The British Virgin Islands
I’ve visited the Caribbean before, but never like this. I’ve always loved the people and places in this tropical oasis, but never in such a free and unencumbered way. On this trip, I stretched my abilities, and explored a world where community and solitude create the ultimate opportunity for wanderlust. Sailing around the British Virgin Islands was a once in a lifetime experience.
PLACES AND STORIES TO LOVE
Come Sail Away
I’ve done my fair share of sunset cruises, but spending four days on a sail boat? That’s new territory. Luckily, I had Captain Lisa Roland leading the way, teaching me sailing essentials while at sea. We talked through the nautical chart (don’t call it a map!), detailing our seven-island adventure. Something I was so excited for is the idea that most of the places we’re visiting are only accessible by boat. It didn’t take long for me to see why people love sailing—it’s so freeing, and few things make you feel how truly insignificant you are in the grand scheme of things. It’s a humbling and breath-taking experience.
Giving Back to Virgin Gorda
From incredible weather to turquoise blue waters, great food and fun culture, the BVIs give us travelers so much. That’s why I was excited to give them something back. And the fact that I got to do that at one of my favorite islands, Virgin Gorda, was a bonus. I met up with BVI environmental officer and life-long Virgin Gorda resident, Jahnai Caul, to volunteer with Seeds of Love. This organization launched in 2017 to help replant trees after Hurricane Irma and Maria. In their wake, the once lush island was void of plants. Seeds of Love aims to plant coconut trees, white cedars, mangroves and more to help protect against erosion, provide food and more. I was able to plant coconut trees. Not only did I give back to a place that gives so much, but now I have a reason to come back—to visit my trees!
The Best Bath in the BVIs
Let’s be honest: most Caribbean islands look more or less the same: sugar-soft sand, aquamarine waters, lovely people (tough problem to have, right?). Virgin Gorda is an exception. People say God sprinkled boulders on this island, creating a dramatic landscape you can’t help but fall in love with. The most epic place to soak in the island, literally? The Baths National Park. Hike an amazing trail through boulder-strewn paths. The huge boulders create tunnels and rooms, some of which you must swim through. This truly is one of the most extraordinary beaches on the planet.
Next stop? The quiet island of Anegada. Known as the ‘drowned island,’ Anegada’s highest elevation is only 28 ft. above sea level. Those with the patience to venture to this remote island are handsomely rewarded with spectacular waters (bright blue due to the fact that the island is make of coral and limestone), and an incredible bounty from the sea.
Third generation Anegada resident Kelly Faulkner brought me to one of the most interesting places in the area—conch island. This mountain of conch shells are the result of five generations of fishermen discarding the shells of this sea creature prized for its meat. Kelly dove into the water, quickly coming back to the surface with two conch. We cleaned them right on the boat, and enjoyed conch ceviche. The best part though? Launching my conch shell onto the pile.
GOOD TO KNOW
Until recently, Anegada was difficult to get to—only by chartered boat or seaplane. Now visitors can take the Anegada Express ferry ($50 round trip), which leaves the West End of Tortola. More details here.
Book your own tour with Kelly here.
Every Night is Lobster Night
In most restaurants, lobster is a luxury. But at one of Anegada’s best-known restaurant, Potters by the Sea, it’s the whole reason you come. I joined Chef Sam as he prepped lobsters for that evening’s meal, scooping them up one by one from a live trap, then dispatching them. It really doesn’t get any fresher than this. A meal at Potters is one of a kind. Dig your toes into the sand as you dine on the beach under the starlit evening sky. Look on as your lobster grills over their open charcoal barbecue, typically cooked over a special wood collected from the interior of the island. You’ll dream of this meal for years to come.
IF YOU GO
Pull your dinghy up to their public dinghy dock. Don’t have one? Call ahead and they’re bring their shuttle to pick you up.
Learn more about Potters by the Sea, and make a reservation here.
Reggae and Roti on the beach
The island of Tortola remains the most populous in the BVIs. A must-stop? Quito’s Gazebo, an beachfront bar and restaurant owned and operated by famed musician Quito Rymer. Quito started playing in Cane Garden bay in 1983, and established the first Quito’s Gazebo. Due to a few hurricanes, the Gazebo experienced many iterations, but the fun, relaxed vibe has remained the same. Enjoy live music and dining on their beach side restaurant (the roti is not to be missed).
Feeling No Pain
A trip to the BVI isn’t complete without a trip to the island of Jost Van Dyke. Named for an early Dutch settler and former pirate, this island runs deep with rugged scenery and colorful folklore. That said, it’s not the folklore people come here to experience… it’s the stiff drinks at the Soggy Dollar Bar. There’s no dock, so customers must either swim or drive their dinghy ashore, hence the name. This iconic bar is best known for its painkillers, a smooth, full flavored rum cocktail featuring cream of coconut, pineapple and orange juice, topped with fresh grated Grenadian nutmeg. Trust me, it’s worth the swim.
The Best Snorkeling in the BVIs
If you’re exploring the BVI by boat, snorkeling is a must. The best place to do it? The Indians, an uninhabited small archipelago of islets. Regarded as one of the best shallow dives in the BVIs, these four rocky pinnacles rise and descend roughly the same fifty feet above and below the water surface, which form abundant coral gardens, a 15-foot tunnel, lots of fish and an underwater cavern.
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If you go
Not to state the obvious, but the Indians are accessible only by boat. The area has several mooring balls for day use, so hook up and jump in!
Want to visit the Indians? Here’s a map.