11 reasons to visit the British Virgin Islands
If you're desperate for sea, sun and special memories, the most spectacular archipelago in the Caribbean is waiting for you
The British Virgin Islands, one of the UK's myriad Overseas Territories, is an intriguing prospect for holidaymakers. It is at once homely and utterly alien to the average Brit; one feels a world away from home surrounded by pristine white sand beaches and palm trees that flank the edges of crystal-clear blue seawater, but are afforded some convenient comforts courtesy of its territorial status such as a common language, left-hand driving and even the occasional red phone box. It is, for all intents and purposes, the perfect Caribbean getaway for those looking to escape the rainy climes of the British Isles.
While the territory may not be welcoming back the outside world in its entirety just yet, it remains a must-visit for those looking to book a spectacular post-pandemic island getaway. Here, as curated by Tempus, are 11 reasons to visit the British Virgin Islands.
Hide out on a private island at Aerial BVI
Aerial BVI, a brand-new all-inclusive wellness retreat situated on its own island, is the stuff that Caribbean dreams are made of. Five villas housing up to 30 guests, perched on a hilltop overlooking the waves below and just a short walk to beaches that wouldn't look out of place on a postcard.
Just a short boat ride from the main island of Tortola, this 45-acre private resort is the ultimate for a socially distanced luxury getaway.
Island hop for a bar crawl like no other and try The Painkiller
Perhaps the most famous drink in the entire BVI, the iconic Painkiller cocktail was created by George and Marie Myrick of the Soggy Dollar Bar on the western island Jost Van Dyke Island in 1971. It is served in almost every restaurant and on every island in the British Virgin Islands and is now considered the official drink of the BVIs.
Leon Miller, bartender extraordinaire, says of the drink: “White Bay on Jost Van Dyke has been made famous by the legendary Soggy Dollar Bar, which serves the famous ‘Painkiller’ cocktail, made with Soggy Dollar Rum, orange, pineapple, ice, crème of coconut and not forgetting a sprinkle of nutmeg.”
Away from Jost Van Dyke, if your crawl is taking in the eastern extremes of the BVIs, a pit-stop should be made at the the local favourite Bitter End Yacht Club on Virgin Gorda, which has undergone a significant refurbishment in the last year.
Scuba dive during the day and at night
Ben Williams of Kilbride’s Sunchaser Scuba in Virgin Gorda lets in on a hidden gem: “My favourite dive site in the BVI is the Invisibles, located just off Necker Island. A lot of people hear about this site but only few get to dive it as the weather conditions need to be right. It consists of two underwater pinnacles, teaming with marine life, big schools of fish swirling in and around the crevasses.
"Not only during the day is this an awesome dive, it is also the best night dive I have ever done in the world. It is where the local sea turtles find a bed for the night and divers can see up to 15 sleeping turtles on a dive.”
Rent a boat and go to an uninhabited island for a group picnic
Island hop with Dede’s Charters - half and full days available - who are ready and waiting to ferry guests to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world.
Charters include snorkelling equipment to spot fish, turtles, rays and more, and also include an open bar full of cold beer, soft drinks and even the famous Painkiller cocktail.
Eat like a local with home-style cooking
With an array of restaurants across the islands serving local cuisine, one of the favourites among those in-the-know is The Sugar Apple, run by Cynthia George, on the island of Virgin Gorda.
The restaurant is often sold out by early lunchtime as locals and visitors come to indulge in good old fashioned, friendly Caribbean hospitality and great local food (along with some great stories), with the restaurant’s owner Cynthia George saying: “Locals and visitors alike, love my dishes including stewed brown chicken, peas soup with pig tails and dumplings, stewed pork chops, fish in Mayonnaise sauce, baked and barbecued chicken and saltfish & Johnny cakes. I wake up early every morning to cook, picking herbs from my garden and really cooking from the heart – no measurements are done. The most important ingredient in my cooking is love.”
Visit the Conch Shell Mounds on Anegada
The island of Anegada, set far from the main island cluster of the BVI, is the most remote spot in the archipelago and is home to a number of unique natural phenomena, including the fascinating conch shell mounds that have made the region famous among intrepid travellers.
The huge piles of shells - the remnants of potentially millions of conches - jut out from the turquoise ocean to a heigh of 12ft, and are the result of hunting practices dating back centuries; fishermen from Anegada would collect the animals to eat and discard their shells in the same spot. Now, tourists can visit the bizarre spectacle by boat and even scuba dive around the mounds.
Hike to the summits of Sage Mountain and Gorda Peak
A new ‘soft adventure’ company, Hike BVI invites visitors to explore the hidden trails of the BVI with their very own knowledgeable ‘Hike Guru’.
Every adventure organised by the crew is unique with plenty to see and do, from the crystal-clear ocean and sandy beaches to the mountains and tropical areas beyond. All-inclusive tours range from 3 – 5 hours in duration and include a delicious lunch and private boat.
Guests can choose from exploring Salt Island, Norman Island, Little Harbour or Virgin Gorda, the newest addition.
Visit the Baths at Virgin Gorda
This dramatic geological stretch of coastline on Virgin Gorda's north shore is a photographer's heaven, featuring astonishing rock formations that form tunnels through which sunlight pours dramatically onto the sands below.
The area, which is protected by law, also includes Devil's Bay, which can be reached from The Baths by a series of ladders scaling the boulders at the site.
Harvest your own salt on Salt Island
In 2015, BVI Governor John Duncan decided to renew a long-since-faded annual tradition in which residents of the islands head to Salt Island to harvest salt from the myriad pools.
After a drive to reboot the tradition, he later took pound of salt to London and presented it to Queen Elizabeth II, adding an element of prestige to the process. And now you can be part of the fun by taking a boat out to the island and harvesting the product yourself with Island Root Charters.
See it all from the air
For those looking to get a bird's eye view of the BVIs, Caribbean Buzz should be the first port of call. The helicopter tour and charter service is at your service for pretty much any itinerary you wish to throw at them, from traversing the open ocean to have a lobster lunch on Anegada to hovering above the peaks of Tortola.
The firm also offers flights over to the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico for a more extensive adventure.
Get fit in luxury with Salt Escapes
"Sweat, explore and relax in the world's most beautiful destinations," is the tagline of Salt Escapes, which runs a series of nautical fitness bootcamps across the globe, including one in the BVIs.
Guests will spend a week on a luxury private catamaran, sailing around the islands with like-minded travellers partaking in exercises and fun activities amid the spectacular scenery of the archipelago.
Each yacht comes with a trained private chef, and a seasoned, qualified, fun-loving skipper to safely sail you to a new island and deserted bay each and every day.