Retro Review: British Virgin Islands

We’re tight on time right now, but I had typed up reviews of our trips in the past.  So this can serve as some interim entertainment

British Virgin Islands – June 2009 (Honeymoon)

We went to the British Virgin Islands for 15 nights on our honeymoon.  We stayed on two different islands (for a week each), in addition to a night spent on St. Thomas the day we arrived.



On the whole, we loved the BVI’s.  We always felt safe on the islands.  They were not overly touristy.  Plus there were plenty of things to do when you actually are looking for something to do.

May/early June is a good time to go to the Caribbean (IMO).  You miss the high season of winter/spring (and the high season prices), and you also miss hurricane season…Or at least are highly likely to avoid any sort of hurricane/tropical storm.  Weather-wise, I believe the weather is pretty uniform in the islands year round.

We flew American to St. Thomas via Miami.  We spent the first night in St. Thomas then ferried to Tortola from there, then caught the ferry to Peter Island so that we were at Peter Island in time for lunch.  There are flights that land in Tortola (through San Juan), but they are usually more expensive.  Plus adding a second stop (in SJU) can increase the odds of losing a bag.  Still when you add up the costs of ferrying and cabs to/from St. Thomas, flying in to Tortola may not be that much more expensive than flying to St. Thomas….Plus you don’t have to worry about the ferries (and their operating on island time) when trying to catch a flight back to the states.  When we go back to BVI’s, I’m not sure if we will fly to St. Thomas and ferry or fly to Tortola…Probably will be a game time decision.

And a note on ferries…Do not buy prepaid or round-trip tickets on ferries.  There are usually several ferry operators operating from the same dock. If you have not already purchased a ticket, you just buy a ticket for the boat that leaves next….Otherwise you have to wait for your specific ferry which could be a bit longer.  Also, while the ferry/cab process may sound confusing, it is really rather painless.

Peter Island

As mentioned above, we arrived at Peter Island in time for lunch, which was the beginning of the week of gorging ourselves on delicious food.  On Peter Island, all food is included (and we lucked out and got a package with all beverages included as well, except for hard liquor).  This means you get breakfast, lunch, and dinner in a restaurant – including appetizer/entree/desert/whatever you want…And the food is good.  Very good.  I’d put it on par with many of the nice restaurants in New Orleans.  So be prepared to eat in Peter Island.


The resort is the only thing on Peter Island.  It has a beach bar and restaurant and another bar and formal restaurant up on one of the hills there.  The facilities are all very nice.  We did not spend much time by the pool, but it was nice too.  No spa time for us either (it’s expensive), but it is supposed to be a very fine spa.

The main beach at Peter Island (Deadman’s beach) is large and wel kept.  It is long and nothing but white sand and belongs in the discussion of the best beaches in the Caribbean.  The resort has ample lounge chairs and hammocks out along the beach; plenty were available anytime we wanted to go to the beach.  There is also some decent snorkeling in Deadman’s bay.


Peter Island also has several other beaches.  A must do experience is to have a picnic lunch at White Bay Beach.  Just tell them you want to reserve a cabana and do a picnic, and they’ll drive you over there then bring you a picnic basket at lunch time.  White Bay also has the best snorkeling on the island, we saw turtles, squid, and plenty of fish over there.


The SCUBA shop on the island was very good too.  Alyce did her check out dives at Peter Island, and they did a good job with her.  Our dives were never too crowded, and we always had a guide in the water with us.  Diving in the BVI’s was good.  Much better than what you get in the states and pretty good in terms of the Caribbean, but it is not a dive destination.  That said, the RMS Rhone wreck is right by Peter Island and is a great dive.

We loved Peter Island, and it is exactly what we were looking for in the first week of our honeymoon.  Very relaxing…do whatever you want…drink beach drinks…do some diving…etc.  A word of caution, it is NOT a place to go if you want any sort of nightlife.  Everyone pretty much retired to their rooms after dinner.

On accommodations, there are beach front rooms and ocean view rooms located up on the hill by the main restaurant.  We stayed in a beach front room (by upgrade) and loved it.  They are bigger than the ocean view rooms, and you have easy access to the beach.  That said, I would have absolutely no problem staying in an Ocean view room.  They are closer to the main restaurant (and pool i f that is your thing), and you still get all of the other great things of Peter Island.  If we go to Peter Island again, I would probably do it the same way – book an ocean view room and hope for an upgrade.

