The British Virgin Islands attract visitors looking for natural beauty with a love of exploring and sailing. Many visitors simply hop on a ferry or boat and indulge the Islands’ favorite pastime – island hoping. So many beautiful islands, so little time. The British Virgin Islands is an elite getaway that can be made to fit anyone’s budget.
Whether visitors are looking for outstanding food, heady cocktails, and fun in the sun, the British Virgin Islands are here and waiting.
About the British Virgin Islands
The British Virgin Islands (“BVI”) include four major islands, Tortola, Anegada, Virgin Gorda, and Jost Van Dyke, as well as 50 minor islands. All are a British Overseas Territory in the northeastern Caribbean and cover a total of 153 square miles. The capital and major port are Road Town on the island of Tortola.
Christopher Columbus discovered the islands in 1493 while searching for a trade route to India – which is why he erroneously called the indigenous inhabitants Indians. The BVI were eventually settled by the Dutch. Various pirate groups from France, Spain, England, and the Dutch fought for dominance; the British won the battle in 1672. The islands have remained a British Territory ever since. The infamous British pirate Blackbeard worked from the island of Tortola.
The BVI’s primary industries were sugar and cotton run mostly by slaves. After slavery was abolished, planters gave control of the plantations to the freed slaves. One of the largest sugar plantations, Estate Sugar Works, is now a museum in Road Town.
The nearest airport to the BVI is on St. Maarten, their neighbor. Visitors can then take a ferry to the island of their choice. The fall months of September to November are the best times for a visit as it beats the holiday crowds and costlier accommodations.
Tourism is the major industry of the BVI, accounting for almost half of the islands’ income. Snorkeling and sparkling nightlife on the island of Jost Van Dyke are popular among visitors; however, sailing is the main attraction. The BVI is one of the world’s most popular sailing destinations, especially with charters to the various smaller islands. The Spring Regatta and Sailing Festival was established in 1972 and is a major annual racing event that originates in Tortola and moves through the island chain. This is a world-class event attended by sailors from around the world.
The largest social influence in the BVI is the slave culture, which is evident in the art, music, and dance of the islands. The meringue and salsa are extraordinarily popular, as is calypso music.
The BVI’s own, unique music is called fungi, which is a blend of African and European sounds originating on the sugar plantations. It isn’t a mushroom, but it is actually named after the BVI’s famous local cornmeal dish. The basic instruments are banjo, guitar, and washboard, and it explores themes of African history.
What Are British Virgin Islands Most Known For?
The British Virgin Islands have so much to offer, they are a favorite destination of celebrities and other elites (it was Paris Hilton’s honeymoon destination.)
Sailing and Yachting
You don’t need to own your own boat when visiting the BVI. You can charter one and enjoy some of the best sailing in the Caribbean, perhaps the world. The perfect year-round weather and consistent breezes make it a sailing Eden. If want to explore the stunning sights for a few days or a week, there is a yacht cruise for you. There are many unspoiled islands to discover.
This park and beach are on Virgin Gorda. This is undoubtedly any visitors’ most unforgettable experience. Huge boulders rise on the beachfront and seem to be tumbling in every direction while creating pools for wading, swimming, and snorkeling.
The Cathedral Room, a pool inside a cave, is a can’t-miss sight. Then, climb to the top of the boulders to the Bath’s restaurant with the help of ropes and ladders. These boulders are the result of volcanic activity and a true wonder of nature.
Food & Resturants
Tortola is getting a reputation for being a foodie’s paradise. From elegant restaurants to wonderful surprises at food trucks, everyone will get a great meal. International chefs, local eateries, and food trucks show off their creations each November at the Taste of Tortola, where visitors can take advantage of Tortola’s wide array of fresh fruits.
Soper’s Hole and D’Coal Pot create culinary masterpieces with an Indian curry flair. For the best dining in Tortola, visit the Dove Restaurant which serves curries and other dishes in an elegant setting by the waterfront.
The Willy T. is a marvelous floating restaurant and bar on Peter Island. This wooden schooner serves family meals during the day and turns into a party animal at night. After dark, the rum flows generously and shots turn lethal. For many visitors, sobriety isn’t even a consideration. After a few rum cocktails, the goal is to jump off the top of the Willy T. into the warm waters.
