This week’s dream: Setting sail in the British Virgin Islands
“The British Virgin Islands are everything you hope for when fantasizing about an escape to a tropical paradise,” said Gina Verseci in The Boston Globe. My husband and I once chartered a crewed catamaran with another couple for a weeklong tour of the Caribbean archipelago, and the journey turned out to be “the most sublime vacation we’ve taken to date.” We sailed from island to island, stopping to swim in crystalline waters, lounge on white-sand beaches, and refresh ourselves at countless beach bars. Since that trip we’ve longed to return, so we recently took our three girls on a mini version of our previous expedition, zipping between islands on a chartered power catamaran. This time, we weren’t hauling as much booze as we once had, but we did enjoy more than one Painkiller—the nutmegdusted rum punch that’s the official cocktail of the BVIs.
The islands “abound with secluded beaches and hidden anchorages,” and the best part of chartering is discovering your own private paradise. Still, it helps to know where to start. Sail south from Tortola, the largest of the BVIs’ 60 isles, and you’ll reach Norman Island—believed to have been the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island. Snorkeling in and around its caves—where Long John Silver supposedly left “15 men on the Dead Man’s Chest”—“feels like swimming in a giant aquarium with a kaleidoscope of colorful corals.” On Cooper Island, palm-fringed Manchioneel Bay is among the archipelago’s most picturesque moorings. A day spent snorkeling with sea turtles around the U-shaped reef and chilling at the Cooper Island Beach Club is “vacation at its best.”
“If you’re overdue for a dose of semicivilization,” drop anchor at the Bitter End Yacht Club on Virgin Gorda’s North Sound. Once ashore, explore the Baths—a labyrinth of pools and caves nestled among gigantic granite boulders. To the north, the all-coral atoll of Anegada is home to the some of the Caribbean’s most pristine beaches and one of the world’s largest reef systems. All you’ll need are your flippers, snorkel, and a few bucks for conch fritters and Painkillers. “Evening should find you ordering up succulent Caribbean lobsters fired up in splitoil- drum grills under the stars.” At Cooper Island Beach Club (cooperisland beachclub.com), doubles start at $235.