Jost Van Dyke (also referred to as JVD or Jost) is the smallest of the four main British Virgin Islands. It's an easy and beautiful sail from Tortola and the home of the notorious rum-based drink, painkiller.
The island was named after the Dutch pirate Joost van Dyk who sailed the waters in the early 17th century and was thought to have had one of his hideouts there (though there is no factual evidence). The first major settlement on the island were quakers fleeing persecution in England around 1720, and today there are about 300 inhabitants. The island only got electricity in 1991.
In September 2017 the British Virgin Islands were hit by two Category 5 hurricanes, Irma and Maria. Irma hit the islands directly, and on JVD most buildings were destroyed and the landscape was stripped of vegetation (on satellite pictures taken right before the islands are green, after they're brown). A few weeks later, the outer eyewall of Maria swept across the islands. Many of the facilities and businesses on the island have been repaired and reopened as of March 2019, and visitors have returned. Income of some of the souvenirs sold on JVD are directed to the still ongoing rebuilding efforts.
From east to west the island measures 6.2 km, is between 600 m and 2.3 km wide and the highest hill, Majonny Hill is 321 m above sea level. There are protected bays in the south and east of the island, while the western and northern coasts are rocky and hard to access.
Great Harbour (also shown as Belle Vue on maps) is the main settlement on JVD and houses a clinic, police station and customs. Protected by a reef 300 m from the coast, it's a safe and popular place to anchor. On the western side of the bay is the Government Dock, the ferry pier. Right at the beach there are two more piers, but due to shallow waters these suitable for dinghies and inflatable boats. Next to the pier in the middle are the police and customs buildings, the entry and exit points for sailors. The Main Street runs along the beach with several restaurants and bars. The Alley leads away from the beach to the ice factory, and at its end, the Back Street runs parallel to the sea.
In the southwest the unpaved road ends at the White Bay, named after its bright white sand beach, which is divided by the Black Point rocks in roughly two parts. You can walk there from Great Harbour in 15-20 minutes, and it is also another popular place for ancoring boats. This bay too is shielded by a reef from the sea, but dangerous underwater currents may develop. A good place to dive, White Bay also has places to eat, drink and sleep.
On the Garners Bay, in the southeast of the island is Little Harbour. Formerly small freight ships were pulled up on land here and their decks were cleaned. Nowadays there are three restaurants here, popular with charter boat crews. Some 500-800 m off the eastern coast are the islets of Little Jost Van Dyke and Sandy Cay. The waters between the JVD and its smaller namesake are too shallow to allow boats to sail, but its possible and common to anchor at the southern end of Little Jost Van Dyke. Sandy Cay is uninhabited, since 2008 a national park, with a small footpath going around its perimeter.
The only way to get to Jost Van Dyke is by sea, by ferry, water taxi or your own boat. Cruise ships make limited stops for their guests to enjoy the island. The 1 ferry pier is on the western shore of Great Harbour.
Private boats/water taxis from the other Virgin Islands (U.S. and British) are quite expensive, but you can sometimes get a local guy to take you to other islands (including Tortola or St. Thomas) for less than the "established" water taxis.
By ferry from Tortola
The most frequent ferry service is from West End, Tortola to Great Harbour with New Horizon Ferry operating multiple daily departures. Sailing time is 25 minutes and tickets cost $30 (round trip) or $20 (single trip) for adults, $20 (round trip) or $15 (single trip) for children.
By ferry from the U.S. Virgin Islands
- See also: British Virgin Islands#Get in
From the U.S. Virgin Islands, there are some ferries during the weekends departing from Red Hook, Saint John via Cruz Bay, Saint Thomas, though apparently the sailing back doesn't stop in Saint John. Sailing time is 60 minutes from Red Hook or 30 minutes from Cruz Bay.
By your own vessel
For those with their own boat, Great Harbour has no moorings and it may be challenging to find good holding for your anchor! You can pick up a mooring for the night in Little Harbour or White Bay. White Bay is a popular daytime anchorage and may not be comfortable and/or safe overnight under some conditions. Diamond Cay on the north side of the island has moorings as well.
- 1 Immigration, Great Harbour, Government Pier, ☏ .
- 2 Customs (Great Harbour, Police office), ☏ .
