Beaches of the British Virgin Islands
The BVI is unique in that its geology comprises mountainous volcanic islands, low sandy cays and a large coral island not unlike an atoll of the Pacific. The latitude of the archipelago, at a tropical 18 to 19 degrees, and a steady, cooling trade wind flow means that life outdoors is nearly always comfortable. When locals have a day off they head to the beach, and when visitors arrive from chilly climes their dream is a deck chair on a sandy beach.
As with most Caribbean islands in the trade winds there is a windward side and a leeward side: a wind swept side and a sheltered side. This makes for more choices than a long stretch of coastline on a continental shore and means that islands are especially desirable for beach lovers and water sports enthusiasts. Windward beaches are perfect for beach-combing and shelling. Kite boarders and wind surfers often search for windward beaches; uninterrupted wind and waves for jumping are their goal. Alternatively, protected sandy beaches are sought after by those seeking a deck chair under a palm tree, and many of these are provided with beach bars and island eateries. What could be more relaxing than soaking up the sun in a deck chair, Pina Colada in hand, toes awash in the sparkling turquoise water? Snorkelers, divers and picnickers are also attracted to sheltered coves, and anchored boats and yachts add to a quintessential Caribbean scene. The BVI has literally hundreds of beaches and they are all open to the public. Even the beaches at the edge of a multi-million dollar private island or property are open to everyone; private beaches do not exist in the BVI. The innumerable options keep everyone happy.
In an archipelago of numerous islands the easiest way to access the beaches is by boat. Many visitors charter live-aboard yachts for their entire vacation while land based tourists have the option of renting a fast power boat for the day, sailing to a local beauty spot or two on a ‘day sail’ yacht or taking one of the many ferries to the outer islands. Alternatively a family may content themselves with a rental vehicle and explore the beaches on the island of their residence. Most visitors, though, will eventually want to spread their wings and explore further afield.
Tortola's Beaches - Fun in the Sun Beaches
The BVI’s premier island and home to the territory’s capital, Road Town, is blessed with a wide variety of beaches. From popular hot spots with bars and restaurants to quiet, deserted beaches, Tortola has it all.
Cane Garden Bay is a beautiful, crescent-shaped sandy beach lined with lofty palms. It sits at the base of steep green hills, once thriving with the verdant grasses of the sugar cane plant. A small rum distillery still operates and is situated just across the road at the western end of the beach. Described as the oldest distillery in the Caribbean it makes an interesting visit and the spiced rum they produce is especially worth sampling.
Today, Cane Garden Bay is often a hive of activity with cruise ship visitors being bussed in and out all day long. The beach is lined with deck chairs; bars and restaurants are thronging with people and Caribbean music fills the air. Water sports activities are plentiful; power boats can be rented, jet skis are available as are paddle boards.There are several interesting boutiques and gift shops; Myett's - Olivia's Coner my favorite, an ice cream shack sells its frozen delights and a small but good supermarket provides an abundance of necessities and specialty items. Cane Garden Bay is a ‘happening place". Great for the kids play and swimming as well.
Heading west from Cane Garden Bay through the pretty coastal village of Carrot Bay, Tortola’s premier surf spot comes into view. When the north swell is up, primarily in the winter months, this beach at Capoon’s Bay is popular with wave riders. On the beach just above the high water mark stands Bomba’s Shack, a unique watering hole constructed of flotsam and jetsam, driftwood, and hurricane debris - you name it. It’s a popular hang out for the younger crowd and becomes a swinging party venue at full moon. Bomba and his famous shack was the first to host a full moon party and the ‘tea at midnight’ is legendary.
Just a little further down the road at Apple Bay is Sebastian’s. A more genteel atmosphere is evident here. The medium priced restaurant is good with al fresco dining right at the water’s edge. The sandy beach is really an extension of Capoon’s Bay but water depth is such that surfing waves don’t exist here.
Continuing west and over a small knoll is Long Bay, a mile long ribbon of sand with white and frothy breaking waves. Kids, both young and old, love this spot for boogie boarding and body surfing. The view from the approach road is spectacular and is perhaps the BVI’s signature vista. The beach is popular with walkers and joggers, and for those who just want to relax the hotel provides beach lounges. Facilities here include a bar, restaurant and interesting gift shop.
Smuggler’s Cove, as the name suggests, used to be Tortola’s best kept secret. Now this beautiful, palm-lined crescent of sand is often thronging with sun worshipers. There’s a small coral reef for snorkelers and one or two vendors sell cold drinks and snacks just behind the beach.
The island’s per-eminent surfing beach is Josiah’s Bay. Often the site for surfing competitions this beach, on the island’s north east coast, is provided with two beach bars and is popular with locals at weekends.
Trellis Bay is another ‘happening spot.’ More famous for its shore side attractions this beach can be enjoyed for a period of shopping, browsing, sunbathing, eating and drinking. Aragorn’s famous art center is here and there are several bars and eateries lining the beach. This east end bay (actually on Beef Island and connected to Tortola by a bridge) is home to the Loose Mongoose where the sand beach is the best. The popular beach bar provides lounge chairs and dining with toes in the sand. Trellis Bay is also the ferry terminus for many outer islands.
On the south side of the island a couple of miles west of Road Town is Nanny Cay and the developers have incorporated a small sandy beach into the sheltered southern shore. The beach is adjacent to the island’s popular pub, Peg Leg’s Landing, and for those that like snorkeling there’s an interesting reef that runs along the coast and into Sea Cow Bay. At weekends there’s usually a lively game of volleyball in progress.
Tortola's Romantic Hideaways Beaches
Brewers Bay is a dazzling strip of sandy beach with lofty palms, not unlike Cane Garden Bay. The difference is that Brewers Bay is undeveloped and pristine and small beach bar. It’s perfect for nature lovers and sun worshipers who require nothing more than a good book and a quiet dip. The ruins of a sugar works at the eastern end of the beach is an interesting site.
Tortola’s north shore has a string of beautiful beaches that have only recently become accessible. East from Brewers Bay are three romantic hideaways; Trunk Bay, Cooten Bay and Lava Flow. All three are likely to be deserted; yours will be the only footprints in the sand. Access is from the Ridge Road but there are no signs, so just ask a local and be prepared for a steep descent, and climb back up after your visit (4 wheel drive recommended).