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British Virgin Islands Travel Notes

by Harry S. Pariser

Quiet and peaceful, the British Virgin Islands offer solace to the traveler weary of the commercialism and despoiled atmosphere of the Caribbean's larger islands. Incredible scenery lies both above and below the water. These islands are the premier yachting destination in the Caribbean, and their beautiful beaches and hiking trails are attractive to landlubbers as well.

CLIMATE-- Really fine! Set within the tradewind belt, temperature on these islands rarely drops below 10 degrees F at night; daytime temperatures range between 80-90 degrees F throughout the year. Rain, and water in general, is scarce.

WHEN TO COME-- Anytime is the right time but holiday seasons tend to be crowded and the summer can be quite hot.

WHO SHOULD COME-- While the BVI caters to an upper income yacht crowd, even landlubbers (and especially hikers who love hills) can have quite a good time here. Although expensive in general, the BVI has a few affordable guesthouses on Tortola and campsites on Tortola, Jost Van Dyke, and Anegada.

PLANNING EXPENSES-- The BVI can be as expensive as you wish it to be. At a rock bottom, you should allow for US$30 pd if camping and cooking your own food. Otherwise, restaurant meals are comparable to Europe or the US, although you can snack for considerably cheaper.

SUGGESTED ITINERARY-- There is no list of must-see places here. The reason to come is to enjoy yourself, and you can do this best by being laid back. Since everywhere is relatively similar and transport can eat into your budget, it's best to check out the area around your hotel first.

GETTING THERE-- Major carriers fly to St. Thomas where you can get feeder flights or boats to the various islands. Planes also fly from San Juan, Puerto Rico.

SIGHTS AND DESTINATIONS-- There are too many to detail all of them here, but here are some suggestions--

ANEGADA--This beautiful coral atoll has its own distinct topography, rising only 28 ft. (9 m) above sea level at its highest point. Set around 25 mi. (40 km) northeast of Tortola, Anegada is best known for its snorkeling and beaches.

BEEF ISLAND--Home of Tortola's airport, this small island is connected with Tortola via the 300 ft-long Queen Elizabeth Bridge. It also has some attractive beaches and hotels.

COOPER ISLAND--South of Tortola (on the south side of Sir Francis Drake Channel), Cooper Island may only be reached via yacht. It has hiking trails as well as a hotel.

JOST VAN DYKE--This relatively large hilly island lies northwest of Tortola. It has two harbors with attractive beaches-- Great Harbour and White Bay. It may be reached by ferry from Tortola's West End.

NORMAN ISLAND--Set on the Sir Francis Drake Channel to the south of Tortola, this hilly, uninhabited, island offers attractive beaches as well as offshore caves with good snorkeling. Converted into a floating bar and restaurant, the William Thornton, an old sailing ship, is moored offshore.

PETER ISLAND--Owned by the Peter Island Resort and Yacht Harbour, othis island boasts a luxurious resort whose facilities are nestled along the edge of the north shore, which leaves the remainder of this eight-mile long island completely undeveloped. Non-guests are welcome to visit and may use facilities for a fee. Ferries run reguarly between Road Town and the nearby island.

SAGE MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK--On Tortola, this small park is a great place to visit for its great views and flora and fauna.

SALT ISLAND--Set along the Salt Island Passage between Cooper and Peter islands to the south of Tortola, Salt Island has two salt-evaporation ponds. Nearby is the wreck of the H.M.S. Rhone (sunk in an 1867 hurricane) Along with Dead Chest Island (nearby, across Salt Island Passage), Salt Island is contained in Rhone National Marine Park. Snorkeling and diving are good here. It may only be reached by private boat.

TORTOLA--The BVI's chief island, Tortola contains the territorial capital of Road Town. It has a number of white sand beaches, some historical sites, and a national park.

VIRGIN GORDA--This small island is best known for its fine resorts as well as The Baths--Located near the S tip of the island, these huge granite boulders--the size of houses--topple over one another above underlying grottos of clear turquoise water.