Maho Bay Snorkel Review
If you're looking to find a spot with calm, shallow water that is well protected from the wind that often plagues other St. John beaches, Maho Bay is a good north shore location to set up camp. This popular beach can be kind of tricky to find because there isn’t a clearly marked sign off the road to direct you to the beach. There are general signs (sea turtle nesting, beach rules, etc.), but no giant, flashing, neon sign that says “Maho Bay.” I missed it the first time I passed it, but turned myself around when I realized it was in the right location on the map (just east of Cinnamon Bay). There is a decently sized parking lot on the other side of the road from the beach and some nice shower/changing room facilities under construction to the east. When reading about Maho Bay before my trip, all the information I found had said that there was no parking lot near the beach, so this must've been somewhat newly constructed. There are some pavilions and restroom facilities on the west end of the shoreline, the former available for rental.
Know Before You Go
This was the most crowded spot I visited, probably because it was later in the day and had attracted a good amount of visitors once the sun began to shine. It’s a fairly narrow beach, but it’s pretty long. Interestingly enough, it used to be a popular venue for horse races when it was wider but once they built the main road, it narrowed the beach considerably. Maho Bay is wonderful because it’s well protected from the wind and the water is almost always calm, making it an ideal place to bring kids and beginning snorkelers. This was definitely where I saw the most families. Even crowded, it was a very easy to find a quiet stretch of beach to relax.
This is a good snorkeling location for a more mellow outing, appropriate for all skill levels. The two areas to make sure you check out are along the southern coast and the rocky shoreline/riff on the north that separates the main bay from Little Maho Bay. Unfortunately, since the bay sees a lot of docking boats and has been over fished, some of the sea life is depleted, particularly the sea turtle and conch population that used to be so abundant. I did hear a woman shout that she had spotted a stingray, even though I didn’t see one myself. There are other beaches that offer more in terms of variety of fish, but the whole family can enjoy the beach and water at Maho Bay.
Beach Accessibility: 3.5/5
Because Maho Bay isn't clearly marked from the road, it can be a little tricky to spot. When you drive up on it, it's obvious that it's a beach, it's just hard to tell which one. As long as you bring a trusty map along with you, you shouldn't have a problem figuring out where it is. With the nearby parking lot that is literally a stone's throw from the water, you'll can get from Jeep to beach with relative ease.
Maho is a wonderful location to introduce some little ones to snorkeling. Because the bay is protected from wind, you aren't likely to encounter the kind of rough water that makes exploration difficult. However, if you're a more adventurous snorkeler, there isn't as much to see here. A lot of the wildlife isn't as out in the open here because of the yachts that dock nearby that have had an impact on sea life.
As with the rest of St. John's north shore beaches, expect there to be a fair amount of crowding by the time the afternoon rolls around. Because Maho Bay has a narrower beach than some others on the island, it might feel a little more crowded than a bay with more room to lounge.