The BVI Beach Top 10 List

After many bareboat yacht charter trips to the British Virgin Islands over the years, I’ve put together my Top Ten BVI Beach List. Yes, I’ve checked each of these out personally.

Some of these are accessible only by boat, and others are intended to be visited by land. There’s something for everyone! Most BVI beaches have everything you would want in a tropical Caribbean setting: white sand, palm trees, turquoise water, and nearby beach bars.

If that sounds good to you, these are the BVI beaches I recommend you visit and what you can expect to find there:

  1. Anegada’s north shore beaches: Cow Wreck and Loblolly Bay

  2. Devil’s Bay at the Baths

  3. White Bay Beach, Jost van Dyke

  4. Sandy Spit

  5. Savannah Bay, Virgin Gorda

  6. Smuggler’s Cove

  7. Deadman’s Bay, Peter Island

  8. Cane Garden Bay, Tortola

  9. White Bay, Guana Island

  10. Brewer’s Bay, Tortola

Loblolly Bay offers excellent snorkeling and beach walking

1. Anegada’s north shore beaches: Cow Wreck and Loblolly Bay

Anegada’s north shore beaches stand alone atop this list. It is one of my favorite places to visit and a highlight of any British Virgin Islands yacht charter trip.

These beaches are best visited by renting transportation (mokes preferably) from vendors in Setting Point. You can learn more about how to do that in my post on visiting Anegada.

Start on the east end with Flash of Beauty where you can find the best snorkeling in the BVIs and a great lunch spot. Monica’s roti is the pick of the menu. Wander along the beach of Loblolly Bay and consider a visit to Big Bamboo.

After lunch, hop back in your mokes and work your way to Cow Wreck Beach. Lagoon style swimming and liming away the afternoon is all that’s on the agenda. Grab a cocktail or two from Tipsy’s or the Cow Wreck Beach Bar.

If you are into windsurfing the north shore is your best option in the BVIs. You can rent equipment and other water sports from the Anegada Beach Club.

The small, but stunning Devil's Bay, part of the The Baths

2. Devil’s Bay at the Baths

The reward at the end of your hike through the Baths is a stunning little sandy bay beach surrounding by immense granite boulders. We usually hang out here for an hour or so – there is no better place than Devil’s Bay to relax and swim.

After a morning dip, you can take the trail to the Top of the Baths for lunch and commanding views of the area.

If you plan to visit by charter yacht, make sure you arrive to the NPS mooring balls early! They fill up fast, especially in peak season.

You also need to pay attention to the beach safety flags which can be seen from the mooring field. If a north swell is running it can be hazardous to swim ashore (there is no dinghy landing allowed). A red flag indicates danger.

Still want to visit if there is a north swell? Grab a slip in Spanish Town to the north and take a taxi to the Baths. You can also taxi from other Virgin Gorda locations, such as North Sound.

painkillers at the soggy dollar bar in white bay jost van dyke
The Soggy painkiller lineup at White Bay Beach

3. White Bay Beach, Jost van Dyke

You can’t write a top 10 BVI beach list without including White Bay towards the top of the it. It can also be found atop several “best of the Caribbean” lists.

It’s the best place in the British Virgin Islands to spend a full day beach bar hopping. Be prepared for crowds, however, as it’s the most popular beach in the BVIs.

Visit the Soggy Dollar Bar for the original painkiller, or find out which establishment serves up the best bushwacker.

To visit White Bay, you can anchor on the east or west side, if not redlined. I actually prefer to stay overnight at Diamond Cay and take a short taxi ride. You can read more about why I think this is better in my post about the hazards of staying in White Bay.

Sandy Spit BVI, a top 10 BVI beach
Sandy Spit, before Hurricane Irma gave her vegetation a haircut

4. Sandy Spit

Sandy Spit is a fantastic lunch option on your way to an overnight anchorage at Jost van Dyke or Cane Garden Bay.

