Representing a true barefoot paradise, the BVI’s tranquil Jost Van Dyke is the epitome of tropical perfection. With stunning white sand beaches, incredible views of surrounding islands and a collection of feet-in-the-sand beach bars and restaurants, most come to this little haven –just three miles square –to do very little except gaze, laze and feast on lobster or barbecues washed down with rum cocktails.
Thanks to such legends as Foxy’s and the Soggy Dollar bars this tiny island’s reputation extends far beyond its beautiful shores which are so beloved by the boating and yachting fraternity for their wonderful range of safe anchorages. A collection of watercraft of all size and shape are a constant part of the ocean scenery here which is made up from every shade of aquamarine imaginable. Although this island is the ideal place to do very little except enjoy its tropical atmosphere there is also plenty to do for those who want to be active.
Getting out on the water in some way is an almost essential part of any itinerary here. Possibilities include sailing, kayaking, snorkeling the abundant coral gardens, fishing and paddle-boarding with plenty of uninhabited offshore desert islands and cays to be explored along the way. On land there is the chance to set off on foot to uncover pristine nature or such delights as the Bubbly Pool which can be either an invigorating natural spa or pond-like jewel full of fish, depending on the ocean’s mood, swell and tide. Jost Van Dyke’s largest center is Great Harbour which shelters in the lee of its green hills and whose main road is actually a strip of beach. Here you can hunt down a souvenir or browse the legendary Foxy’s merchandise, enjoy an ice-cream or watch the palm-fronds and leaves of the sea-grape trees waving in the refreshing breeze which is always present.
However you decide to pass your time here you will find it impossible not to let the air of easy island living -which the welcoming locals have perfected to a fine art -creepinto your soul. Do nothing or keep active from day break to sundown but no matter which you settle for you will have some of the most beautiful tropical surroundings anywhere in the world in which to do it in.
A Morning on Jost Van Dyke
Begin your Jost Van Dyke day with a walk which takes you to either the magnificent White Bay or the beautiful Bubbly Pool. After a pause for coffee you can head off again, this time at the helm of your own self-drive dinghy to discover Robinson Crusoe-like islands fringed by dazzling white sands and inhabited only by wildlife.
A Morning Walk –White Bay or Bubbly Pool
Famed for its unspoiled beauty, Jost Van Dyke’s menu of activities all center around different ways of getting you amid that natural magnificence. Trails that take you on meandering journeys through nature abound in this tiny island and a great way to kick off your morning is to simply head off for a walk where great views will be a standard inclusion. Here are suggested two very different (although both equally lovely) places to set off for which ensure both the walks and the destinations themselves are full of highlights.
Great Harbour to White Bay
One walk you can take directly from Great Harbour takes you up and over the hill to arrive at White Bay which many insist is the most beautiful of all the beaches in both the US and British Virgin Isles combined. The praise for this jewel also extends beyond the Caribbean itself as it is frequently found on lists with titles such as the ‘World’s Best Beaches’.As quite a lot of this trail is uphill it will take a little effort but the tranquility you will find along the way as well as the spectacular views make it more than worthwhile. From your vantage points you can gaze across the ocean and take in other tropical islands such as Tortola to the south as well as St. John and St. Thomas far off in the distance.
After a 20 to 45 minute walk, depending on your personal pace, you will be rewarded with the incredible sweep of pure white sands known as White Bay which is about as idyllic as it gets. Coconut palms wave in the breeze as crystal-pure waters lap the shore and yachts dip and turn lazily as they lie at anchor in the bay. The sugar-white sands are backed by a string of beach bars where you can stop for refreshments and admire the scenery, take a dip after your exertions or simply stroll along the bay, if you have any energy left.
Once you’ve had your fill of all this Caribbean perfection you can simply hop in a taxi to take you back to Great Harbour if you don’t want to retrace your steps on foot.
