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  • Writer's pictureS. Parris

The Ultimate Guide To Deciding Which British Virgin Island You Should Visit

Updated: Apr 18

The British Virgin Islands (BVI) offer travelers an underrated Caribbean escape filled with sun, sand, and adventure. About 60 isles make up this vacation hot spot just east of Puerto Rico, so BVI visitors have plenty of options when deciding which locale to visit. However, too much choice can make deciding difficult, and figuring out where to spend the bulk of your time can be tricky, though not impossible.

With a go-to island or two for every type of wanderer, heading to the BVI can be everything and more. Whether you prefer a little rest and relaxation or love delving deep into history, art, and cuisine, there is an island for you in this spectacular region of the world. To plan your next holiday in this remarkable part of the Caribbean, you need to zero in on the British Virgin Islands that best match your vacation style since choosing them all likely is not in the budget. Of course, if the budget is bottomless, why not visit each one?

When to go to the British Virgin Islands

Before deciding where to go in the British Virgin Islands, you should work out the best time for your island escape. Typically, most travelers head to the BVI during peak season, which runs from December through most of April. However, it is worth noting that March is also the perfect time for spring breakers and families to enjoy this overseas territory.

For travelers looking to save a little money and enjoy time well-spent in the British Virgin Islands, the shoulder seasons (April to May and late October through November) are ideal. Similarly, the low season, which includes September and early October, equals even more savings because this section of the Caribbean usually experiences the most rainfall (though still intermittent) around this time of year. On the other hand, early summer is not the best choice, as this is the start of hurricane season there. It is highly recommended that you opt for the other seasons to avoid any possible tropical storms, intense winds, or similar challenging conditions. Visiting at the wrong time is a common mistake people make when planning that dream Caribbean vacation.

What kind of island getaway do you crave?

As you begin to plan your trip to BVI, ask yourself what kind of island getaway is right for you. Travelers ready to relax and keep adventuring to a minimum have ample possibilities. Thanks to all the stunning beaches, lavish resorts, tranquil waters, wellness facilities, and the famed Painkiller cocktails, you will have no trouble kicking back and enjoying the simple things on any of the islands there. However, some spots, like Ixora Spa by Elemis on Scrub Island, take getting pampered on vacation to the next level and are worth considering if first-rate spas are your thing.

Alternatively, plenty is on offer if you come to explore, dive, and more. BVI has no shortage of island adventures available. Still, you will fare better on certain isles than others, depending on the experiences you are interested in. Adventurers headed to BVI can enjoy all kinds of recreational activities on Salt Island (home to the RMS Rhone shipwreck), Norman Island (with The Caves near Treasure Point), or Tortola, which has incredible hiking trails that take you all around Sage Mountain — to name a few. Keep all this in mind when selecting an island or if you opt to create a multi-island itinerary.

The best islands for thrill-seekers

The BVI includes several islands with everything a thrill-seeker could ever want. However, Tortola should be at the top of your adrenaline- heavy bucket list. The largest isle (and the capital) in BVI, Tortola is a must for any daredevil. From exploring ancient ruins and hiking in the mountains to snorkeling above coral reefs, scuba diving in the brilliant blue depths of the ocean, and enjoying endless water sports, Tortola offers a wide variety of entertainment options. Tortola is also a superb home base, making it easy to get to nearby attractions or other isles for more fun tourist activities.

Norman Island, Marina Cay, and Virgin Gorda are also right around the corner from Tortola and have several daredevil-approved pastimes that will surely get your adrenalin pumping. If you want a little bit of it all plus the convenience of being on the largest island with the most activities, set your sights on Tortola.

Whether you are a thrill-seeker, history buff, or beach lover, Tortola is definitely worth considering for your getaway.

The island that was made for nature lovers

Speaking of Virgin Gorda, this isle is pure paradise and downright otherworldly, especially for anyone who considers themselves a true nature enthusiast. Its breathtaking views, sweeping landscapes, turquoise waters, unspoiled beaches, dense jungles, fascinating caves, and mesmerizing rock formations are only the beginning of what makes this island so special. One of Virgin Gorda's main attractions is its world-famous Baths, which features some of the prettiest waters in the world, and visitors come from all over to embrace this tranquil scenery.

