Caribbean Destination Series Part 8-British Virgin Islands


No golf. No glitter. Not much shopping. The British Virgin Islands may be only a few miles/kilometers away from the U.S. Virgin Islands, but don’t expect the tourist bustle of St. Thomas. The British Virgin Islands have spectacular sailing waters and coral reefs that surround them, calm and tidy towns, luxurious accommodations and gourmet dining. For many, it’s the perfect island getaway.But, as with most things perfect and luxurious, the British Virgin Islands don’t come cheap. The islands’ emphasis on small, upscale resorts and their desire to appeal to well-heeled travelers result in a relatively pricey paradise with an exclusive atmosphere.Although some dozen or so cruise ships visit the islands—with the majority of the cruise vessels visiting the Tortola port—you’re more likely to see yachts. Sailors enjoy steady trade winds, short distances between islands, beautiful views and many sheltered coves where they can drop anchor. These are considered some of the finest sailing waters in the world. Scuba divers and snorkelers also relish the reefs, wrecks and clear waters off the islands.By whatever means you visit the British Virgin Islands, expect a slow and restorative pace with plenty of time to enjoy the scenery. The panorama includes white crescent beaches nestled at the bottom of steep, green mountains and stunning views of neighboring islands from lofty lookouts.
Geography

Geographically, the British Virgin Islands are made up of approximately 60 islands, islets and cays. Some are hardly bigger than a good-sized rock, yet one is large enough to contain a 1,780-ft-/539-m-high mountain.The four main islands are Tortola (the largest), Virgin Gorda, Jost Van Dyke and Anegada. Almost all of the islands have protected coves and are dotted with thin crescents of blinding white sand and swaying palm trees. They lie on both sides of Sir Francis Drake Channel, about 60 mi/100 km east of Puerto Rico and immediately east of the U.S. Virgin Islands. All of the islands are volcanic in origin, except for Anegada and tiny Sandy Cay, which are limestone and coral atolls. Most are surrounded by coral reefs.

History

Water-going vessels have long been important to these islands. The original inhabitants—Ciboney, Arawak and Carib Indians—moved between the islands in their oceangoing craft. In 1493, the islands saw the arrival of several larger boats commanded by an explorer in the service of Spain: Christopher Columbus. Shortly thereafter, pirate ships became frequent visitors to the islands, drawn by the same secluded coves that today harbor pleasure craft. Pirates continued to make use of the coves even after Dutch farmers settled on the islands in the mid-1600s.The British gained control in 1672. They built sugar, cotton and indigo plantations on several of the islands and imported slaves. After slavery was abolished in 1834, the plantation economy came to an end. Most of the landowners abandoned their holdings shortly thereafter, leaving the islands to the former slaves and their descendants.In the 1960s, Laurence Rockefeller’s elegant resort on Virgin Gorda, Little Dix Bay, kick-started the travel industry, and the Cary family started its charter yacht company, The Moorings, on Tortola a few years later. Now tourism is the mainstay of the country’s economy, although there is a burgeoning banking industry as well.

Snapshot

The main attractions of the British Virgin Islands include yachting, scuba diving, deep-sea fishing and bonefishing, snorkeling, hiking, sailing, swimming, windsurfing, horseback riding, bird-watching and relaxing.These islands will appeal to those who want to enjoy crystal clear water against a backdrop of beautiful, hilly tropical isles. Go if you have the financial means and want to relax. If you need a lot of action, restaurants, nightlife and shopping, you’d be better off elsewhere in the Caribbean.