It’s a tiny white sand beach island, that was laid bare by Hurricane Irma. Accessible by boat only, you’ll likely only have a few other neighbors. Grab a picnic lunch, a football, and head ashore for the afternoon. The views of the surrounding area, are also, fantastic.

If Sandy Spit happens to be too crowded or if the anchorage is rolly from a swell, check out nearby Sandy Cay for a similar experience.

Savannah Bay, a top 10 BVI Beach
Secluded Savannah Bay in Virgin Gorda

5. Savannah Bay, Virgin Gorda

If you are looking for a more secluded beach, Savannah Bay might interest you.

For yacht charters, the entrance through the reef is tricky. Many charter companies make this bay off-limits. That said, it is best visited by a short taxi ride from North Sound locations such as Gun Creek.

This is a beautiful, gem of a beach, perfect for strolling and swimming. With no services ashore, solitude and natural beauty are why you visit. There is also excellent snorkeling on the protected reef.

Smuggler's Cove, one of the best BVI beaches
Smuggler's Cove beach on Tortola

6. Smuggler’s Cove, Tortola

Smuggler’s Cove is also off the beaten path with the anchorage redlined by charter companies. There are reefs on two sides, with a narrow anchorage down the middle.

Ashore you’ll find a great beach for lounging and swimming. Park yourself at Patricia’s Beach Bar for an old school BVI experience with cheap drinks and open fire grilled beach entrees including fish sandwiches, hot dogs, and jerk chicken.

To visit, grab a taxi ride over from nearby Soper’s Hole.

Deadman's bay, a top BVI beach
Peaceful Deadman's Beach with Deadchest Island in the background

7. Deadman’s Bay, Peter Island

Even when the British Virgin Islands are busy, you can usually stretch out at one of Peter Island’s many bays and beaches.

My pick is Deadman’s Beach on the north side. It’s best visited in settled conditions with no northerly swell forecasted.

Peter Island is a private resort, that is still in the re-building process from Hurricane Irma in 2017. That said, you can use the beach here, but you’ll notice plenty off no trespassing signs asking you not to venture in farther ashore.

Drop the hook in the SE corner of the bay for the best protection. Aside from enjoying the calm waters of the beach, you can also dinghy over to Deadchest Island for some snorkeling. It’s a nearby National Park.

Cane Garden Bay's beach in BVI
The popular Cane Garden Bay beach on Tortola

8. Cane Garden Bay, Tortola

One of the most popular bays in the BVIs, it also has a nice beach with a protected swimming area. It’s a beautiful bay lined on the hillside with pastel colored houses.

There are plenty of options here for eating, drinking, and shopping. Many establishments cater to cruise ship visitors, so you might want to check the schedule before choosing to visit.

Stroll along the beach and take your pick of places to grab a cold Carib. For an excursion, the Calwood rum distillery is nearby, or, enjoy a dinner with huge views from Bananakeet just up the hill.

White Bay beach on Guana Island, an overlooked BVI beach
White Bay on Guana Island, a private eco resort

9. White Bay, Guana Island

Another private resort island, you come here for the beautiful scenery and relative seclusion. The setting is spectacular and we usually find fewer visitors than other anchorages. When we are looking to escape the crowds, this is the BVI beach we visit.

You can use the beach, as local laws allow, just don’t venture farther inland. Resort staff will surely be keeping a close eye.

Monkey Point is a good snorkel option, a short dinghy ride away. I also love Muskmelon Bay, just to the north. The birds are sure to put on a show as they use it frequently to feed on bait fish. You can also dinghy here in settled conditions.

Brewers Bay in the British Virgin Islands, a top BVI beach
Brewer's Bay beach - look at those inviting coconut palms!

10. Brewer’s Bay, Tortola

Often redlined due to it’s northerly exposure and trickier anchoring protocol, Brewer’s Bay is also a lesser visited, unspoiled gem. If you are able to come here, I recommend at least a lunch stop and snorkel.

Nicole’s Beach Bar on the south side of the beach serves up local fare and cold beverages.

Relax on the palm tree lined beach or try a snorkel on the many coral reefs in the bay.

