There are plenty of ways to experience the Virgin Islands without being inundated by cruise ship crowds and fanny-packers. Spend an afternoon at Virgin Gorda’s Yacht Club Costa Smeralda, a sister outpost of the famed Mediterranean marina in Porto Cervo, Sardinia. With 38 slips that accommodate megayachts up to s00 feet long, the harbour is a haven for avid boaters and yachties. It also provides the perfect backdrop for lunch at the clubhouse or a cocktail at the poolside bar.
Just across the sound, you’ll see the Bitter End Yacht Club, another great home base for a day of Caribbean revelry. A decidedly more laid-backyacht club, BEYC looks like a luxury tree house on water, furnished by a hippie with really great taste. If quiet leisure is what you’re after, Anegada Island is where you’ll find it. The remote coral atoll is the second largest island in the BVI but has a population of less than 300. Stop by Anegada Beach Club for an ice-cold Carib before embarking on a more ambitious endeavour, like the six-hour “Zero to Hero” kitesurfing course through Tommy Gaunt Kitesurfing.
Since Anegada’s beaches are truly secluded, there won’t be anyone judging your moves. The island is also a mecca for bonefishing — fly-fishing for kings in the shallows of the Caribbean — and the local experts will soon have you addicted to the sport. Go with Garfield’s Guides or Danny Vanterpool of Danny’s Bonefishing, who has taught notable figures like President Jimmy Carter.
The Virgin Islands are home to some of the best beaches in the Caribbean — namely Magens Bay (St. Thomas), Cane Bay (St. Croix), Smuggler’s Cove (Tortola), Spring Bay (Virgin Gorda), and White Bay Beach (Jost Van Dyke). But after sunning in the sand, the must-do BVI activity is scuba diving: Book a private charter through Blue Water Divers or Dive BVI and they’ll take you to some of the more off-the-grid sites, plus wrecks like the RMS Rhone at Salt Island, where the 1977 thriller The Deep was shot. The companies also offer diving tours of the wreck by night which cater to underwater adrenaline junkies. The wreck of the Chikuzen is equally impressive for diving devotees.
The 246-foot Japanese refrigeration ship sank in 1981 and remains virtually untouched — save for the schools of barracuda, stingrays, and nurse sharks that call it home. For snorkellers, Leinster Bay and Watermelon Cay on the northern tip of St John are flush with sea turtles and coral rock formations; and on the British side, the Norman Island Caves reveal hidden wrecks and bays by underwater flashlight. Rumor has it the uninhabited island was the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island.
Above the sea, there’s heli-golfing in the U.S. Virgin Islands, which sadly does not involve hitting balls out of a chopper but rather being picked up on the island of your choice and flown to the Virgin Islands’ best tee: Garambola Golf Chib in St Croix. The internationally recognised par-72 course is as challenging as it is beautiful, with rolling fairways and tropical greenery. As you fly back, there’s a good chance you’ll be tempted to pilot the chopper yourself. And that’s when Caribbean Buzz Helicopters will come in handy. The St. Thomas-based company offer a flight training lessons on helicopters with dual-operated controls, throughout the Virgin Islands.
If you’re looking for bottle service and thumping nightclubs, you’re better off in Ibiza. You won’t find much of it in the Virgin Elands, and most people don’t seem to mind, This is the land of private soirees in the sand, like Oil Nut Bay’s invitation-only beach party for yacht owners and their guests. The over-the-top event takes place every March during the Loro Piana Caribbean Superyacht Regatta & Rendezvous and sticks to an overall theme (last year’s was Old Hollywood Glamour).
For a vibe that’s a bit more down-to earth, go native and try the mushroom tea at the BVI’s infamous full moonparty. At the monthly bash — which takes place at Bomba’s Shack, a beachfront bar made out of driftwood in Tortola — Bomba himself doles out hallucinogenic beverages to guests. It’s a zero-frills experience, but one you might not want to miss.