The Baths in the British Virgin Islands is a must stop visit for yacht charter crews.
But, a recent rule change (or perhaps I should say rule enforcement) has caused a lot of confusion at this top attraction.
Don’t get caught off-guard on your next trip – here are the details you need to know.
Background on the Baths rule change
If you’re not familiar, The Baths is a BVI National Park, renowned for the massive granite boulders piled atop each other along the western shore of Virgin Gorda. There are several incredible trails, including one right through the granite boulders, known as the Caves.
You can enter at the parking lot at the Top of the Baths, or, in settled conditions, you can swim ashore from a dinghy mooring.
As tourism has grown in the British Virgin Islands, along with more frequent cruise ship visits, this popular attraction has become quite crowded.
Veteran crews know to avoid the Baths when cruise ships are in town since the Caves trail can become a standstill gridlock. Why? Aside from too many people, the Caves trail has several ladders and narrow passages that quickly backs up with 2-way traffic.
The Baths rule change: one way only
So, the BVI government recently instituted or started enforcing a rule change. The Caves trail is now one way, entering on the southern side at Devil’s Bay, and exiting near the Poor Man’s Bar.
But that’s not all!
Even if you have a BVI National Parks permit (included in all charters), you now must pay to access The Baths. It is an exception written in fine print on the back of the permit: The purchasing of this permit does NOT include entry fees to The Greater Baths National Park.
Here is the fee schedule:
My view? Collecting the fees from swim-ashore visitors was the real driver for enforcing the one way, not crowd control.
How does the Baths rule change affect your plans?
So here’s how it works.
You can use the dinghy moorings on either side of the Caves trail
If you land near the exit, you’ll be directed to the entrance near the Top of the Baths
Pay the fee
Hike down to the entrance, and enjoy the Caves trail (and the beautiful Devil’s Bay beach of course)
Swim back to your dinghy
If you land at Devil’s Bay first, you’ll first do the Caves hike first before looping back to the entrance to pay your fee
Make sure you bring a good pair of water (or hiking) shoes! Bring some soggy dollars as well for the fee – but you were probably already planning on that for a post-hike painkiller.
So are there any workarounds? Perhaps. I suppose if you get dropped off in the dinghy by a crew member, they could pick you up at the beach near the exit to avoid the loop back to the top.
But, rules are rules, and I’m not suggesting anyone break them.
I don’t think the new fee is a big deal, but make sure you consider the added time needed to hike up and back down. Perhaps you have some kids in tow. Round-trip, however, it’s less than 3/4 of a mile.
Other tips for visiting the Baths
First time visiting the Baths? Here are some of my other tips:
- If there is a northerly swell running, there will likely be a yellow or red flag flying. Consider changing your plans to swim ashore. Grab a slip at the Virgin Gorda Yacht and take a taxi. Or, rent a car from North Sound. Stop along the way for a barbecue lunch and amazing views at Hog Heaven
We like to visit early – the mooring field can fill up quickly and we don’t like waiting inside the Caves trail
Make sure to check the cruise ship schedule. Avoid days where cruise ships are in town. If you can’t avoid it, go as early as possible, or later in the afternoon
Best of luck on your next visit to the Baths! You can read more of my articles about the British Virgin Islands here.