Life’s a Breeze in the British Virgin Islands

Aug 10, 2016

So we’re going to design a sailing paradise. First, location. Let’s say the tropics because, you know, the weather. Year-round sunshine, balmy nights, no winter. Next we’ll require steady trade winds to billow our sails, preferably coupled with benign ocean currents. For challenge and interest, we’ll add a cluster of idyllic islands — let’s say around 50 — cloaked in greenery, indented with tranquil white-sand coves lined with palm trees.

Sailing the clear blue waters of the British Virgin Islands

Sailing the clear blue waters of the British Virgin Islands © CHRISTIAN DELBERT | DREAMSTIME.COM

We’ll keep some of the islands uninhabited for a Robinson Crusoe vibe and populate the others with friendly, laid-back folk who will happily provide the necessities of land: beach bars, marinas, supplies, boat repair shops. Everyone will speak English, but with a lilting accent. For a regal touch, we’ll make the Queen of England the head of state. Well, wouldn’t you know it? Our paradise already exists. Welcome to the British Virgin Islands. The Arawak people initially discovered them and, finding no reason to move, stayed for 1,500 years until they were forcibly displaced by the Caribs. Within decades of the Caribs putting down roots, Christopher Columbus appeared on the horizon. On first sight of this seemingly pristine archipelago, Columbus dubbed the islands Saint Ursula and her Eleven Thousand Virgins, soon shortened — thankfully — to The Virgins. There followed centuries of the usual inter-European squabbling over territory. The Spanish, the British, the Dutch and the Danish all tussled for control. When the cannons fell silent and the sea spray settled, the British owned most of the islands, with the remainder controlled by Denmark, who then sold them to the United States for $25 million in 1917. The U.S. Virgin Islands developed apace, embracing the emergence of mass tourism and Caribbean cruises. The permanent population is now more than 100,000. The B.V.I., however, opted for a drowsier advance into the 21st century, with the population rising to just 23,000, most of whom live in and around the capital, Road Town, on the largest island, Tortola. Size is relative in the B.V.I. Tortola measures 12 miles long and three miles wide, with a volcanic, hilly interior and a plethora of near-deserted beaches. Yet in comparison to some of the other islands, it seems vast; and once you’ve adjusted to the pace of the other islands, sleepy Road Town seems like a veritable metropolis. Second in size yet with a population of just 285 (most of whom live in a settlement called The Settlement) is Anegada, the northernmost B.V.I. This low-lying island — the only inhabited coral island (as opposed to volcanic) in the B.V.I. — boasts some of the most picture-perfect beaches. The flat interior plays host to a unique and highly endangered lizard, the Anegada ground iguana, and a burgeoning population of flamingoes. Anegada’s turquoise waters offer the optimum habitat for the celebrated Anegada lobster. They appear on the menu throughout the British Virgin Islands, but here the restaurants pluck them directly from the sea.
The Baths on Virgin Gorda

The Baths on Virgin Gorda © MIRCEA DOBRE | DREAMSTIME.COM

Virgin Gorda, the third-largest island, featuring a luxuriantly forested interior and powdery beaches, has long proved popular with A-listers. High-end resorts scatter the island, but sadly one of the most popular, Biras Creek, closed abruptly in 2015. Visitors flock to Virgin Gorda’s prime natural attraction, The Baths, a complex of smoothly eroded granite boulders on the island’s southern tip, concealing grottoes and tidal pools. It makes the perfect place for bathing and snorkeling, though if there’s a cruise ship visiting the island, go after 4 p.m., when the day-tripping passengers have departed. Several islets bejewel the waters off Virgin Gorda, the most famous being Necker Island, owned since 1978 by Sir Richard Branson. The Necker Island resort, with its Balinese-inspired architecture, remains one of the world’s most exclusive retreats, with a price tag to match. Rates start at $30,000 per couple for seven nights, or you can rent the entire island for $78,000 per night. Another option, however, enables you to explore Necker without breaking the bank. Sea-It-Clear Tours, with Sir Richard’s blessing, offers six-hour nature excursions on Necker from $80 per adult. Highlights include lemurs, flamingoes and giant tortoises. Sir Richard is just one of the many larger-than-life characters who stamped their mark on the B.V.I. Another is Foxy Callwood MBE, whose infectious charisma made the island of Jost Van Dyke a popular port of call for yachters and celebrities. Keith Richards and Jimmy Buffet are among the regulars at Foxy’s Tamarind Bar, where the proprietor often entertains patrons with improvised calypsos. Foxy’s New Year’s Eve parties are legendary. For all the attractions of the islands, this is, above all — and as we anticipated at the outset — a sailing paradise. Whether you’re an old sea dog or a complete novice, whether you favor sloops, cutters, catamarans, trimarans or kayaks, you’ll find the vessel to match your needs. Companies on all the main islands offer charters, boat-only or fully crewed. Whatever else we do in the B.V.I., we haven’t truly experienced these islands until we leave sheltered waters — the bow slicing the sparkling waves, the boat leaning with the wind — and sail.

