Only five miles from Tortola, the main commercial center of the British Virgin Islands, minuscule Jost (rhymes with “toast”) Van Dyke is a little island with a big reputation. The scant 8-square-mile island — dubbed the “New York of the Virgin Islands” because it offers so much nightlife — probably packs more fun per square inch than any other island in the BVIs.
Most of the action occurs on the south side of the M-shaped island, in either White Bay (to the west) or Great Harbour (in the south-central area), though rugged Little Harbour, way to the east, is making a play for adventure- and fun-seekers, as well. Moving roughly west to east, what follows are some of Jost Van Dyke‘s brightest, shiniest hot spots.
One Love Bar and Grill
This ramshackle restaurant (left) seems like it must’ve been cobbled together from junk that floated up on the beach, but the fact is: this place serves painfully cold Carib beers and heaping, open-faced lobster rolls ($20).
The dining area — if you can call it that — is the part of the beach under a sprawling sea grape shading scattered plastic chairs and tables. If you plan to visit, don’t worry about your outfit: you really can’t be dressed too casually for this dive.
Soggy Dollar Bar
If you’ve been to this place (large image, above), you know how fanfreakingtastic it is. If you’ve only heard tales about it, let me break it to you gently: it’s seriously more fun than your friends told you. If you’ve never heard of it, well … you lead a sad, sad life.
Named for a patron who reportedly anchored his boat, swam to shore for a drink, and paid for it with wet cash, the Soggy Dollar is probably most famous as being the birthplace of the potent yet refreshing cocktail known as the Painkiller.
If you’ve only heard tales about the Soggy Dollar, let me break it to you gently: it’s seriously more fun than your friends told you.
Shaded by massive sea grapes and cardamom trees, this nautically-themed open-aired bar boasts one of the finest, whitest beaches in the Virgin Islands. It offers ample space to relax — both actual chairs (if you can manage to hit the seat) and hammocks (if you just need to collapse). The bar has several ring-toss games set up, and the competition gets fierce as the rum flows. Alternatively, the property’s scattered tiki huts offer plenty of space for private chats, and there’s food grilling in back if you’re feeling peckish. Mercifully, if you’re just too tired (read: too drunk) to make it back to your boat, the adjacent Sandcastle Hotel offers delightful cottages ($190-$295/double, depending on the room and the season).
Don’t think the Soggy Dollar could really be this wonderful? Check their beach cam and get back to me.
Ivan’s Stress-Free Bar
Owned by Ivan Chinnery, the Stress-Free Bar (left) ranks several notches lower on the “Wild Scale” than the Soggy Dollar (most of the time). From the water’s edge, Ivan’s is nearly obscured by clumps of puffy sea grape bushes. However, as you approach the building, you quickly realize it’s really a giant piece of folk art. Decorated with hundreds of thousands of shells, Ivan’s is a sprawling, cozy, covered bar that offers a BBQ (on Thursdays, in season) and both campsites ($20-40, depending on season and amenities) and very basic cabins ($45-75).
What makes this place stress-free? Chinnery keeps the vibe mellow, but Ivan’s also boasts an “honor bar.” Feelin’ thirsty? Head behind the bar, mix your cocktail, and leave some money in a jar. No lines, no dealing with snotty bartenders, no watered-down drinks. If you time it right, Chinnery may even play some tunes. He’s no slouch, either — he’s played with Kenny Chesney, who filmed his video for No Shirts, No Shoes, No Problem here.
Foxy’s Tamarind Bar
Over in Great Harbour, situated at the base of the tallest hill on Jost Van Dyke and hidden by a thick mask of coconut palms, sits this shanty institution. Foxy (Philiciano) Callwood is the unofficial mayor of Jost Van Dyke (population 180), largely because of the interstellar success of this bar.
Decorated with dangling t-shirts, bandanas, hats, and underwear, Foxy’s (right) has an on-site brewery; mixes wickedly strong cocktails (a single $6 “Wrecked on the Rocks” will send you reeling); boasts live music on the weekends; and offers the islands’ best “all you can eat” ribs, chicken and fish on Saturday nights ($28/person). Be on the lookout for Taboo, Foxy’s adorable black lab, who doesn’t have time for head-scratches … though he’s always got time for a rib bone.
Not everything on Jost Van Dyke revolves around drinking and eating, however. Other things to do on the island include:
- Jost Van Dyke Scuba offers both scuba diving trips and eco-excursions around the island.
- Stroll barefoot through Jost Van Dyke’s “city center” (though this’ll probably only take you 20 minutes, even with a strong headwind).
- Head to the far east end of the island to slip into the “Bubbly Pool,” a naturally-formed tidal pool.
- Just east of the Bubbly Pool is a small, uninhabited island, Sandy Spit, perfect for picnics and snorkeling — the shallow waters surrounding the island literally boil with small bait-fish.
- Tame the winds and the waves on a windsurfing kit.
- Explore the island on ATV.
- Why do anything at all? Just Sit and soak up all the beauty from the room of your villa.