Potpourri

Flamingos have been reintroduced to the British Virgin Islands after disappearing from the area more than 50 years ago. The birds were settled on Anegada as part of the Flamingo Restoration Project and have begun to reproduce, a sign that they like their new home.Legend has it that the pirate Blackbeard once abandoned 15 troublesome members of his crew on Dead Chest Island, leaving rum as their only provision (they soon died). The event is recalled in the words of a well-known sea chantey: “Fifteen men on a dead man’s chest/Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum.”Christopher Columbus is said to have named Tortola after a bird he saw upon arriving, the turtledove. However, it probably wasn’t a turtledove he saw but a relative of the mourning dove.Alton Brown, creator and host of Good Eats on the Food Network, was trained at the New England Culinary Institute on Tortola.Mooring buoys have been installed around the islands to minimize damage to the coral reefs from the anchors of small boats. Use them.The architect of the U.S. Capitol Building, William Thorton, was born on the island of Jost Van Dyke in 1759.Smuggler’s Cove, a beach on Tortola’s north shore, was the setting for the movie The Old Man and the Sea.The RMS Rhone, an 1867 Royal Mail Ship, is a famous shipwreck in the British Virgin Islands. The remains split into two halves, one at 30 ft/9 m and the bow sinking at 80 ft/25 m. Parts of the suspense movie The Deep were filmed at the Rhone.

See & Do
Recreation

The natural beauty and waters of the British Virgin Islands invite visitors to connect with Mother Nature’s recreational offerings. Undoubtedly, scuba diving and snorkeling are the main activities, as well as boating and sailing. Beautiful white-sand beaches—including Cane Garden Bay in Tortola and Savanna Bay in Virgin Gorda—await those who seek to lounge while sipping a local rum-filled cocktail, soak in some rays and swim in clear blue water.For the more adventurous visitor, the British Virgin Islands are surrounded by waters that house a magnificent underwater world of vibrantly colored tropical fish, shipwreck ruins and coral reefs. The waters also offer great recreational fishing. There are numerous catamarans that offer day-long sailing, snorkeling and diving trips, as well as charters for fishing.If you prefer to swim with the dolphins, be sure to visit Dolphin Discovery at Prospect Reef on Tortola, the largest of the islands. Or, mount a horse for an unforgettable horseback riding experience to Sage Mountain and the beach at Cane Garden (also on Tortola). Other recreational activities include tennis, biking, surfing, windsurfing, kayaking and kiteboarding.

Shopping

Generally speaking, the British Virgin Islands are not noted for shopping. There are some local handicrafts and good local goldsmiths and jewelers (notable are pieces with the light-blue Caribbean stone called larimar). Bottles of rum make for good souvenirs, whether produced by one of the larger companies or by a small, local distillery. The famed Pusser’s Company Stores sell sportswear, nautical memorabilia, books and maps—not to mention their legendary rum. The Sunny Caribbee line of spices, hangover cures, chutneys and teas are sold at their shop in Road Town and in gift shops and hotels throughout the islands.You should look for hand-screened fabrics (sold by the yard or fashioned into clothing), as well as local artwork and locally produced straw hats, books about the Caribbean, resort wear (sundresses and swimsuits) and pottery. If you like pretty postage stamps, stop by a post office—you’ll see some of the loveliest stamps in the Caribbean. The highest concentration of shops is in Tortola along Main Street in Road Town and in Wickhams City. In Virgin Gorda, the Yacht Harbour area makes for good shopping.There is minimal duty-free shopping, and some consumer goods tend to be expensive because of duty and shipping costs (though some spirits and tobacco are less expensive than in the U.S. and Canada). Try to take enough film, toothpaste and sunscreen (and anything else you can’t do without) for your entire stay, as brand names are limited and what is available isn’t cheap.Credit cards are widely accepted on the islands, but be prepared for the extra 5%-10% that stores may add on. (They may call it a sales tax—which is incorrect, because there is no sales tax). So, always ask if there is a surcharge for using a credit card. And be aware that all stores are required to collect a nominal fee for processing traveler’s checks.Shopping Hours: Generally Monday-Saturday 9 or 10 am to 5 or 6 pm. Some shops may open for a few hours on Sunday.

