An Active Guide to Virgin Gorda | British Virgin Islands
A woman was waiting for us when we arrived at the Spanish Town ferry terminal. She helped us pack our bags and crash pad into the back of her tan SUV and then we climbed in what little space was left for the ride to our villa. She told us about the island as we drove through Spanish Town, which was in the midst of a Christmas celebration. Colorful Christmas lights strung on chain link fence lined the perimeter of a market next to the road. As we passed the action, she rolled down her window to talk to a friend about church, holler at her son's friend about homework and wave to everyone else. In between all this, she would sip from the bottle of Guinness in her cupholder. Welcome to the Caribbean, I thought, welcome to island life indeed.
Why Go to Virgin Gorda
Turquoise blue waters, a friendly island vibe, granite boulders and a signature cocktail make Virgin Gorda, a northeastern island in the British Virgin Islands, a perfect place to pass a week of vacation.
The most popular way to explore the Virgin Islands is via boat. In the event you can't charter your own personal sailboat (I fall in that category for the record) and/or prefer a more intimate experience than a cruise, I suggest flying into Tortola and settling in on the laid back island of Virgin Gorda. There is more than enough to see and do to keep you occupied (or not so occupied) on your beach holiday.
What to Do in Virgin Gorda
Bouldering opportunities abound on the southern part of Virgin Gorda, which is littered with giant boulders. Spring Bay, Devil's Bay, Guavaberry and The Baths provide a range of climbing problems for you to solve. Just don't forget your climbing shoes (preferably a pair you don't mind getting wet) - the humidity and salinity make the rocks both sticky and slippery. While we visited, we were the only people on the rocks.
RELAX ON THE BEACH
The same beaches that are great for bouldering are great for relaxing. The Baths and Devil's Bay seem to be the most popular due to the half immersed boulder maze that lies between them. This is where the cruise liners drop their travelers, also making them the busiest beaches. If you want to avoid the crowds, go before 9am or after 3pm when everyone is back on their boats. For this reason, Spring Bay holds a soft spot in my heart. Not to mention the cliff jumping opportunities.
The boulder field does not stop in the sand, but continues to roll into the water. Huge rocks that provide a natural playground for humans on land provide vertical homes to vibrant coral and fish under the sea. We snorkeled in 30 - 40 feet of water and yet had coral just 7 feet below us due to it's home on top of a boulder. The coral has grown on all surfaces of these mammoth rocks providing a unique snorkeling experience. Huge fronds stuck out perpendicular from the granite, swaying in the waves. Instead of looking down into the reef, we could dive and look into the reef. We swam next to the fish as they traveled from one anemone to the other.
Where to Eat & Drink in Virgin Gorda
CocoMaya | Known for their full moon parties, CocoMaya is best enjoyed when you want a modern night out. Delicious food, impeccable design and an unbeatable location right on a white sandy beach.
Rock Cafe | Seafood is the specialty here, along with tables set among the boulders - hence the name "Rock Cafe".
Chez Bamboo | Strong drinks. That's what I remember most. And that's enough for me. Also supposed to have live music, although did not when we visited.
Bitter End Yacht Club | Fancy schmancy, but you are in the caribbean, so pretend like you own a yacht for the night.
What to Read Before You Go
A Guide to Bouldering and Traveling in the British Virgin Islands by Rich Crowder and Jonathan Wasser
What to Read While You’re There
by Tiphanie Yanique | A tale that takes place in the U.S. Virgin Islands spanning three generations in the 1900's.
by Eli Brown | It's the early 1800's and a renowned chef is kidnapped by a food-loving pirate when she storms the estate he has been working on and kills his employer. The chef, who is used to working with fine ingredients is forced to get creative aboard the ship where his stay is only guaranteed if he keeps producing delicious meals. A story of food, love, and the sea with beautiful descriptions and an intriguing story line.
What to Watch Before You Go
Bring your climbing shoes and a crash pad if you can swing it. This video will inspire you to get out there and climb!