From Tortola and Virgin Gorda to Jost Van Dyke and Anegada, these can’t-miss stops will make sightseeing worthwhile.
There are 60 islands and cays to explore in the BVI chain, and like a beautifully weathered sea glass necklace, each has its own hue. Four of the largest are a must-see for a first-time adventurer, whether seeking hammock-swinging sunsets or action and adventure. Be sure to pack light and carry a smile — it may be what you wear every day!
Adventurers tend to rise with the sun ready to get a jump on the day, and there are some great adrenaline-pumping activities to get you started. Ziplining with the Original Virgin Canopy Tour is an exhilarating way to get some fabulous views, as you traverse their seven lines through and over the forested hillside. Keep your cell phone in a bumbag as a spectacular selfie can be had overlooking Road Harbour and the neighbouring islands from platform six. Snorkelling is a low-impact sport for the whole family. In the BVI’s transparent aqua waters, fish can be seen in and around coral reefs easily at depths of only 30 feet. Take a day trip on a charter boat from Kuralu Daysail Charters to The Indians and The Caves, in Norman Island. Snorkel equipment, lunch, colourful fish and a sunset rum punch are all included. For hikers, Mount Sage National Park, with a peak topping at 1,710 feet, is a moderately challenging climb with winding trails through semitropical flora and fauna. Try the majestic and shady Mahogany Forest Trail.
Beautiful beaches line the north shore of Tortola. Sneak away to pristine and hidden Smuggler’s Cove, a less populated beach, accessed down a winding dirt road, for a picnic and swim. Partake in some of the delightful local culture with a visit to the North Shore Shell Museum in Carrot Bay, where you,ll find a hodgepodge of shells and signs with local sayings. The beachfront stand now offers fresh local drinks. Don’t miss ordering a soursop daiquiri — a thick and sweet drink that can be ordered virgin or full strength. Cane Garden Bay is home to the historic Callwood Distillery, still processing Arundel Cane Rum and offering tours and tastings. In the islands for a full moon? Head over to Trellis Bay, where entertainment includes stilt-walking moko jumbies and fire sculptures in the sea. Aragorn’s Studio in the centre of this arty beach village is a must-see.
The recently completed Tortola Pier Park in Road Town boasts some very trendy shops with island fashions and one-of-a-kind souvenirs. Imperial ShellCrafters have conch shell horns, polished and ready to blow. The Coral Studio offers original coral pendants in a dozen designs such as starfish, hibiscus or turtles.
This is an island for a thoroughly laid-back vacation, where nature is the tonic and the sea your spa. It might be helpful to have a little “cheat sheet” nearby to jog your memory about the things you do want to see and do. Cheat Sheet The Baths should be at the top your list, as one of the most spectacular marine parks in the Caribbean. The National Parks Trust have set up buoys offshore, so boats can sail in without disrupting the marine life or sea floor — a habitation for many species of fish. The overlapping granite boulders by the sea resemble giant dice tossed haphazardly on the sand, forming cavernous tranquil water pools underneath. A limbo-stretching trail winds through the boulders from Spring Bay to Devil’s Bay. The other park not to miss is the Copper Mine, a site built by the British in the mid 19th century for extracting ore. The smokestack and other ruins form a dramatic vista on the cliff side. The remains of stone arched windows make for great selfie portraits with the pounding blue surf in the background.
Do’s and Don’ts
A few do’s and don’ts are good to keep in mind for some other nearby explorations. Do take a few hours out to climb the trail to Gorda Peak National Park. It will lead to a lookout tower with a panoramic view of the islands, well worth the climb. Don’t forget to wear comfortable walking shoes, not flip-flops, which might cause you to slip on rocks. Do consider renting a small boat from Bitter End Yacht Club or Leverick Bay Resort & Marina to explore Prickly Pear Island, another national park in the North Sound. You can dock on the west side, enjoy the privacy of the beaches and have lunch at the Sandbox Bar & Grill. Do not go on a rough day (not good for small boat excursions) or a day that a cruise ship may be off-loading guests for the afternoon. Do rent a car from Mahogany Car Rentals for some island exploration and stop off for a swim at secluded Savannah Bay. Don’t forget to bring your own refreshments and sunshade, as there are no amenities on the beach.