Foxy’s Taboo to the Bubbly Pool
As an alternative to the White Bay walk you can head 4kms west from Great Harbour to Long Bay. From here, setting out from Foxy’s Taboo beach bar, it is a short 20 minute nature hike to the gorgeous natural coastal pool known as Bubbly Pool. You can choose the inland Coconut Trail filled with native flora or the route which heads off along the shore and past mangroves where you can watch pelicans diving into the surf. These two trails converge at the south side of the Salt Pond where a rocky goat trail then leads you through an area of sage bush and finally on to your destination.
In essence the Bubbly Pool is a beautiful shallow tide pool set behind cliffs known to the locals as Mother Nature’s Jacuzzi. In the right conditions it won’t take you long to figure out why it has been given this name but in reality this lovely little gem has many moods, with both tide times and sea swell dictating what kind of experience you will have when you get there. When a larger ocean swell is coming from the north –the direction the pool faces –you are going to feel as if the waves are coming straight at you. In fact these break against the lower rocks and cliff with only a small gap in the cliff-face allowing a jet-like entry of water into the pool which sets it all to fizzing and bubbling.
If the swells are smaller or the tide low then the pool is rather less dramatic and simply a tranquil and beautiful pond. Although most come here looking forthat Jacuzzi experience the Bubbly Pond is also lovely in its non-invigorating state when you can relax in the waters and watch the small fish swimming around.
Take some time to savor the views before or after your Bubbly Pool dip; the panoramas of the coastline are gorgeous from here with other islands visible in the sweep of your gaze. Once back at Foxy’s Taboo you can browse the gift shop or take a well-earned rest with a cool drink.
Morning Coffee on Jost Van Dyke
If you chose to start your morning with a walk to White Bay you may decide to take a pause for refreshments here before heading back to Great Harbour. This beautiful sandy sweep of Caribbean perfection has a string of rustic beach bars, mostly clustered at its western end, although not all of them are open in the morning.
One of the options here that does wake up earlier is the lovely Hendo’s Hideout. Here you can grab a coffee or fruit juice under the roofed shade of its open-sided wooden deck or relax on a lounger right on the sand while watching the boats in the bay.
For those whose morning began with a trip to the Bubbly Pool you only need to retrace your steps to Foxy’s Taboo to enjoy a morning coffee break. This ultimately serene spot -the sister-bar of the iconic Foxy’s in Great Harbour –is located beside a small day-boat jetty and gives you nothing to gaze at but paradise. For shade you can take a seat or hammock chair on the roofed wooden deck or alternatively there are some bench seats set in the sand out front.
Should you prefer to head back to Great Harbour before stopping for a coffee break there are a few choices in this tiny town, most of which offer unbeatable sea-views. One such is Corsairs whose pastel-colored wooden shack sits right on the beach. The charismatic owner, Vinnie Corsair, is one of the attractions of this casual little place but so too are the 101 details which give it such an authentic beach-bar ambiance, the whole infused with a wonderfully organic aspect rather than that of something deliberately contrived. Old fishing nets, marine buoys and driftwood lay scattered about separately or in piles while carved and weathered signs swing from posts and doorways. Inside it is all wall scribblings and art work left behind by a long stream of previous customers while stickers, pictures and other eclectic paraphernalia fill the space too. Take a seat inside if you want to surround yourself with things to gaze at or head outside to the sand and the shade of a big tree to enjoy your morning coffee or iced drink with a view of the sea.
Coastal and National Park Exploration by Self-Drive Dinghy
The British Virgin Islands are known for their spectacular coastal beauty which means getting out on the water toexplore it all is an especially popular pastime from Jost Van Dyke. There are a diversity of ways of doing this but for those who like to explore independently and on their own schedule renting a dinghy is the perfect choice.
