British Virgin Islands

British Virgin Islands

No golf. No glitter. Not much shopping. The British Virgin Islands may be only a few miles/kilometers away from the U.S. Virgin Islands, but don’t expect the tourist bustle of St. Thomas. The British Virgin Islands have spectacular sailing waters and coral reefs that surround them, calm and tidy towns, luxurious accommodations and gourmet dining. For many, it’s the perfect island getaway.

But, as with most things perfect and luxurious, the British Virgin Islands don’t come cheap. The islands’ emphasis on small, upscale resorts and their desire to appeal to well-heeled travelers result in a relatively pricey paradise with an exclusive atmosphere.

Although some dozen or so cruise ships visit the islands—with the majority of the cruise vessels visiting the Tortola port—you’re more likely to see yachts. Sailors enjoy steady trade winds, short distances between islands, beautiful views and many sheltered coves where they can drop anchor. These are considered some of the finest sailing waters in the world. Scuba divers and snorkelers also relish the reefs, wrecks and clear waters off the islands.

By whatever means you visit the British Virgin Islands, expect a slow and restorative pace with plenty of time to enjoy the scenery. The panorama includes white crescent beaches nestled at the bottom of steep, green mountains and stunning views of neighboring islands from lofty lookouts.

The main attractions of the British Virgin Islands include yachting, scuba diving, deep-sea fishing and bonefishing, snorkeling, hiking, sailing, swimming, windsurfing, horseback riding, bird-watching and relaxing.

These islands will appeal to those who want to enjoy crystal clear water against a backdrop of beautiful, hilly tropical isles. Go if you have the financial means and want to relax. If you need a lot of action, restaurants, nightlife and shopping, you’d be better off elsewhere in the Caribbean.

Geography

Geographically, the British Virgin Islands are made up of approximately 60 islands, islets and cays. Some are hardly bigger than a good-sized rock, yet one is large enough to contain a 1,780-ft-/539-m-high mountain.

The four main islands are Tortola (the largest), Virgin Gorda, Jost Van Dyke and Anegada. Almost all of the islands have protected coves and are dotted with thin crescents of blinding white sand and swaying palm trees. They lie on both sides of Sir Francis Drake Channel, about 60 mi/100 km east of Puerto Rico and immediately east of the U.S. Virgin Islands. All of the islands are volcanic in origin, except for Anegada and tiny Sandy Cay, which are limestone and coral atolls. Most are surrounded by coral reefs.