Itinerary
Local Tours

There roughly a handful of tour companies that offer tours throughout the British Virgin Islands. The most reputable companies are Island Magic and Travel Plan Tours, which both offer land and sea excursions.
Island Magic
This company touts its culture tour of Tortola with stops to the Callwood Rum Distillery, Mount Sage National Park and Mount Healthy National Park. It also offers a trip to Jost Van Dyke to spend the day at White Bay Beach, dive and snorkel excursions at Treasure Island, and a visit to the Baths at Virgin Gorda. Road Town, Tortola, British Virgin Islands. Phone 340-775-7292. http://www.islandmagicvi.com.

Travel Plan Tours
Offers land-and-sea excursions, as well as land-only and sea-only ones. Tours include island hopping, Virgin Gorda, historic Tortola, snorkeling, scuba diving, deep-sea fishing, parasailing, kayaking, and dolphin encounter and swim at Dolphin Discovery in Prospect Reef. Road Town, Tortola (inside Romasco’s Harbour House building), British Virgin Islands. Phone 284-494-2872. http://www.aroundthebvi.com.

Day By Day

It’s difficult to create a single, all-purpose itinerary for the best way to see the British Virgin Islands. Some people go there to sail, anchoring each night in a different harbor. Others go for rest and relaxation at a single luxury resort, some of which are located on private islands. Other people go to stay in one of the few small hotels (most are on Tortola) or villas and spend a week or two just being laid-back. Our best advice: Go to the islands that interest you most, and don’t worry about what you might be missing on the others.Specific itineraries for the individual islands aren’t necessary. Most are so small that logistics present no problems. You can drive around Tortola, the largest island, in several hours, even if you stop to take photographs. Be sure to allow time to get from one island to another, however. Distances aren’t that great, but you may need to adjust your schedule to match ferry departures (unless you’re chartering your own boat).

Dining
Dining Overview

Some of the private resorts include all meals, so visitors staying there may have a difficult time sampling the highly seasoned local cuisine. Many restaurants, too, lean toward a Continental menu, obviously tailored to visitors rather than locals. (You get the impression that yachties aren’t terribly adventurous eaters.) Most restaurants offer fresh lobster and fish (wahoo, swordfish, tuna, mahimahi and snapper), and vegetables and fruits are widely available. The beachfront bars are usually great places to relax, have fun, listen to music and stuff yourself on fresh seafood.The many places to dine range from beachside surf shacks and bars to restaurants and fine dining. Dining options for the more budget-conscious visitor, looking for an authentic Caribbean dish, are located in Road Town on Tortola. Some of the local picks and recommended not-to-miss places to eat include Tortola’s C and F Restaurant, Captain’s Table, Palm Groovin’ and The Sugar Mill; Top of the Baths in Virgin Gorda; Anegada’s Big Bamboo and Pomato Point; and Foxy’s Great Harbour and Rudy’s Mariners Rendevous in Jost Van Dyke.A finger food that should not be missed is a small, semicircular turnover called a patty—not to be confused with a hamburger patty (although the surf shacks do flip a mean hamburger). The traditional patties are filled with spicy ground beef, saltfish, tuna or chicken, and they are either baked or fried. The curried beef patty is a local favorite.One of the local dishes that’s easier to find is roti, which we would describe as a variant of a burrito, filled with your choice of curries such as chicken, beef, vegetable, seafood or even goat. Pate is a similar dish, though spicier, that is filled with meat, seafood or vegetables. Don’t miss the hot sauce and chutney that are served alongside the roti—they’re often delicious. Try as much local cuisine as possible, including the callaloo (a soup made of spinach-like greens), fungi (distantly related to grits or polenta) and dishes made with conch (chowder and fritters are good bets) or saltfish (think baccala). Other local foods to keep an eye out for are breadfruit (popular as a soup), soursop (delicious made into pudding or ice cream) and sugar apples (when in season). And know that when you order rice and peas, the peas are actually beans.

Security
Personal Safety

Compared with many other parts of the Caribbean, crime is rare in the British Virgin Islands. Nonetheless, common sense will serve you well. Tourists are not the targets of crime, nor is purse snatching or pickpocketing common. However, don’t leave valuables unattended and be aware of your surroundings. Once you have arrived at your hotel or resort, consult with the local staff or taxi driver about places to avoid by day or night.For the latest information, contact your country’s travel-advisory agency.

