Caribbean: British Virgin Islands - Small Retreats & Resort Islands
Beyond the better-known British Virgin Islands of Tortola and Virgin Gorda are more than 60 other outposts, each with its own eclectic character. Fourteen of the islands are inhabited and some include a range of accommodations from posh resorts with posh price tags ($+) to natural sanctuaries virtually untouched by human hands. Utopia has its price -- these islands take slightly longer to reach (there are no direct flights to the smaller British Virgins) -- but once you're there, the living is easy. Here are four island options for seclusion seekers.
Anegada: A Diver's Dream
Anegada, 20 miles north of Virgin Gorda, is the second-largest B.V.I., covering 15 square miles. This coral and limestone isle is a diver's paradise and a sailor's nightmare (more than 300 shipwrecks lie offshore). The breathtaking beaches are sandy white, and the water is crystal clear (snorkeling at Loblolly Bay on the north shore is a must-do). Don't expect too much action. With less than 200 human residents, Anegada is a sanctuary for a different breed of party animals: flamingos, ospreys, terns, and the endangered rock iguana.
Jost Van Dyke: Quiet Simplicity
Legend says this tiny (four miles square, about 200 inhabitants) island north of Tortola's West End was once the hideaway of its namesake pirate. A remote, rustic isle with lovely hiking trails and beautiful beaches (the best are at Great Harbour and White Bay), Jost still retains some of the pirate's rowdy spirit. Many beach cafes line the coast for visiting boaters; the most famous is Foxy's, where the charismatic owner greets guests with impromptu calypso tunes. Some people love Foxy's so much that they've stapled clothing to the cafe's interior!
When to Go: British Virgin Islands at their Best
- Best weather: The BVI receive little annual rainfall. The temperature ranges from 75 to 85 degrees, and a steady trade wind keeps humidity low.
- Best prices: Mid-April to mid-December; exact dates vary by hotel. Hurricane season swirls from June to November (September is trickiest).
- Festival highlights: Foxy's Wooden Boat Regatta off Jost Van Dyke in May is a blast.
Photo: The British Virgin Islands Tourist Board