Experience The British Virgin Islands!
6 Top Things to Do in the British Virgin Islands
The British Virgin Islands are comprised of about 60 islands, located just a few miles East of the U.S. Virgin Islands. The place to be on a private crewed yacht charter sailing vacation in the BVI is sunning on a luxury yacht or comfortably relaxed on the trampoline of a grand catamaran. See a Sample Itinerary! It is best if you plan to fly to EIS airport for a BVI vacation.
Each time when our clientss ask us, "Which is your favorite island in the BVI's?", we pause and think about it really hard. That's a tough question! There's so much to love and enjoy that we've worked here for 18 years aboard a yacht! Island hopping and exploring ashore is a way of life here in what is fondly known by locals as Nature's Little Secret! Let's talk about the Top 6 Things you have to see and do:
#1 The Baths: Exploring through the graceful grottoes and granite boulders of Virgin Gorda, or "The Baths," is undeniably the most notable experience you can have in the British Virgin Islands.
Most people who do come to the area do so to visit The Baths, but just in case you're still deliberating, let us stress the fact: This is THE must-see of the BVI archipelago. Here the beach shows evidence of the island's volcanic origins with house-sized boulders of granite, perfect for climbing. You'll want to spend time hiking & exploring natural tidal pools, tunnels, arches, and scenic grottoes that are open to the sea. Travelers who take the trail from the Baths to Devil’s Bay can experience the Cathedral, where boulders lean on each other from above, creating small pools with stunning shafts of light peeking through.
#2 Snorkel The Caves: Want to look for treasure on an uninhabited island? Norman Island has a documented history of pirate booty being stowed upon the island and partly found in the caves. Your charter boat will pick up a mooring just outside the entrance to the Caves. Grab your snorkel gear and jump in to see a beautiful array of fish and bright coral. The number #1 question: Is it scary? No, not really. One cave is deep enough that you can swim back into darkness, the second is a mere indentation in the rocks and the third, while being the smallest is where the treasure was found and the most interesting. Also visit: The Indians, a set of rocks located nearby that feature excellent snorkeling and shallow water dives.
When you tire of the water, then head to shore for a cocktail at the newly restored Pirates Bight Restaurant & Bar then race on to celebrate the end of a perfect vacation day with a jump from the second floor of the nearby floating bar, The Willy T.
Tip: We like snorkeling The Caves in the afternoon when the light is reflected on the cave walls. Choose going to The Indians if the water is calm and plan on hitting both Pirates Bar and The Willy T before dinner hour aboard your crewed luxury yacht. (You can always go back after dinner!)
#3 The Soggy Dollar Bar and Foxy's Tamarind Bar & Restaurant: Yes, we know. That's two places to see, not one! Both beaches are almost always jumping with activity, dancing, and great food. You'll find that most yacht charter crews will encourage you visit both because they are SO much fun! On Jost Van Dyke, White Bay is one of the best beaches to relax with a drink the bar is said to have invented called the Painkiller in hand and people watch at the Soggy Dollar Bar. What's a Painkiller you ask? It's a coconut, pineapple and orange juice concoction drowning in dark rum and topped off with a little nutmeg.
Adjacent in Great Harbor is the world-famous Foxy's Tamarind Bar & Restaurant. Part of the charm of Foxy's is, well, Foxy Callwood himself, a true storyteller like no other. He’s a jokester, a prankster, and a funny comedian. Give him a few minutes of your time and you'll realize that he's the incredibly intelligent & highly entertaining "mayor" of the island. On any given day, you’ll find him strumming the guitar and telling jokes to the crowd gathered at the bar—most of which you could never repeat in mixed company. Don't miss Foxy's popular store & gift shop. The quantity & turnover of items they sell from week to week is astounding!
See the "Bubbly Pool": Named for the bubbly whitecaps that flow over and into the rock pool whenever the waves hit, the spot mimics a Jacuzzi with the onslaught of the swells.Travelers enjoy splashing around as regular waves froth over and into the water, while there’s also a section of pretty sand to kick-back on for a couple of hours.
