Charter Advisors Special Feature
The Charter Advisors, Favorite Stops In The BVI
by Capt'n K.J.
Chartering the sailboat is half the equation. The other half is knowing where to take it. Even if you have sailing knowledge, if you don't know the British Virgin Islands why bother chartering there in the first place?
Here are a few of our top spots in the BVIs (in no particular order).
Norman Island - Willy T's, Kelly's Cove (Ring Dove Rock), and The Caves
From any Tortola Charter base, a popular first stop is Norman Island. It's an easy reach and there's lots to do. Norman Island is only 1-2 hours from most any charter base, with wind on the beam, it's an easy first days sail. History and reading buffs will appreciate the fact that this island is said to be the inspiration for the novel Treasure Island. Yep, that's right, it's the real Treasure Island!
All locations listed for Norman Island can be reached by dinghy from any of the island's mooring fields.
Snorkeling here is like swimming in an aquarium. It's very well sheltered from wind and there's only a trace of current. Awesome place for an off the boat swim, even for the kiddos! We regularly see sea turtles, stingrays, Sgt. fish, and lots of other colorful fish we can't name.
We also like this spot for over-nighting. When the Bight is crowed with Willy-T "goers," we hang here. If you can't find it on a map, don't worry. The name is a local one. Hint: look for Ring Dove rock.
The Caves are said to be a real treasure hiding place. Legend tells of a local who found a boatload of booty hidden in the far end of one of these caves. Some say he was only able to take part of the loot and that the rest can't be accessed because water has filled the nooks hiding said booty over the centuries. Is the story true? Sounds more like a movie plot. But that's how history works down here. It's the stuff of movies. Who can say for sure what is lore and what is fact? As far as we're concerned, an island doesn't inspire Treasure Island for nothing!
The caves are a must on your snorkeling stops if not for treasure, for the awesome sea life. You'll be treated to the aquarium effect and you can snorkel right into the caves. At least until your snorkel hits the ceiling!
The Infamous William Thorten. It's a ship / restaurant moored in the Bight. It's also the name of the BVI Islander who designed the White House (you know, the one in D.C.). Look it up, it's true. We're going to focus on the ship rather than the architect. She's a floating restaurant / bar complete with a dance floor on the poop deck. A stop here is a BVIs tradition for EVERYONE. Over the years it has become quite clear that families are well advised to go at lunchtime or for an early dinner. After 7 or 8 p.m., we'd leave the kiddos with the nanny. Don't get us wrong; it's great fun, just not "kiddy fun." The "Willy-T's Tattoo" and the "Willy-T Body Shot" are known worldwide.
If anyone on your crew is still craving shopping, they have a gift shop, restaurant, and bar. Pirates Bight also has a lovely beach to while the day away. If it's been a while since you've been back, this spot used to be called Billy Bones.
Jost Van Dyke - Foxy's, Bubbly Pool, Soggy Dollar
Jost is where we get away from it all. We slip into our own universe here. Specifically a little spot right off of Diamond Cay in between Little Jost and "big" Jost. There are only about 10 mooring balls here, mitigating crowds and making this place a bit more isolated. There's a very shallow reef right off the stern, a breaking reef off in the distance (listening to crashing waves though the night), and awesome snorkeling everywhere.
The "other Foxy's." This one serves more "our style" food than Foxy's Taboo on the other side of the island. They have a burger with pepperjack cheese and mango chutney that just might be the best burger in the Carib. Or anywhere.
This Foxy's mixes up the menu with Mediterranean fare. Ever tried hummus in the Caribbean? If not, this is the place to do it!
When the north swell is up, the Bubbly Pool is a wavy, aerated, pool of fizz and fun! No north swell, it's a knee deep reflecting pool with hungry little fish. Either way, it's one of the BVI's best little secrets. It's a place everyone in your crew will appreciate. It's an especially good place to bring the kids.
