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francis bay virgin islands national park st john

Francis Bay

The white sand beaches and crystal-clear blue water of St John’s Francis Bay in Virgin Islands National Park is a must-visit spot.

Virgin Islands National Park

Francis Bay, St. John Overview

Francis Bay is an often overlooked bay in St John’s Virgin Islands National Park that is just as stunning as the more popular Maho Bay & Trunk Bay. Francis Bay is located just north of Maho Bay and shares a coastline.

For those looking for a more laid back vibe, away from the crowds, Francis Bay is your cup of tea. Crystal blue water, white sands, with a backdrop of St. John’s lush canopy make up this breathtaking destination. We encountered several pelicans on the hunt over here as well as a boardwalk bird sanctuary.

virgin islands national park francis bay maho bay

Francis & Maho Bays | Virgin Islands National Park, St. John USVI

Things to Know Before Visiting Francis Bay

Sandals are your friend.
  •  FOOTWEAR: There’s nothing like the feeling of warm sand between the toes. There’s also nothing quite like the feeling of something sharp and pokey in the toes. The walk to the beach from the parking lot is short but best attempted with something between your feet and the ground, like these sandals that we love. and these sandals which have straps.
Do not touch our dear friend, the sea turtle.
  • Sea Turtles: Green Sea Turtles are protected under the Endangered Species Act. Believe it or not it is a felony to touch one. As tempting as it might be, resist the urge and admire from a distance. We’ve all gotten pretty good at social distancing – best to apply these practices to our sea turtle friends as well.
Goggles and flippers for the win.
Underwater camera housing… to ruin, or not to ruin.
  • UNDERWATER CAMERA HOUSING: So here we must add the caveat that we lost a camera to the depths in Virgin Islands National Park (at Maho Bay). Anytime you get your camera near water, let alone saltwater, you’re taking a risk. With that being said we have used this underwater camera housing in the past and had luck with it.
Please, Wear Sunscreen.
  • SUNSCREEN: Goes without saying but we’ll say it anyway – wear sunscreen! The Caribbean is unforgiving on unprotected skin. We’ve made that mistake enough times to make lathering up a top priority. We highly recommend this one that we’ve been using for years and buy in bulk.
Rash guards are great for extra UV protection, especially after that inevitable burn.
  • RASH GUARD: We were told to be sure and pack rash guards for this trip not so much for the coral etc but for extra UV protection (especially for Will who burns easily). We got these inexpensive ones off amazon and we were sure glad to have them.

francis bay from america hill ruins virgin islands national park st john

Francis Bay from America Hill | Virgin Islands National Park, USVI

Best Time to Visit Francis Bay

The best time to visit Maho Bay is during the day to soak in some rays and cool off with a nice swim in the ocean. Sunrises from here can be spectacular as it is an east facing beach.

Getting to Francis Bay

Francis Bay is a 20 minute drive from Cruz Bay where the main island ferry lands. To get to Francis Bay one can either park at Maho Bay and walk up the beach past Maho Point about half a mile or drive past Maho Bay and continue toward Annaberg to use the Francis Bay Beach parking lot.

Francis Bay is easily accessed from the parking lot via a short path that is about 100ft from the parking area. Sandals are recommended for the short traverse as the ground is not sand and can be rough on the feet.

snorkeling maho bay virgin islands national park st john sea turtles

Francis Bay Snorkeling | Virgin Islands National Park, St. John USVI

Snorkeling Francis Bay

Francis Bay offers warm, crystal clear waters and abundant sea life making for excellent snorkeling opportunities. Francis Bay is home to sea turtles and rays which makes for especially cool underwater viewing. As opposed to Maho Bay which is located just to the south, Francis has a rockier bottom with corals and more fish.

If you’re looking for snorkel gear this is the inexpensive set we used. We also liked this cool American Flag swimming cap!

If you’re looking for an underwater camera rig, we used this underwater camera housing in the past and had luck with it.

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francis bay virgin islands national park st john

Francis Bay | Virgin Islands National Park, St. John USVI

Best Photo Spots Francis Bay

The best spot to photograph Francis Bay is actually from America Hill Ruins which overlook the bay from high above. If you’re not into a big hike, there are other options.

Francis Bay Beach is an great spot to capture the stunning beauty of the bay, especially the mesmerizing turquoise waters.

Francis Bay After Hurricane Maria

Hurricane Maria had a devastating impact on the Caribbean islands, especially St. John, home to Virgin Islands National Park. Many of the photos of the park you’ll find feature locations that have been totally changed since the hurricane hit the island in 2017. 

Francis Bay was not as badly affected by the Hurricane as it’s sister bay, Maho, but even still it took a beating.

With that being said, Francis Bay is still stunningly beautiful and well worth the trip!

*all of our photos of the park feature it in its current condition, post-2017 hurricane Maria damage

Nearby Francis Bay

There are many amazing spots near Francis Bay including: America Hill Ruins, Maho Bay, Annaberg Ruins, Cinnamon Bay, and Waterlemon Bay.








Francis Bay Photos | Virgin Islands National Park, St. John USVI

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Will Pattiz

Co-founder of More Than Just Parks. Husband. Conservationist. Currently living in NYC.

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