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The British Virgin Islands (BVIs) sit about 130km east of Puerto Rico.
There are 60 islands in the archipelago, only 15 are inhabited and one of those is Richard Branson’s Necker Island. Fortunately, other BVIs have much the same bone-white Caribbean beaches and transparent seas as Necker, they’re just considerably more accessible and far less expensive. They also have a bigger slice of outdoor adventure, natural wonders, history and traditional culture. All of which work well for an unforgettable family holiday.
There are no direct flights from the UK to the BVIs. However, flights from Antigua to the BVIs are approximately one hour. Flights from London to Antigua are approximately nine hours.
The BVIs are tropical, cooled by trade winds and have temperatures between 29˚C and 32˚C all year round. The best time to visit the British Virgin Islands is between December and April.
Tortola’s Apple Bay is one of the best surfing beaches in the entire Caribbean.
Places to stay in the BVIs cover a broad spectrum from exclusive resorts and private villas to traditional beach houses and apartments.
Main holiday islands are Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Anegada and Jost Van Dyke. Tortola, the largest island and BVI capital, is only 27km long and can be driven from end to end in less than an hour.
Tortola is the largest of the BVIs and the capital island. A mere 55km², trimmed with sparkling beaches against a backdrop of forest and mountains, it’s the mind’s eye Caribbean paradise. Even Road Town, where most islanders live, is sweetly diminutive and almost completely dwarfed when luxury cruise ships hove into the pretty harbour. Blissfully mall-free, there are more spas and dive schools than shops. The food’s fantastic but the restaurants are charmingly low-key or beachy and barbecue. Sunshine is a permanent fixture, nature’s the only playground and nowhere else is quite the same – except perhaps one of the other, equally enchanting, neighbouring islands.
The Fat Virgin was named by Columbus and is the third biggest BVI, sparsely populated and much loved for peaceful, sandy coves and astonishing natural features like the famous Baths on the south west coast. This is the sailing and water sport island and North Sound Harbour is world famous for its protected anchorage, sheltering reefs and the Bitter End Yacht Club: a bolthole for the likes of John Wayne and Brigitte Bardot back in the day and now one of the islands favourite holiday resorts.
Tiny and laid-back Jost Van Dyke is a beautifully beachy island and perfect for kids who prefer whale watching and dolphin spotting to theme parks. It’s plenty lively round about Great Harbour, especially when there’s something like Christmas or New Year to celebrate.
The BVIs’ coral island, Anegada is almost entirely flat and a complete contrast to its more southerly neighbours. Diving and snorkelling are outstanding off the coast and the beaches here are creamy and flawless. A magnet for nature lovers, Anegada has resident Rock Iguanas, flocks of rare birds and some of the island’s most unusual marine life.
Fast, frequent ferry services operate around the BVIs and there are several crossings from Tortola to St. Thomas in the neighbouring US Virgin Islands. Private boats can be chartered for fishing expeditions or day-cruises. Car hire’s available, but the largest island is only 27km long, so driving isn’t essential. Taxis are inexpensive, have set rates and they’re a good way to get around, especially in the evening. Air charter companies at Beef Island Airport operate flights to more remote BVIs, the US Virgin Islands and other Caribbean countries like Puerto Rico and Antigua & Barbuda. Flights to Miami can also be chartered from Tortola.