The Bubbly Pool is special place for BVI cruisers and locals alike. It's a small beach surrounded by three story granite cliffs and rock. Only a narrow opening in the rock allows the swell from the north to push its way though into the small lagoon, forcing the water to turn white with tiny air bubbles. It's like playing in a prehistoric wavy lagoon filled with seltzer water.
For years the only way to find the Bubbly Pool was to have the location and directions passed to you by word of mouth. It's not on any tourist maps, that's for sure. But these days, it's a bit easier to locate. It's about 20 min. hike from the water's edge. No, we're not going to divulge its location here. But we will point you in the right direction: have lunch at Foxy's Tamarind. It's the first step on the way. You'll receive further instructions there!
Other Jost Haunts
The original Foxy's deserves special mention. It's a Jost van Dyke institution, a must stop spot if you haven't been before. We've been many times and are now hooked on his newest location: Tamarind.
There are numerous other wonderful places to visit on Jost, from White Bay to Little Harbor and all stops in between. Jost Van Dyke is like stepping back in time. It's how the BVIs used to be. And just like the days of old, anchoring is a requirement in Great Harbor, as is swimming ashore to get a drink (thank you Soggy Dollar!). We love it!
Guana Island - Monkey Point
This is one of our favorite late morning and lunch stops. Wonderful snorkeling, unique aquatic life ("Sailor's Eyeballs?"), and picturesque scenery. Ask anyone who's chartered in the BVIs about Monkey Point and watch them smile.
Virgin Gorda - Baths, Mountain Point
Virgin Gorda is very popular among tourists and charters alike. Consequence? The hot spots can get busy and crowded at peak times.
A must visit if you've never been. The Baths have earned the nickname, "Stonehenge by the Sea" for good reason. The granite boulders here are as big as houses. The hiking trail through the boulders is easy and fun for all ages. We take our snorkel gear on a hike that terminates at Devil Bay. Starting the snorkel here, we drift with the current though the boulders all the way back to our boat (or the beach at the Baths). We don't stop here every time. But when we have folks aboard who have never been, it's a place we can't miss. It's an experience of a lifetime.
It's a snorkeling and dive site! This is a hidden gem. On the way to the North Sound, a cliff face jutting out into the water presents itself. From the water it doesn't look like there is any good reason to sail over near the cliff, but there is! There are two (maybe three) daytime moorings here, close to the rock wall. It can be swelly, but it's usually not bad. Our first time here we wondered why this place was even recommended. Then we put on our mask and snorkel and learned quickly. Mountain Point is on our top ten favorite snorkeling spots in the world.
Divers, this one is not to miss. It's an intermediate dive with a bit of current down below. When we need dive equipment we call on Blue Water Divers, Dive BVI and Kilbrides Sun Chaser.
North Sound, Virgin Gorda (Gorda Sound): Leverick Bay, BEYC, Prickly Pear, Sandbox, Saba Rock
We just might be addicted to the North Sound. Whenever we pull in and see the North Sound opening up before us as we sail down the channel, we half expect to hear someone yelling "Da Plane! Da Plane!" It really just might be fantasy island.
Leverick Bay is like a mini North Sound on the outside edge of the actual sound. It's an easy dingy ride from the Bitter End Yacht Club, Sandbox, or Saba Rock Moorings. (Leverick also has their own mooring field). Leverick Bay has restaurants, a dive shop, gift shops and a grocery store. If you need something, this is a good place to stop on this end of the island chain. We like Leverick for all these reason, plus the fact they have a brand new fuel and water dock. And it's one of the easiest to fetch for new "dockers." Lots of room and deep water everywhere.
Bitter End Yacht Club (BEYC)
Bitter End has become a home away from home. We've spent many an "extra" day hanging on the mooring here. It's just so darn nice. Imagine a little island village where there are no cars, arrivals come by boat only, and everyone says good morning, every morning. Add good food and some old friends, and we've found our "Velcro Harbor." There's plenty to do on shore! The beaches are top notch and everything in the North Sound can be reached from the BEYC by dinghy.
