The Virgin Islands – Family holiday guide

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.


Why go on holiday in the British Virgin Islands

  • Direct flights from Antigua

    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.

  • Warm weather

    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.

  • Great for surfing

    Tortola’s Apple Bay is one of the best surfing beaches in the entire Caribbean.

  • Lots of choice of accommodation

    Places to stay in the BVIs cover a broad spectrum from exclusive resorts and private villas to traditional beach houses and apartments.

  • Many islands to explore

    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.



Where to go and stay in the British Virgin Islands

Tortola

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.

  • Family friendly places to stay on Tortola are mainly luxury beach resorts, hotels, private villas and cottages.
  • Many of the BVIs’ best beaches are on the capital island.
  • Take time to explore Lower Estate Sugar Works, Callwood’s Rum Distillery, the O’Neal Botanic Gardens and Mount Healthy Windmill

Virgin Gorda

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.

  • The Bitter End Yacht Club is one of the best water sports resorts in the Caribbean and very family-friendly.
  • There’s a wide selection of family villas, beach front cottages and apartments across Virgin Gorda.
  • Visit Spanish Town for good shops and some of the BVI’s best restaurants.

Jost Van Dyke

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.

  • Good island for family houses, pretty apartments and secluded beach or estate rentals.
  • Arawaks, the Dutch, English and Carib have all called Jost home at one time or another so it packs a lot of history and culture into a small space.

Anegada

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.

  • The island for traditional Caribbean beach cottages and luxury villas.
  • Favourite for wreck diving round Spanish Galleons, Arawak archaeological sites and water sports.

What to do and see in the British Virgin Islands

  • Dolphin Discovery, Tortola
    A magical dolphin experience for kids with includes swimming and plenty of other porpoise centred fun.
  • Snorkel Tours, Tortola
    Take a family snorkelling tour round Virgin Gorda, Norman Island and Marina Cay with island experts.
  • Old Government House, Tortola
    Old Government House and gardens is a fascinating glimpse of gracious BVI life in one of Tortola’s most historic buildings, the grounds are spectacular.
  • Virgin Islands Folk Museum, Tortola
    This charming museum is lovely for kids, full of Arawak artefacts, old photographs, prehistoric finds and truly eccentric exhibits. It’s in a cute local house.
  • Sage Mountain National Park, Tortola
    With 12 walking trails through lush rainforest, spectacular ocean views and huge boulders to scale, this park’s a shady alternative to the beach.
  • Night Kayak Tours, Tortola
    Clear bottom kayaks, warm night air and expert local guides make this a brilliant experience for older kids.
  • Spring Bay National Park, Virgin Gorda
    Clear, calm waters are wonderful for swimming and snorkelling in this marine park on the south west coast of Virgin Gorda.
  • The Baths National Park, Virgin Gorda
    The most astonishing natural wonder in the BVI’s are the Baths, a collection of enormous boulders, rock tunnels and beaches interspersed with pools and traversed by ladders.
  • Main Street, Road Town, Tortola
    Colourful and sunny Main Street is trimmed with traditional houses, historic buildings and interesting museums.
  • Christmas on Decastro Street, Tortola
    Christmas is a big BVIs event, this street fair is the Caribbean version of a festive market with sunshine and soca instead of snow and carol singing.


Educational value for kids

  • Blissfully short on theme parks, the BVIs are big on national parks, marine parks and huge rainforests – go it alone or learn more on a guided trek.
  • Most parks and reserves have excellent, free information leaflets at the entrances.
  • The BVIs are fabulous for water sports and most of the larger islands have a range of schools with kids’ courses.
  • Fish fries and beach barbecues are good for getting kids into local food.
  • Smaller museums give kids a chance to ask more imaginative questions.
  • Carnivals and festivals here are small, lively and friendly and families are almost always welcome to join in.
  • Excellent ferry services make island-hopping easy with kids.

 

Getting about with kids in the British Virgin Islands

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.

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