The British Virgin Islands are among the most beautiful places in the Caribbean, so it stands to reason that most of the top places to visit and explore in the BVI involve nature of some sort. Apart from one noteworthy inland hike you'll find yourself constantly in contact with the sea whether you're relaxing at a beach bar, exploring semi-submerged caves, diving a wreck, or finding your own piece of paradise on an idyllic desert island.
The Baths are magical, especially if you manage to visit when everyone else isn't. The beach here can get a bit crowded -- but you're not really here for the beach. Instead, spend your time exploring the semi-submerged boulders strewn on the Virgin Gorda coastline by volcanos, which form watery caves on the shore and provide a home for fish and live corals below the waves. Snorkeling or diving is a must here for a true appreciation of this dramatic seascape: slip on some fins and you can swim above, around and between the rocks accompanied by schools of tropical fish.
The BVI has some of the best beach bars in the world, never mind the Caribbean. Wade ashore at the Soggy Dollar for one of their famous Painkillers, or chill on the beach with a homemade rum punch at Foxy's, both on Jost Van Dyke. Immerse yourself in yachtie culture as well as your favorite libations at the Willy T -- a few-holds-barred bar on a boat moored in the Norman Island Bight. There's lots more, but we'll leave a few for you to discover as your own favorites.
This flat and low coral island at the very north end of the British Virgin Islands is easy to miss, even when you are nearly within hailing distance on a boat. But it's bigger than it looks, and sparsely populated Anegada is worth seeking out for the solitude of a quiet stretch of Cow Wreck Beach to call your own, bonefishing the flats of the south shore, diving Horseshoe Reef, and soaking in the laid-back BVI culture at the Big Bamboo or the Cow Wreck Beach Bar.
You can pretty much find whatever type of beach experience you want in the BVI. Looking for a lively bar and restaurant scene and water sports rentals? Cane Garden Bay in Tortola has all that plus its own rum distillery. We've already talked about the charms of The Baths, but if you want a little more elbow room on the beach then just make your way through the caves to quiet Devil's Bay. White Bay on Jost Van Dyke is home to the Soggy Dollar and a mecca for boaters seeking a cold drink on dry land. Anegada is your best bet for complete solitude on the shore.
Located off Sandy Island, the RMS Rhone National Marine Park is centered on the wreck of a Royal Mail steamer that foundered in a hurricane in 1867, claiming more than 130 lives. The well-preserved wreck is hugely popular with divers, who can swim through sections of the sunken hull (the propeller and steam engine are still visible) and rub the ship's "lucky porthole" for good fortune. Other dive sites in the park include Rhone Reef and the Painted Walls, and you also can dive to the site of the ship's anchor off Peter Island.
Boating the Channel
You can't really experience the BVI properly if you don't get on a boat at some point. Whether you want to dive, drink, or just sail around, Sir Francis Drake Channel offers dramatic scenery, ample marine life, and some of the best beaches (and beach bars) in the Caribbean. Charter a catamaran for a sunset cruise or bareback it and take the helm for yourself for an unforgettable day on the water.
The high point in the Virgin Islands (at 1,716 feet), Sage Mountain can be explored via a dozen hiking trails that wind their way through the British Virgin Islands' first national park. Highlights include a hike through a mahogany grove and a section of old-growth rainforest, as well as excellent views from a tower on the exposed top of the mountain. The mountain is actually the highest peak on a ridgeline, and hiking is relatively easy for most routes, especially compared to hikes to volcanic peaks on other Caribbean islands. Mount Sage National Park is located near Road Town on Tortola.