Sept. 22, 2008 -- Why settle on visiting just one island paradise when you can explore seven in seven days in the British Virgin Islands?
The BVI is a necklace of more than 60 islands just east of Puerto Rico in the Caribbean. With crystal-clear turquoise water, this area is often called the sailing capital of the world because the best way to see these secluded islands is by boat. Only a handful of the islands are inhabited.
If you take advantage of some great off-season specials between September and November, you can save more than 50 percent. True, this is hurricane season, but this area of the Caribbean is rarely hit by hurricanes. As long as you take the proper precautions you can enjoy an incredible vacation for half the typical price.
Part of the adventure of a BVI vacation is just getting there. Most travelers will fly into Puerto Rico and then take a quick 45-minute flight to Tortola, the largest of the British Virgin Islands. That is where you can charter a sail boat or motor boat for your island hopping. Don't worry if you're not a boater; you can hire a captain who will show you the best secret spots in the BVI.
A top charter choice is the Moorings, which has more than 40 years of experience in the BVI. The company offers sailboats, power catamarans and motor boats, and you can hire a captain or crew the boat yourself. You can find trips starting at under $4,000 for the week, which includes your captain, food and drinks and room for four people on the boat.
Virgin Traders is another company that offers motor yacht charters, with weekly rates starting at around $5,800. You can either sleep on the boat for the entire week or you can alternate staying on the boat or in different resorts on the islands.
Your Seven-Day Schedule
Day One: Tortola
Tortola is the most populated island in the BVI, with more than 20,000 people; total population throughout the islands is just under 26,000. Tortola is the starting point for many vacations, and top attractions include the shops and restaurants at Soper's Hole and surfing in the northern Apple and Josiah's Bay. Cane Garden Bay is one of the most popular beaches, and it's where Jimmy Buffet wrote the song "Cheeseburger in Paradise."
Day Two: Norman Island
Norman Island was Robert Louis Stevenson's inspiration for "Treasure Island," and locals still insist there's a fortune buried somewhere. This is an ideal spot to take your dingy to shore and check out some of the scenic hiking trails that wind around the top of the island. Down at the beach you'll find the cozy Pirates Blight Restaurant. Don't miss snorkeling inside the Caves and at the nearby Indians, a collection of four massive rocks rising from the sea.
Day 3: Peter Island
Falcon's Nest Villa on Peter Island; Photo by Karen Schaler
Peter Island is the perfect place to go if you're looking for a luxurious escape on a private island. There are 52 rooms and four villas spread across more than 1,300 acres of mountainous terrain and sugar-sand beaches. The newest six bedroom villa, Falcon's Nest, is 22,000 square feet of pure bliss. Falcon's Nest sits on a bluff overlooking the Caribbean, so the views are spectacular, especially from the private infinity edge pool. Celebrity guests have included Kelly Ripa, Robert De Niro, Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell. Even if you don't stay a night, you might want to come ashore and head to Peter Island's award-winning spa or enjoy meals at Peter Island's two restaurants.
Day Four: Virgin Gorda
Katiche Point Villa on Virgin Gorda; Photo by Karen Schaler
One of the "must see" islands in the BVI, Virgin Gorda is full of beautiful beaches and fantastic places to stay. Little Dix Bay, built in 1964 by Laurence Rockefeller, was the first luxury resort in the islands. Another popular property is Biras Creek. There are more luxury villa rentals on the island, and the top three to check out are Baraka Point, Katitche Point Greathouse and the newest addition Aquamare. Virgin Gorda is also home of the famous Baths, one of the top snorkeling sites in the entire Caribbean.
Day Five: Jost Van Dyke
While most of the islands in the BVI specialize in peace and quiet, Jost Van Dyke is the "party child" of the group. This is where you'll find the legendary Soggy Dollar Bar, the birthplace of the BVI's signature Pain Killer drink. There's no dock here so most people drop anchor and swim ashore, hence the soggy dollars. After a few drinks if you're too tired to swim back to your boat, you can always take a nap in one of the hammocks. Other popular beach bar picks include Foxy's, Ivan's Stress Free Bar and the One Love Bar and Grill.
Day Six: Little Jost Van Dyke
If you want a taste of Jost Van Dyke minus all the crowds, head to Little Jost Van Dyke, a much smaller and more primitive island just east of all the action. You'll find Foxy's Taboo, a tamer version of the original Foxy's, and a great boutique if you're looking for a bathing suit or a special souvenir of your trip.
Day Seven: Anegada
Secluded beaches, sensational snorkeling and huge fresh lobster all make Anegada a top destination to visit when exploring the BVI. To get to Anegada, you'll have to leave the protected Sir Frances Drake Channel and venture into the open sea. Only experienced captains can make this trip because Anegada is surrounded by a massive coral reef that's known for eating boats for breakfast. More than 300 shipwrecks surround this tiny speck of an island. Your reward for making the trip is discovering some of the most private and untouched beaches in the BVI. At Loblolly Bay, you can swim with sea turtles and dive for fresh conch. Anegada's signature fresh lobster dinner is barbecued right on the beach and is one of the best meals you'll find in the BVI.
Right now, the buzz in the BVI is all about Scrub Island, the first new major resort to be built in the BVI in more than 15 years. The Scrub Island Resort Marina and Spa is scheduled to open next summer and promises to impress with luxury beachfront rooms, private villas, a spa and a huge marina.
For more on traveling in the BVI, check out Karen Schaler's Travel Therapy Web site at www.traveltherapytrips.com.