Beach-Lover's Guide to the BVI: Jost Van Dyke
JOST VAN DYKE
This is one you dream about: a spotless stretch of eminently walkable sand fronted by inviting blue water and backed by an eclectic mix of beach bars and snack shacks. A knobby hill splits the beach in two, with most visitors gravitating toward the west side. Coral barricades the bay, though two cuts allow boaters to enter and anchor in the narrow slash of water between the reef and the sand. Few yachts stay here overnight because of the close quarters, so the beach clears out before sunset. Cruise-shippers ferried to the beach early in the day gravitate to the Soggy Dollar Bar; the crowd thins as you move east or west. The best snorkeling away from the boats is along the far west arm of the bay. A trail at the east end of the beach leads over a hill to Great Harbour -- a 20-minute walk.
Where to Stay: Sandcastle (from $130 low season, $210 high*; 284-495-9888; sandcastle-bvi.com) is a quiet cottage property beside the Soggy Dollar. Of the eight rooms, four sit just behind the beach's palms in two rondel cottages. Accommodations are basic, clean and airy. There's no air conditioning or phones; beachfront rooms have sun-warmed showers.
Where to Play: The famous Soggy Dollar Bar ($**; 284-495-9888; sandcastle-bvi.com/soggy) is under new ownership, and many yachties these days pay with waterproof credit cards instead of wet cash, but the Painkillers are still eminently analgesic and the hammocks still swing between the palms at this classic beach bar. The kitchen does a good job with flying fish and jerk chicken breast sandwiches, and their conch fritters serve as a good base for a Painkiller or Mango Madness marathon.
Seddy's One Love Bar (onelovebar.com), is a flotsam-and-jetsam-decorated hole in the beach that looks a little dark and forbidding from outside. Duck in, though, and you'll receive the warmest of welcomes and coldest of beers from Seddy Callwood and his wife, Raquelle.
East of White Bay's hump, Ivan's Stress-Free Bar ($; 284-495-9358; caribbeancruisingclub.com/ivan) is the coolest chill-out spot, with an honor bar, light lunch menu and Thursday night barbecue.
Hot Stuff: For the best old-fashioned beach food (burgers and hot dogs) check out Jewel's Little Snack Shack ($; 284-495-9286).
Great Harbour and Little Harbour
The beaches at Jost Van Dyke's other two main stops are nothing compared to White Bay, but both feature mandatory stops for any beach-bar aficionado. Calypsonian raconteur Foxy Callwood put Jost on the map, and his Tamarind Bar and Grill ($$; 284-495-9258; foxysbar.com) is still going strong. Foxy himself entertains, but only during the day; live bands play at night Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. The popular restaurant has a full menu heavy on seafood; Friday and Saturday are barbecue nights.
Corsair's ($; 284-495-9294) is Great Harbour's newest bar/restaurant, serving full English breakfasts, light lunches with homemade soups and a full dinner. Ali Baba's ($$; 284-495-9280) is the spot for down-home Caribbean food.
Over at less-visited Little Harbour, both Sidney's Peace & Love ($$; 284-495-9271) and Harris' Place ($$; 284-495-9302) have garnered loyal followings for their friendly, laid-back atmosphere and fresh lobster.
Hot Stuff: Not only does Foxy host the world-famous Old Year's Eve Party, but he also organizes a Wooden Boat Regatta and Halloween Cat Fight, boat races/excuses for big raucous parties. Check his website for the latest details.
SANDY CAY and SANDY SPIT
Sandy Cay and its little Spit of a sister lie close together off Jost Van Dyke, forever causing confusion. The good news is that both are about as idyllic as it gets: simple swirls of sugary beach surrounded by luminous aquamarine water. The uninhabited islets are tiny -- you can circumnavigate Sandy Spit in less than five minutes, and only two lonely palm trees stand above its scrub -- but the castaway experience of landing on either is immeasurable. Snorkeling is good on the Cay and terrific in the shallow, coral-filled lagoon on the east side of the Spit (only enter the lagoon if it's calm; large swells could drop you onto the reef). There are no facilities on either island.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication