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Jost Van Dyke, British Virgin Islands Travel Guide
Last Updated: Jun-05-2012, Hits: 7,725, Rating: 0, Reviews: 0, Votes: 0 Bookmark and Share
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Jost Van Dyke, British Virgin Islands Travel Guide Hotels and Lodging (4)
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Tortola, British Virgin Islands Travel Guide
Location: Caribbean
Geography: Island, Beach
Vacation Type: Relaxation
Popularity: Off-the-Beaten Path
Costs: Moderate
Attractions: Scenery, Hiking, Scuba & Snorkeling

Facts and Stats:
Population: 297
Land Area: 3.3 square miles
Elevation: Sea level
Country Dialing Code: 284
Languages: English
Electricity: 110V
Currency: US Dollar
Time Zone: AST - UTC-4
Current Time:

Jost Van Dyke is best known for 3 things: Beautiful beaches, beach bars, and lobster feasts. This small island is sleepy and relaxing, and a favorite stopover destination for the yachting crowd.

The British Virgin Islands (BVI) are located in the northwestern extreme of the Leeward Islands of the Lesser Antilles to the northwest of the U.S. Virgin Islands. Jost Van Dyke is a hilly, volcanic island located in the eastern portion of the islands approximately 5 miles northwest of Tortola Island. The southern part of the island has 3 bays/harbors that provide shelter to boaters. The highest point is Roach Hill at 1054 feet.

JVD has several smaller islands offshore. Little Jost Van Dyke is to the east and takes up 163 acres. There is only 1 family living here and they own nearly half of the island's land. The rest is owned by the government. To the east of Little Jost is the 14 acre, uninhabited Green Cay that offers good diving. A few hundred feet to the south is the very small, but popular, Sandy Spit with its picture perfect beach. Further south is Sandy Cay which is also uninhabited.

Brief History:
The Virgin Islands were inhabited as early as 300 BC by the Ciboney tribe from Venezuela. They were conquered by the Arawaks (Taino) around 200 AD. The Caribs enslaved the Arawaks a short time later.

In 1493, Christopher Columbus discovered Virgin Gorda and the other British Virgin Islands naming them "St Ursula and 11,000 Virgins". Following this discovery, the Spanish nearly wiped out the Carib people, and many more died of disease while enslaved.

Some claim that Jost Van Dyke is named after 17th century Dutch pirate Joost van Dyk who used the island as a hideout. Official sources claim there is no evidence to support this. In any event, the first white settlement in BVI was established by the Dutch in 1648, however, British planters took over the islands in 1672 and they became a British Colony.

In the 1730's the Jost Van Dyke was settled by Quakers who developed sugar cane plantations.

In 1759, Quaker William Thornton was born on Little Jost Van Dyke. Thornton would later become famous for winning a contest with his design of the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. Although there were many revisions, much of the building is based on his design.

Dr. John Lettsome, founder of the Medical Society of London, also hailed from Little Jost Van Dyke where his family had a large cotton plantation, the remains of which, still exist today. After receiving his medical education in England, he returned to the BVI in 1776, and became the chief doctor for the islands. He later returned to England.

In 1834, slavery was abolished in the Virgin Islands freeing an estimated 5,792 slaves. As many as 2,000 slaves had already been freed before abolition. The slaves "freed" during abolition were not freed immediately. They had to endure 4 more years of indentured servitude. The reason for this was to phase out slavery rather than suffer the effects of ending it immediately.

Jost Van Dyke, like the rest of the region, experienced a sharp economic decline during the 19th century, mainly due to emancipation of the slaves and numerous destructive hurricanes. Despite these challenges, the island's population continued to grow. By 1853, it is reported that 1,235 people lived here - 4x the current population. That same year 196 people died in the cholera outbreak.

During the post emancipation era, government programs were introduced to revive the sugar, cotton and livestock industries. During this time, Jost Van Dyke subsisted mainly on fishing and agriculture. Later, charcoal production became a chief export, particularly between the 1920's to the 1960's. During that same time period, the island also exported cattle. These exports died out in the 1960's due to new government regulations and the island suffered until yachters began showing up in the 1970's.

December 23, 1989, the island got electricity, and the entire island was on the grid by the end of 1997. In March of 1996, Great Harbour was connected to White Bay and Little Harbour with a new paved road.

Today, the economy of the island relies almost entirely on tourism.

People & Culture:
Jost Van Dyke's locals might be the most easy-going crowd in the British Virgin Islands, and they are often described as very welcoming. The island's residents have struggled with growing tourism and modernization that has been a blessing and a curse. More tourism and development, of course, means a higher standard of living. On the other hand, more people threaten their quiet way of life, the landfill is growing, and cultural traditions are beginning to disappear.

One thing that hasn't disappeared is the traditional music of the BVI known as Fungi. It is named for a cornmeal-based local food dish. Fungi music is a mish-mash of European, African and local instruments and has a distinctive melody and rhythm.

90% of the locals are of African descent, and nearly 50% are under the age of 34. Most residents are Methodist and there is a church in Great Harbour.

