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The best BVI sailing vacations are packaged to include so much adventure and thrill in just a handful of days that the memories you will take back with you might as well have been garnered over a whole season of sailing in some other destination.
So, what is it that gives the exotic destination of the British Virgin Islands such appeal for sailing and other water sports? This comprehensive guide includes all the lowdown you need on BVI as a destination, the most unmissable spots and a sample 7-day vacation itinerary for good measure.
About the British Virgin Islands
With their all year round warm weather, the British Virgin Islands are considered to be among the best sailing destinations in the world. The tranquil turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea provide for excellent sailing and water sports experiences for the discerning holidaymaker.
Ashore, the expansive white sand beaches fringed with majestic palm trees will offer unparalleled opportunities for family fun and are the best backdrop for memorable holiday photos and videos.
With well over 50 islands in the archipelago, you have a veritable feast to indulge all your senses in this colorful and vibrant area of the Caribbean. And even if they bear the “British” label, there is very little of the British in terms of weather and local culture.
Tortola is the main island in the archipelago. It is famous for its full-moon outdoor parties and has some well-established sailing pedigree. However, the most famous destination for “yachties” is Virgin Gorda with its magical rocks and hidden pools. More of that later in this guide.
The Best Time to Sail in the BVI
With the climate around the British Virgin islands retaining its balmy, sunny Caribbean characteristic all year long, any day is a great day to go sailing around the islands. But the high season for sailing kicks off around December and lasts up to April.
During these months the winds are strong enough for sailing. The best BVI Sailing trips are planned to coincide with major sailing events such as the BVI Kite Jam in February or the annual BVI Spring Regatta in April.
Around May and June, the open waters are much calmer but still adequate for vacation style sailing. Around September to October, there is a slight risk for hurricanes but there are sailing vacationers who prefer this as an ideal time since the open waters are much less clouded.
What to Do in The BVI
Whatever your passion, taste or inclination; you will be spoilt for choice while in the British Virgin Islands. Here are the top seven things to do on BVI sailing voyage.
1. Swim and Snorkel in The Baths, Virgin Gorda
The Baths is a geological formation near the city of Spanish Town on the island of Virgin Gorda. The area features massive granite boulders, some as wide as 40 feet in diameter, surrounded by pristine white beaches and enclosing secret pools of water.
The unique formation happened when molten rock seeped into some existing volcanic rock layers. Because the molten rock could not reach the surface, it cooled to form the hard crystalline layer which offers bedrock for the water on the surface.
The boulders themselves happened when blocks shrank and cracked. The Baths remain one of the most famous daytime destinations for swimming and snorkeling.
2. Imbibe Full Flavored Rum Cocktails at the Foxy’s Bar, Jost Van Dyke Island!
Your holiday isn’t complete until you have tasted the full flavored rum cocktails served at the Foxy’s Bar, Jost Van Dyke Island. Lay back and relax to the soulful tunes of Calypso music playing over the bar’s tannoy.
3. Wine and Dine at the Deadman’s Beach Bar and Grill, Peter Island
You know nothing of BVI cuisine until you have dined at the Deadman’s Beach Bar and Grill on Peter Island. Just moor your boat at the Great Harbor and walk over to the eatery some few meters away. The food and drinks are fresh and served in the most authentically Caribbean ambiance.
4. Scuba Diving to Wreck of the Rhone, Salt Island
The wreck of the RMS Rhone, a British Royal Mail Ship which sank in the Rock Island harbor in 1867 is a must see. Over the centuries the wreck has developed into a thriving marine ecosystem with all manner of flora and fauna just waiting for your discovery. Night time diving parties are also very popular.
5. Escape to Sandy Spit Isle
Uninhabited and pristine, Sandy Spit is a small islet in the BVI. It is the quintessential paradise “desert island” and has featured on many tourist brochures. Anchor your boat on the sandy beach (there are no moorings of course) and spend hours in one with nature.
6. The Indians and the Caves, Norman Island
The Indians and The Caves at Norman Island are a double treat of geological formations which will blow your imagination on top of offering excellent snorkeling and fishing opportunities. The Caves are to be found on the lower tip of the bight on the Norman Island. The northernmost cave is as long as 70 feet and the walls feature mysterious ancient markings. The Indians are majestic rock formations just off the island and are great for fishing.
7. Bitter End Yacht Club, Virgin Gorda
Capping off your BVI sailing get away with a day spent at the picturesque Bitter End Yacht Club retreat is highly recommended. The retreat is your ideal location for relaxing and soaking in unadulterated Caribbean hospitality.
Popular Water Sports in the BVI
The British Virgin Islands are a water sports paradise. Other than sailing, there are numerous opportunities for such water sports as:
Fishing: Both deep sea and bone fishing opportunities are to be found all around the archipelago.
