A mix of man-made decadence and untouched natural beauty, the British Virgin Islands are among the jewels in the Caribbean crown, with plenty of unique things to see and do.
Anyone who visits the pristine volcanic archipelago of BVI and its 60 islands come away with magical memories, thanks to its stunning landscapes and reef-lined beaches. If you’re planning to visit the idyllic territory and would like to pack your itinerary with great things to see and do, check out our selection of some of the most unique landmarks and activities the BVI have to offer.
Visit an incredible national park
The British Virgin Islands’ volcanic history is the reason for its mountainous peaks and unique landscape, but this also created natural beachside anomalies, like the boulders seen at The Baths National Park on Virgin Gorda. The boulders are made from granite – formed as a result of slow cooling of magma – and now line the beach in intriguing formations. While some are easily navigated by foot, other larger ones have settled over the water to create secluded baths, where swimmers can enjoy the water in the dappled sunlight.
Spanish Town, Virgin Gorda
There’s a place, also on Virgin Gorda, where it’s possible to see all of the British Virgin Islands at once. After a short hike in Gorda Peak National Park – through some of the archipelago’s most exotic flora and friendly wildlife – hikers will find themselves at arguably the best spot for photos. The Gorda Peak is 1,359 feet high, making it the most elevated point on the British Virgin Islands. To make getting to the top easy, the National Park staff have marked out two paths to the peak. Both routes take roughly half an hour, so are achievable for even amateur hikers.
North Sound Road, Virgin Gorda
Book onto a snorkeling or scuba tour
When it comes to snorkeling and scuba diving, the BVI is about as good as it gets, with visitors flocking here to explore the area’s warm waters and incredible array of life above and below. One of the best ways to experience a BVI snorkeling or scuba adventure is by booking onto a local tour. DayTrips BVI are an acclaimed Tortola-based company that run a range of fun-packed excursions tailored to your needs, tastes and budget. Taking place aboard a 26-foot motor boat and with experienced dive instructors for company, you can pick from half or full-day tours to a range of BVI destinations, each with their own distinctive landscapes and marine inhabitants. Guests can customise their tours to include stop-offs for lunch, leisure time on a beach, and even a cocktail or two at an island bar before heading home. All equipment as well as soft drinks, water, and fresh fruit and snacks, are included in the tour price. Also included is fuel, cruising permits and national park fees.
Check out a top class museum
When the Royal Mail ship, the HMS Rhone, left port in England in 1867, it was thought to be unsinkable. However, weeks later it ended up at the bottom of the ocean, off the coast of the BVI, after sinking during a hurricane that killed over a 100 of its passengers and crew. The wreck has become a popular spot for adventurous divers, one of whom was Bert Kilbride, who opened a museum to showcase the treasures he found. The Saba Rock Nautical Museum on Virgin Gorda is a great spot to see over 150-year-old artefacts from the wreck, many of which are personal belongings of those who didn’t survive.
Saba Rock Resort, Virgin Gorda / Mon-Sun 9am-9pm
Located in Road Town on Tortola is another renowned cultural venue, packed full of original examples of Arawak and Carib pottery and stone tools dating from the arrival of the indigenous Amerindians of 100 B.C.E to the present day BVI. Established back in 1982 by the Virgin Islands Historical Society, the Virgin Islands Folk Museum has continued to add to its impressive collection of exhibits, with some of the main highlights including a decorated spindle, local ship wreck artifacts, authentic items from an old plantation, early Virgin Islander clothing irons, photographs, crafts and much more.
Main Street, Road Town, Tortola / Mon-Fri 8.30am-4.30pm Closed Sat-Sun
Hit the water on a kayak tour
The waters off of Road Town, the capital of Tortola, are a haven for kayakers. This half-day kayak shore excursion will see you paddle mangrove forests and discover Tortola’s historic sites in the company of an expert guide. Follow your guide through sheltered waterways; learn about this unique marine ecosystem; hear stories about Tortola’s pirates and colonists; and visit a crumbling Quaker burial ground, before paddling back to shore where you’ll get to enjoy a complimentary drink, make use of the freshwater shower, and head back to the port where your adventure comes to an end.
Discover Tortola’s hidden shoreline treasures
Part history lesson, part nature adventure, the 3-hour Hidden Tortola Treasures tour invites guests to discover some of Tortola’s most important heritage sites while soaking up stunning panoramic views. After meeting at a cruise port, you’ll board a comfortable air-conditioned vehicle to begin your scenic excursion. Over the ensuing hours you’ll see sights such as a century-old prison and the famous Sunday Morning Well where the Proclamation of Emancipation of 1834 was read aloud to inform the public that slavery was abolished. The tour ends with a spot of leisure time in Tortola as you return to your pier.
Experience the magic of swimming with dolphins
The BVI are located right on the geographical line between the Caribbean Sea and the Indian ocean – an ideal place for swimming and interacting with marine life. The most popular of the aquatic animals to be found in the area are undoubtedly dolphins, which are known to swim in the waters off of Tortola. It’s for this reason that a few tour companies have set up facilities where tourists can interact with one of the sea’s friendliest creatures.
Indulge in some watersports on the North Sound
The islands of the BVI are a veritable mecca for watersports enthusiasts and among the most popular areas for aqua-based adventure is the North Sound on Virgin Gorda. Situated on the northeast shore of Virgin Gorda, the picturesque Sound offers calm, well-protected waters that make it ideal for any number of activities including diving, sailing, windsurfing, parasailing, jet skiing, and water-skiing. There are also a variety of anchorages, bays, creeks, and reefs to explore.
Recline on a secluded beach
Tortola can get rather busy during peak tourist season, but for those keen to escape the crowds there remains – for the time being, at least – a secluded, sheltered, and largely undeveloped cove that makes for the perfect getaway. Perched at the westernmost end of the island, Smuggler’s Cove is a delightful corner of sun-bleached sand and cobalt blue sea, set against a backdrop of an undulating emerald-green headland. Fair warning, there are almost no amenities here – but that’s the beauty of it. Beach access is via a bumpy dirt road.
Immerse yourself in a tranquil botanic garden
When you think of rest and relaxation in the BVI, it’s likely to be sun, sea and sand that spring to mind first. Yet nestled in the centre of Road Town on Tortola is a delightful corner of bucolic beauty where the predominant attraction is tropical plants, rather than sun-kissed beaches. Spread over some 4.5 acres, J.R. O’Neal Botanic Gardens is an oasis of plants, flowers, palms, koi ponds, fountains, shady pergolas, orchards, and more, and is a pleasure to amble around at your own pace, taking in the serene atmosphere and pretty works of horticulture that can be enjoyed every which way you turn.
Botanic Road, Road Town, Tortola / Mon-Sun 8am-4pm
Sip cocktails at a legendary beach bar
There’s no shortage of beach bars in the BVI, but few offer quite as much character as Soggy Dollar Bar. Nestled in White Bay on the popular party island of Jost Van Dyke, the bar has become a ‘must-visit’ attraction thanks to its buzzing atmosphere and its serving of a signature drink known as the Original Painkiller, an exotic concoction of premium dark Rum, Cream of Coconut, Pineapple and Orange Juice topped with freshly grated Grenadian Nutmeg. Regular bar games add to the fun, but for those who prefer to relax, you can kick back and unwind on the beach, drink in hand, and enjoy the warm sea breezes while peering out over the pristine ocean.
Belle Vue, Jost Van Dyke / Mon-Sun 8am-6.30pm