Tip: Have your yacht charter Captain drop you off for a couple of hours on the beach at the Soggy Dollar Bar. Then rendezvous at an agreed time for a quick dinghy ride over to Foxy's. This is easily a half-day of fun time ashore to stretch your legs before sailing to the next island on the following day.
#4 Dive or Snorkel the Wreck of the RMS Rhone: One of the world's top shipwrecks to explore. It sailed for the last time on Oct. 19, 1867, and sank near Salt Island during a hurricane. Now, the site of the wreck and its surrounding waters are known as the Rhone National Marine Park as a go-to dive for intermediate to advanced divers in 80 feet or an easy snorkel for beginners in 30 feet. Some of the scenes from the movie The Deep were filmed here and this dive is still teeming with live coral & tropical fish.
Tip: Since you are most likely to be anchored there, you could go briefly ashore at Salt Island to explore the salt ponds after your dive. The harvesting of salt was once an annual tradition on Salt Island going back to the days of Queen Victoria in 1867 when the residents would gather once a year to harvest the salt from the lake on Salt Island. Visiting adjacent Cooper Island is a great day stop for a sampling of conch fritters and a rum bar tasting, but we don't recommend it for an overnight anchorage during the winter months.
#5 Sail to Cooper Island: Cooper Island Beach Club – a family owned, eco resort on the sandy northwest shore of
Cooper Island. Off-grid and self-sufficient in power & water, they pride themselves in reducing our environmental impact while creating a unique eco luxe experience for all visitors. Manchioneel Bay’s sandy beach and abundant marine life offers excellent swimming and snorkeling. Don't miss sampling a few rums at the rum bar followed by a scoop of ice cream and then head over to the upscale clothing shop!
Tip: Enjoy a Happy Hour cocktail at the Rum Bar, try micro-brewed beer or sample their delicious menus featuring local ingredients at the beachfront restaurant. This is a great spot to stretch your legs and relax during your sailing charter.
#6 Sail to Anegada: If you have 8 days, sail to beautifully secluded Anegada. It is a Caribbean vacationer's dream with more than 300 wrecks to dive on and explore on this coral atoll, matched by plenty of stretches of uncrowded silvery sand, shallow gin-clear water and flocks of flamingos. Anegada is known for miles of white sand beaches and the 18-mile long Horseshoe Reef, one of the largest barrier coral reefs in the Caribbean, and the fourth largest on Earth. It's quiet & sleepy and less visited than the other islands.
Tip: Our favorite thing to do is to rent scooters & spend a day splashing in the gin-clear water of Cow Wreck Beach and/or snorkel at Loblolly Beach, then wrap up a day of perfection with a casual barefoot-on-the-beach lobster dinner at the Anegada Reef Hotel! Make sure to order your dinner early in the day so that the kitchen will have plenty of time to catch and prepare your meal.
Favorite Beaches in the BVI:
White Bay Beach-Jost Van Dyke
White Bay Beach is exactly what you imagine when you picture a perfect Caribbean shoreline: a long crescent of bright white sand lapped by waters that turn from turquoise to sapphire. Spend your time here snorkeling along the reef just offshore, or join the crowds who wade in from their catamarans to the Soggy Dollar Bar for some Painkillers—a potent cocktail with dark rum, tropical juices, and coconut cream that was reportedly invented right here.
Cane Garden Bay Beach-Tortola
Among the most popular anchorages in the BVI for its sheltered setting, the clear-blue bay is fringed by a sweep of beach lined with swaying palms and laid-back bars. Go to Pusser’s at Myett’s to raise a Carib beer with locals and yachties alike, or settle in for some live music at Quito’s Gazebo, where you might even find the dreadlocked owner, Quito Rymer, strumming a song or two.
Brewer’s Bay Beach-Tortola
If Cane Garden Bay feels too crowded for you (it’s the most popular beach on Tortola, after all), head for Brewer’s Bay Beach, the next cove around the coast to the north. It's quieter beach scene.
Spring Bay Beach and Devil’s Bay Beaches at The Baths-Virgin Gorda
The pristine beach here is similarly lined with boulders of the Baths. You don't have swim out far to find all the tropical reef fish.