The motorized rigid inflatable watercraft available for hire on Jost Van Dyke are easily handled and mean even those entirely without previous experience can sign up for the adventure. Once you have your dinghy in the water it is entirely up to you where you go. You can simply scoot between bays stopping off for refreshments and snacks at a variety of idyllic beach bars or pull up at whichever Caribbean-perfect beach stretch catches your attention for a stroll or a topping up the tan session. Some island visitors rent dinghies so theycan access the top snorkel sites while the aim of others is to simply cruise along the coastline soaking up the scenery. If you are in need of guidance regarding places to head for rental companies typically offer maps and recommendations to help you out.Being at the controls of your own dinghy also gives you a great opportunity to explore some of the cays and islets which surround Jost Van Dyke. One of the most easily accessible of these –Diamond Cay –is also incredibly beautiful. This tiny uninhabited islet –just 1.25 acres in total –is part of a national park and an important sanctuary for several bird species such as pelicans and boobies which nest here.
Tucked between Jost Van Dyke’s eastern shore and Little Jost Van Dyke, Diamond Cay is actually joined to the former by a sand strip and coral bed which is exposed during low tides. Tiny though it is this volcanic islet still has a diversity of geographical features with its interior covered in tropical plant growth and its leeward side edged with powdery-soft sands of brilliant white. The other side of the islet is dramatically different and features bare cliffs while the whole is surrounded by an extensive coral reef system. Moor up and take a short walk around the perimeter on its hiking trail oralternatively dive into the water to join the colorful marine life of the coral gardens beneath the surface with a snorkel session.
If you are feeling a shade more adventurous you can head a little further out to explore the other Robinson Crusoe-like uninhabited islets and cays which form the rest of the national park. Green Cay, Sandy Spit and Sandy Cay all lie south-west of Diamond Cay and all are visible from the Jost Van Dyke shore so you won’t get lost. The southernmost –Sandy Cay –is a true Eden.Like Diamond Cay, this little gem is also surrounded by coral reef which makes it great for snorkeling with frequent turtle sightings. Without a building in site, Sandy Cay can more often than not be all yours if there are no other boats moored up in its jewel-blue waters and the island itself is completely fringed by shell-white beaches composed of perhaps the silkiest sand kind you will ever feel. There are also a few trails to follow if you want to lose yourself amid the palms and tropical vegetation for a while.
Lunch on Jost Van Dyke
Covering just 4 square miles nowhere on Jost Van Dyke is out of reach as a lunch spot so it is really about deciding which of the multiple island choices will be just perfect for you. Most spots serve as bar and restaurant at the same time while menus in the main are a mix of Caribbean and international choices.
For those who want to stay central Great Harbour’s beach strip has a string of restaurants serving great lunches although none comes anywhere near matching theiconic status of Foxy’s. The rags to riches (or at least to legendary standing) story of Foxy’s is all part of its romance. Way back in the 60s Foxy Callwood –who still personally runs his beach bar and restaurant today –set up a tiny stand serving drinks. Little by little this bar expanded in order to give the emerging generation of wandering free-spirited types who arrived at these shores by boat somewhere to hang out; before too long the likes of Jimmy Buffett and Keith Richards were the kind of clientele doing the hanging out. It would be hard to find any islander who doesn’t consider Foxy’s the island’s most famous name and what’s more there are many who recognize Foxy’s as the seed from which the whole explosion of the British Virgin Islands as a yachting destination grew.
Foxy’s has come a long way in the following decades but it remains the quintessential tropical beach bar with undeniable appeal for those seeking the magic of laid-back under-the-sun living. These days Foxy’s is known for its weekend barbecues and large scale annual parties and events which draw an international crowd from far and wide. It is also hallowed as a great place for food with its conch fritters said to be among the best on the island. Also on the lunch menu are chicken roti –a local favorite –along with such things as jerk chicken wings and grilled fish sandwiches. No matter whether you choose to dine inside or outside the glorious Caribbean Sea views are of course laid out right in front of you.
Be sure to check out the gift shop before you leave and become the proud owner of a t-shirt or hat from the official Foxy’s clothing range which many consider an essential island souvenir.
If you’d like a change of scene and the chance to check out another of the island’s beautiful bays, skip 3km round the headland to Little Harbour. All of the restaurants in this protected inlet which sits beneath green hills on three sides are known for their great lobster lunches so you really can’t go wrong if you are a seafood fan. One of the choices is Abe’s By the Sea Restaurant and Barwhich serves up some incredibly priced seafood fare besides its lobster and also has choices such as chicken and ribs. Your setting is right on the beach so beautiful views are of course all part of the experience.