And on booking a stay at Peter Island, there are a couple tricks to save yourself some cash.  Always check and any of the other deal sites for a deal.  Or, book Peter Island through a Virtuoso travel agent (which costs you nothing and actually got us lower rates).  With a virtuoso booking, you get a space available upgrade and another amenity…It is basically the same thing as the AMEX Platinum travel service but without the annual fee.


Virgin Gorda

After saying good bye to Peter Island, we ferried to Tortola then caught the next public ferry to Virgin Gorda.  Virgin Gorda has a small airport, but I believe no flights fly there directly now.

In Virgin Gorda, we rented a Villa in Leverick Bay that was pretty reasonably priced for what you got (Coconut Grove)…It would be a great set up for a group vacation.  After spending all week being pampered and stuffed with food at Peter Island, having to take care of ourselves for a week was exactly what we needed (and a slow transition back to reality).  The villa was perched up on a hill and had fantastic views of the North Sound.


We rented a car on Virgin Gorda, which I definitely recommend.  It allowed us to explore the island, and we also got our groceries at the yacht provisioning store in Leverick Bay and cooked for ourselves a couple nights…Which a note: I thought we would be better off going to the “big” grocery store in town, but we were informed that the yacht provisioning store was definitely better because yacht owners expected more than islanders – who would have guessed it.


I recommend the Leverick Bay/North Sound area on Virgin Gorda.  Other areas of the island do have better beaches, but I like the location in the North Sound better overall…Plus, we had done plenty of beach bumming the week before at Peter Island.

There is definitely more to do on Virgin Gorda, compared to Peter Island.  We rented a dingy one day and rode around to the different resorts, stopped at the bar and had a drink at Prickly Pear Island, and stopped for a burger at the Fat Virgin Cafe…As well as pulling up to some deserted beaches around the sound.  It was definitely a fun way to spend a day (or more).


Another day we drove down to the Baths on the other side of the island, which is a must do is you are in Virgin Gorda.  The Baths are these huge rocks, and you take a trail through them to a beach at the end.  On our way back we stopped at a local strip mall (I use that term very loosely) to pick out some souvenirs.


We also Scuba dove a couple of days with the dive shop located right by us in Leverick Bay – DiveBVI.  We thought they did a fine job.  They were safe, not overcrowded, and always had a guide in the water.  Diving here was pretty similar to that of Peter Island.

One thing we ended up doing that we are on the fence on was taking a day trip to Anegada (also offered by DiveBVI).  We were really glad that we did, as it was one of our favorite things of the trip.  Anegada is a flat, coral island that is barely inhabited and not touristy at all.  You take an hour boat ride over to to the island.  Once there, you hop in the back of a truck and ride over to the island’s beach bar/restaurant.  When you get there you place your order (they are known for the Anegada lobster), and you go hang out on the beach or snorkel for while.

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The snorkeling on Anegada was the best of the vacation (easily).  The reefs were right off shore and had a good bit of life.  Plus there was sea grass all over the place, so there were sea turtles all over.  You could swim real close to them.  After snorkeling for a while, you eat your lobster – which was delicious.  Then you head back…Definitely worth the day.


One night, we caught the water taxi over to Saba Rock for dinner.  Saba Rock is essentially an island/rock located on the edge of the North Sound with a restaurant and small resort located on it.  The food there was good…not bad, but nothing special.  But you go there more for the experience than the food.  You ride over in a water taxi…then you eat right on the edge of the island looking over the water.  It was a good experience overall.

We also ate at the Leverick Bay restaurant one night, which was surprisingly good (and priced at about the same as Saba Rock).  Another night we did the “Jumby BBQ” in Leverick bay which was good too.

Concluding Thoughts

Peter Island and Virgin Gorda were both great…but different.  People have asked which we liked more, and there really is no simple answer to that.  They’re different, especially the way we did it.

Peter Island was great in that you could do as much or as little as you wanted.  All of the (very good) food you could want was included and provided for you.  It was extremely relaxing and a very high class/first rate operation on the whole.

Renting a Villa in Virgin Gorda was a lot of fun as well.  It was more “adventurous” – for lack of a better term.  There was definitely more to do compared to Peter Island.  There are more options for places to eat, or you can cook your own food in a villa.  With a car, you can drive around and explore the island.

So which type of vacation you would like better depends on the individual.  An option in the BVI’s where you can get some of both worlds would be to stay at a resort on Virgin Gorda (Biras Creek, Little Dix, The Bitter End Yacht Club).  That way you can get the high end resort treatment with the available activities of being on a larger island.  Anyway, you can’t lose.

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