JOST VAN DYKE
When well-known members of the British rock group, The Rolling Stones, decided this island was where they wanted to spend New Year’s Eve, the BVI suddenly became more than a dot on a map. Host to the stars, island troubadour “Foxy” has his Tamarind Bar & Restaurant right by the waterside. Known for his beer and rum, Foxy’s lager beer is brewed and bottled in St. Croix (with his taste approval); however, he blends his famous Firewater Rum right on-site. This rum is a must-bring-home item, as it is not sold elsewhere or shipped off-island. The label alone is worth the bottle and the tasty rum boasts a hint of vanilla.
Beautiful, palm-lined White Bay is a 20-minute hike over the hill from where you arrive by ferry. However, for those who prefer to relax, a shared taxi will take just a few minutes. Delightful eateries and curio shops line the beach. Try the Soggy Dollar Bar — the home of the original Painkiller cocktail for the ultimate drink-in-a-hammock experience. One Love Bar and Grill has tasty wraps and fish sandwiches in a funky beachside atmosphere. If you’re lucky, the local owner will treat you to some of his magic tricks, many of which require props and are quite entertaining.
The best-kept secret on this island is hidden away at Diamond Point. Rent an ATV from BVI Sea and Land Adventure Sports, take a guided tour to see the island and then ask for directions to the Bubbly Pool. Rock formations form a seaside pool, which gets splashed with salty foam when the waves crash in. Catch that perfect selfie as the spray approaches. Foxy’s Taboo Restaurant, a chip off the old Fox and run by his daughter, is right on the beach for refreshing drinks and local fare.
Book a captain and boat to take you just off-island to two tiny cays, nearby Sandy Cay and Green Cay are prime spots for some amazing snorkelling. Schools of blue tangs, A ferry from Road Town will take about an hour to reach this flat, all-coral atoll, one of the BVI’s true nature preserves. Ferries run Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays; so you will need to plan ahead and count on spending the day on the island.
Do’s and Don’ts
Do’s and don’ts on this island include a measure of preparedness. Do bring a wide-brim hat or cap, bottled water and extra suntan lotion. This island can get hot and doesn’t offer the shade the other islands have. Don’t have an overly ambitious agenda; the pace here is extremely slow, and no one is in a hurry to get anywhere.
Do visit the two beaches. Loblolly Bay on the North Shore offers the best snorkelling. You will want to indulge in fresh lobster grilled to perfection at the Big Bamboo Restaurant. Cow Wreck Beach Bar is a taxi ride across part paved and sandy roads to the opposite shore, where a beach walk and end-of-the-day cocktail can be enjoyed. Don’t forget to tell your taxi driver to pause on the bridge over the salt ponds to see if you can catch a glimpse of the pink flamingos, who call this home. Do be on the lookout for a rock iguana — once an endangered species now coming back to life here.
Bone (fly-fishing) in a flat-bottomed boat — a once-in-a-lifetime experience here — should be put on your to-do list. Call ahead to the Anegada Reef Hotel and arrange a half- or full-day fishing trip. Knowledgeable guides will ply these shallow waters and have you casting like a pro after these elusive “bonefish.” Several well-known celebrities make this a yearly stop.
Don’t miss Pat’s Pottery shop on the road to Loblolly Bay. Her signature crab and fish motifs decorate her plates, vases, cups and bowls. These are one-of-a-kind, must-bring-home souvenirs. Before catching the ferry back, stop in at the Anegada Reef Hotel and have a cool drink. On the dock in late afternoon, you may get a glimpse of one of the fishermen cleaning and preparing fresh-caught lobster for the evening barbecue grills.