Best Things To Do in British Virgin Islands
The British Virgin Islands are one of the premier sailing destinations in the area with tours and cruises hopping from island to island. Many also choose to sail to the southern islands' popular dive sites like the RMS Rhone. BVI beaches are excellent, especially the shores of Anegada and Cane Garden Bay or Smuggler's Cove on Tortola. Leave the water to try one of the island's painkiller cocktails, and don't fret; you can stay in your beach gear to hit up any one of the local watering holes.
Updated October 12, 2018
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Wading through the colorful coves and granite boulders of The Baths in Virgin Gorda is undeniably the most notable experience you can have in the British Virgin Islands. Travelers and experts alike agree: It's the must-see attraction of the BVI archipelago. Massive smooth ash gray boulders of varying sizes rise from the sea's crystalline waters, making a maze of sorts for travelers to wade or swim through. Climbing through the crevices and grottoes of The Baths isn't terribly intensive, but the granite boulders can be slippery so swim shoes or sneakers are encouraged. Once you reach Devil's Bay, the stunning beach clearing at the end of the rocks, you'll find shallow clear waters perfect for a little light snorkeling or restful sunbathing.
Visitors are consistent in their praise of The Baths, calling the natural wonder "beautiful" and the beach "pristine." Although photo opportunities are rife at The Baths, some travelers recommend saving space on your camera for a few shots of The Baths' Cathedral Room – a natural pool within a small cave.
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The center of activity in the BVI is on Tortola and the center of activity on Tortola is Cane Garden Bay. You'll spend the day at this northwestern beach swimming in the turquoise water, renting a boat or kayak, snorkeling around the beach's western edge and enjoying the great food. And when the sun goes down, Cane Garden Bay turns up. Happy hours are aplenty and live music wafts from local hotels with thrumming bars like Quito's Gazebo, Elm and Myett's – plus, chances are you'll be dancing.
Recent travelers can't say enough about Cane Garden Bay. They're especially amazed at how quickly the area bounced back after Hurricane Irma, noting a collection of operating restaurants and bars, and the opportunity to rent Jet Skis. However, some say the chilled out atmosphere of the beach changes when the cruise crowds roll in. Either try to avoid visiting when a cruise ship is in port (check the BVI Ports Authority website for details) or plan to arrive early in the day to stake out a prime spot on the sand.
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Beautiful Anegada is a Caribbean vacationer's dream: more than 300 wrecks to dive to and explore, matched by silvery sand beaches and flocks (seriously, flocks) of flamingos. Anegada is also known as the "Drowned Island" because its highest point is just 28 feet above sea level. There are a handful of villas, hotels and privately run inns on Anegada, but most travelers choose to sail here for the day from Tortola. Hopefully you appreciate seclusion, because Anegada offers it in spades. On the up side, that means you'll never have to hunt for a good perch on the beach; the downside is you will have to hunt for the nearest convenience store (or bring your own snacks and water). If you get hungry, though, travelers insist that you head to the waterfront Lobster Trap, which specializes in fresh seafood.
Tourists said their visit to the tranquil Anegada was the most relaxing part of their trip to the British Virgin Islands because of its secluded landscape and virtually deserted (but particularly pristine) beaches, even after the devastation caused by Hurricane Irma. Many also recommended renting scooters to explore the island.
- #4View all Photos#4 in British Virgin IslandsBeaches, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDBeaches, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDRead More
Its name suggests stealth, and it's true that Smuggler's Cove is the ideal shore for a clandestine beach rendezvous than it is a raucous beach with amenities galore. You'll find these sands on Tortola's western coast to be less crowded than other beaches in the BVIs, with a relaxing atmosphere and little but the horizon to enjoy. In fact, there is only one beach bar/snack stand nearby, Nigel's, which is beloved by many a traveler.
Travelers report good snorkeling conditions here, with plenty of colorful fish swimming around and coral to see. Beachgoers loved the quiet atmosphere of the cove was and the calm blue water.
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Just north of Cane Garden Bay on Tortola's northwest side is Brewers Bay, purported to be one of the best snorkeling beaches of the British Virgin Islands. The extensive reef is great for snorkeling, plus the beach is a less crowded beach option than the nearby Cane Garden Bay for those who are solely interesting in sunning and swimming. Still, some travelers noted that the nearby amenities left a little to be desired in the way of cleanliness.
Recent visitors liked the laid-back feel of this beach and snorkelers said the crystal clear water made it easy to see the colorful fish collecting around the coral reefs in the sea. Travelers also said it's a great spot to bring a book and relax on a lounge chair or go for a swim in the warm water.