The Baths showcase various natural charms, from sandy coves such as the Devil's Bay Beach to wild plants, massive boulders, and ethereal hidden pools. In addition to the must-see Baths, Virgin Gorda also has spectacular national parks, secluded high-end hotels, Gorda Peak, multiple bays (Valley Trunk, Mahone, Pond, Savannah, Leverick, and more), as well as a plethora of nature sanctuaries.

After thoroughly reconnecting with nature, Virgin Gorda visitors can marvel at the various historic sites, stay in first-class accommodations, and check out the local yacht clubs. They can also immerse themselves in all the wonders of Spanish Town (the island's largest city), where restaurants serve world-class cuisine. If all of this aligns well with your vacation goals, why not head to Virgin Gorda?

A scuba diver's dream

Experienced and newer divers flock to the British Virgin Islands since this destination offers some of the best diving on the planet. And at the top of their to-do list is Anegada Island, a diver's dream with its beautiful underwater landscape packed with caves, tunnels, shipwrecks, coral reefs, and abundant sea life. Even on land, Anegada has a fantastic ecosystem and magical-looking terrain (which includes Cow Wreck Beach).

Other islands that are a must if you come to explore the depths of the Atlantic and the Caribbean Seas include Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Jost Van Dyke, Cooper Island, and Scrub Island. As mentioned, Tortola is the largest island and a tremendous base for exploring the archipelago, while Virgin Gorda and Jost Van Dyke both have their own unique perks waiting to be discovered beneath the waves. There is no shortage of options, but the focus on underwater delights makes Anegada the obvious place to start, and we don't take the "scuba diver's dream" part of the title lightly. After all, this place was seemingly created with underwater magic at its heart.

An intimate island experience

For travelers looking for a more intimate island experience, Jost Van Dyke is a great option that is also brimming with history. Visitors can explore the past at the sugar mill ruins and better understand the diverse culture around these parts, which shimmers with a mixture of Caribs, Arawak Tribe, Africans, Dutch, and British customs. Jost Van Dyke is the smallest of the four main islands, so curious travelers can easily soak up all of its history over the course of a few days.

Travelers can also take a dip in the delightfully-named Bubbly Pool (a natural hot lagoon or swimming hole), lounge about beachside, get in some water activities via the beach clubs, partake in long walks on the beach, and even book a massage for two at the British Virgin Islands' first-ever floating spa — Ocean Spa. That's not all — Jost Van Dyke is known for its beachside restaurants that range from a quick and tasty bite to eat to exceptional fine dining. If you would like to plan a romantic dinner by the ocean with delicious cuisine, fantastic service, and an amazing sunset serving as the backdrop, then Jost Van Dyke is a wonderful choice. There is also a lovely selection of beachfront villas and hotels that make this island even dreamier and the perfect go-to for couples.

Your very own adventure island

Beef Island is not only the gateway to the BVI, with the Terrance B. Lettsome International Airport calling this particular isle home, but Beef Island is also another magnificent British Virgin Islands location full of adventures and water sports. Connected to Tortola via a convenient bridge, the island acts as a delightful getaway from the central BVI hub, but be aware that there are not as many hotels on Beef Island. Instead, travelers will find more vacation rentals than anything. If you have a larger travel group and want to rent out a lavish villa or a beach house with all the trimmings, Beef Island is worth contemplating as your home base.

In the way of your standard adventuring, Beef Island offers convenient access to nearby attractions, such as The Baths, Can Garden Bay, Trellis Bay, Smuggler's Cove, and other islands. Visitors can also choose their own adventure while staying there, as you can rent just about any water sports equipment and have a fun day in the ocean — surfing, kayaking, and sailing. For foodies, Beef Island is where it is at, with a nice mix of restaurants that offer tastings and more. Plus, the quirky shops, beach clubs, and surrounding scenery will keep you well-entertained for days. If you need more, just cross the Queen Elizabeth Bridge and spend some time in Tortola.

The perfect spot to drop anchor

Sailboat and yacht enthusiasts looking to drop anchor and revel in some island time will feel right at home at Cooper Island. Located south of Tortola and known for its glistening crystal clear waters, this semi-private island has exactly one grand eco-friendly resort —

the Cooper Island Beach Club. Cooper Island also has a single beach area, so you do not have to worry about getting around or leaving the resort once you touch down.

Thanks to the Cooper Island Beach Club, boat visitors are welcomed and can enjoy shoreside service, dinner, and other amenities. Travelers charting the waters have a few bays in the area, like Manchineel Bay, Carver Bay, Haulover Bay, and Cistern Point, with marinas that are great for day stops. For overnight anchoring, however, Manchineel Bay is the best option. On the other hand, Cooper Island-goers who stay at the resort but still want to set sail have their pick of boat rentals, tours, and short excursions. If spending more time aboard than onshore sounds like your kind of vacation, then opt for Cooper Island.