Cow Wreck Beach-Anegada
The northernmost island in the hilly BVI chain, Anegada is known for its incredible white-sand beaches and delicious Caribbean spiny lobster. Rent a scooter with to cruise to the expansive Cow Wreck Beach in the island’s northwestern corner. Once you’ve had your fill of sun and sand, head to Cow Wreck Beach Bar, which fronts the turquoise waters and serves refreshing mango daiquiris alongside the requisite platters of lobster and fish, grilled over a barbecue fueled by local wood.
Loblolly Bay Beach-Anegada
Also on Anegada’s sublime shores, Loblolly Bay Beach is an unspoiled sweep of sand that stretches for miles and is consistently named among the most beautiful beaches in the world. The thing to do here—besides basking in the surrounding natural beauty—is to sit with a cold one and another platter of the island’s famed lobster at Big Bamboo, an iconic BVI beach bar overlooking the sand and sea.
Sandy Spit Beach
Located just east of Jost Van Dyke, the tiny, uninhabited island of Sandy Spit (also called Sandy Cay) makes up for its diminutive size with a postcard-perfect beach. On the remote stretch of sand, a few supermodel palm trees lean ever so elegantly over the beach, while gorgeous views stretch in every direction.
Located on Peter Island, Deadman’s Beach has postcard-worthy good looks. In fact, it might be the most picturesque beach in all of the BVI. The crescent-shaped stretch of sand is lined with shade-throwing palms, offering visitors the perfect setting for an afternoon picnic or a relaxing beach day. Plus, since it’s difficult to reach (unless you arrive via yacht!), Deadman’s Beach remains quieter than most.
Long Bay Beach
Long Bay Beach is one of Tortola’s most stunning beaches. Nearly a mile long, the beach offers the perfect locale for a classic Caribbean beach day. On the eastern end, Long Bay is lined with resorts and beach shacks serving up fruity, rum-soaked cocktails. But if you’re looking for solitude, you’ll find in on the beach’s western stretch, which is quieter and offers some of the best swimming in all of the BVI.
You’ll never find huge resorts and tourists fighting over space, and every charter guest enjoys feeling as though they’re the first person to ever discover some of the more secluded beaches. A yacht charter allows you to find the beach of your dreams and then turn right around to find another, one that will likely go beyond your imagination with its beauty!
Additional Things to See and Do in the BVI:
SOPER'S HOLE MARINA
It is one of the most picturesque anchorage in the British Virgin Islands. It is located on the western side of Tortola, off Frenchman's Cay. The facilities at the marina is home to a variety of businesses offering activities, dining, shopping, facilities and more. Cute shops and restaurants!
PIRATES BIGHT AT NORMAN ISLAND
Home of Pirates Bight Bar, Restaurant, and Gift Shop, is perhaps most famous for being the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel, Treasure Island. However, Norman Island also has a rich documented history of acting as a hiding spot for Pirate booty.
Documented history for the island dates back to the early 18th century when a Spanish galleon called Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe buried 55 chests of silver coins after the crew mutinied aboard the ship. Although most of the treasure has been discovered by Tortolian residents and later by Lieutenant-General of the Leeward Islands, Gilbert Fleming, the more pirate treasure is rumored to exist today on Norman Island.
Today, Norman Island offers one of the safest and most scenic harbors in the British Virgin Islands. The anchorage is known as “The Bight” which offers over 100 moorings available for guest use and is central to numerous world-famous SCUBA dive and snorkel sites such as the Caves and the Indians. The 610-acre privately owned uninhabited island also boast numerous hiking trails and a breathtaking white sand beach, which is the site of Pirates Bight Restaurant.
The family that owns Peter Island is committed to preserving paradise. As such, only 300 of the island’s 1,800 acres have been developed, including a five-mile loop offering breathtaking views of the resort and the island that surround it. In addition, a reverse osmosis water purification plant and the first windmill generators in the British Virgin Islands were installed to minimize the island’s carbon footprint. A casually elegant British Virgin Island resort and spa hidden away on an 1,800-acre oasis of tranquility. The island was named after Pieter Adriensen (nicknamed "The Commander") who was the brother of Abraham Adriensen, Patron of Tortola under the Dutch West India Company in the early 17th century.