Food & Nightlife:
For an island with a population less than 300 people, JVD has a surprising number of restaurants. Most of the fare is Caribbean with an emphasis on seafood, in particular, lobster feasts are common. The tap water is desalinated sea water and is considered safe to drink, however, bottled water is available.

JVD has a great selection of beach bars to choose from, the most famous of which is the Soggy Dollar Bar. Since White Bay has no dock, yachters often have to swim from their boat to the beach, and hence the name. A couple of bars on the island feature something you won't likely see anywhere else - honor bars where you make your own drinks and leave payment.

Money & Costs:
The local currency is the US dollar and most shops, hotels and restaurants accept major credit cards. There are no banks or ATMs on JVD.

While on average, the BVI is fairly expensive, lodging and dining prices are somewhat less expensive on JVD than the larger islands of Tortola and Virgin Gorda. Most of the lodging options are under $200/night. There is a 7% tax on accomodations. Other than dining and a couple of gift shops, there really isn't much to spend your money on while here.

Tipping in restaurants is 15%, however, some restaurants may include a 15% service fee in the bill.

There is no sales tax in the BVI.

Entry Requirements:
For an explanation of entry requirements, please visit the Deputy Governor's Office.

Getting There & Around:
JVD has no airport and most visitors sail here anyway. If you aren't sailing, you can fly into Tortola Island's Terrance B. Lettsome International Airport (EIS) that is actually located on nearby Beef Island. In fact, the airport was previously called Beef Island Airport. Flights from San Juan, St. Thomas, St. Martin and Antigua arrive here in addition to charter flights. Another option is to fly into St. Thomas which has many direct flights from the U.S.. In either case, you will need to catch a water taxi or ferry to Jost Van Dyke.

If you are taking the ferry from Tortola, you will need to catch a cab from the airport to West End. From here, you can catch a ride with New Horizon Ferry Service (284-495-9278) to Jost Van Dyke.

If you arrive in St. Thomas, the ferry will depart from Red Hook and stop at St. John along the way. The trip takes about 1 - 1.25 hours and costs about $70 per person round trip. This Ferry service is run by Inter Island Boat Services. Another option is to take a ferry from Red Hook to West End, Tortola with one of these companies: Smith's Ferry, Road Town Fast Ferry, or Native Son Ferry Service. Once in West End, you will go through customs and then need to catch another ferry provided by New Horizon Ferry Service (284-495-9278) to Jost Van Dyke. No matter which option you choose, you should check the ferry company's schedule and call them before planning your trip.

If your flight arrives too late, you will have to spend the night or shell out the money for a water taxi which runs in the neighborhood of $300 from St. Thomas. A couple of water taxi companies to consider are Dolphin Shuttle and Dohm's Water Taxi.

Once on the island, there are jeep rentals available. Keep in mind that driving is on the left side of the road. If you choose not to rent a Jeep, there is taxi service available. You can walk between Great Harbour and White Bay, but be prepared for a hilly walk.

Jost Van Dyke enjoys a tropical climate tempered by trade winds. Temperatures vary little throughout the year or from day to night. Rainfall can be erratic on the island, but generally September to December are the wettest months. Hurricane season is from June through November. High season is November through April.

Below are the current conditions and weather forecast for Jost Van Dyke.

The table below shows the average high and low temperatures.

  Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Avg High 79 80 82 84 85 86 87 87 86 85 82 80
Avg Low 68 67 68 69 71 73 73 73 73 72 71 69
Precipitation 3" 3" 2" 3" 5" 3" 3" 4" 6" 5" 7" 4"

  • Emergency: 999, 911 or VHF 16
  • Search & Rescue: 284-494-4357 or 284-494-3473
  • Police: 284-495-9345
  • Customs: 284-494-3430
  • Operator: 0
  • International directory assistance: 110
  • Local directory assistance: 119
Travel Tips & Additional Information:
  • The country music video for Kenny Chesney’s 2002 recording, "No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems" was filmed on and around Jost Van Dyke.
  • There are no dangerous or poisonous land animals in the British Virgin Islands. Oleander, Elephant Ears, and the Manchioneel Tree have poisonous leaves or fruit and should be avoided. In the water, fire coral and sea urchins cause the most problems.
  • There is no hyperbaric chamber in BVI. The closest one is in the US Virgin Islands.
  • Public nudity is illegal, hence, there are no nude beaches.
  • The only hospital is in Road Town on Tortola. There is a small clinic on Jost Van Dyke.
  • The island has a very low crime rate and is very safe.
  • Spear fishing is not permitted in the BVI.
  • It is against the law to use SCUBA gear to capture or remove any marine animal or coral.
  • Many of the reef fish in the BVI carry a dangerous disease called ciguatera. It is recommended that you do not keep any caught fish unless you are with an experienced guide who knows which fish are safe to eat.
  • Yachters and sailors must pay for a cruising permit while in the BVI.
  • There are no golf courses in the BVI due to the hilly nature of the islands.

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