Paradise is rarely as untouched as the British Virgin Islands, Jo Cooke discovers

Like this and want more details? Click here to download and save as a PDF.

Almost every Caribbean island has that client-winning hat-trick of attractions – abundant sunshine, turquoise ocean and white sand. In the British Virgin Islands (BVI), however, that same sun seems to be a little bit brighter, the sea a shade or two bluer and that sand somehow whiter than white.

It could be a trick of the light, bouncing back at you from the shimmering waters that separate this archipelago of 50 plus islands, most of which are uninhabited. Or it could be the ‘Painkiller’, prescribed by many a BVI barman, positively altering your perception. The destination’s signature cocktail enlists coconut cream, pineapple juice, orange juice and nutmeg to tone down a serious slug of rum.

On the other hand, perhaps it’s the lack of shopping malls, big all-inclusive hotels and humanity in general, that helps you see everything more clearly. Lying to the east of Puerto Rico, there are no direct flights from the UK so it’s a destination for clients willing to go that extra mile. However, that extra mile just got a little shorter with improved inter-island connections launching from October 31.

Sell: idyllic islands

Boasting calm, warm waters and steady trade winds, this is a destination that is bound to put a smile on the face of keen sailors, watersports enthusiasts – including snorkellers and divers – beach bums, honeymooners and those who want to escape from the rat race to a crowdless island, armed with nothing more than a good book.

The main operators focus their product on a small number of high-quality, mainly upscale properties in Tortola, Virgin Gorda and their near neighbours, such as Peter Island and Guana Island. For clients looking for somewhere a little more laid-back, or with a lower price tag, specialist operator BVI Holidays ( features a more extensive range of islands and accommodation types.

The BVI’s big news this year, and something that’s certain to make it an easier sell, is improved airlift. “With the advent of two new direct flights a week connecting with Antigua’s British Airways and Virgin Atlantic services, it’s easier than ever before to travel from the UK to enjoy a holiday in the BVI,” says Helen Tabois, ITC Classics senior product and marketing manager.

The flights will operate on Fridays and Saturdays and significantly reduce client layover time in Antigua. They’ll get to the airport on Beef Island in time for dinner on their day of arrival, while the return flight is timed so clients now don’t have to leave their resort until lunchtime rather than straight after breakfast.

Stay: one off options

Accommodation across the BVI is unique, boutique and chic. You can expect characterful properties that don’t draw their style from large corporate chains, lower room counts and a hippy, contemporary or barefoot luxury vibe.

On Virgin Gorda, Rosewood’s Little Dix, set in a scenically sublime cove, offers a touch of luxury living (see Tried & Tested).

A more rustic establishment, with 20 self-catering, tree house style cottages, is Guavaberry Spring Bay sold through BVI Holidays. Located on a hillside, its outdoor decks enjoy ocean views and guests have access to a beautiful private beach a short walk along the coast from The Baths beachside national park.

Meanwhile, a razzamatazz of activities await guests checking into Bitter End Yacht Club. Among them are movie nights, steel pan bands, limbo contests, yoga and hiking, plus watersports galore. The 58 guest rooms have tasteful, maritime fixtures and fittings that give the property a swashbuckling, pirate feel.

A short boat trip, or hike away, is the mellow, barefoot elegance of the 31-room Biras Creek, where foliage-shrouded, beachfront cottages have a castaway feel. Its sister property, just a golf buggy ride away, is the much-publicised Oil Nut Bay. Sold through ITC Classics, this is an emerging collection of owner-built, uber-luxury villas that are available to rent, and a trio of Cliff Suites with contemporary furnishings and top-end electronic gadgets.

On neighbouring Tortola, Frenchmans on the west coast is a sweet little hideaway with eight stylish, cliff-side, split-level cottages. There’s a pool and tennis court, but a pint-sized and very average beach.


Peter Island, to the south of Tortola, is a justifiably popular choice. With just 52 comfortable, attractive rooms and three swanky villas on this 1,800-acre private isle, you won’t be sharing the idyllic beaches, hiking and biking trails with too many other folk.

North of Tortola, meanwhile, is Guana Island. Simply furnished but immaculate Grecian-style whitewashed cottages with plunge pools sit on a hilltop with panoramic views of the headland. Islands don’t come much more virgin than this.

The owners consider the island a wildlife sanctuary and, whether you play tennis or hike through a wilderness of cacti and frangipani to secret snorkelling spots, you get the feeling you are being watched by iguana, lizards, flamingo and bananaquits. Here nature reigns supreme. Guana Island is exceedingly quiet and restive, with a beach bar and dinner served alfresco by candlelight.

See: Seaside spots

The BVI sit like emerald droplets in a seemingly infinite expanse of royal-blue ocean, creating vistas that are so beautiful you’ll gasp in awe.

Signing up for sailing tuition, arranging a boat charter or booking a day cruise are the BVI musts. Alternatively, take a ferry ride between islands to check out land-based attractions.

On Tortola, Green VI Glass Studio, Callwood Rum Distillery and a wander around Road Town make an interesting day out. The capital of the BVI has a fabulous mix of gift shops, cafes and museums lined up along the winding Main Street, as well as the delightful Joseph Reynold O’Neal Botanical Garden.

On Virgin Gorda, there’s The Baths, the jewel in the BVI crown. Giant boulders edge out into the water and along a white-sand beach, creating both rock pools and an otherworldly seascape.

After a dip or snorkel, hang out for a while at Hog Heaven. Famous for its saucy, succulent ribs, this eatery-cum-lookout spot has incredible views of Richard Branson’s Necker and other outlying islands.

Tried & tested:

Rosewood Little Dix Bay

This 95-unit resort is a class act at the higher end of the price scale.

Established by Laurance Rockefeller in the 1960s, it has a retro feel with many of the guest rooms featuring dark wood panelling and exposed cut stone. They also have sizeable windows that not only let the light stream in but also allow the encroaching tropical foliage to give the impression you’re enveloped in the mature gardens.

The beach is one of the best on Virgin Gorda, with snorkelling expeditions straight from shore frequently revealing turtles in the sea grass.

Add a 10-room spa on a peninsula with whirlpool positioned to be a theatre for the sunset, a high-spec gym, tennis courts, a kids’ club, plus excellent restaurants, and this is a cert for families who like the finer things in life and couples seeking action and relaxation.

For honeymooners, suggest the new, expansive Tree House Suites. They offer privacy and luxury, footsteps from the sand.

Sample Product

ITC Classics offers seven nights for the price of five with breakfast at Biras Creek from £1,799 including flights and transfers, a saving of up to £320. Book by October 31 for travel completed by December 19.

Western & Oriental offers seven nights at Bitter End Yacht Club from £2,695 based on departures in November with return flights and transfers. Price includes 25% discount on accommodation if booked by October 31, a saving of up to £429. Stays are on a full-board basis as part of the Admirals Package which features a range of inclusive excursions, tuition and use of watersports equipment.

Caribtours offers seven nights for the price of six, room-only at Rosewood Little Dix Bay from £2,189, including return flights, transfers and lounge passes at Gatwick.