Scrub Island Resort is not your average place. Divine secluded beaches. The clearest of waters. Pampering at the Ixora Spa, honored as a Top 10 Spa by Caribbean Travel & Life. Fine cuisine with panoramic vistas & the freshest local and imported ingredients. Scrub Island Resort offers guests refreshing modern Caribbean cuisine with an American twist at 3 restaurants, ranging from gourmet fare to casual dining. A couple of little of shops and a small grocery store at the marina have nice offerings for you to peruse.
GUANA ISLAND and MONKEY POINT
One of the few remaining privately owned islands in its part of the world, Guana has seven white powder-sand beaches and 850 acres (3.4 km2) of tropical forest, mountains, hills, and valleys. The island is mostly natural preserve and has a small private resort that is not open to the public. Anchoring at Monkey Point on Guana Island is a treat for snorklers!
CAM BAY NATIONAL PARK
Established in 1999 | Area: 19.6 acres Cam Bay, on the eastern shore of Great Camanoe, is comprised of an extensive shallow reef and lagoon system. Its calm waters, colourful reef fish and pristine marine environment attract swimmers and snorkelers. Birdwatchers enjoy the salt pond, where a variety of migratory wading birds and shorebirds can be seen. Pottery shards discovered in Cam Bay also suggest the presence of a pre-Columbian settlement in the area. National Parks Trust Description: An extensive shallow reef and lagoon system dominates Cam Bay, on the eastern shore of Great Camanoe. This is a popular anchorage with sailors, due to calm waters and pristine marine environment for swimming and snorkelling. A white sand beach curves around the bay, encouraging hikersonshore to explore the salt pond that separates Cam Bay from Lee Bay and divides Great Camanoe in half. Surrounded by woodland and cactus scrub, the salt pond traps sediment from freshwater run-off, which would otherwise affect the reef growth within the bays. Birdwatchers will enjoy watching migratory wading birds and shorebirds that are attracted to this habitat, such as American coots (Fulica americana), black-necked stilts (Himantopus mexicanus), blue-winged teals (Anas discors), Caribbean coots (F. caribbea), common moorhens (Gallinula chloropus), ruddy ducks (Oxyura jamaicensis), white-cheeked pintails (A. bahamensis) and sooty terns (Sterna fuscata). Snorkellers can mingle with colourful reef fish such as the Yellowtail Snapper (Ocyrus chrysurus), Bar Jack FIsh (Caranx ruber), Schoolmaster (Lutjanus apodus), Sharpnose Puffer (Canthigaster rostrata), Slippery Dick (Halichoeres bivittatus) and Spotted Goatfish (Pseudupeneus maculatus). Green turtles (Chelonia myda) may also be spotted as they feed on the sea grass beds in the lagoon. In addition to the ecological importance of the area, there is evidence of a pre-Colimbian settlement in the ba, as pottery shards discovered in Cam Bay were carbon-dated at 800 A.D.
DEVIL'S BAY NATIONAL PARK
Established in 1964 | Area: 58 acres A 15-minute hike from the top of The Baths brings you to the picturesque Devil's Bay, at Virgin Gorda's south-western tip. Its beaches are a tranquil location for swimming and snorkelling. Mooring buoys and a dinghy dock allow boaters to access the beach. National Parks Trust's Description: At the southwestern tip of Virgin Gorda is a picturesque Devil's Bay. This horseshoe shaped bay is a welcome sight at the end of the 15 minute hike through dry scrub vegetation and boulders from the car park at the top of the Baths. A second trail at the eastern end leads visitors to The Bathsm through massive granite boulders, where hikers should be prepared to crawl, climb ladders and wade through water. Caution must be used at all times to avoid slipping or failing. A tranquil location for swimming and snorkelling, or just relaxing under the shade umbrellas, Devil's Bay is one of Virgin Gorda's most beautiful beaches. At the southern end of the beach is a trail to Stoney Bay, where the Atlantic swells pummel the coastline and seabirds soar overhead. Swim line markers guide dinghies safely through the channel and into the bay, where a dinghy dock awaits for easy access to the beach. Vessels can use mooring buoys conveniently located outside the bay, preventing anchor damage to the fragile coral heads.