Walking is the easiest method of transportation on the island. Paths and roads are available between each population centre, bay and beach. The island is very hilly and can be muddy in the frequent rainstorms, so it's not the easiest place for those with disabilities, etc.
Several taxi services are available, but operate very erratically. Don't expect lightning service... plan ahead.
If arriving by ferry, taxis are waiting to take guests to popular spots like White Bay. Guests can arrange with taxi drivers in advance for a time and location to be picked up and returned to the ferry dock.
- Abe's Taxi Service, ☏ .
- Bunn's Taxi Service, ☏ .
- Claude's Safari Service, Great Harbour, ☏ .
- Greg's Taxi Service, ☏ .
- Oliver's Taxi Service, ☏ .
4x4s and vehicles can be rented from locals — no chains here. Two reliable companies are Abe & Eunice's and Paradise car rental. Rental cars be expensive and they don't offer insurance, but they are effective for getting around. Most business is done on a handshake and smile on the island. They will accept cash for your rental. Renters are instructed to leave the vehicle at the ferry dock on the day of departure with the keys under the mat.
Vehicles are not always necessary if you are up for some energetic walking. However, the island is very hilly and if you want to venture beyond White Bay and the popular tourist spots, a taxi or vehicle is advisable.
- Abe's & Eunicy's Car Rental, Little Harbour, ☏ , fax: . at Abe's By The Sea Restaurant in Little Harbour Rates: Suzuki Jeep, summer: $45-75/day, winter: $60-80/day.
- Paradise Jeep Rental, Great Harbour, ☏ .
- 1 Sandy Cay. If you have a dinghy or want to make a stop with your sailboat along the way, do yourself a favor and stop by uninhabited Sandy Cay right along the way to Jost Van Dyke. It has one of the most spectacular sandy beaches available, is usually not too crowded, and even has a path around the island so you can look at the local flora and fauna. Please note that during some seasons the beach can be a little buggy, but the slightest breeze will take care of this problem.
- 2 Bubbly Pool. On the northeastern end of the island, near Diamond Cay, is a surf-fed "Bubbly Pool" that is a tourist attraction when the swells are running. It's an easy walk from Foxy's "other" bar, Foxy's Taboo.
But beyond the island's bars and the beaches, there's not a lot to "see" beyond stunning natural vistas. One major landmark in Grand Harbour was the yellow Methodist Church, though it was ruined by the hurricane in 2017.
The point of being on JVD is to do pretty much nothing. Stare at St. John. Rub suntan lotion into your companion's back. Turn the page in your paperback. Maybe shout up to the bar for them to bring you another painkiller please!
For the adventurous, hotels will be happy to arrange excursions for deep sea fishing, sailing trips, or day trips to uninhabited specs of perfection like Sandy Cay.
Walking between the tiny main "town" on Great Harbour, up over the hill to White Bay is one of more peaceful, beautiful short walks in the Caribbean, allowing views from Tortola all the way across St. John to St. Thomas in the distance. Shoes for this hike are advisable as the terrain is rocky. It can be done barefoot, but people usually regret this choice half-way through this hike.
- 1 Majohnny Hill. Highly fit folks may consider hiking up to the highest point on JVD, 321 m (about 1000') high Majohnny Hill with stunning 360-degree views across the Caribbean. This is a significant undertaking however. Some people do it in 4x4s (see Get around above).
- 2 Jost Van Dyke Scuba, Great Harbour (right on the beach), ☏ . 8AM - 6PM. Jost Van Dyke's only scuba diving operator. A full service dive shop offering dive charters, free delivery on equipment rentals and snorkeling and eco-tours. Explore some of the most remote and undiscovered diving in the BVI. More than 40 unmarked dive sites. Also offering free pick-up and delivery from Tortola saving you the cost of a ferry.
- 3 Ocean Spa, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Different types of massage on board a ship anchored outside White Bay. $60-400.
The U.S. dollar is the currency of Jost Van Dyke. Most establishments take major credit cards (Visa, MC and for the most part American Express). Your credit card company will likely attach a "foreign transaction fee" to every credit card purchase made in the BVIs -- even though you are using the U.S. dollar. Check with your credit card company in advance to avoid any surprises. It is also advisable that you notify your credit card companies of your dates and location of travel to avoid your card being "turned off."