Health

Tortola’s Peebles Hospital (phone 284-494-3497, emergency number 284-494-3803) is located in Road Town and has X-ray, surgical and laboratory facilities, and there are clinics on Virgin Gorda, Jost Van Dyke and Anegada. The Virgin Islands Search and Rescue and Tortola Radio are especially important for those who take to the waters. Phone 284-494-4357. To call mayday, use the VHF radio channel 16 to contact Tortola Radio. http://www.visar.org.For serious emergencies, air evacuation to Puerto Rico is recommended. Inquire about water quality at your hotel. If it’s not safe for drinking, the hotel will generally supply bottled water. The food in most restaurants and outdoor eateries is safe. An International Vaccination Certificate is not mandatory in the British Virgin Islands. Do take along sunscreen, insect repellent and a hat.For more information, contact your country’s health-advisory agency.

Dos & Don’ts

Don’t forget to take along insect repellent—the local no-see-ums appear late in the afternoon and are voracious.Do be careful when driving (especially if you are not used to driving on the left). Roads can be steep and full of switchbacks. You can always let a cabdriver take you around—most of them are happy to give island tours on the spur of the moment.Don’t swim in the nude (it’s illegal).Do pick up a copy of BVI Welcome Magazine, which gives listings of all boats that may be chartered in the islands. It’s also a reliable source for information about island activities and ferry schedules.Don’t take your golf clubs—there are no courses on the islands. And don’t expect Jet Skis to be readily available—their use has been restricted to protect the environment.Do employ good manners. They’re highly important to many British Virgin Islanders. Slow down and be polite. It is considered rude to ask a question without first saying hello.Don’t stand on anything but sand when you’re snorkeling. You wouldn’t want to damage the coral. And don’t touch fire coral or those black, spiny sea urchins—both can sting severely. It’s illegal to take coral from the reefs or to dive for living shells.Do contact the Department of Agriculture in Tortola (phone 284-495-2532) prior to traveling with Fido to the British Virgin Islands. Pets are allowed only with a valid import permit.Don’t even think about lighting up a cigarette or cigar in public places as smoking is banned in bars, restaurants, nightclubs, airports, offices and sports facilities. Smoking is also banned within 50 ft/15.5 m of any of these public spaces.

Hotels
Hotel Overview

Accommodations range from intimate, deluxe resorts to small hotels and villas. Some of the smaller islands have very limited options, however, so book as early as possible. In general, you get what you pay for: The deluxe properties have appreciably better service and facilities. Many of the resorts are understated, quiet, restful places with buildings designed to blend in with the landscape. They emphasize good service and gourmet food, and they tend to be very expensive. But don’t count on Lady Luck to help pay for your accommodations as the British Virgin Islands do not house any casinos. If you’re looking for a bargain, hotel rates can be 30%-40% less May-November.

Facts
Geostats

Passport/Visa Requirements: All U.S. citizens must have a passport when traveling by air to or from Bermuda, Canada, the Caribbean, Central and South America and Mexico. Citizens of Canada, Mexico and the British Overseas Territory of Bermuda also must have a passport or other designated secure document to enter the U.S.Beginning 1 June 2009, passports are required for land crossings at the Canadian and Mexican borders with the U.S. and for cruise passengers returning to the U.S. from Mexico, the Caribbean, Canada or Bermuda. Reconfirm travel-document requirements with your carrier prior to departure.All travelers must have sufficient funds and proof of onward passage. Reconfirm travel document requirements with your carrier before departure.Population: 23,552.Languages: English.Predominant Religions: Christian.Time Zone: 4 hours behind Greenwich Mean Time (-4 GMT). Daylight Saving Time is not observed.Voltage Requirements: 110 volts.Telephone Codes: 284, area code;

Money
Currency Exchange

The currency of the British Virgin Islands is the U.S. dollar. Major credit cards are accepted in most business and commercial establishments; traveler’s checks are also accepted. Several ATMs are located in Road Town, East End, Cane Garden Bay and West End on Tortola and in Spanish Town on Virgin Gorda.

