One of the most popular excursions for visitors to St. John is a day trip to Jost Van Dyke, the tiny, sparsely- inhabited British Virgin island noted for its handful of stunning beaches and rollicking beach bars.
White Bay, Jost Van Dyke — Photo courtesy of Karen ElowittIf you thought St. John was quiet and remote, think again. Jost Van Dyke is the ultimate place to go to get away from it all. The reason folks come to Jost is for pure isolation... and a little hedonism. It's hardly populated at all -- only 150 people live on the island full time, but during the tourist season day trippers can triple the population, if only for a few hours. What they are seeking are the incredible fine white sands of beaches such as White Bay and Great Harbour, snorkeling in hidden coves, and legendary bars such as the Soggy Dollar and Foxy's.
The four square-mile rock, affectionately referred to as "Jost" by locals (pronounced "yost"), is only about four miles from St. John, and easy to get to by boat. You can either take a water taxi/ferry service such as Dolphin Water Taxi from Cruz Bay, or charter a boat from a company such as Ocean Runner, Wet Woody's, Born to Rhumb, or Island Roots.
Obviously, if you charter a boat you'll have more flexibility to explore both the land AND the water surrounding the island than if you take a ferry. The ferry will drop you at White Bay, which is only about 1/2 mile walk from the majority of bars, inns, and popular beaches. But if you have your own boat, you can pull up to just about any bay anywhere on the island, and snorkel, fish, swim, or go ashore for a hike. Since Jost is one of the most popular anchorages in Caribbean, you'll be in good company.
Soggy Dollar Bar, Jost Van Dyke — Photo courtesy of Soggy DollarThe beach at White Bay is the most popular on the island, not only because it is simply stunning, but because of its proximity to beachside bars. The Soggy Dollar, so named because your money will get wet as you swim up to it, is located at the Sandcastle Hotel and is the most famous. The Soggy Dollar is where the Painkiller was invented, a popular tropical mixed cocktail that contains dark rum, cream of coconut, pineapple juice, orange juice, and fresh grated nutmeg. It was allegedly invented by an Englishwoman in the 1980s and has quickly become the drink of choice in the British and U.S. Virgin Islands.
Equally famous is Foxy's, the bar and nightspot in Great Harbour (a cove near White Bay) that helped put Jost Van Dyke on the map. Owned and operated since the 1960s by Philliciano "Foxy" Callwood, a Jost native, the bar features a wide array of tropical drinks, live reggae and soca bands, tasty West Indian food, and a huge weekend barbecue. If you are in the area on New Year's eve, Foxy's also hosts one of the biggest New Year's parties in the Caribbean. It's a two-day affair that Foxy dubs "Old Year's Eve."
Sunset on the Caribbean — Photo courtesy of Wet Woody's Aside from drinking and beachgoing, there are a couple of other things you can do on Jost. The unpaved roads that wind through the hills can be used as hiking trails, and take you to places such as the Bubbly Pool and Diamond Cay National Park. And you can also explore (by boat) offshore spots such as Sandy Cay, a small islet that features a tiny strip of pristine beach, hiking trails, and excellent offshore snorkeling.