Virgin Islands: A Luxurious Oasis Of Freedom
Bikini-clad fire dancers have stormed the sand for the grand finale, their pyrotechnic torches waving in perfect unison, like synchronised swimmers on land. It appears, if just for a second, that the women are multiplying. But that’s just the Painkiller talking. After five of them — those sweet Virgin Island rum cocktails that live up to their opiate-inspired name — it’s probably best to call it a night. Other partygoers are beginning to trickle out, too, in hopes of getting some shut-eye before tomorrow, the second day of the Loro Piana Caribbean Superyacht Regatta & Rendezvous. The competition takes place every March in the British Virgin Islands, attracting the worlds most opulent superyachts and the international jet set who tend to orbit around them, with a healthy appetite for lavish beach bacchanals and IRL boat porn.
If it weren’t for the prime sailing conditions, the Virgin Islands — which are located just 40 miles east of Puerto Rico — would be an unlikely host for such a buzz-worthy spectacle. In contrast to neighbouring St Barts, where being seen comes with the territory, the Virgins are decidedly private, unpretentious, and paparazzi-free, which is why s0 many power players have purchased property here. Or, in the case of Sir Richard Branson, purchased entire islands.
As the story goes, Branson bought Necker Island, a 74-acre private enclave in the BVI, with a single purpose: to impress the girl he’d fallen in love with. Unsurprisingly, his plan worked; the two got hitched there 11 years later, in 1989, and have called it their permanent home ever since. Branson now rents out the island to his celebrity friends (or anyone else willing to fork over the US$78,000 per-night price tag) and in recent years bought a second island, Moskito, just two miles away, which officially opened for rental this winter. The island has an eco-friendly resort — called the Branson Estate, naturally — consisting of three palatial villas that accommodate a total of 22 people. Its the ultimate adult amusement park, where water sports are at your fingertips, the bars are stocked with all the booze you can stomach, and private chefs cater every meal. Not to mention the DJ, who’s included in the cost of your stay.
The region has a history of seducing its visitors the way it did Branson: Notoriously private Google founder Larry Page is widely believed to own Eustatia, the 30-acre private island south of Necker, and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen is fond of cruising the North Sound aboard Octopus, his 414-foot megayacht. Morgan Freeman has a home on Virgin Gorda, the third largest of the 30-plus islands that comprise the BVI. That’s also where you’ll find intimate five-star hotels, sprawling villas, and the Caribbean outpost of Italy’s famed megayacht haven, the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda, founded by the Aga Khan. And while the main island, Tortola, is fir less sophisticated (and far more touristy) than Virgin Gorda, you’d be remiss if you didn’t at least hop over for the legendary full moon parties. Goyachting and diving by day, dancing on the beach by night — does it get any better that?
Well, actually, it does. Just west of the BVI, the U.S. Virgin Islands offer 133 square mite of pristine island chains with a similar laid-back luxury vibe. The four largest — St Thomas, St. John, St. Croix, and Water Island — have world-class snorkelling, perfect beaches, and rarefied accommodations to wow even the most well-travelled companion. Take her to the Rockefeller-founded Caneel Bay Resort on St. John, for instance, and spend a weekend free from distraction — phones and televisions are noticeably absent in the rooms. Or book a private home on the beach for just the two of you (St John has plenty of them).
If you really want to go all in, you’ll charter a yacht — and since the Virgin Islands are a sailing mecca, there’s a deep well to choose from. Sail your own Sun Odyssey 469 “bareboat” style from BVI Yacht Charters or invite friends and rent a fully-crewed 57-foot catamaran from the Moorings, with six guest cabins, your own captain, and a gourmet chef. Or go bigger and secure a super-yacht. Because why should you settle on one island when you can see them all? Whether you’re planning an adrenaline-fuelled water-sports weekend with mates or hoping to sweep an island nymph off her feet, here s how to do the Virgin Islands right.