Banking Hours

On Tortola, generally Monday-Thursday 9 am-3 pm and Friday 9 am-5 pm. On Virgin Gorda (which has only one bank), Monday-Wednesday 8:30 am-3 pm, Thursday and Friday 8:30 am-4 pm.

Taxes

There is no sales tax in the British Virgin Islands, (so shop ’til you drop at the few existing stores). However, there is a 7% accommodation tax for guests who stay for six months or less in hotels, apartments, houses, cottages, villas and similar accommodations. In addition, visitors should be aware of the departure tax: US$20 per person leaving by air, US$7 per cruise ship passenger and US$5 per person leaving by sea (by private boat or watercraft).

Tipping

Tip 15% if a service charge has not already been included in restaurant bills. (If the service charge is 10%, many people leave an additional 5%.) Taxi drivers should receive 15% as well. A 10% hotel service charge is usually added to hotel bills.

Weather

Beautiful weather has always greeted our stays in the British Virgin Islands. The average day temperature is in the 80s F/28-32 C, and the night range is usually in the 70s F/20-27 C. The hottest months are August and September, when the day temperatures can average in the 90s F/32-38 C. There is more rain during the fall than at other times, but most rain, no matter what time of year, is confined to brief, intense showers. June-November is officially the hurricane season, though it’s usually still a fine time to go (if you’re worried that a hurricane might come through, get trip-cancellation insurance that covers inclement weather). Winter is about 5 F/3 C cooler than the rest of the year, and it’s a good idea to take a sweater for the evenings in the cooler months: Trade winds blow continuously.

What to Wear

Casual summer clothing, including shorts, is suitable all year. However, it’s inappropriate to wear swimsuits or very short shorts in Road Town on Tortola or in Spanish Town on Virgin Gorda. Save them for the beach. Restaurants at the fanciest resorts require a collared shirt and long pants (no jeans) for men and casual, elegant clothes for women.

Communication
Telephone

Pay phones are available on the main islands at locations including marinas and ports of entry. The fee for local island phone calls is US$0.50. You must dial the area code with all seven-digit calls. Note that 800 numbers and international calling cards do not work at public phones.Calling cards are sold locally at Cable & Wireless, the British Virgin Islands phone company, or call 1-800-CALL-USA (with a credit card). In Tortola, public pay phones are found at the airport on Beef Island, East End post office and in Road Town.Cell-phone coverage is available and level of reception depends on the wireless carrier; overall, it’s good throughout the islands.

Internet Access

Though they are not widespread, there are several facilities with Internet access. In Tortola, Boardsailing BVI has Trellis Bay CyberCafe on Beef Island at Trellis Bay. The company also offers the service for boaters while at sea through BVI Marine WiFi, which offers daily, weekly and monthly plans for access to several hot spots throughout Tortola and on Jost Van Dyke, Cooper Island and Prickley Pear. http://www.bvimarinewifi.com.Also on Tortola are several locations in Road Town, including The Moorings, Cable and Wireless, the Click on Line cyber cafe at the back of Mill Mall, and at Sub J’s Sandwich Shop. On Virgin Gorda, connect to the Internet at the Leverick Bay Internet Cafe or at Saba Rock and Yacht Harbour Chandlery. On Jost Van Dyke, the main nonhotel site for Internet access is at the bakery in Great Harbour.For those who need to stay connected while at sea, Renport provides high-speed portable broadband packages with daily and weekly rental for less than US$30 and US$190, respectively.

Mail & Package Services

On Tortola, the main post office is in Road Town, with other offices located on Beef Island (airport), East End and West End, Virgin Gorda, Jost Van Dyke and Anegada. Shipping and courier facilities are in Road Town and Virgin Gorda. The mail service is reliable, but keep in mind that delivery may take considerably longer to reach its destination. Consider using a carrier service for expedited delivery, especially for business-related mail.