Established in 1991 | Area: 1.25 acres Diamond Cay, declared a national park in 1991, is located off Long Bay, Jost Van Dyke. Like most other islands that have been declared National Parks, Diamond Cay is a bird sanctuary. The 1.25 acre nesting site is home to several species of bird, including tern, boobies, and pelicans. The island is part of a proposed protected area, which includes the privately owned islands of Sandy Cay, Sandy Spit, a portion of Little Jost Van Dyke, and the surrounding marine area. The endangered leatherback turtle nests on Sandy Cay. Two species of lizard live on Sandy Spit. The volcanic nature of the island is more pronounced on the windward side, with bare, rocky cliffs, while the leeward side is lined with sandy beaches. The area has several day anchorages close to vibrant reefs, for snorkelling, and a hiking trail on Sandy Cay.
FALLEN JERUSALEM NATIONAL PARK
Established in 1974 | Area: 48 acres The island of Fallen Jerusalem is 48 acres and is comprised of beautiful coastal vegetation and strewn with enormous boulders, similar to those found at The Baths. Declared a Bird Sanctuary in 1959, because of its importance as a sanctuary for several species of birds. The endangered red-billed tropic bird finds refuge on the island. In addition, Fallen Jerusalem is an important nesting site for seabirds such as the brown boobies, laughing gulls, noddies and brown pelicans, along with sandwich, royal and bridled terns. Secluded beaches border delightful snorkelling areas; North Lee Bay beach being the best on the island. On the northwest shore, underwater tunnels and caves are a haven for nocturnal fish, while schools of glassy sweepers glisten like bits of shiny copper. Overnighting is not encouraged, as there is no safe, overnight anchorage.
THE NORTH SOUND
The North Sound, on the northeast shore of Virgin Gorda, is a major water sports center in the British Virgin Islands. The area offers well-protected waters and many anchorages, with every kind of boat and water activity available: diving, sailing, windsurfing, parasailing, jet skiing, water-skiing, glass bottom boats, and trips to secluded beaches.
Hiking is another popular activity in the region – especially the trail on the island of Prickly Pear.
Since the channel and surrounding areas can only be reached by boat, the North Sound is extremely popular with boaters and private charters. You'll want to hop in the dinghy visit The Bitter End Yacht Club, Saba Rock Resort, Leverick Bay and Nova at Oil Nut Bay.
GORDA PEAK NATIONAL PARK
Established in 1974 | Area: 260 acres The highest point on Virgin Gorda at 1,370 ft. Gorda Peak is located on the northwestern ridge, south of North Sound and north of Soldier Bay. Donated by Laurance Rockefeller in 1974, Gorda Peak is one of th elast remaining examples of Caribbean dry forest in the region, which makes it a high priority for conservation internationally. Research conducted bt the National Parks Trust through the Darwin Initiative Programme revealed regionally restricted and endangered plant speciaes, including Calptranthese thomasiana and Zanthoxylum thomasiana, both of which are on the US Federal Endangered Species list. The variety of vegetation types found within the Park varies with the elevation, from dry scrub forest to a moister forest at higher elevations. Many of the plants have adapted to these dry conditions and produce small waxy leaves that reduce evaporation, allowing them to retain as much water as possible. Gorda Peak is also home to the world's smallest lizard, the endemic Virgin Gorda gecko (Sphaerodactylus rarthenopion). Following trails that lead to the lookout tower at the Peak, hikers are rewarded with a panoramic view of the BVI, particularly the popular anchorage at North Sound. On a clear day Anegada is visible on the horizon to the northeast. A pinic site is conveniently placed under a mango tree (Mangifera indica) at the junction of the east and west trails, attracting zebra butterflies and Antillean Crested Hummingbirds (Orthorhynus cristatus).