The Soggy Dollar Bar is the go-to destination on Jost Van Dyke’s White Bay Beach. This beach bar is located on a long stretch of immaculate sand and water and is reachable by ferry. It calls itself “a sunny place for shady people.” There is no dock, so people either wade or swim ashore – thus the “soggy” dollars. Sit at the bar or fling yourself into a hammock, dry up, and order their famous Painkiller cocktail, everyone’s favorite rum concoction. Whether it cures pain or causes pain has yet to be determined, but everyone loves a Painkiller or two.
Best Regions to Visit In the British Virgin Islands
The BVI has several major islands that should be explored for the beauty and diversity they offer.
Tortola is the main and largest island that also serves as the location of BVI’s capital. Here, the sand is white, the mountains green, and the harbors are filled with yachts. Fabulous luxury resorts attract visitors from everywhere.
There are several wonderful palm-lined beaches here, such as Long Bay Beach, Brewer’s Bay, Josiah’s Bay Beach, and others. Come for the stunning beauty and stay for the watersports.
Enjoy Tortola’s culture at the Callwood Rum Distillery by Cane Garden Bay and visit 200 years of rum-making history and purchase some of their outstanding products at the museum. Don’t miss the VI Folk Museum on Main Street in Road Town and its indigenous artifacts. Main Street is filled with specialty shops selling original jewelry, silk fabrics, spices, soaps, and many other treasures.
Anegada is the second-largest island in the BVI chain. Come here for 16 miles of great beaches and fresh lobster anytime. People come to Horseshoe Reef to dive for the 300 shipwrecks that have been abandoned here. Watch the bubbles rise from the coral beds as you stroll the beach.
Don’t miss the cocktails at the Cow Wreck Bar – including the ubiquitous Painkiller. They also serve a wonderful lobster. Visit Big Bamboo Restaurant and Bar and munch on seafood tacos while watching the gorgeous sunset. As with many of Anegada’s eateries, everyone comes here for the lobster. The beach bar called the Lobster Trap serves a BLT sandwich made with lobster and a refreshing brew.
Jost Van Dyke
Jost Van Dyke, one of the smallest islands, might have the most rugged landscape of the major BVI islands. It’s a favorite destination for whale watching and relaxing in the ocean’s natural Jacuzzis.
This is the fun, party island. The seafood, especially the lobster, is outstanding. Visit Great Harbor for one of their riotous yacht parties and their unforgettable New Year’s Eve celebrations that attract party-goers from around the world. Foxy’s Tamarind Bar, known as one of the world’s most famous beach bars, has several stages, great food accompanied by an even greater cocktail (yes, that killer cocktail again). Their VIP section serves a five-course meal. Wander the beach for fireworks, barbequed lobster, rum, dancing, live entertainment, and more rum.
Many revelers head straight for Christine’s Bakery for a home-cooked breakfast or their famed cinnamon buns in an effort to recover.
Best Resort or Hotel in the British Virgin Islands
Scrub Island Resort, Spa and Marina
This secluded beachfront resort is nestled between the sea and the mountains, and guest can choose from suites and villas with private balconies that offer views of the ocean and lush mountain greenery. They can also enjoy fine dining at any of the resort’s six restaurants, or, if staying in a villa, they can prepare home-cooked meals in their own spacious kitchen.
This is the place to dive and sail or take watersports’ lessons. Restore your spirit at the beachfront Ixora Spa. The resort is close enough for guests to explore the wonders of the nearby Baths National Park.
Best Resort or Hotel for Couples in the British Virgin Islands
Long Bay Beach Resort
This resort, located on Tortola, faces a long stretch of white sand and swaying palm trees. Here luxury and comfort go hand in hand with rooms that face the gentle waves of the ocean and the lush green mountains. Get together at Johnny’s Bar for a cocktail and watch the incredible sunset. Dance to the live music. Enjoy a couple’s massage by the beach.
When not lolling at the beach, enjoy a sailing and scuba diving excursion or hike the scenic surroundings.
Best Resort or Hotel for Families in the British Virgin Islands
Leverick Bay Resort and Marina
The Leverick Bay Resort on Virgin Gorda has an unparalleled view of the magnificent North Sound Lagoon. It is made for water sports of all types. All rooms conveniently have balconies with a view of this lagoon. The resort will assist with plans for visiting neighboring islands and any other reservations.
Guests can dine on fresh seafood at The Restaurant and enjoy a selection of wine from all over the world or relax at the Jumbies beach bar with a cocktail and burger. The Friday evening beach barbeque and fire dancing begins at 6:30 pm and means fun for the entire family, as does Michael Beans’ singing and dancing pirate act.