Scuba Diving: There are numerous scuba diving sites all around the BVI. From the aforementioned Wreck of the Rhone to the reefs spread across the major islands, a whole world of undersea life is just waiting for your exploration.
Snorkeling: With their pristine and balmy sea water, the BVIs offer excellent swimming and snorkeling sites. Choice spots include Brewers Bay and Smuggler’s Cove. Of course there is no need to mention The Baths or the Indians again!
7 Days BVI Sample Itinerary
Here is a sample itinerary for your first visit to the British Virgin Islands.
Day 1: Road Town to Norman Island
Begin your BVI sailing trip by hiring your boat at Road Town on Tortola Island. Get your provisions and sail off to Norman Island. It is a very short sailing distance so not to worry if you happen to land late or logistics take longer than you had anticipated. If you happen to make it early enough, set off to the Indians for a snorkel and some more swimming and exploration at The Caves.
Day 2: Peter Island
If you didn’t have enough time to explore delights off Norman Island, take the morning of the second day for some snorkeling. Otherwise, set sail for Peter Island which is privately owned but virtually undeveloped apart from the beach resort. You can do more swimming, snorkeling, and fishing off the island. On the island, there are opportunities to hike, have a picnic lunch and enjoy the pristine beaches.
Day 3: Cooper Island
If you love scuba diving, Cooper Island offers the best opportunity yet to indulge your passion on this BVI sailing journey.
Unlike the Rhone, the “wrecks” found in Cooper Island’s Wrecking Alley have been deliberately sunk to provide a vista for divers. There are some choice restaurants, hotels, and resorts on the island proper.
Special mention is reserved for the Cooper Island Beach Club where you can enjoy a full-color live-streamed video of underwater vistas brought to you courtesy of The Blue, an underwater camera company.
Day 4: Virgin Gorda
On the fourth day of your visit, the Virgin Gorda Island is your natural destination. Visit The Baths on the southern edge of the island. Spend the day snorkeling and enjoying the wonderful natural geologic formations of this truly magnificent area of the islands. In the night which marks the halfway point in your BVI odyssey, take the time to soak in the throbbing nightlife of Spanish Town.
Day 5: North Sound
North Sound is one of the greatest sailing harbors around the world and no sailing trip in the BVI would be complete without a tour. Hobnob with the liveliest sailing community in the Caribbean and take memorable photos.
Day 6: Bitter End Yacht Club
Spend your penultimate day of your holiday at the Bitter End Yacht Club indulging your fishing and water sports passion to the fullest.
Day 7: Back to Road Town
Leave the early hours of the last day of your visit for any delight you missed before setting off for Road Town. If you are like many, the visit will feel too short for a week to have passed but the memories will last you a lifetime.
British Virgin Islands Cuisine
The traditional BVI cuisine comprises many hearty and spicy dishes. The most popular dish is Fungi (foo-gee), the staple of the traditional islanders. It is made from cornmeal cooked to a thick and consistent paste along with okra.
It is normally served with boiled fish or saltfish. Kallaloo is a soup made from local ingredients with the main one being the Kallaloo bush/herb. As you would expect of a tropical island, there are many local fruits including papayas, mangoes, sugar apples, sea grapes and tamarind.
On the drinks side, don’t leave the islands without sampling the local “bush tea” made from herbal leaves including lemongrass. It is the most popular hot beverage on the islands. There are also many fruit juices and ginger root drinks with distinct Caribbean flavors.
How to Get to BVI From the US
Unfortunately, there are no direct flights from the United States to the British Virgin Islands. You have to connect to the Terrence B. Lettsome Airport (EIS) in Tortola from any of a number of Caribbean destinations such as St.
Thomas, Puerto Rico, St. Maarten or Antigua. Your travel agent will be well placed to advise you which flight to take for seamless interconnection. If you are booking your ticket online, remember to request flights to EIS on Tortola island.
If you plan to travel to islands like Virgin Gorda, Peter Island, Jost van Dyke or Anegada, remember to check with your hotel or resort to establish if there will be a ferry or charter flight from Tortola if you arrive late in the day.
It is not possible to catalog all the magic and thrills which a BVI sailing holiday has to offer. The archipelago is a sailor’s paradise with a myriad spots ideal for all manner of water sports. You would have to experience the vacation first hand to glean what the fuss is all about. As the sample itinerary serves to illustrate, even a week-long vacation trip is barely adequate to show you what the islands have to offer. Take the initiative and book your first BVI sailing trip today, you will be surprised at just how affordable and exciting the opportunity is.
For more information on sailing to the BVI:
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Have you sailed to the BVI? How was your sailing trip? Please, feel free to share your experience in the comment below.