An Afternoon on Jost Van Dyke
Time spent on the Caribbean gem known as Jost Van Dyke is typically all about enjoying in some way its magnificent coral-garden rich waters which come in every shade of crystal turquoise imaginable. Some simply laze away their time on the almost impossibly beautiful beaches and only enter the water when they need to cool down. However, for those who want to be a little more active there is a menu of choices where the ocean is the focus.
Snorkeling in these magnificently pristine waters is an almost essential inclusion during your time here and mostof the water activities tend to include time to explore the world beneath the waves.
Sailing, Kayaking and Stand Up Paddle Boarding
From heading off alone in a kayak to explore hidden corners to climbing aboard a sailboat to be whisked off across the blue sea –your time out on the water can be as relaxed or as active as you choose.
If you prefer to sit back and let someone else do all the work catamaran sailing tours are popular. This option typically takes you on a journey around a collection of desert islands and cays where you can be dazzled by pristine white sand beaches and watch the numerous seabirds diving for their lunch. The tropical beauty which serves as a constant canvas during these relaxing journeys will leave you in no doubt as to why the BVI waters are considered in sailing circles as some of the finest in the entire world.
Most tours of this type typically make at least one anchor stop to allow you to swim amid heavenly surroundings or explore, through a snorkel mask, the vibrantly colorful world that lives beneath the surface of the sea.
For those that like their adventures to be a little more pro-active another option is to take a guided kayak tour with both individual and 2-seater kayaks available. One popular trip will take you directly from Great Harbour and round the headland on a 45 minute paddle to White Bay which appears frequently in lists of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Whether you are headed for the lovely White Bay or elsewhere such activities tend to give youfree time at your destination where you can simply relax on silky-soft sands to get your breath back, head off for a walk or take some time for snorkeling. White Bay has exceptional snorkeling directly from the beach where an extensive reef coral system is home to a vast multitude of fish species as well as turtles and rays.
Stand up paddle boards are another watercraft on offer and so stable are these flotation platforms that with a few minutes guidance most people can head off exploring. There are options here for either just equipment rental on its own or guided tours for those who want to take advantage of a little expert knowledge or support if they are less confident.
Pre-Dinner Drinks and Dinner on Jost Van Dyke
As the majority of Jost Van Dyke establishments serve as both bar and restaurant you can simply pick a spot to go from sundowners to dining without moving a muscle. Pre-dinner drinks give you the chance to try the famous Painkiller –an island invention -while both Caribbean and international fare are on offer as cuisine choices. Venues are littered about everywhere but the greatest concentration of options are found in Great Harbour, White Bay and Little Harbour.
When discussing drinks it is worth mentioning the practice of honor bars which is common on Jost Van Dyke. Basically, serving yourself is the norm in multiple venues with you keeping track of anything you’ve had and then paying for it at the end of your visit. Also, don’t be surprised if you order a drink and the bartender then hands you bottles and mixers to do it yourself.
The hardest thing to decide when it comes to sundowner time is quite where to settle down for a while because Jost Van Dyke’s collection of idyllic beach bars give you some incredibly magical choices. Having visited Jost Van Dyke’s most iconic beach bar at lunch time your sunset drinks session gives you the opportunity of ticking another legendary place with an international reputation off your must-do list. It is almost unthinkable to come to this island without trying its famous cocktail –the Painkiller –and where better to sample it than in the very bar where it was invented in the 1970s. The Soggy Dollar is not simply an important piece of cultural history on Jost Van Dyke but also happens to be located on the island’s most beautiful beach at White Bay. Here, with your toes in bleached white sand as soft as silk, you are surrounded by crystalline waters with the swish of palm fronds waving in the breeze as your sound track. Cocktails are the way to go here as the sun sets but the Painkiller, a frozen concoction which blends dark rum, pineapple and orange juice, coconut cream and sprinkled with nutmeg, is of course the must-try.
