It’s smooth sailing in the British Virgin Islands, from soaring canopy tours and bird-watching to perfectly crafted rum cocktails and relaxing spa treatments. Whether by land, sea, or even air, the sailing capital of the Caribbean has endless secrets to discover.

By Travel & Leisure
June 10, 2015

Situated just east of Puerto Rico, one of the most direct ways to the BVI’s main airport on Beef Island is via San Juan. However, another easy option is flying nonstop to St. Thomas and taking a ferry to Road Town, Tortola, Virgin Gorda, or your private island getaway. Made up of 60 tropical islands, ranging from uninhabited islets and cays to the 12-mile-long island of Tortola, the British Virgin Islands is a captivating Caribbean destination brimming with secret finds.

Even though you don’t need a private island to experience the BVI’s hidden gems, you can buy-out a private island resort and have it all to yourself, or simply sail to a secluded cove and get away from it all. With temperatures staying comfortably in the 80s and mid-90s year-round, this gorgeous archipelago provides a range of accommodations, from luxury hotels and resorts to small charming hotels, inns, and villas. For an authentic BVI experience, you can also charter a private crewed yacht or bare boat with sleeping accommodations.

Regarded as the sailing capital of the Caribbean for its stunning beaches, calm water, and consistent trade winds, the nautical area extends roughly 32 miles long and 15 miles wide from the main island of Tortola. However, there is also plenty to do on land on the four largest islands—Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Anegada, and Jost Van Dyke—and the outlying islands as well, whether you’re seeking exhilarating outdoor adventure, relaxing spas, or an ultra-authentic meal.

On land, visit historical sites, museums, and wildlife preserves, including 21 National Parks showcasing ancient ruins, tropical forests, and bird sanctuaries. Get outside and soak up the fresh air with places to hike, horseback ride, and bird-watch, or take your adrenaline to the next level with a soaring canopy tour. Situated high in the hills on Tortola, this zip-line-like activity offers spectacular views from Johnson’s Ghut all the way to neighboring islands on a clear day. Or, for another unparalleled aerial view, book an Antilles Helicopter Tour. After an exciting day outside, plush spas offer revitalizing massages and rejuvenating therapies that will also leave you feeling light as air.

Bring your flip-flops and sunglasses, but also pack your hiking boots because the BVI offers ample hiking trails. Take in the 360-degree views from the wooden observation tower in Gorda Peak National Park on Virgin Gorda, or head to Sage Mountain on Tortola for a soaring panorama perched at some 1,716 feet. For a more casual hiking adventure (one you can even do in your swimsuit with bare feet), follow the winding Devil’s Bay Trail through a maze of boulders at the Baths to a tucked-away cove beach about 20 minutes away on foot.

On Jost Van Dyke, feel stress melt away with a perfectly crafted Painkiller at the Soggy Dollar Bar, where this delicious cocktail was originally made in the 1970s using dark rum, cream of coconut, and pineapple and orange juices, all topped with a dusting of freshly grated nutmeg. Locals will tell you the secret is in the proportions. For another iconic island hangout, head to Foxy’s, a local bastion prized for its namesake cocktails, like the Dread Fox and Sly Fox, and four local brews made from pure Caribbean water. Plan now to ring in 2016 at their spirited Old Year’s Night weekend-long celebration (December 29-January 1, 2016), featuring DJs on the beach level, big bands, and more.

For more insider ideas and where to find the BVI’s best-kept secrets, visit