There are no ATMs or banks on Jost van Dyke. The nearest one is in Sopers Hole, West End (Tortola) at the First Caribbean International Bank. So be sure to bring cash with you if you intend to use it. In a pinch, some retailers may give you a "cash advance" if using your credit card for a purchase, but this is rare and entirely up to the shop owner.
Shopping is limited on Jost beyond food, drink, and lodging. The main shopping strip is in Great Harbour and along a sandy road parallel to the beach. There are a variety of little shops, selling locally made goods or some unique items beyond the usual t-shirts, but overall Jost is not someplace you come to shop.
There are very limited grocery options. Best bet is to provision on Tortola You can shop on-line in advance for your groceries and have them meet you at the West End ferry landing dock. Some services will deliver to the ferry dock at Great Harbor. Delivery is generally free, with few exceptions and prices are comparable to grocery prices throughout the Caribbean.
For souvenirs and things you may need here like sunglasses or sandals, many restaurants and bars have a small shop.
- 1 Christine Bakery, The Alley, Great Harbour, ☏ , fax: . A good spot to grab cookies or baked goods. Their specialty are their breads in several varieties.
Eat and drink
In Jost van Dyke, establishments are often both restaurants and bars.
Great Harbour, White Bay, and Little Harbour all have restaurants in one form or another, but each runs on a different schedule, more or less at the whim of its owner. Wander throughout the island of Jost Van Dyke and you're sure to find something interesting...great flying fish sandwiches, burgers, chicken and the like; menus are for the most part made up of Caribbean and Western dishes. Roti is a local favourite: essentially, a wrap of curried chicken or goat, mixed with potatoes and served with a marmalade on the side.
Visitors should not expect fast service and should plan their time on island accordingly. Many foods are made from scratch to order and there is no such thing as fast food. So don't wait until you are starving to go somewhere to eat. The same applies to your drinks. When you're halfway done, order another. By the time you finish the first drink the second one will finally show up.
The island specialty is the "painkiller" made famous by the Soggy Dollar Bar. A lethal combination of Pussers dark rum, cream of coconut, pineapple juice and orange juice -- finished off with a sprinkle of freshly ground nutmeg (or island viagra as locals refer to it). A simple recipe for a painkiller is four parts pineapple juice, one part orange juice, one part "Coco Lopez" (sweetened cream of coconut), and dark rum to taste. A little nutmeg finishes off the drink. Try ordering a painkiller from each bar and see which one has the recipe down best.
Liquor throughout the Virgin Islands is generally extremely inexpensive. "Pour Man" (a pun for pour your own) or "honor bars" are common on Jost. Liquor and mixers are left out for guests to help themselves and guests keep track of what they drink on their own. When it's time to leave guests provide the list of what they consumed to the restaurant or bar. Alternatively, guests can tell the bartender what they want and they are handed the fixings to make the drink. Oddly enough in this circumstance the restaurants do better since non-locals will generally load up on the liquor in their drinks and minimize the mixers. When in fact the mixers may cost more than the liquor. It's important that you be honest and forthright about your consumption and pay accordingly.
- 1 Ali Baba's Restaurant & Bar, Main Street, Great Harbour, ☏ . A nice spot for breakfast where you can hang out with the locals and have a beer with your eggs. The bar is a pleasant place to hang for a few hours. Live music some nights.
- 2 Corsairs Beach Bar & Restaurant, Great Harbour, ☏ . Reportedly has some of the best food in all the BVI.
- 3 Foxy's Tamarind Bar & Restaurant, western end of Great Harbour, ☏ , fax: . Bar and restaurant with live music some nights. Foxy's is known to have BBQ night on Fridays and Saturdays that will fill you up quite well. Reservations for Foxy's BBQ night are strongly encouraged.
- 4 Gertrude's Beach Bar & Restaurant, White Bay near Soggy Dollar Bar, ☏ . A decent spot for wings or casual food. You can also rent a beach chair and hang out for the day.
- 5 Ivan's Local Flavour Restaurant & Stress Free Bar, White Bay, ☏ . Ivan's on White Bay does a BBQ night similar to the one in Foxy's on Thursdays.
