Ask anyone that has been to multiple islands and you’ll get different answers as it all depends on what your priorities are for a great beach. Is it just about how blue and clear the water is or must it be completely devoid of other people? Do you require a fun beach bar where you can get a mango daiquiri and listen to reggae or should it be completely development free? Do you just want to look at nothing but water for miles and miles or do you prefer the view of other islands? Black sand, grey sand, pink sand or white sand? Calm water or wave action? There’s so much variety in the Caribbean that you can find whatever you want somewhere. However, I have to say that my favorite beach in the Caribbean to date is White Bay Beach on a small island called Jost Van Dyke in the British Virgin Islands.
For context, we have visited many Caribbean islands but certainly haven’t been to all of them. We’ve visited the Bahamas, Aruba, Jamaica, the U.S. Virgin Islands (St. Thomas, St. Croix, St. John), the British Virgin Islands (Jost, Tortola and Virgin Gorda), St. Lucia, the Riviera Maya, Belize and Turks & Caicos. Antigua is on this year’s agenda for November.
We started visiting Jost Van Dyke back in 2006 and fell in love. The island is small – about 300 people live there on a permanent basis. The main town is Great Harbor and is a simple row of beach bars and beach shacks and is the location of the famous Foxy’s Bar. Over the hill is White Bay Beach which is home to the Soggy Dollar Bar and the Sandcastle Hotel, which is where we always stayed.
The Soggy Dollar bar gets its name from the fact that there is no dock in White Bay so most people jump off their boat and swim to shore for a drink and thus pay with soggy dollar bills (the staff often tacks them up behind the bar to dry out). The Sandcastle is a simple no frills hotel with 6 rooms, only 2 of which have AC and indoor showers. It’s a step above camping but the Four Seasons it is not. Jost is a bit of a party island but the party in the evening is over in Great Harbor at Foxy’s. After 5 pm, White Bay Beach is practically deserted but you can take a quick 5 minute cab ride to Great Harbor for a night out.
But this is how the end of a night at Foxy’s looks:
We stayed at the Sandcastle and White Bay for 10 years, usually spending the same week in early April there. The staff there was practically like family to us. However, I have to admit that time caught up with little Jost and everyone and their dog discovered this little bit of paradise (and Kenny Chesney singing about it repeatedly and filming his videos there didn’t help). After the last few years, we realized that it was getting too crowded with day trippers for us and we needed to branch out and start visiting some other islands and locations. Plus, 10 years to vacation at the same place was a bit much and I started thinking we were missing out by not exploring more.
Jost will always hold a special place in my heart and we have spent many, many nights having the hotel bar all to ourselves (the staff leaves at 9pm and the bar is for hotel guests only after that), we have had waaaay too many painkillers and rum drinks on this beach and I have slept off many a hangover in the hammocks and chairs here. Steve and I agree that we will return to Jost one day soon and maybe even stay a night or two for old times sake but it was time to pack our bags and move on to test new waters. However, White Bay still gets my vote for #1 beach in the Caribbean and it should be on everyone’s “must do” beach list for at least one visit.
Oh, and my criteria for a great beach? Crystal clear and calm water, some basic amenities like a very simple beach bar with a clean bathroom and I need a place to sit or lie comfortably on the sand (chairs, chaises or hammocks – even if we have to pay for them) and something to provide shade, such as palm trees or umbrellas and not overrun with people – I don’t like people right next to me and I don’t like swimming in a place crowded with boats where I am worried about drunken boaters or breathing the exhaust from their engines. A few sail boats and other people are fine and I don’t expect complete desertion but Jost now has sometimes up to 80+ boats in it during the day plus tenders bringing loads of cruise ship passengers over from St. Thomas so it got to be too much for us.
Some other honorable mentions in the Caribbean are (i) Maho Beach, St. John, (ii) Grace Bay Beach, Turks & Caicos, (iii) Scott’s beach @ Caneel Bay, St. John, (iv) Lindquist Beach, St. Thomas, (v) Anse Chastenet Beach, St. Lucia and (vi) Cane Garden Bay, Tortola (but only on a day when cruise ships aren’t visiting). I look forward to seeing what beaches Antigua has in store this November. Other islands on our to do list include Grenada, St. Barts and the Grenadines.