Sandy Cay, a six-acre island less than a mile offshore Jost Van Dyke , is in many respects a perfect desert island. It has a sandy white beach, coconut palm trees, a nice offshore reef, and a wooded interior. Most visitors can pass a few hours here relaxing on the beach, swimming, or snorkeling. Others take the short (20-minute) hike that circles the interior salt pond and takes you past rocky cliffs favored by nesting seabirds.
Naturalists will admire the diversity of eco-systems—beach, swamp, cliff, forest—that exist on such a tiny island. Look for the flowering lilies that grow near the beach and the seeming millions of hermit crabs that maneuver around the island in borrowed shells. Keep your eyes out for a glimpse of the tiny bananaquit, a yellow-breasted bird that flits around with great speed and favors the pipe organ cactus, especially when it is flowering. If you can’t see the birds, then look for their nests, untidy masses of twigs and grass that hang just about at eye level in parts of the forest.
For many decades, Sandy Cay was owned by multimillionaire philanthropist Laurance Rockefeller. Just before his death in 2005, Rockefeller donated the island to the British Virgin Islands government on the condition that it become a national park, which it has. Rockefeller always believed in maintaining public access to the island, and the short trail that circles the island is well maintained. There are no moorings, however, and no trash cans, picnic tables, or bathrooms. Visiting sailboats should anchor off the sandy beach. The beach is susceptible to swells, especially in winter.