A day trip worth taking

Norman Island, or the real-world inspiration for "Treasure Island," is just one more hot spot in BVI that is well worth exploring. Though this island is privately owned, Norman Island is a great day trip perfect for all, including beach lovers, boaters, and adventures. Visitors are permitted to explore most of the island and its surrounding waters. However, they will have to book their accommodations elsewhere — like on Peter Island, Scrub Island, and other nearby islets.

When it comes to main attractions, the Norman Island Caves definitely steal the show. These gorgeous geological formations are said to hold many tales of actual treasure. With stories of pirates hiding their gold, coral reef-adorned walls, and optimal diving and snorkeling experiences available here, the Norman Island Caves are a must when visiting the BVI. Besides exploring these iconic grottos, travelers can go for a scenic trek along the Norman Island trails, have a marvelous time aboard the Willy T (a floating pirate ship and bar that frequents the area), go fishing, or just relax for a spell seaside.

The island for comfort and relaxation

Travelers in need of some R & R should consider Scrub Island. This gorgeous and pristine locale has luxury resorts, spas, and a picturesque marina. But the best part is that Scrub Island is a relatively unknown holiday destination, so there are no crowds or over-the-top activities. It is where you head to disconnect and recharge. Sure, visitors can learn to sail, go snorkeling, surf, kayak in paradise, and enjoy the incredible beaches, but there is absolutely no pressure.

If you prefer to spend some time at the spas and indulge in wellness treatments, you will be spoilt for choice. Everything from massages to acupuncture and beach yoga is available on Scrub Island. However, there is no need to panic if being pampered beyond your wildest dreams is not how you like to vacation. Scrub Island-goers can sign up for historical tours, book helicopter rides, go hiking, and even get in on the fun with cultural events like the Full Moon Party at Trellis Bay. Head on over to Scrub Island if you want a getaway that offers a low-key yet diverse Caribbean experience.

A snorkeler's delight

Marina Cay is another private island, but it is also so much more — the smallest isle in the British Virgin Islands, the site of a 1930s love story, and only a short hop away from the luxury relaxation of Scrub Island. Rebuilt after damage caused by Hurricane Irma, Marina Cay is a fascinating gem situated right in the middle of the British Virgin Islands. Home to the Marina Cay Bar & Grill, this island has become known as the archipelago's social center.

With truly rave-worthy snorkeling, swimming, diving, and recreational boating, Marina Cay is a great day trip for anyone looking to appreciate the beauty of nature while having the time of their life. What makes Marina Cay a snorkeler's delight is its calming waters, vibrantly-colored coral, beautiful coves, tropical fish, and seemingly limitless marine life. Travelers of all ages can snorkel around the island and then grab a bite to eat. Marina Cay is a marvel you should add to your to-do list, especially if you are looking to get your snorkel on and see what happens under the sea. That said, a few other isles in the area also have grade-A snorkeling, including Norman Island, Virgin Gorda, Jost Van Dyke, and Antigua and Barbuda's Prickly Pear.

Plan an extended getaway

Ultimately, with so many options, there is no reason to stay in one place when vacationing in the British Virgin Islands. Moreover, if you are willing to go off the beaten path just a little and extend your BVI getaway, other British Virgin Islands are aplenty. In particular, if possible, destinations such as the Southern Islands, Sandy Cay, Ginger Island, and Guana Island should be added to your holiday itinerary. Though largely uninhabited, the Southern Islands, Sandy Cay, and Ginger Island are still wonderful stop-offs for day-trippers, adventurers, boaters, and water sports enthusiasts.

Guana Island, on the other hand, is a family-owned isle that is essentially one large 5-star resort that is as exclusive as it is lavish. With a variety of accommodations, amenities, and activities, time spent at this stunning remote island feels downright surreal and like you have stepped into your very own unspoiled paradise. So, if you happen to be a wanderer looking to decompress or a traveling twosome, you definitely should make your way over to Guana Island. Just make sure you book well in advance, as this dazzling resort always sells out fast. And after all this, if you still don't want the magic to end, remember, the U.S. Virgin Islands (St. Croix, St. John, and St. Thomas) are only a boat ride away.

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