Nashville songsmiths have successfully mined the Caribbean Islands for inspiration with mega-hits such as “It’s 5 O’Clock Somewhere,” and “No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems.” Artists such as Kenny Chesney and Jimmy Buffet have gone a step further, weaving the tropical sands and clear blue waters into the fabric of their career brands. Fortunately, there’s still plenty of hit songs yet to be written (and experienced) on the shores of these casual island communities. If the Caribbean ambience floats your boat, and you enjoy rustic, authentic destinations, then Jost Van Dyke, a four mile long British Virgin Island may be the perfect fit.
A sign on Jost Van Dyke (JVD), reportedly provided the hook for Chesney’s “No Shoes,…” and the music video was actually shot at Ivan’s Stress Free Bar on White Bay beach. But amazingly, Jost still remains largely unspoiled. For example, downtown Great Harbor’s main street is sand.
There are no hotel chains or resorts on JVD, just a smattering of locally owned guest cottages, open air beach-side restaurants, bars and a few tiny convenience markets. In fact, most JVD visitors arrive by sailboat, only stepping ashore briefly for meals, drinks and some beach time. As a result, “on islanders” get special status.
Getting To Jost Van Dyke
Traveling to JVD is an adventure in itself. It begins with a plane ride to St. Thomas or Tortola. A sturdy inter-island ferry system connects the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, but schedules change at different times of the year, so it’s worthwhile to call ahead. Find ferry info here and also here.
Where To Stay
The island’s two “hotspots” are White Bay beach (sand ‘n’ sun headquarters) and Great Harbor (restaurant/bar central). They are separated by a breathtakingly scenic 20-minute walk over a pitchy volcanic rise that can be traversed on foot, by taxi or rental car. Visiting sailboats moor inside Great Harbor, which explains why most of the eateries are located there. Lodging reservations can be completed via email and many locations offer wi-fi. A good place to begin your room search is on Trip Advisor which presents a wide range of choices, rates and reviews. Food prices are expensive on the island and the few convenience markets have very limited shelf space. (Tip: arrive carrying some beverages and a few simple snacks. For example, a bottle of Pusser rum which costs about $10 on Tortola will run $19 on JVD.)
Located in the prime position on magic White Bay beach is the “infamous” Soggy Dollar Bar, part of the Sandcastle, which offers beachside bungalows and inclusive candlelight dining. White Bay is deserted in the early morning, but attracts a daily fleet of charter boats which arrive midday and depart around 3:45. Watching the transformation from natural paradise to bikini-clad party and back again is a source of great amusement if you enjoy people watching. (Webcam.) The Soggy Dollar gets its name because visitors jump off the boats and swim to shore to sample the island’s most famous elixir, the Pain Killer, a delicious blend of dark rum, fruit juices, Coco Lopez and freshly ground nutmeg. Sandcastle also has music industry ties. Red Light Management founder Coran Capshaw is a partner in the island hotspot. Capshaw’s Nashville clients include Faith Hill, Tim McGraw and Dierks Bentley.
After a full day at the beach, return over the hill to Great Harbor, where the top party spot is Foxy’s bar and grill. Musician Foxy Callwood began this institution as a lemonade stand. Today it attracts boaters to its Friday and Saturday night barbecues from all the seven seas. In season, its DJ-driven dance floor is packed with rum soaked revelers and its New Years and Thanksgiving parties are becoming BVI legend.
Great Harbor is also home to Corsair’s Beach Bar & Restaurant known for its lobster, conch fritters and mango sauce. (Corsair’s also serves absinthe, a controversial, high proof achohol beverage poured over a brown sugar cube into ice and then lit on fire.)
Another “must visit” spot and a comfortable place to lodge, is Ali Baba’s bar, restaurant and rooms. Baba is an excellent host who will share colorful island lore, personal stories, quote poetry and perhaps even give lessons on how to win at the island’s popular ring game. The rooms here are newly built, air conditioned and well appointed. The upstairs rooms each have a small balcony and a view of Great Harbor. (Be sure to try the Creole Conch stew or grilled lobster.)
While Jost Van Dyke is famous for its powdery white sand, colorful snorkeling and tropical climate, some might insist that its chief asset is the friendly people that live there. Everyone says “Hi,” as you walk along making one quickly feel part of the community.
Unfortunately, writing a hit song is not guaranteed on every trip, but if you’re looking for a get-away to turn the telescope around, generate new ideas and experience a different environment, the BVI’s Jost van Dyke may be just your cup of tea (or rum!).