The British Virgin Islands are at the top of many sailors’ list of favorite charter destinations — and once you’ve been, you’ll understand why. From the consistent sailing conditions to the abundance of gorgeous anchorages and beach bars, this place was made for cruisers.
Tortola is the largest island in the group, and its main settlement, Road Town, is where you’ll find several charter bases surrounding the large harbor; others are just a short cab ride away. There are grocery stores, bakeries and liquor stores near town for provisioning. Or better yet, have your charter company take care of it.
Whether it’s your first charter in these islands or they are an annual destination, the BVI doesn’t disappoint, and you can tailor your experience to your preferences. Love snorkeling and diving? Make sure that underwater hot spots like the wreck of the RMS Rhone and reefs at the Indians and the Dogs are on your itinerary. Want to stay up until the wee hours? Check out a full moon party at Trellis Bay or Bomba’s Surfside Shack. Love sailing? Include a jaunt to Anegada during your trip.
Most BVI charters last a week, which is enough time to enjoy several of the islands, but if you can swing 10 days or more, go for it! Leaving from Road Town, a typical route heads counterclockwise through the islands, with most of the sailing in the protected waters of Sir Francis Drake Channel.
The Bight at Norman Island is an easy first-night destination. There are moorings and plenty of room to anchor, although if you don’t enjoy late-night crowds, choose a spot away from the William Thornton (aka Willy T’s), a floating bar and restaurant anchored in the southwest corner of the Bight. Ready to jump in the water? Be sure to check out the caves nearby at Treasure Point and the reef at Pelican Island.
Farther up Drake Channel, the Baths at Virgin Gorda are a fun place to explore — be sure to arrive early to secure a mooring — and there are cool photo ops among the giant boulders. An ideal spot to relax midcharter, Virgin Gorda’s North Sound is home to the Bitter End Yacht Club, Saba Rock and the Leverick Bay Resort and Marina, all good choices for a drink or meal ashore. North Sound itself offers well-protected, flat water that is perfect for trying out any water toys you might have aboard. Next, if conditions are good and you’re up for a sail, you can head out to Anegada, known for killer sunsets and lobster dinners on the beach.
Whether you’re sailing back from Anegada or over from North Sound, stop for lunch and a snorkel at Monkey Point, Guana Island, and then pick up a mooring for the night at Cane Garden Bay. This postcard-perfect bay is the place to go for live music, and for a real taste of the BVI, there are tours and tastings at the Callwood Rum Distillery.
If you love beach bars, Jost Van Dyke has some of the best, from Foxy’s at Great Harbour to the Soggy Dollar at White Bay. A quieter evening can be had anchored off picturesque Little Jost Van Dyke. Wrap up your week in the BVI with a night either at Peter Island or Cooper Island, and you’ll be well positioned for an easy sail back to Road Town.
What to know if you go
Climate: The BVI has a tropical climate with temperatures that vary little throughout the year. On average, the rainiest months are September through November, and the driest are February and March.
Winds: During the winter months, the trade winds are northeasterly at about 15 to 20 knots, though from December to mid-January, there may be periods of “Christmas winds,” which can blow 25 to 30 knots for days at a time. In the summer months, the trades are more southeasterly at 10 to 15 knots.
Sailing level: Steady breezes and easy navigation on mostly protected waters make the BVI an ideal spot for a first bareboat charter. Although moorings are plentiful, they fill up quickly in the high season, so skippers should be well adept at anchoring.
Jen Brett is CW’s senior editor.