from St. John Beach Guide ©
2006 Gerald Singer
Maho is the only north shore beach that you can drive right up to.
It's the very informality of this beautiful and often-photographed
beach that makes it so special. It's right there by the side
of the road, no parking lots or signs, just the beach. Stately
groves of coconut palms line both sides of the road. Just pull
over under a maho tree and there you are!
In addition to its convenience, Maho Bay is calm and shallow,
making it a great place to bring the kids, get them used to the
water or teach them how to swim.
Maho Bay is located about 1.25 miles past Cinnamon Bay or 5.2 miles
past Mongoose Junction going east on Route 20. Park off the side
of the road.
There is a 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.)
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
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 bay is well sheltered
and is a popular anchorage for yachts from the Virgin Islands
and Puerto Rico, especially on long weekends. The sea bottom
is a mixture of soft sand and seagrass, although there has been
a proliferation of algae lately. In the past, Maho Bay was a
great source of conch and sea turtles. The stresses of sand removal,
anchor damage and over-fishing have all but eliminated the conch
population, but sea turtles, now protected by law, can still
often be found here.
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.
Threat to Maho Bay