Newspapers & Magazines

The major newspapers are the BVI Beacon and the Island Sun, as well as the Virgin Islands Stand Point. The best place for visitors to get information about entertainment, dining and nightlife is at the tourist offices/kiosks set up at the cruise-ship piers, marinas and airport, as well as in the hotels. The British Virgin Islands Welcome Tourist Guide provides a complete listing of pertinent and useful information, but also grab a copy of the Limin’ Times entertainment guide. http://www.limin-times.com.

Transportation

There are several ways to reach the British Virgin Islands, but none of them are simple or inexpensive. No airlines fly directly to the islands from the continental U.S., Canada, Europe or South America, although there are two airports on the islands. For travel by water, there are numerous water-transportation services such as ferry or water taxi. Ground transportation options include taxis, buses, rental cars and jeeps, as well as bicycles and scooters.

Air

There are two principal airports in the British Virgin Islands. The busiest is Terrence B. Lettsome International Airport (EIS)—sometimes referred to as Beef Island Airport or Tortola Airport—9 mi/15 km east of Road Town (phone 284-494-3437). Virgin Gorda Airport (VIJ) is 5 mi/8 km from Spanish Town.There is no nonstop air service to B.V.I. for those traveling from Canada or the U.S. (The lack of speedy access is one of the reasons the islands remain secluded and special.) However, connections are easily made through San Juan, Puerto Rico, or St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Short hops are also available from other Caribbean islands. Book as early as possible—airplane space to these islands tends to fill quickly. Keep in mind that there is a US$20 per person departure tax for all visitors leaving by air.

Car

Cars can be rented on Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Anegada and Jost Van Dyke, and they should be reserved as far in advance as possible. You will need to pay US$10 for a temporary (three-month) British Virgin Islands driver’s license (available from all rental car companies or the government’s Traffic Licensing Office), and you must also have a valid license from another country and be at least 25 years of age to rent a vehicle.Driving is on the left side of the road (in fact, to help remind visitors unfamiliar with driving on the left side of the road, many car rental companies place a red, plastic band around the visiting driver’s left hand). Many of the roads are unmarked, are in poor shape or can be breathtakingly steep in places (not to mention the hairpin curves), but the more adventurous will find the remote beaches and spectacular mountaintop vistas well worth the challenging drives. Keep in mind that the speed limit is 20 mph/32 kph in town and 40 mph/64 kph elsewhere.

Ferry

Ferries are a popular and reasonably convenient way of reaching the islands. They connect St. Thomas and St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands to Tortola, Virgin Gorda and Jost Van Dyke. Within the British Virgin Islands, ferries link Tortola with Virgin Gorda, Jost Van Dyke, Peter Island and Marina Cay. There is also ferry service from Virgin Gorda to the North Sound Islands. These B.V.I. ferries typically have departures every day, but check prior to departure. Schedules can change on short notice.

Ship

Cruise ships visit Road Town on Tortola and Spanish Town and North Sound on Virgin Gorda. Some smaller cruise ships and windjammer-type excursions may visit several of the islands.Probably the best way to see the islands along Sir Francis Drake Channel is by yacht or sailboat. There are a dozen or so companies in the islands that charter boats. The length of your trip is limited only by your pocketbook. Take a crewed yacht out for a day or weekend excursion or arrange a longer trip, either with a full crew or without (a bareboat charter). There’s a fee for a cruise permit in addition to the yacht charter fee.

Taxi

Taxis are available on Tortola, Jost Van Dyke, Anegada and Virgin Gorda. Taxi ground transportation is available at the airport, hotels, taxi stands and other venues. Fares are established by the government, but to avoid surprises, settle on the taxi fare before you get into the cab.

