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The British Virgin Islands: Match an Island to Your Travel Style

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The British Virgin Islands are a jewel in the Caribbean to the east of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands and northwest of Anguilla, approximately 1,100 miles off the coast of Florida. 

They consist of over 50 small islands and four larger ones: Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Jost Van Dyke and Anegada. Each of the islands in this volcanic archipelago has pristine beaches and a culture unique to the island.

Tortola is the largest of the islands and capital of the British Virgin Islands. The island is dotted with powdery white sand beaches and sheltered harbors for the numerous yachts that visit year-round. For those who fly in, there are luxury resorts, private villas and a scenic campground. 

Tourists can swim and stroll on the palm-shaded beaches. For fishing or watersports, there are several bays where you can go. You can also explore the 1780 Lower Estate Sugar Works Museum, Callwood’s Rum Distillery, J. R. O’Neal Botanic Gardens and Old Government House Museum.  

For those who want to indulge in water sports by day and live music and dancing at night, U.S. News and World Report recommends Cane Garden Bay on northwest Tortola. The chill atmosphere dims when cruise liners land, so go early to stake out your spot. 

Virgin Gorda
The island measures 8.5 square miles and is home to several yacht clubs and safe anchorages. Landlubbers can stay in luxury resorts or villas. It’s covered in nature sanctuaries and national parks. Hikers can climb Gorda Peak for a panoramic view of neighboring islands. The island has several beautiful beaches where you can walk or swim in the different bays. The eclectic heritage of African, Indian and Spanish history can be studied at Little Fort National Park or the Cornish Copper Mines. Local shops, cuisine, arts, fashion and gifts reflect the diverse heritage. 

The Baths, on the southern end of the island, is the top site to see in the BVI. Huge, smooth gray boulders rise from the sea and create a maze for visitors to swim or wade through. For an ethereal experience, visit The Baths’ Cathedral Room, a shallow pool tucked away in a small cave. 

Jost Van Dyke
The third-largest island is named for the pirate and early Dutch settler Jost Van Dyke. The island is covered with rugged scenery and colorful folklore. There are sugar mill ruins from the colonial era, old trails that crisscross the island and a famed sea-formed jacuzzi. The naturalist can observe whales and dolphins off shore. 

Jost is known as a fun-loving island where indigenous food abounds—barbecues, West Indian rotis, savory pie and grilled fish and lobster. Great Harbour is well known for its yacht-filled parties on Halloween and New Year’s Eve. 

Anegada is the only coral island in the volcanic chain. The elevation is a mere 28 feet at its highest point. Its main attractions are the sandy beaches, striking coral reefs surrounding the island and the clear springs that bubble up from the coral beds.  

The island is encircled by Horseshoe Reef, an 18-mile-long reef that is the longest barrier coral reef in the Caribbean and the fourth longest in the world. The reef has caused numerous shipwrecks, and the government has banned anchorage on the reef in order to protect it from destruction. Yet, this is a perfect area for snorkelers and scuba divers to indulge in the different mazes, tunnels and drops of the reef. For those who like being on the water, there are water sports, sport fishing and bone fishing. The island is the dwelling place of a rare rock iguana, a variety of exotic birds such as flamingos, and indigenous flora including wild orchids. 

Anegada receives high praise due to its tranquility and seclusion. On the positive side, there aren’t too many visitors and on the negative side, you’ll need to carry in your own supplies. Still, many claimed it was the most relaxing part of their visit to the BVI even if there are over 300 wrecks to dive and explore.  

Other Islands
There are more than 16 smaller islands that are inhabited. Some of the smaller islands are uninhabited national parks that have palm-fringed beaches, rugged peaks and rich vegetation. On these smaller islands are areas for snorkeling and water sports, day hikes and wildlife sanctuaries with easy access by boat. 

Whatever your passion, the British Virgin Islands is the perfect Caribbean vacation spot. You can enjoy snorkeling, scuba diving, boating, beach lounging, drinking, music and fresh seafood. Talk with your travel agent and match your trip to your travel style. The year-round temperature is in the 90s, just perfect to leave the icy winters behind and get some vitamin D.

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