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The Best of the British Virgin Islands

For mere mortals, there's the 15-room Guana Island (914/967-6050, fax 914/967-8048; doubles from $640, including meals), which has the look of a Mediterranean villa, the feel of a long-lost era (no phones or televisions), and the simplest—yet best—food around.

For 25 years, Peter Island Resort (800/346-4451 or 284/495-2000, fax 284/495-2500; doubles from $575, including meals) has seduced honeymooners with its five pristine white-sand beaches.

CLASSIC RESORTS
FOR SAILORS: At the 85-room Bitter End Yacht Club & Resort (North Sound, Virgin Gorda; 800/872-2392 or 284/494-2745, fax 312/944-2860; doubles from $450, all meals included), guests have access to free whalers, Sunfish, and sailboards. The nightlife here is the real lure—especially since the swingin' bar at nearby Saba Rock opened.

FOR SYBARITES: The utterly genteel choice for the privileged set, 97-room Little Dix Bay (The Valley, Virgin Gorda; 888/767-3966 or 284/495-5555, fax 284/495-5661; doubles from $550) has more activities (a "castaway picnic," iguana hunts for the kids, nightly steel-drum or calypso bands) and dining options than most small towns.

FOR LUXURY-LOVING ADVENTURERS: No more than 60 guests at a time stay at Biras Creek Resort (North Sound, Virgin Gorda; 800/223-1108 or 284/494-3555, fax 310/440-4220; doubles from $750). Ride around its 140 acres on fat-tired bikes, take a snorkeling adventure to a hidden reef, or meander on one of the five hiking trails surrounding the resort.

FOR SERENITY-SEEKERS: Those bent on a total unplug stay at the 24-room Sugar Mill Hotel (Apple Bay, Tortola; 800/462-8834 or 284/495-4355, fax 284/495-4696; doubles from $295). Set among the ruins of a 17th-century sugar plantation, it offers guests quiet intimacy at its nearly empty beach.

INEXPENSIVE FINDS
Pure indolence can be found at the six-cottage Sandcastle (White Bay, Jost Van Dyke; 284/495-9888, fax 284/495-9999; doubles from $110). With sand this white, you'll feel as if you should be wearing skis, not a swimsuit.

High on a leafy Tortolan peak, Turtle Dove Lodge (Long Bay, West End; 284/495-4430, fax 284/495-4070; cottages from $100) has three breezy cottages with quirky paint jobs—bright green outside and three shades of purple within.

Only 10 minutes from the airport but much more remote in feel, Lambert Beach Resort (East End, Tortola; 284/495-2877, fax 284/495-2876; doubles from $100) has an enormous pool with that all-important Caribbean feature: the swim-up bar.

The new Nail Bay (Virgin Gorda; 800/871-3551 or 284/494-8000, fax 284/495-5875; doubles from $125) stands in the shadow of Gorda Peak. Its 18 rooms are spacious, but its 14 villas are the real deal. A two-bedroom villa can be had for as little as $270 a night.

The 20-room Anegada Reef Hotel (Setting Point, Anegada; 284/495-8002, fax 284/495-9362; doubles from $250, including all meals) is hardly the lap of luxury, with its preponderance of white wicker and ticky-tacky floral bedspreads. But it does allow easy access to all of the island's secluded beaches.

FOOD

FANCIFUL FEASTS
Even if you're not staying at Peter Island, Little Dix Bay, or Biras Creek, you don't have to miss their superb dining. The just-updated menu at Peter Island's Tradewinds (284/495-2000; dinner for two $130) has been given an Asian spin. Little Dix has a number of restaurants; try the Sugar Mill (284/495-5555; dinner for two $130) for wahoo, swordfish, and snapper drawn from the water minutes before being served.

If you develop a craving for carpaccio, Brandywine Bay Restaurant (Brandywine Estate, Tortola; 284/495-2301; dinner for two $90) serves bella Italian.

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