British Virgin Islands Info to Go

International flights arrive at Terrance B. Lettsome International Airport (EIS) on Beef Island, linked to the main island, Tortola, by the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge. The airport connects to regional hubs, including San Juan, Puerto Rico (SJU); Saint Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands (STT); Antigua (ANU); and Sint Maarten (SXM). Charter flights and ferry services provide connections to resorts on outlying islands, while taxis provide transfers to Tortola. A valid passport is required for entry to the B.V.I.

Where to Stay in the British Virgin Islands

Anegada Beach Club Opt for a luxury tent, replete with beachside deck and hammock and funkily designed interior. Anegada Island $$$$ Peter Island Resort and Spa The budget (relatively speaking) private island alternative to Richard Branson’s Necker Island offers just 53 guestrooms and one of the Caribbean’s best spas. Peter Island $$$$ The Sugar Mill Hotel This fine boutique hotel at the western end of Tortola Island features 24 guestrooms scattered in outbuildings amid verdant gardens fringing a small beach. Apple Bay, Tortola $$$$

Restaurants in the British Virgin Islands

Big Bamboo Restaurant The unpretentious beachside eatery offers a great place to try the legendary Anegada lobster, fished from traps just off shore. You can choose your own lobster. Loblolly Bay, Anegada $$ De Loose Mongoose The archetypal beach bar, located close to the airport, serves a menu that makes the most of local ingredients, with several dishes given an Asian twist. Beef Island Guest House, East End Tortola (Beef Island) $$ Dove Restaurant & Wine Bar Chef Alex Molitz oversees a sophisticated French-inspired menu that maintains this as one of the B.V.I.’s special-occasion venues. 67 Main St., Road Town, Tortola $$$


FX Excursions

FX Excursions offers the chance for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in destinations around the world.

Sep 19, 2019

Wilderness Safaris Reopens Jao Camp

Following a complete renovation, Wilderness Safaris’ Jao Camp reopened in Botswana’s Okavango Delta.

The Island of the Knights

Welcome to Rhodes, a medieval treasure beautifully preserved throughout the centuries. Rhodes is the capital of the Dodecanese, an island ideal not only for those who want to relax, but also for those looking for an action-packed holiday! With its bright green hills, rich green valleys and uninterrupted line of golden beaches, Rhodes is truly a blessed place. “The sun island” has more sunshiny days and milder temperatures throughout the year than any other location in Greece. It is, after all, one of the country’s easternmost places and among the first to welcome summer on its impressive beaches. Add in the excellent facilities for tourism, the island’s special blend of cosmopolitan and traditional, and numerous cultural and archaeological sites, the most important being the Medieval (Old) Town, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and you’ve got the perfect holiday destination. While on Rhodes, don’t miss a daytrip to nearby Sými. An island of sponge divers and seamen, Sými used to have 30,000 inhabitants before the Second World War and was the richest island in the Dodecanese, despite its small size. Today, Sými attracts many visitors thanks to its beautifully preserved Neo-Classical buildings and the famous Archangel Michael monastery at Panormitis.

Sep 19, 2019

Best U.S. Cities for Oktoberfest Celebrations

WalletHub compared the 100 largest U.S. cities across 24 key metrics to determine the best destinations for an upcoming Oktoberfest celebration. The brand’s study found the estimated cost for an American to attend Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany, is $5,000. Munich boasts a $1.43 billion annual economic impact on Munich. During Oktoberfest, nearly 2 million gallons of beer are consumed and more than 510,000 whole roast chickens eaten.

Sep 19, 2019

Qantas Will Start Using a Dreamliner on Santiago–Sydney Route

Qantas will start using a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner on its Sydney–Santiago route starting in late June 2020.

TAP Air Portugal Adds 15 Flights Each Week From U.S., Canada

TAP Air Portugal is adding 15 new weekly flights from the United States and Canada by summer 2020,  a new record for the carrier of 71 weekly flights between North America and Portugal.

Sep 18, 2019

Joint Venture between American Airlines, Qantas Gets Green Light

Three years after an initial rejection, in mid-July the U.S. Department of Transportation approved a joint venture between American Airlines and Qantas Airways.

eFlyer Lead
Sep 18, 2019

Shangri-La Hotel, Sydney Makes Sustainability Bounds

Hotel brands all over the world have pushed for sustainability. For many, it began with reducing single-use plastics, like straws. InterContinental recently announced the end of in-room miniature toiletries.

To New Heights

United Airlines announces a number of new routes.

TAP Air Portugal Adds 15 Flights Each Week From U.S., Canada

TAP Air Portugal is adding 15 new weekly flights from the United States and Canada by summer 2020,  a new record for the carrier of 71 weekly flights between North America and Portugal.