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Best Beaches to Visit When We Have Big Swells

Saltwell Bottom and Hansen bays are located within Round Bay on St. John’s East End.

Hello everyone, and welcome to the middle of the week! So as I told you earlier this week, we have a pretty large north swell happening right now. This means that swimming at the north shore beaches – Hawksnest, Trunk and Cinnamon especially – is not safe. There is currently a high risk of rip currents, a high surf advisory, a small craft advisory and dangerous swimming and surf conditions, according to the US National Weather Service out of San Juan. They’re currently forecasting seas up to eight feet with breaking waves up to 13 feet here in the USVI and also over in Puerto Rico. That’s pretty intense.

When we have a north or northeasterly swell (happening right now), it’s best to spend your time at the beaches located on the south side of the island. So until this north swell goes away – it’s forecasted to last through the end of the work week – you will want to swim and snorkel at the following beaches:

Salt Pond Bay

Salt Pond Bay

Salt Pond is located about four miles past Coral Bay. To get there, take Route 10 (Centerline Road) out to the main Coral Bay intersection. Take a right there (if traveling from Cruz Bay), and drive about 10-15 minutes until you se the Salt Pond parking lot on your left. The walk down to Salt Pond is about five minutes. It’s a downhill walk to get there, which means an uphill walk back to your vehicle. There are not a ton of trees at Salt Pond, so be sure to bring sun protection. There is some nice snorkeling at Salt Pond, and the bay will be nice and calm.

Little Lameshur Bay

A view from Little Lameshur
A building at the Little Lameshur plantation

It’s a bit of a journey to get to Little Lameshur, but it’s a pretty beach, one which will also be calm during these swells. To get to Little Lameshur, you will also take Route 10 to Coral Bay. Take a right (again if you’re coming from Cruz Bay), and drive until the pavement ends, which is about 4-5 miles, I believe. Once the pavement ends, there is a mostly dirt road that leads you to Little Lameshur. It is almost a full mile to get out there. You will first past Great Lameshur, which is a rocky beach. Continue a bit further to get to Lameshur, which is sandy. When you’re out there, walk to the end of the road and check out the remnants of the sugar plantation. Not all rental companies allow their vehicles to go out there due to road conditions, so you will want to check that first.

Hansen Bay

Thalia is one of the owners of the property beside Hansen Bay. (2019 pic)

Hansen Bay is located on the East End, about 12 miles from Cruz Bay. It’s pretty easy to get to this beach, as long as you don’t mind driving up and down some pretty big hills. To get here, you will just drive straight down Route 10 until you get there. You will pass through the main intersection of Coral Bay. You will then pass Skinny Legs and Hurricane Hole. After you pass Princess Bay (part of Hurricane Hole), the road will start to get steep. Go up and down a few hills, and eventually you will get to Hansen on your right. It’s a beautiful sandy beach. The owners of the land (they own up to the high tide water line) charge a donation to park on their land. One of the owners, Thalia, is pictured above. Please tell her I sent you. 🙂

Saltwell Bottom Bay 

Ash and his family own Saltwell Bottom. (This is an older photo taken when Lime Out was located out there. It’s now located in Coral Bay.)
The view from Saltwell Bottom

Saltwell Bottom is located just around the corner from Hansen. So follow those directions, but drive past Hansen. You will drive an additional minute or two and then you will be at Saltwell. This, too, is a donation to park beach. It’s a bit more pebbly, but it’s one of my favorites on island. If you head out here, tell the owners Ash and Yola, that Jenn sent you. They’re great people. This beach has great access to Pelican Rock too, which has amazing corals and a lot of fish.

Haulover South

Haulover south

Haulover south is located at the bottom of one of the steep hills before you get to Hansen and Saltwell Bottom. It will be very calm during these swells, but it is a very rocky beach. I know not everyone loves that, but there is good snorkeling there if you don’t mind the rocks.

Maho, typically a nice and calm beach, has even had waves this week.

Waves at Maho this past Monday. They will continue through the the end of the week.

There are other beaches that will be pretty calm this week, but the ones listed above are the easiest to get to and have a decent amount of parking.

I hope this helps! Be safe out there, and always use a noodle or life vest when you’re snorkeling, even if you’re snorkeling in calm water. Better safe than sorry is my motto. And please, do not attempt to snorkel on the north shore until this swell is gone. The water is unsafe and so churned up that you probably won’t see much anyway.

Have a wonderful day!



  1. Michael

    Very useful article. We were recently here during these swells and stopped by Cinnamon. I walked out onto the beach and quickly made the decision to try a different beach for my girlfriend. I am an advanced swimmer and realized it would be more dangerous than I wished to attempt.


    We were on Island last week and got a few snorkels in along the North Shore before the swells began….but OMG, we were super stoked to snorkel a pretty calm (which seems to be more rare thank not) Brown Bay, Haulover North and around Yawzi!!! It was amazing!!

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