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On southern Jost Van Dyke, White Bay is one of the best beaches to relax with a drink in hand. Convenient to Great Harbour, nearly all the island's bars and several beachside cottages and villas, White Bay is almost always buzzing with activity. Many independent yachts and boats dock out in the water and passengers swim or dinghy to shore. The actual beach part of the area offers plenty of room for travelers to lay down their towels or set up their chairs to sunbathe, whereas the bars are a more rowdy party scene. Local joints like Soggy Dollar or One Love Bar and Grill have reasonably priced burgers and bar fare, but you can also get especially potent drinks. Ask for a painkiller, a coconut, pineapple and orange juice concoction drowning in dark rum and topped off with a little nutmeg: Rumor has, this drink got its start on Jost Van Dyke.
Recent visitors described the sand as some of the softest they've ever felt and the beach as one of most beautiful they've seen. Travelers say there's definitely a party vibe once more people arrive for the day and some warn it may not be the best spot to bring children. White Bay is free to access and most travelers arrive by boat or catamaran. If you aren't arriving via a private or shared tour, you can reach the Jost Van Dyke via a series of ferries and taxis from the ferry port.
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The British Virgin Islands are every water sports enthusiast's dream. Surrounded by miles of brilliant blue, crystal clear Caribbean Sea, the islands are truly best explored on the water. Many travelers choose to island hop on a catamaran, sailboat or yacht – whether for a daytrip or a weeklong adventure – while others may simply be interested in kayaking and paddleboarding through the calm water in shallower depths off the coast of their resort or nearest beach. No matter what appeals to you, you should plan to spend at least some time in the BVI out on the water.
Crewed charter yachts take the stress out of vacation planning, as all you have to do is show up and enjoy a trip with a captain, crew and chef on board. The downside is, this type of sailing can be more expensive than spending a few nights in a hotel. However, if you're traveling with a large group of people you can typically find a cost-effective yacht that is comparable price-wise to a stay at an upscale resort. Check out traveler-approved companies like BVI Yacht Charters and The Moorings for more info on pricing, boat options and schedules.
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The RMS Rhone is one of the premier shipwrecks to explore. The vessel sailed for the last time on Oct. 19, 1867, and sank near Salt Island during a Category 3 hurricane. Now, the site of the wreck and its surrounding waters are known as the Rhone National Marine Park (the sole park of its kind in the British Virgin Islands) and it's a go-to dive for intermediate to advanced divers, though there are sections that beginners can enjoy as well.
You can spot the ship's bow from the surface of the sea, but you'll have to dive some 90 feet down to explore the rest of the largely intact vessel and swim among the moray eels, turtles and octopus that now call the ship home. Several divers were in awe of how much of the vessel is still intact, with even experienced scuba pros saying it's the best dive they've done. Others say that the experience was almost eerie, especially for travelers that read about the sinking of the ship prior to their dive.
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Visible from many points along the British Virgin Islands archipelago, Sage Mountain stands at 1,716 feet overlooking Tortola. According to most, BVI's first national park isn't exactly a must-do, but if you're yearning for something different after traipsing through The Baths, sunbathing on Smuggler's Cove or snorkeling on Anegada, then it is a pleasant way to spend an afternoon. Much of the park is under the cover of rainforest – full of mahogany trees, elephant ear vines and tropical birds – but there are also some magnificent views of the other Virgin Islands, both British and U.S., from lookout points along the way.
Hikers said venturing through the park was a nice way to break up their beach-centric vacation, adding that the flora and fauna were spectacular. Travelers suggest budgeting at least two hours to complete one of the trails and say hikers should wear sturdy sneakers or boots they aren't afraid of getting dirty. Visitors also say that there aren't any park rangers, though the banana smoothies at the small gift shop/restaurant are delicious.
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Travelers looking to take a taste of the islands back home should plan a stop at the Sunny Caribbee Spice Shop & Art Gallery. While not one of the main tourist attractions, this quaint little shop is great for picking up some traditional Caribbean spices, souvenirs and art trinkets. The boutique is stocked with everything from seasonings, herbs and spices to sauces, jams and sweets. Visitors can also peruse coffee, lotion, soap, Christmas ornaments, kitchen tools and sculptures.
Recent travelers said they loved that they could sample some of the spices, sauces and iced teas available at this shop, and they appreciated the variety. Many specifically recommended the jerk seasoning and the specialty hot sauces.
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