There must be a reason why the British Virgin Islands (BVI) is known as the sailing capital of the Caribbean and the most popular charter destination in the world. Actually, there are several reasons. This volcanic archipelago in the Caribbean Sea comprises 60 islands and cays; the four main islands are Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Anegada and Jost Van Dyke. Thousands of charter guests flock to this British overseas territory to escape the winter blues or delight in the summer sun. The British Virgin Islands is easily accessible with flights into the Terrence Lettsome International Airport (EIS) on Beef Island with connections in San Juan, Puerto Rico, or via St. Thomas, USVI, which offers non-stop service from New York City, New York, or Miami, Florida. English is widely spoken, and the U.S. dollar is the currency.
This perennial hot spot has more than one attraction; the first of which is the climate. Boasting average air and water temperatures of 80 degrees Fahrenheit/27 degrees Celsius year-round, the BVI is perfectly temperate; it’s not too hot, not too cold, but just right.
The second reason the glitterati makes its way to the amazing island haven: the scenery. These majestic, volcanic islands rise straight out of the sea. Impossibly white, sandy beaches fringed by coral reefs are lapped by cerulean waters. Here, guests will find some of the world’s best snorkeling and diving.
Another draw of the BVIs is the sailing. The nearly perfect conditions offer an ideal place for both novice and experienced sailors to take the helm and explore. Consistent trade winds blow between 15 and 20 knots — a fine gust for an exhilarating sail in the Sir Francis Drake Channel, protected from the fetch of the sea by the mountains of Virgin Gorda to the east and Tortola to the north.
For more exciting sailing, ease out of the channel, as do the yachts competing in the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda Loro Piana Caribbean Superyacht Regatta & Rendezvous every March. This glamorous event pits proud and powerful sailing yachts from 72 to 197 feet against one another in a four-day sailing match. Yachts arrive from all over the world to compete in the sailing event of the season. Yacht Club Costa Smeralda is located in Virgin Gorda and is a sophisticated, mega yacht facility styled after the Aga Khan’s facility in Sardinia. This uber-luxurious resort and marina is adjoined to the new Oil Nut Bay development and is a perfect place to stay while enjoying the islands.
To truly experience the British Virgin Islands, you need to get local. Experience the native culture at Sydney’s Peace and Love at Jost Van Dyke, offering family-style dinners of indigenous lobster with all the trimmings, an honor bar, and maybe a limbo contest or jump-up (native band). No trip to the BVIs is complete without a visit to the Soggy Dollar Bar in White Bay on Jost Van Dyke for the original Painkiller. Swim ashore, hence the name “Soggy Dollar,” to enjoy this delicious concoction guaranteed to relieve pain, stress, tension and whatever else may be on your mind. And there is Foxy’s, which has a boutique complete with t-shirts to prove we’ve been there. Foxy has traveled the world over and he has a bit of talent with the guitar and song — he may make up a ballad just for you. Be sure to take a stroll down the main street, a path running along the beach. There’s not too much going on there, but then again, that’s its charm. Other recommended dining spots ashore include the Tradewinds Restaurant at Peter Island Resort & Spa, Biras Creek in the North Sound on Virgin Gorda and Brandywine on Tortola. And then there are the activities.
The British Virgin Islands have something on offer for everyone. Looking for a spa day? Visit Peter Island Resort & Spa, a beautiful 1,800-acre island, of which only 300 acres are developed. The yacht can anchor off or dock up while you nip ashore for a luxury experience in a peaceful environment.
For those looking to reel in the big one, competition-class sportfishing boats are available for full and half-day charters. These trips will take you to the very fishy waters of the Puerto Rico Trench to the north (second in depth only to the Mariana Trench in the Pacific) or French Cap Cay to the south. Upwelling of colder waters from the depths brings nutrients to the surface; small fish are attracted to the nutrients and so on up the chain to the game fish — for which you’ll be on the hunt. Sportfishing also is available in Anegada.
There are so many things to do in the BVIs, but be sure you add these must-do, can’t-miss sights and activities for a true British Virgin Islands experience. Anegada is known as the “drowned island.” This low-lying coral and limestone atoll offers miles of white sandy beaches, including the 18-mile-long Horseshoe Reef. Many ships have come to grief on Anegada’s reefs, but to your delight the snorkeling and diving are excellent.
The perfect place to get away from it all, an overnight anchor off Anegada will showcase a sky full of stars and the enchantment of solitude. Tiny Marina Cay was made famous by the author Rob White, who purchased the island in the 1940s and built his island home with sakrete and seawater. A library and cistern have been incorporated into the present-day structures at the resort. According to Mr. White, the island was visited by a German submarine during World War II. Just off shore, you can find otherworldly snorkeling with “arrow fish,” Jacques Cousteau’s name for squid.
Almost as famous as the islands themselves are The Baths at Virgin Gorda. These natural seawater pools have been created by uplifting of gigantic boulders of plutonic granite. Enjoy fabulous snorkeling at The Baths and nearby Fallen Jerusalem.