- 6 One Love Bar & Grill, on the beach, White Bay, ☏ . Just down the beach from Soggy Dollar and has excellent food ranging from Caribbean lobster to sandwiches. They also have good live music almost daily.
- 7 Hendo's Hideout (White Bay). Bar and restaurant with Caribbean and American fare, sushi available on Thursday nights. Dinner menu on Th-Sa.
Little Harbour and Diamond Cay
- 8 Abe's By The Sea Restaurant & Bar, Little Harbour, eastern shore, ☏ . Seafood and Caribbean fare. Also has a grocery store and car rental.
- 9 Harris' Place, Little Harbour, ☏ , fax: . Harris Place in Little Harbor serves fresh lobster. Established in the early 1980s. All-you-can-eat lobster night, also serves pea soup, homemade pies, bread, and hotsauce. Also a do-it-yourself bar...any drink made in any way desired. Live music almost every night.
- 10 Sidney's Peace and Love, Little Harbour, ☏ . Seafood and Caribbean fare, particularly famous for big lobsters.
Most overnight visitors sleep in their sailboat berths, anchored dozens or more at a time in Great Harbor, Little Harbor, or White Bay. That said, there are some lodging options on land, mostly around White Bay.
- 1 Ivans Stressfree Bar and Campground (on White Bay), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Baresite camping and some very basic, but colorful cabins. Cabins are spartan but come with a decent bed, small refrigerator, fan and light overhead. Most cabins have built in shelving and a mirror. Restrooms and showers are communal. Sheets are provided but bring your own towels. There is also a communal kitchen. Guests can make their own meals and store food. Some cabins have covered porches and chairs and everything is just steps from the beach. Clotheslines are available and flashlights for getting around at night are advisable. Ivan has also built a "villa" with a studio and a one-bedroom unit. campsites $25-45, cabins $65-75, villas $150-500 nightly, $1500-3200 weekly. These are winter rates, summer rates are a bit lower..
- 2 White Bay Villas & Cottages (between White Bay and Great Harbour), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. 20 beautiful waterfront villas and cottages with amazing views of White Bay, St. John, Tortola and St. Thomas. The largest, the Plantation Villa has 5 bedrooms, while the smaller ones have one or two. Apparently one of the more "splurge" lodgings on JVD they have free Wi-Fi, tv, bathroom, kitchen and balcony. rates starting at $350.
- 3 Ocean View Villa, White Bay (between White Bay & Great Harbour), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 10AM. Ocean View Villa is a 4 AC bedroom 4 bathroom house with fast Wi-Fi, cable TV and phone access, beautiful hand-made mahogany kitchen cabinets, kitchenette with dishwasher and a stunning view of the channel West End and Tortola. There are two bedrooms and two single 1 bedroom with own kitchen and bathroom. $300 (1 bedroom, 2-3 guests)-$1300 (the whole villa)/night.
- 4 Sandy Ground Estates, Baker's Bay, East End, ☏ , fax: . 8 villas at the eastern tip of JVD. Scheduled to reopen during 2019, when the damages from the 2017 hurricanes Irma and Maria have been repaired.
- 5 [dead link] Sea Crest Inn, Great Harbour, ☏ , fax: , ✉ email@example.com. 4 studio apartments. A/C, kitchenette, bathroom, free Wi-Fi. Winter: $230/night, Summer: $200/night (three night minimum).
- 6 Pink House (eastern part of White Bay), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Two big houses for rent on White Bay, geared towards larger parties and longer stays (only weekly rates). Pink House Oleander $3,950-9,950/week, Pink House Bougainvillea $9,000-15,000/week.
- 7 Perfect Pineapple (White Bay), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Some rooms and single or double bedroom units. A/C, private porch, private bath, tv, kitchen. $170-441.
The area code for the British Virgin Islands is 284, and it's part of the North American Numbering Plan. To make a call within the BVI, dial the seven digit number. From elsewhere in the world including the Caribbean, USA or Canada, dial 1-284 and then the seven digit number.
- 3 Great Harbour Police Station, Great Harbor, opposite Government Dock, ☏ .
Getting out, like getting in, means by ferry or private boat. Check the ferry schedule carefully and inquire in advance about schedules as these can change from time to time and vary from season to season.