The BVI’s 5 Best Islands

July 1, 2015 Daniel Sendecki

First inhabited by the Arawak and Carib, settled by the Dutch, ruled by the Queen, and beholden to the Yankee dollar, the British Virgin Islands are one of the Caribbean’s most curious places. Once you’ve been here for an hour or two, though, you’ll understand why no one’s really in much of a hurry to figure it all out. Dotted with small coves and bays that call out to sailors (and inspired Robert Louis Stevenson’s pirate classic Treasure Island) and lined with more stunning beachfront than any country deserves, the pace of life in this chain of islands—some of which are little more than big rocks—is as mellow as a rambling Jimmy Buffet tune.

Photo courtesy of Vincent Donnelly.

Encompassing more than 50 islands spread across nearly 1,000 square miles, the BVIs consist of the larger islands of Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Anegada, and Jost Van Dyke, along with over fifty other smaller islets and cays home to scores of hotels, villas, resorts, and anchorages. With the sheer variety on offer, what’s the best way to explore the island chain? The ultimate way to traverse the area is by boat: drifting from one island to the next, sleeping under a million stars. This way you can stick to four or five islands and bliss out—without worrying about the area’s notoriously unpredictable ferry system. Hoist your jib and explore our five favourite islands in the BVIs.

Tortola

There's no place better to launch your own sailing adventure than in Tortola, the largest and most populated of the British Virgin Islands. But you don't have to be a sailor to appreciate the island’s quiet understated beauty, no matter how many boats are bobbing in the harbor. Swim or stroll the white-sand beaches, explore ancient ruins or drop anchor and rock with the rhythm of the azure bays.

Photo courtesy of Lorem Ipsum.

Norman Island

Discover this uninhabited gem, known by cruisers and sailors alike. It offers lots of options to explore from its larger harbor, a protected anchorage area called "the Bight." Enjoy an early morning visit to the caves just below the cliffs for excellent snorkeling opportunities, and keep an eye out for any long forgotten treasure—who knows what could have been left behind! If Norman Island could talk, it would be sure to tell stories of pirate legends and long-lost pirate booty.

Photo courtesy of Alan Wolf.

Virgin Gorda

Soak up the sun and beautiful scenery on this visit to the gorgeous Virgin Gorda. Sail towards the island and dock at the marina in Spanish Town. Step ashore to meet friendly locals and other sailors alike. Spend the day at leisure, enjoying the beach, taking optional tours around the island or exploring the famous Baths: a collection of huge granite boulders with white sand beaches and secret rock pools. Encompassing the beaches and rocky shoreline at the southwestern tip of Virgin Gorda, the Baths is an untouched paradise that looks like you stepped right into a postcard!

Photo courtesy of Scuba Bear.

Guana Island

Discover your own piece of Caribbean paradise on Guana Island. One of the few remaining privately owned islands in its part of the world, Guana consists of seven white powder-soft sand beaches and acres and acres of tropical forest, mountains, and hills. Settle in for a day of relaxation on the beach of your dreams or swim in the clearest blue waters imaginable for miles around.

Photo courtesy of Jean-Marc Astesana.

Little Jost Van Dyke Island

Spend some quality time on Jost Van Dyke, one of the smallest islands in the BVIs that will be sure to make a big impression. Grab a drink at the famous 'Soggy Dollar' Bar before lunch on board. Opt to go hiking here—or there are car tours available, too. A day at Jost Van Dyke is a day in paradise. It's hard to go wrong!

Photo courtesy of Kevin Oliver.

Getting there

G Adventures has an incredible seven-day tour of the BVIs entitled “Sailing the British Virgin Islands.” This perfect introduction to this part of the world will take you on a small catamaran among all of the islands, giving you time to dream up a way to make it possible so you never have to come home again. Sail away!

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