For those of you looking to brush up on your sailing skills (or if you're looking to learn a few) BEYC has a great sailing program and a fleet of keelboats. This is a very family friendly place. Bring the kids and the folks at BEYC will roll out the sand toys.
Prickly Pear Island
Prickly Pear is a national park. Goats and flamingos run the place. Check out the salt pond in the middle. If there's water, there's a good chance to spy flamingos. The back side of the island has two crescent shaped beaches with secluded, big, and wonderful sandy bottoms for swimming. We like to beach the dinghies over here and spend the day playing on a beach all our own. We've spent many a day over here, never seeing another soul. Having your own beach on a secluded island, right around the corner from "fantasy island" is a pretty cool thing!
Located on Prickly Pear Island, in view of the Bitter End, this small bar is literally what the names says it is. It's a bar set up on a giant beach (sandbox). On a national park no less... the whole island is a park. It's a fun party spot and very, very laid back.
The best fish tacos we've ever had! Not just one time, every time. Saba is another must on our list. Beyond the fish tacos, this converted rock island has awesome food and great drinks. The Tarpon at night should not be missed. They run a free ferry from BEYC and Leverick Bay incase you don't feel like taking the dinghy. If you have kids, take them around back and see if they can find the "sponge grass." It's not hard to find! Or take them on a stroll around the entire island in less than 5 min.!
Cooper Island - Cooper Island Beach Club, Cistern Rock
Cooper is another pure Caribbean stop. A laid-back place and home of the Cooper Island Beach club. This "club" is open to all. A wonderful beach, great food, full bar, and some of the best snorkeling around. A short dingy ride down the waterfront to Cistern Rock and you'll be in snorkeling heaven. And if you're lucky, you'll happen across the Starfish nursery! If you're really lucky you might even see a seahorse or two.
The wind at this mooring field has been called "swirly." Maybe? But we've stayed at "swirly-er." We like Cooper Island anytime of the day or night.
Marina Cay - Pussers, Fuel / Water Dock
This place is our Favorite Pussers Restaurant on the Planet! Marina Cay is a small island with a big story. We won't ruin it here, but when you get there, ask about it. A fuel / water dock, Pussers Restaurant and Gift shop make up the majority of the offerings for cruising sailors. The beach is exactly what the doctor ordered after a few days on board. It's protected by a huge reef extending around the entire south side of the island, protecting the mooring field and beach. As a result, the beach combing here is all about the coral instead of shells. The wave action here doesn't make for the most colorful reef in the world, but it's a shallow swim and there's some great sea life.
Trellis Bay - Airport Pickups, Last Resort, D Best Cup (D Best Sandwich)
Trellis bay is not as pretty as the other spots on our list. But there are reasons it made the list. Its mooring field is very large. Navigating though it is maze-like. And there is an unmarked reef right off the Last Resort. Nice.
So why did we bother to list it as one of our favorite spots?
A few. It's on the way to a lot of places making it an ideal stop for re-provisioning and light shopping. The beach front "village" here is stocked full of artists and shops. We also use this mooring field to pick up crew from the airport. Trellis bay is only 5 min. away by foot at the most! There are times part of the crew arrives a day later than the first group. When this happens, we pull the yacht up to Trellis and pick them up at the airport with a yacht!
Trellis Bay is also the unofficial waiting room for the airport. When we fly out though Beef Island, Tortola, we always grab a sandwich from D Best Cup. We think it should be called D Best Sandwich though! They make a mean hot, open-faced honey mustard chicken sandwich on the best fresh baked petit baguette any of us have ever tasted. We've been known to cut our flights a bit too close at times because we were lost in one of these bad boys.
And... we have to mention...
