An Easy, Breezy Way to Enjoy the British Virgin Islands

With a new direct flight, Caribbean bliss is just a puddle jump away

A woman walks on a beach


Walking in the island’s Spring Bay National Park.

You could be forgiven for organizing a junket to the British Virgin Islands around three simple steps: (1) plop yourself in a lounge chair near the shimmering turquoise shallows; (2) order a round of Painkillers; (3) repeat as needed. But should ambition strike, there are ample reasons to venture out and get your feet wet (most often literally): The Baths, for one, the spectacular and photogenic playground of massive granite boulders that form grottoes and crystalline tide pools on the southwestern tip of Virgin Gorda. The timeless beach bars (the Soggy Dollar, Ivan’s Stress Free Bar, Foxy’s, et al.) along the southern coast of Jost Van Dyke. Pilgrimage-worthy restaurants like the Sugar Mill, in a candlelit four-century-old building on Tortola, the largest of the archipelago’s fifty-plus islands. Storied blue marlin fishing in the North Drop. Sparsely populated Anegada, more remote and flatter than its steep green sister islands; there, a wanderer is more likely to encounter flamingos or iguanas than tourists. And plush waterside hotels that define barefoot elegance, among them Rosewood Little Dix Bay and Scrub Island Resort.

Bermuda shoreline
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Above all, the BVI are known as a sailing paradise, and Bitter End Yacht Club, on a mile of North Sound waterfront on Virgin Gorda, has long lured old salts and novices alike with its steady trade winds and sheltered deep-water anchorage. But on September 6, 2017, category-five Hurricane Irma laid the sprawling resort to waste. “It was truly catastrophic,” says Kerri Quinn Jaffe, BEYC’s president. “All structures were decimated within the span of a few hours, literally down to matchsticks.” After a long recovery (which included raising $1 million to help island communities in the storm’s aftermath), Bitter End reopened its marina and “nautical village” in late 2021, and once again offers visitors access to a jackpot of amphibious pursuits—sailing, of course, but also windsurfing, kayaking, snorkeling, rowing, and stand-up paddleboarding, with eFoiling (on electric-motored surfboards) on the horizon. By year’s end, the rebuilt sixty-four-acre complex will offer lodging in eight new over-the-water bungalows inspired by sail lofts and four beachfront rooms overlooking the sound, with hillside cottages and a pool and spa in the pipeline. A special nod to its fifty-plus-year history: the Reef Sampler, a beachside bar crafted from the thirty-four-foot hull of a boat sunk by Irma and then salvaged from the seabed floor.

photo: Brie Williams
Bitter End Yacht Club on Virgin Gorda.

Until recently, traveling to the BVI from the U.S. mainland required a few legs: flying to San Juan or St. Thomas, and then boarding a connecting flight to Tortola; or, more economically and not unpleasantly, catching a ferry or water taxi from St. Thomas to your final destination. But last year, American Airlines relaunched a direct flight to Tortola from Miami—just in case you’re in a hurry to, well, not be in a hurry.