For More Information

Tourist OfficesBritish Virgin Islands: British Virgin Islands Tourist Board, L.M. Business Center, Second Floor, DeCastro Street, Road Town, Tortola (mail address: P.O. Box 134, Road Town, Tortola, B.V.I.). Phone 284-494-3134. Fax 284-494-3866. There are also offices on Beef Island (phone 284-495-1184) and on Virgin Gorda. Phone 284-495-5181. Fax 284-495-6517.U.S. and Caribbean: British Virgin Islands Tourist Board, 1 West 34th St., Suite 302, New York, NY 10001. Phone 212-696-0400. Toll-free 800-835-8530. Fax 212-563-2263. There are also offices in Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles and Alexandria, Virginia. In Puerto Rico, the British Virgin Islands has a Tourist Board and Caribbean & Latin American Sales & Marketing Office, 1018 Ashford Ave., Condado Astor, Suite 3-A10, San Juan, PR 00907. Phone 787-721-2525. Fax 787-722-5552.The British Virgin Islands does not maintain a tourist office in Canada.Embassies of the United KingdomCanada: British High Commission, 80 Elgin St., Ottawa, ON K1P 5K7. Phone 613-237-2008/1530. Fax 613-232-2533.U.S.: British Embassy, 3100 Massachusetts Ave. N.W., Washington, DC 20008. Phone 202-588-6500. Fax 202-588-7850.Embassies serving the British Virgin IslandsCanada: Canada is represented by its high commission in Barbados: Bishop’s Court Hill, Bridgetown (mail address: P.O. Box 404, Bridgetown, Barbados). Phone 246-429-3550. Fax 246-437-7436.U.S.: The U.S. is represented by its embassy in Barbados: CIBC Building, Broad Street, Bridgetown (mail address: P.O. Box 302, Bridgetown, Barbados). Phone 246-436-4950. Fax 246-429-5246.

Recommended Guidebooks

Best of the British Virgin Islands by Pamela Acheson (Two Thousand Three Associates).Caribbean and the Bahamas, 6th edition, by James Henderson (Cadogan Books).British Virgin Islands Alive Guide by Harriet and Douglas Greenberg (Hunter Publishing).Diving British Virgin Islands by Jim and Odile Scheiner (Aqua Quest Publications).The Drinking Man’s Guide to the BVI, Third edition by Julian Putley (Virgin Island Books).

Additional Reading

Tales of the Caribbean by Fritz Seyfarth (Spanish Main Press). Describes one man’s adventures sailing around the Caribbean. Several chapters are about the British Virgin Islands.Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. If you are traveling with children, have them read this classic pirate’s tale, said to be set in the B.V.I.’s Norman Island. It’s a good way to get them excited about the trip.Virgin Gorda, an Intimate Portrait by Joan Soncini (Virgin Island Books).

Events
Calendar

Because sailing and yachting are a way of life around the British Virgin Islands, it’s not surprising that regattas are scheduled throughout the year. In mid-April, the B.V.I. Spring Regatta & Sailing Festival attracts competitors from around the world. Foxy’s Wooden Boat Regatta, held mid- to late May on Jost Van Dyke, is basically an excuse for a big party, but sailors arrive every year for racing festivities and lots of fun. In mid-August, the Anegada Yacht Race takes sailors from Road Town, Tortola, to the atoll island of Anegada. The Bitter End Yacht Club sponsors its own sailing events, including regattas in early July and early November. The club’s Women’s Sailing Week takes place in early December.But B.V.I. isn’t all about boats. The Virgin Gorda Easter Festival is that island’s biggest party, followed by the Virgin Gorda Music Festival that takes place in November. And for two weeks (late July-early August), Tortola’s Road Town is taken over by the B.V.I. Emancipation Festival. The celebration includes entertainment (steel bands and calypso), local food and crafts. If you’re interested in indigenous music, try to attend the Scratch/Fungi Band Christmas Fiesta, held in mid-December. Foxy’s on Jost Van Dyke hosts its own music festival in March, and on 30-31 December, the popular spot draws hundreds of revelers for its famous annual Old Year’s Party.

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