Pick your spot from the roofed patio area with its flags, decals and spacious lounge chairs or weave between the palms to one of the round wooden bench-tables on the sand for a front row view of tropical perfection.
In case you are wondering where the name comes from this story is also part of island history. Once-upon-a-time the only way to reach this bar was by anchoring a boat in the bay and swimming ashore. Once arrived, the dollars the customers paid with were always wet and today this practice continues to keep a fun tradition alive although these days you don’t haveto swim to get here. If you want a keepsake reminder of your time at this iconic spot be sure to buy a t-shirt or other memento with the Soggy Dollar logo.
For those who want to keep things central in Great Harbour the main street here (which is also its beach) has a few choices one of which is the picturesque Ali Baba’s. This sand-floored spot located right next to the ocean is frequented by both visitors and locals and like most island bars offers its own take on the famous Painkiller rum cocktail. Also in common with other Jost Van Dyke drinking holes the vibe is super casual where nobody minds if you drink and dine in your bikini or board shorts after a quick dip inthe sea.
As practically all Jost Van Dyke’s establishments serve as both bar and restaurant at the same time you can make a smooth transition from sundowners to dining almost anywhere you choose if you want to keep your efforts minimal and your drinking and eating time to a maximum. Both the Soggy Dollar and Ali Baba’s have well-respected options for dinner. The former offers a choice of seafood mix-and-match appetizers along with pork and chicken dishes while the weekly Sunday barbeque here tends to get rave reviews. Ali Baba’s fare is also a Caribbean-themed mix with their BabaQ ribs and grilled fish tending to get the most attention.
For an ultimately tranquil dining experience infused with a little romance you might like to make your way to the sheltered cove of Little Harbour, 3km to the east of Great Harbour. Here you will find the enchanting Harris Place where incredible food and one of the warmest welcomes you are likely to find anywhere in the world awaits. Although this softly-lit spot just feet from the water’s edge has a solid reputation for its delicious multi-cuisine food it is the host -a highly charismatic lady known as Cynthia –who tends to feature over and again in the rave reviews this restaurant collects in great numbers. Somehow managing to make each of her guests feel like royalty, Cynthia seems to be everywhere at once in her little spot which is also known as the ‘all-you-can-eat’ lobster restaurant. Just as with so much else in the BVI hurricane Irma left Harris Place in ruins but its rebuilt dock and lovely alfresco dining deck today show no signs of what they have had to overcome to get back to serving incredible food in a tucked away setting. Divided into garden, sea and land, the Harris Place menu offers such delights as fresh salads, conch, catch of the day fresh fish, steaks and a barbeque combo platter as well as its famous lobster and some delicious home-made desserts.
An Evening on Jost Van Dyke
Jost Van Dyke’s idyllic collection of feet-in-the-sand beach bars, mostly centered around Great Harbour, Little Harbour and White Bay, are the focus of after-dark entertainment on this tranquil island. While watching the stars wink into view and listening to the ocean tend to be enough for most people several of the venues also offer island-beat live music for those who want it.
King of the music venues and without doubt the most popular night spot on the island is the legendary Foxy’s in Great Harbour. Foxy’s annual events such as its Halloween and New Year’s Eve parties draw an international crowd while Foxy himself often entertains his guests with a little live music around dinner time and sometimes well into the night.
The famous Soggy Dollar and other White Bay bars also often have something going on with regard to live music with beloved BVI son Reben Chinnery frequently making a round of island venues to entertain customers with his 12-string guitar.
For those who haven’t quite finished exploring this gem of an island once the sun sets and want to keep the adventure going until the last minute there is the chance to take a night kayak tour. While paddling beneath a Caribbean star canopy is a magical enough experience by itself the Jost Van Dyke option offered by Foxy’s adds an extra element of incredibly special besides. The kayaks here are glass bottomed and fitted with strong LED lights which illuminate everything you float over. Expect to see a multitude of fish (particularly as they are attracted by the beams) along with turtles, rays and eels if you are lucky.