Visit this British Virgin Island jewel—as part of a B.V.I. vacation or on a day trip from the U.S. Virgin Islands. The only way to get there is to swim ashore, like pirates of yore.
By the fifth month of my fourth pregnancy, a green-to-the-gills feeling had given way to wanderlust. I set up camp at the Westin St. John Resort and Villas in the U.S. Virgin Islands, enrolled my children in its energetic kids’ club and booked a day cruise bound for the U. S. Virgin Island’s British neighbor—Jost Van Dyke island.
Jost Van Dyke is a small island that measures four miles long by two miles wide, but has plenty to keep visitors busy. Whether one is viewing coconut palm-topped hills towering more than 1,000 feet above white-sand beaches or hiking along one of the island’s few paved roads, it’s easy to feel like an adventurer on Jost Van Dyke, and many explorers on a Virgin Islands sailing vacation make a stop at this former pirate’s haven.
The island is named for a 17th-century Dutch pirate, Joost Van Dijk. Today, Jost Van Dyke has about 150 inhabitants and looks deceptively like an undiscovered paradise. But with well-heeled yachts moored in the protected waters of White Bay and a daily ferry that takes passengers to Great Harbour from neighboring islands, it’s clear Jost Van Dyke has a fan club.
The island’s most popular destination for daytrippers is the Soggy Dollar Bar. Charter boats deposit passengers in the temperate waters of Jost Van Dyke’s White Bay so they can swim ashore in the tradition of pirates wading beachside to swill drinks.
To visit the famed attraction, I secured a few dollars in my (ever-expanding) waistband and cut diagonally across the waves. As I handed wet bills to the barkeep, he promptly tacked them to the Soggy Dollar Bar’s singular wall, and I sipped The Painkiller, a mélange of sweet coconut cream, orange and pineapple juices, nutmeg and island rum. Even the non-alcoholic version was exquisite.
While spending a few delicious hours loitering in a hammock at the Soggy Dollar, I was advised that a visit to Jost Van Dyke wouldn’t be complete without a stop at Foxy’s Tamarind Bar.
Not just another nightlife spot, Foxy’s serves tasty, decently priced burgers and fish sandwiches, and pours microbrews created on site. The real draw, however, was Foxy Callwood. A sixth-generation Jost Van Dyke native, Foxy sang and played the guitar to entertain visitors.
Fewer than 20 years ago, Jost Van Dyke didn’t have paved roads or electricity. The proximity of its untamed history offered a present-day experience that felt refreshingly free—one that would someday become a bedtime story.
What you need: A valid passport is required for entry into the British Virgin Islands. Visitors from some countries also may require a visa. For more information, contact the British Virgin Islands Tourist Board at email@example.com.
How to get there: A ferry from any of the nearby islands, such as Tortola, St. Thomas and St. John, typically costs about $20. Cruz Bay Watersports offers a day trip to Jost Van Dyke aboard a 60-foot catamaran, which includes snorkel gear, continental breakfast and an open bar. For more information, visit www.divestjohn.com or call 340-776-6234.
Currency: The U.S. dollar.
Number of beaches: Three: Great Harbour, Little Harbour and White Bay.
Don’t miss: The Soggy Dollar Bar and Foxy’s Tamarind Bar, where you can try one of Foxy’s microbrews (he may even give you a tour of the brewery out back) and hear impromptu performances.
Where to stay: Most visitors enjoy day trips to the island, but there are a few Jost Van Dyke hotels and campgrounds to choose from for overnight stays. White Bay and Tula’s are for campers; those needing less rustic accommodations have the Sandcastle Resort, Sea Crest Inn, and cottages like the White Bay Villas & Seaside Cottages, South Side Villas and Perfect Pineapple.
Watch for: Goats, many of which roam the island’s sugar mill ruins in a half-tame state. Also watch for an occasional mongoose.
Destinations: British Virgin Islands
Themes: Beach Vacations
Great day trip from St. John or St. Thomas We spent an afternoon on Jost Van Dyke ordering drinks from Foxy's right on the beach. JVK is a beautiful little island and Foxy's has that perfect Caribbean charm. Totally laid back.