THE COPPER MINE
Established in 2003 | Area: 18.36 acres The prominent landmark dominates Mine Hill, on the cliffs of the south-eastern tip of Virgin Gorda. Surrounding the Copper Mine ruins there are many granite rock outcroppings, with additional deposits of quartz, feldspars, tin copper and other clay minerals. This abandoned copper mine played an important role in the history of Virgin Gorda. Spaniards passing through the BVI were the first Europeans to mine coppers here in the early 18th century. However, Cornish miners built the ruins that remain today in the 1800s, following a decline in mineral deposits in Cornwall, England. The mine closed in 1862 due to escalating expenses and low market prices. As many as 130 Cornish labourers and their families lived on Virgin Gorda during this time. The ruins of their housing area and the operations centre, containing the powerhouse, mine shafts, cisterns, engine house and chimney are still visible scattered across the slopes. Well before the Cornish and Spanish miners arrived, Amerindians used the area for copper. The copper was used to make tools and jewellery that was traded with other indigenous people from other islands. Restoration efforts began in 1998 to stabilise the ruins, beginning with the engine house, with the assistance of experts from Cornwall, England. Mine Hill is also a habitat for the White-tailed Tropicbirds (Phaeton lepturus) that nest in the rocky cliff crevices by the sea close to the southeastern corner of the Cornish Engine House. Departing from their seaside nests, they dive from incredible heights in order to feed on marine species. Voted "Best Historical Hotspot"
THE CALLWOOD RUM DISTILLERY
For the history-lovers in your crew, the Callwood Rum Distillery still might be the most fun place to soak up some history. This site features the original structure of a Sugar Cane distillery. Visitors to this rustic site can purchase samples of rum. The original boiler still operates and produces rum, which is then stored in original casks. The old guard house is also intact and has been turned into an art gallery and gift shop. It doesn't take long to see the distillery, so after you finish your tour, go across the street and enjoy the wide, white stretch of sand at Cane Garden Bay.
There are several other historic sites to round out your list of British Virgin Islands attractions:
Currently closed, you can walk around the exterior of the 1780 Lower Estate Sugar Works. It was built by the McCleverty slaves. Sugar was produced here until the 1940s. During the 19th century its Timber frame became what is believed to have been the first Virgin Islands Guest House. 1900: By now the Government had acquired the Works, added a one storey building in front of the Magazine, and installed the machines for a Cotton Factory. the Agriculture Department managed the Complex, supervised the sugar production and the ginning and pressing of cotton. In 1904: 1,250lbs of cotton was pressed and 5,200 in 1912. Lime juice was also produced here: 252 barrels in 1908 and 800 in 1912.
J.R. O'NEAL BOTANIC GARDENS
Established in 1979 | Area: 2.87 acres J.R. O'Neal Botanic Gardens are a cool and peaceful refuge located in the centre of Road Town. The four-acre gardens include a lush array of indigenous and exotic tropical plants. A pergola walk, lily pond, waterfall, tropical bird houses, and miniature rain forests are just a few of the garden's attractions. The gardens are considered by many to be among the finest in the Caribbean. National Parks Trust's Description: At the site of the century old Agricultural Experiment Station, the Botanic Gardens are a beautiful oasis in the centre of Road Town. They are named after the BVI's first conservationist, Joseph Reynold O'Neal who was a leading figure in the formation of the National Parks Trust and the establishment of the BVI's first national park, Mt. Sage National Park. The avenue of royal palms which leads to the fountain makes a captivating entrance for visitors, whilst paths disappear into corners of the garden lined with colourful blossoms drapped over shady pergolas. The boatic collections represent the different habitats of the BVI such as the rainforest, coastal environments and dry forests, in addtion to displays of exotic species and an extensive collection of palms. A gazebo of orchids both, native and exotic can be discovered by the pond, where lilies float and tortoises swim. The nursery at the garden is an important repository for endangered species of flora found within the BVI, such as the Acacia anegardensis, ensuring their survival from habitat loss.