A Visit to the British Virgin Islands

11 Days in the Virgin Islands. Four men. A healthy budget. Now all we had to do was decide what to do with all of that time.

Our flight arrived in St. Thomas on New Year’s Eve and we had plans to visit as many islands as possible before leaving on the 11th of January. St. John – which is only a quick $6 ferry ride away – was certainly high on the list, as were the British Virgin Islands (BVI) and any other areas/countries we could eek out of our schedule.

We had been warned in general that St. Thomas was less safe than the other islands, yet were never shown any evidence of that. When travelling anywhere however, it’s good to have that idea put into your head so that you can ensure that your radar is up and that you stay alert when walking around. In our experience though, the locals were nothing but friendly and extremely helpful, with none of the soliciting that you’d expect in tourist-heavy locales.

After arriving, we travelled immediately to St. John, which is approximately 69% national parks – an attractive fact due to our interest in the outdoors. We spent the evening at bars and restaurants near Cruz Bay (Motu, Joe’s Rum Hut, and others), a great little tropical spot right on the water where you can enjoy drinks and dinner all within walking distance of the ferry landing.

The next day, the national park system became obvious as we hiked about one mile through forest and wilderness to a remote beach on Caneel Bay for snorkeling and lounging. Our friend pointed out the names of the local flora and fauna, as well as the other Virgin Islands that were visible just off in the distance, randomly placed throughout the sea, providing us with a truly surreal experience for us as people who were usually land-locked. We arrived at the beach and were able to obtain some nice snorkeling gear from the friendly staff at Virgin Islands Eco-Tours. VI Eco-Tours has several locations throughout the islands and is a great resource when looking for outdoors activities.

The following day we visited the St. Thomas’ north shore which is less populated and less-visited by tourists. You can tell immediately upon driving there that real people actually live there, with day-to-day quiet lives of simply enjoying the island life. We visited Santa Maria Bay during our early January trip and it was a gorgeous, completely secluded beach with only two other people there – one young man throwing a Frisbee to his dog and a local man who was just spending his day there. The sea was too rough for what we had planned – which was more snorkeling – but we ventured foolishly out into the water anyway, only to be overturned and thrown around by the huge 10+ foot waves, forcing us to turn back, a little shaken up from our lack of oxygen.

Finally, for the weekend we are currently planning a trip over to the British Virgin Islands. There are several ways of travelling to them, and our friends that live here on the islands all recommend Tortola as a destination, though Virgin Gorda and Jost Van Dyke are also great places to visit as well.

In short, St. Thomas and St. John worked perfectly as a base-camp for us during our stay. They are both well developed and provide visitors with all of the amenities that are necessary to stay in touch with your home-land and to be comfortable during your stay. Yet they both maintain the laid-back island flavor that anyone visiting the Virgin Islands is sure to be looking for. My top recommendations: make it to the north shore of St. Thomas, get off the beaten path, and be alert while doing so. If you can manage some combination of the things that we were able to do during our trip, you’ll certainly leave the VI’s as a satisfied customer.

Thomas Rush is CEO of BowlingBallsDelivered.com and also acts as the COO of Yvelise Limoncello.

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