Monday, October 22, 2012

Day Trippin’ from St. John to Norman Island & Jost Van Dyke

While visiting St. John for a week earlier this year, we booked a day out at sea with Captain John of Palm Tree Charters.  Captain John lets you “choose the cruise” so our group opted for some snorkeling and some beach (and bar) hopping in the British Virgin Islands (BVIs).

A day on Captain John’s boat, the Palma Bella, will cost you $575 and $25 BVI/US customs/fees per person, plus gas. To help cut costs, we posted on travel boards ahead of time and found four folks who were eager to split the trip with us. 

We met at the St. John National Park dock at 8:30am.  Captain John provides a large cooler full of ice so we dropped our beverages into the cooler and quickly mixed up some mimosas for the ride.  We also filled out our Customs paperwork ahead of time to ensure the BVI check-in on Tortola was quick and painless.

And off we went!  Captain John cruised along St. John's beautiful North Shore for a tour of some of the island's most beautiful beaches and a look at the area's multi-million dollar villas.  Captain John enjoys telling stories and did a great job narrating this portion of the trip.

We docked in Tortola and Captain John spoke with the proper folks to quickly get us through Customs.  

Leaving Tortola, we headed to Norman Island to snorkel the Indian and the Caves.  There were some high winds which created large waves, but Captain John is an expert and navigated us over to Norman Island without problem.  I am prone to seasickness but felt fine.

Snorkeling the caves of Treasure Point was an experience!  Crystal clear, clam water and lots to see!  The coastline here is rocky and we swam into the caves and explored the rock walls and formations inhabited by cup corals and tropical fish. 

Caption John decided that the seas were too rough to snorkel the Indians, four rocky pinnacles which form abundant coral gardens, a 15-foot tunnel, lots of fish and an underwater cave.  We were disappointed but figured we’d save the Indians for another time!

We pulled into a harbor on Norman Island, the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel, Treasure Island. In addition to have a history of acting as a hiding spot for Pirate booty, Pirates Bight Bar and Restaurant offers the “best Bushwacker in the BVI.”  

We enjoyed a couple drinks, swam and played games at the bar until it was time to head to Jost Van Dyke, another island in the BVIs for lunch.

We pulled into Long Bay harbor on Jost Van Dyke, docked and headed up to the famous Foxy’s Taboo for lunch.  

While we didn’t see Foxy himself, we grabbed a table and ordered a feast and of course, a couple Painkillers.  The views from this restaurant are spectacular, here are a few pictures.

Next stop…White Bay, home of the famous Soggy Dollar Bar., home of the "original" Painkiller.  There are no docks here so we anchored, put our cash in sealed plastic baggies (to prevent soggy dollars) and swam to shore.  

This strip of beach is absolutely amazing, tropical and dotted with  beach bars such as Ivans and One Love Bar and Grill.  We ordered painkillers, found some chairs on the beach and relaxed, swimming in the bay.

When Captain John said it was time to leave, we were all disappointed!  But we needed to make it back to St. John before customs there closed so we could check back into the US.

What a day out at sea looking at the most beautiful scenery!   If you find yourself on St. John or St. Thomas, I highly recommend a day trip with Captain John (there are other vendors as well but Captain John is awesome) to check out some of these islands and bars. 

We loved the Virgin Islands so much that we just booked a trip to Virgin Gorda, an island in the British Virgin Islands in January.  Will have much to report after that trip!  Thanks for reading! 


  1. I had such a great time reliving my daysail from St. John last year by reading this. We have many of the same photos!

    If you ever get a chance to snorkel the Indians, please do so. I think it's the best snorkeling Iv'e ever done. Hope you enjoy your trip to VG!

  2. Thanks Erika, I have heard great things about the Indians. After what you mentioned about food on VG however, I started second guessing my decision to skip Grenada...oh well, next trip!

  3. Emily, so sorry I called you Erika by mistake! My apologies! :)

  4. hey, no apologies needed. it's true that the food isn't amazing on virgin gorda, at least not at the places we visited on this trip, but you won't go hungry, either. and if you stick to side of the road, bbq-style local place, you'd probably do better than we did. but definitely go to CocoMaya for cocktails if nothing else--it's a lovely ambience there!

  5. I compiled a list of places where we can find side-of-the-road, local food, which we prefer anyway. I love the pre-trip research! :) CocoMaya looks beautiful and we will definitely enjoy some cocktails there.