their quaint pension at Trunk Bay, it was said there were rarely more than five or six people on the beach.

Sunset Weddings
Trunk Bay has become a popular venue for couples seeking a romantic tropical location for their wedding vows.

Avoiding the Crowd
Trunk Bay receives as many as 1,000 visitors per day including locals, cruise ship passengers, party boats, and tourists from the island’s villas and hotels.

Nonetheless, you can still enjoy Trunk Bay in its pristine state as long as you can do without amenities such as life guards, snack bars, shops and showers. All you have to do is arrive early in the morning or late in the afternoon.

Trunk Bay is the home of the National Park’s underwater snorkeling trail. It begins just offshore of the spit of land that juts out toward Trunk Cay and is marked by buoys.

The trail consists of a series of underwater monuments with signs providing environmental information and identifying some of the flora and fauna common to the coral reef.

Fish survey volunteers report that on the average you should see (if not identify) 30 distinct species of fish in a half hour snorkel of the Trunk Bay Underwater Trail.