A Virgin Island as virgin as at the beginning of time, Jost van Dyke is barefoot living at its best. Why else would the softest sands lie at your feet and the world’s most relaxing drink – the fittingly named Painkiller– in your hand?
Just pack Robinson Crusoe style – your clothes on your back and nothing more, and throw your anchor on Jost van Dyke.
Here, where temperatures rarely below 77 F in winter or rise above 90 F in summer, you’ll find the most comfortable tropical environment to cast your worries away.
Jost van Dyke – ‘No boss, no clock, no stress, and no dress code’
The reason for being on this smallest of land patches in the British Virgin Islands is to do pretty much nothing.
Kenny Chesney, the flip-flop wearing American country singer couldn’t have phrased it better than in his 2002 hit ‘No shoes, No Shirt, No Problems’. Nothing to hinder the laziness that sets in the bones as natural as the sun sets behind the horizon.
Pour Your Own on Jost van Dyke BVI
The atmosphere is so laid back that you can mix your own drinks at Ivan Stress Free Bar and just leave the money on the counter. Honor bars are common in the BVI region, and not at all few and far in between.
Great Harbor Area
The “commercial” center of the island, this area also harbors the night scene on JVD.
In latest years, the beach strip around the Great Harbor has been busy erecting an embankment of small bars and restaurants to stand ground to the vast waters of the Caribbean Sea in the South and the Atlantic in the North.
Here, fun is the main line of defense against the endless seas. Since the late 1960s, Foxy’s Bar in Great Harbor has been the stop for Caribbean yachties.
Nowadays, Foxy’s, Sugar and Spice Snack Bar, Corsair’s Beach Bar, and the other big names in Great Harbor host a year-round low-flow crowd only to be faced with a tsunami wave of partiers on New Year’s Eve.
Up until March of 1996, the only way to get from Great Harbor to other horse-shoe shaped bays of the island was by water taxi. For two reasons.
One – the island is very hilly. Two – the extremely dense, but short rainfalls that muddied the trails were making the stroll rather a painstaking undertaking than a pleasant adventure.
Now, a paved road gives access to the rest of the island. Although 4x4s are available for rent by local ‘mom and pop’ type companies, walking is still the preferred choice to get around.
And the stroll from the main town in Great Harbor up over the hill to White Bay has the reputation of one of most peaceful, beautiful short walks in the Caribbean.
The vistas stretch from Tortola all the way to St. Thomas or the bare ocean in the distance. If you’re going for the panoramic 360-degree view, consider hiking up to the peak of the Jost van Dyke island, the 320 meters high Majohnny Hill.
White Bay – The Home of the Notorious Painkiller
On White Bay, you can spend your time worth’s sending rings through hooks at the Soggy Bar. No one really knows how or when this game started, not even the staff in charge of the place.
The sea has its version of the story, which is the one the locals prefer as well. They say Blackbeard and his crew entertained themselves during the long sessions in between plundering and pillaging by using the bones of their prey and a noose made of hemp to play the Ring game on the deck of their ship.
The privateers could notoriously hold their rum, but what about you? The Soggy Dollar Bar is reputedly the birthplace of the Painkiller.
At the time when all roads to White Bay led through water, thirsty boaters would throw their anchors offshore, swim towards the colorful bar sign on the beach, and place a soaking wet dollar bill on the counter, demanding their mix of Pusser’s dark rum, coconut cream, pineapple juice and orange squeeze.
‘Don’t forget the dash of nutmeg, please!’ – or Island Viagra, as locals call it. This is the Painkiller.
It’s a known fact. Too many Caribbean cocktails get you right to bed. In White Bay, you don’t have to look further than Sandcastle hotel.
Sure, the beachfront cottage will put you down a $310 a night, but think how much you saved on drinks.
The JVD Island Never Runs Shallow on Fun Things To Do
Beyond the bar lit beaches, there’s not a lot to “see”. Unless you count the following:
- Climbing up the rugged volcanic trails to breathtaking natural vistas.
- Exploring the vegetation-covered sugar mill ruins.
- Party on the yachts bobbing offshore the Great Harbor.
- Diving and snorkeling in the natural sea-formed Jacuzzi on the Eastern tip of the island.
- Watching nature’s spectacle of dolphins and whales.
- Indulging in some local cuisine, like barbecues, grilled fresh fish and lobster, flying fish sandwiches, and the Indian rotis.
Dinner menus are not alone in reflecting the island’s versatility. Historically speaking, Jost van Dyke BVI is a melting pot of ethnicities and influences.
Named for an early Dutch privateer, Jost Van Dyke has been home to Caribs, Dutch, Arawak Indians, Africans, and last but not least, the British.
The BVI’s smallest island is so small it was pretty much ignored by the English for as long as one hundred years after they’ve conquered the Virgin Isles. Through their spyglasses, the 8 square miles of land must have looked like a giant turtle’s back.
During the plantation era, the island’s economy moved to sugar and rum production. In that context, strong fires were vital for the industry and charcoal making became of primary interest for the BVI.
People would build charcoal pits, and later on, these became a social gathering place where women baked bread or roast breadfruit while the men played the ring game. The practice continues to this day, albeit with a few changes to suit the modern age.
Hundreds of years later, Jost van Dyke is still a paradise in population density. On an area restricted to a few square miles, only 222 permanent residents make their living, with a mere 25 year-round inhabitants living in White Bay. A figure which makes the’ know thy neighbor’ precept less of an impossibility.
Aspiring to be more BVI-integrated, the few inhabitants here had polished their seafaring skills. Sailing, fishing, rowing and boat construction flourished to give access to beyond the vast waters.
Nowadays, BVI is home to the largest yacht charter fleet in the world, and yachting tourism became the mainstay of Jost van Dyke economy, with nearly 7,000 boats clearing through the island’s port in 2008 alone.
So if you own a yacht, the easterly trade winds, the same ones that provide for great sailing opportunities and natural air conditioning, will instinctively sail you towards Jost van Dyke.
What do Jost Van Dyke and the US Have in Common? Other than the Capitol
Nowhere else do British shoulders rub better with the American ones than on the BVI. The official language here is English, the currency the U.S. dollar, the supermarket products similar to Florida merchandise, and the current 110v.
If visiting from the U.S. Virgin Islands, the JVD is accessible by private boats and ferry service from Tortola and Saint Thomas, with a stop in Cruz Bay and St. John.
The cost for a round trip ferry from St. John USVI to Jost van Dyke is $70 US per person, including the customs fee. U.S. citizens traveling to the British Virgin Islands need a passport to return home.
What about the Capitol?
It so happens that Jost van Dykes pride themselves with having given the USA one of its most symbolic buildings. Although, to be more geographically accurate, the round of applause should go more to the East of the isle, in Little Jost Van Dyke.
Here is where William Thornton, architect of the US Capitol, was born. Where could he have gotten his inspiration? Who knows, maybe enjoying a Caribbean cocktail at the Soggy Dollar Bar while peering at the imposing white horizon.