The Soggy Dollar is undoubtedly one of the world’s most iconic beach bars. The name originates from the early days of the bar back in the 70’s. With no dock on the beach or roads to White Bay on the tiny island of Jost Van Dyke, boaters would anchor in the bay and swim or wade ashore, paying for their drinks with the now-wet bills in their pockets.
Back then, the Soggy Dollar was a simple, laid back place with a basic pale blue wooden hut and small bar where you could chill and chat with the friendly owners and staff or play a lively game of ring toss (a beach bar staple). Today, the Soggy Dollar is bigger, bolder and busier.
The setting on White Bay is fabulous. There’s a decent number of well-spaced tables, chairs and umbrellas under the roof and on the sand. Staff, though busy, are friendly and efficient. The music is lively, and there’s a distinct low-key party vibe most of the time.
But (at the risk of sounding like an old poop), for me it’s lost a lot of it’s original charm. I prefer my beach bars to be relaxing places. But on our last visit, there was a line-up at the bar for drinks, seating was hard to come by and the souvenir shop was as busy as the bar. Not exactly conducive to ‘limin’. And, to top it off, construction was underway on an Espresso Bar – not something I associate with beach bar ambiance.
Still, the Soggy Dollar obviously does a lot of things right, as proven by its constant busyness (in spite of being on a relatively obscure and out-of-the-way island) and continually growing international reputation. It’s a popular place, to be sure. And it’s easy to see the bar’s appeal to the type of crowd it attracts (though it is also remarkably family-friendly), and the happy vibe can be infectious. Love it or not – and many do – it’s impossible to dislike the Soggy Dollar Bar.
What will you have?
Beer: The Soggy Dollar has a good selection, with Carib, Red Stripe, Modelo and Coors and Bud Light being popular. But they also proudly represent ‘local’ microbrewers such as St. John’s Brewery from the USVI and the BVl’s own TOLA.
Rum/Cocktails: A nice range of island rums, such as Goslings, Myers, Captain Morgan Spiced and Pusser’s. The mixer will most likely be their own house-brand Soggy Dollar Rum. There are other cocktails, but most people don’t get beyond the Soggy’s signature drink, the Painkiller. In fact, the bar claims to have invented this delicious blend of dark rum, pineapple juice, orange juice and cream of coconut, topped with grated nutmeg. Although, the Pusser’s Rum people on neighbouring Tortola also make this claim (and, in my humble opinion, make a slightly better Painkiller – an opinion further influenced by the somewhat small servings at the Soggy Dollar).
Food: The Soggy Dollar has always had a good kitchen. This is evidenced by a solid lunch menu of simple but well prepared crowd-pleasers, such as burgers, fresh fish sandwiches, lobster rolls, veggie burgers and salads with toppings including mahi-mahi, lobster and chicken. They also serve breakfast.
The Soggy Dollar Bar has become something of an industry in recent years, with its own brand of rum, a busy shop selling a large range of merchandise both onsite and online, a small hotel and even its own streaming radio station (Soggy Dollar Radio – which has a great Roots Reggae show on Sunday mornings), all driven by clever marketing. So, it’s no surprise that some of that low key vibe has been lost, to be replaced, for better or worse, with more pizzazz. And the place can get very busy, especially on Fridays and weekends.
The Soggy Dollar Bar is consistently voted into the top spot on various lists of the Caribbean’s best beach bars. That has to count for something. There’s no denying that it is a legend, and it does have a lot going for it. So, in spite of my own (perhaps petty) reservations, if you are serious about island beach bars, the Soggy Dollar should be on your list.