Hawksnest Beach is a favorite of St. John locals' 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 gear. In the late afternoon, many locals come to Hawksnest to "take a soak" after work.
To get there starting from Mongoose Junction in Cruz Bay, 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 (340-776-6201). Uncovered picnic tables and barbecue grills are also available.
Hawksnest faces east and is lit by 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.
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.