The Last Resort
This unassuming restaurant located on a "rock" in the center of Trellis Bay has some of the finest dining we've ever had in the islands. Melt in your mouth steak, goat cheese stuffed portabella mushrooms, hand made pastas, fine wine, etc. You can't order a bad meal here. It's completely out of place and surprising in a good way. We love it.
Scrub Island - Marina, Waterslide!
Scrub Island was just that. A scrub island with nothing on it. Then five or six years ago we watched as construction began. The photo above shows the resort in its final phase on construction. To be frank, we were worried. We shouldn't have been. You should see it now! We'll be updating this article with new images in a few weeks when we return from our next review trip. The folks at Scrub Island Resort have done a wonderful job creating a resort that fits into its surroundings instead of sitting on top of them. They've also created a place that is as equally as welcoming for charterers and yachties as it is for their "room guests." There are no moorings here but the marina is easy to access and dockage rates are very fair. Their full service marina includes shore power and water. Scrub Island Resort went all out on fun too! They have the only waterslide in the BVIs! We call ahead and reserve a slip anytime we're planning to head their way.
Anagada - Barrier Reef, Loblolly Bay, Big Bamboo
Anagada is often referred to as the "sunken island." It must be something to do with the fact that the highest point on the island is only 18 feet above sea level. It's also the only Coral Atoll in the BVIs. It's surrounded by one of the largest barrier reefs in the world. Many a ship has met its demise running aground here from pirate days to charters of today. The reefs here should be respected. Sailing to Anagada is not recommended for beginners (a day trip can be arranged from many resorts and tour companies). Anagada's isolation keeps it pure. Access is by boat only with sand everywhere, a salt pond with huge flock of pink and white flamingos, and its shining gem — the beaches! Ever seen a postcard with a white sand beach that went on forever, brilliant blue water, and not a condo or hotel anywhere? Anagada's beaches blow that away! Really. They do. Pictures don't do it justice. You have to see it for yourself.
Loblolly Bay - The Big Bamboo
This is the Charter Advisors vote for best beach in the BVIs. When we get there, we arrive in the morning, head straight to the Big Bamboo, pre-order a round of Anagada Lobsters for lunch, grab a Carib, and head to the beach with Snorkel gear in hand.
This beach isn't just pretty. It's... It's.. functional! A short swim off the beach and you're snorkeling on that big reef weaving your way though staghorn, brain, and fan coral (to name a few). By the time we're done (a few hours later), it's usually lunchtime. Time to sit down in our swimsuits and sandy bare feet and eat a lobster as big as the tank supermarkets use to display their "little" lobsters. Then we kick back on an unbelievably beautiful beach with a cold drink from the bar and chill. This is BVI beach going at its very best! We can't visit enough.
Everywhere we go, there we are!
There is no "bad" spot in the BVIs. Anywhere you go is paradise. So no matter what mooring you choose for lunch or your overnight, it's going to be a good spot. And you're going to have a good time. We have many, many favorite places. If you can believe it, even more than we could list here (and we already went on too long!). That is the exact problem with the British Virgin Islands. Nearly every place we visit becomes a favorite for one reason or another. Even the places we listed have many more places and things to do then we can fit in. The BVIs are truly amazing.
The coolest thing we've learned though years of chartering is that the places you visited before are a new adventure each time around. The crew, the yacht, the place, and time are different every time.
Wreck of the Rhone, sunken cannons, hidden shipwrecks, sunken anchors, Barry the Barracuda, Mike the Iguana, Conch Galore, Fallen Jerusalem, fish, coral, eagle rays, dolphins, the people, that hundred bucks we sank at the Baths and can't find, we could go on and on...
We hope our favorite spots become yours too. If you have a place in the BVIs that's special for you, let us know! We'll share it with our readers and let them know, it's your favorite spot!
- Charter Review: The Moorings 5800 Ocean Suite by Captain Kev
- Charter Review: VOYAGE Charters, VOYAGE 520 Silver Lining by Capt. Kev