British Virgin Islands
Value for Money:
Personality Types that Like it Best
Mid and Centric-Authentics, along with Centric-Venturers rate it strongly
Did You Know …?
- The pirate Blackbeard based his operations at Soper’s Hole on Tortola between 1715 and 1718.
- Anageda has more than 300 shipwrecks because the island is so flat sailors sometimes could not see it.
- The rum drink called Painkiller originated at the Soggy Dollar Bar on Jost Van Dyke Island.
- BVI had no traffic lights until 2001; the government offered locals a seminar on using the lights.
- The island of Norman is said to be Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Treasure Island.”
Small size, big charm
The British Virgin Islands (BVI) is a tiny place, even by Caribbean standards. The island group doesn’t offer a lot of shopping, nightlife or entertainment, but for those who want a choice that’s not too commercial, this is the place to collect a memorable experience. Although BVI is British, it has less of the British feel than Bermuda, for example. In addition, the U.S. dollar is its official currency.
BVI is for relaxing and enjoying white sand beaches, crystal clear warm waters (80 F to 90 F), calm shores and secluded coves. It’s particularly suited for couples who want to rekindle their romance.
Each of the primary islands has its own unique topography and charm.
- Tortola, the largest island in the 70-mile chain, has the capital city, Road Town. It has pristine beaches, sheltered harbors, ancient forts, a mountain national park, a botanic garden and restaurants featuring West Indian to continental dining.
- Virgin Gorda is judged by many to have some of the world’s most striking beaches. Its top attraction is the Baths, an outcropping of huge granite boulders that form grottos, saltwater pools and protected places to swim and snorkel.
- Jost Van Dyke, with only about 200 residents on 12 square miles, has small hotels and simple beachside cottages, small shops, inviting restaurants and bars that serve well-known rum drinks. In early autumn and winter, passing whales and dolphins can be observed from a hilltop.
- Anegada is the only coral island in the volcanic island chain and offers spectacular diving. The interior has salt- and freshwater ponds, mangrove swamps and mud flats, which are home to exotic birds. It is a great place to dive for shipwrecks. Many members of its small population earn their living by fishing.
- Other smaller islands are worth a trip and can be reached by ferry or boat.
Almost any time of the year is a good time to visit, but summers can be hot and muggy. The islands get about 50 inches of rain a year so there can be periods of showers. August and especially September are the months for potential hurricanes.
Things to do for Venturers
- Scuba dive at shipwreck sites. The Caribbean’s most famous dive site is the wreck of the Rhone, which was an iron-hulled steamer that sank during an 1867 hurricane. It is in the Rhone National Marine Park, southeast of Tortola at Salt Island.
- Hop on ferries, catamaran cruises and/or motorboats to go island to island. Or, simply charter a boat to get about.
- An endless array of water sports is everywhere. Besides scuba diving and snorkeling, there are canoeing and kayaking, surfing, sailing, powerboating, parasailing, windsurfing and swimming with dolphins.
- Book a week at Sir Richard Branson’s private Necker Island retreat. It accommodates up to 28 people. Try out the newest toy for guests, the so-called “aero submarine” which glides on the water’s surface but also can dive for up to two hours under the water to explore shipwrecks and marine life. Passengers follow standard scuba procedures and travel with a certified pilot for the vessel.
- Hike various islands on your own or with your group. There are 28 national parks, and some are accessible only by boat.
- Venturers are most likely to feel burnout from their fast-paced lifestyles. So, leave your laptop and cell phone at home (or at least in the hotel room!) and just kick back. Besides, the BVI has a lot of classic beach bars. Check them out.
Things to do for Centrics
- Snorkel in Spring Bay in Virgin Gorda, at The Baths nearby or in Brewer’s Bay on Tortola.
- Hire a guide to help you explore historic sites that are located in national parks.
- Go to the horse races. Watch a game of cricket.
- On Virgin Gorda, take a boat trip to see Oil Nut Bay, which is a prime spot for spotting sharks and stingrays. Also, kayak in Deep Bay on Virgin Gorda.
- The BVI events calendar is loaded with boating events and regattas involving sailboats, yachts and other vessels. Choose the one that interests you most and come for the fun.
- Charter a boat for deep-sea fishing. Or, troll the shallow waters with your fly-fishing gear in hand.
Things to do for Authentics
- Get married or have a second honeymoon on one of the islands, with soft breezes and swaying palms as a backdrop.
- Sign on for a package that includes spas and wellness centers, cosmetic care, natural healing practices, healthy lifestyle programs and an emphasis on vegetarian and organic foods.
- Forget the limitations of a hotel, and stay in a villa.
- Visit the old, but still functional Callwood Rum Distillery on Tortola. Buy rum and visit the old guard house, which is now an art gallery and gift shop.
- Make your first visit to British Virgin Islands on a cruise ship.
- Shop in the capital city of Road Town for rum, spices, jams and soaps, plus handcrafted jewelry, local art and silk-screened fabrics.
For more information, consult the British Virgin Islands Tourist Board at www.bvitourism.com.