Thanks for reading my post about my BVI Beach Top 10 List! If you enjoyed it, please subscribe or check out some of my other articles, like this one about the perfect week-long BVI sailing itinerary.

Scrub Island to Welcome a new BVI Charter Company

Scrub Island to welcome a new BVI charter company

A new boutique charter company is making landfall in the British Virgin Islands. Dream Caribbean Blue will begin running crewed-only yacht charters from Scrub Island beginning in early 2023.

The company appears to already be managing several yachts in the BVIs and also plans to begin operations in the Bahamas and Grenadines.

How is Dream Caribbean Blue different?

They aim to offer a luxury experience complete with a captain and chef with each booking. Bareboat charters, where you skipper the boat yourself, are not an option.

Scrub Island is an excellent location – I last visited Scrub in 2018 for a charter with Dream Yacht Charters (who is planning to leave Scrub Island soon). It’s a great setting and you have access to all the amenities including secluded beaches, pool, and restaurants. Scrub is also conveniently located near the airport – it’s a short ferry ride.

The base location is important to their luxury value proposition: the setting offers guests a chance to book rooms at a high-end resort before, or after a charter. Or, it can be a convenient way to split up a part sea, part land visit to the British Virgin Islands.

Dream Caribbean Blue also offers yacht sales and management, but few details are available publicly.

The yacht fleet

They’ve chosen large, Bali catamarans for their fleet, with deliveries expected to begin later this year. Many of their yachts will be brand new. 11 yachts will initially be available for charter in 2023.

I like the Bali catamarans, having now skippered two of them for charter. You can read about my recent review of the Bali 5.4 here from a 2021 Exumas trip.

Bali 5.4 in the Exumas on a bareboat charter trip
The large Bali 5.4 with three main lounge spaces on our last trip in the Exumas

The Balis have great top-deck fly bridges and hang out areas. Forward, the trampolines have been replaced with a table and seating. Lastly, the signature garage door creates a convertible indoor and outdoor lounge space.

These larger cats are considered more party barges than sailing vessels; however, it seems that might appeal more to this higher price point crowd.

Expect to pay up for these fully-crewed, large catamarans. A Bali 5.4 will run you $34,000 for an 8-person crew. The Bali 4.8? You can charter one for $26,000.

Don’t forget the 15-20% tip that’s expected on top of these rates. If you plan to charter during peak holiday season, add on another 20% premium.

Bali 5.4 blue lights in the Exumas
Underwater blue lights are another of those upscale amenities you'll get with the bigger cats

Final thoughts

This announcement is par for the course with other changes underway in the BVIs.

More yachts, more crowds.

Bigger boats, more catamarans.

With demand surging for charter vacations, the British Virgin Islands should continue to benefit economically as they recover from Hurricane Irma and Covid restrictions.

BVI Bars & Restaurants Closed for 2022 Hurricane Season

2022 BVI bars and restaurants closed for hurricane season

Many popular British Virgin Island establishments close for hurricane season as yacht charter crews wait out potential weather disruptions. It also serves as a welcomed break for employees.

Most will be back open by middle to late October, as the greatest threat of hurricane season has peaked.

Here’s a list of some BVI bars and restaurants that closed for the 2022 hurricane season and re-opening dates, where available.

📸 source: Saba Rock

North Sound & Virgin Gorda

  • Bitter End Yacht Club: re-opening October 19th
  • Saba Rock: re-opening October 17th
  • Leverick Bay: while the upstairs restaurant is closed, Jumbie’s is expected to remain open
  • Nova at Oil Nut Bay: re-opening October 8th
  • Blunder Bay, North Sound Bistro: unclear if they are currently closed, but they are expected to be open in October

Tortola

  • Sugar Mill: re-opening October 16th
  • Brandywine Estate: re-opening September 14th
  • Indigo Beach House: re-opening October 15th
  • Quito’s: re-opening
  • Elmtones: re-opening late October or early November

Other BVI Islands

  • Cooper Island Beach Club: re-opening October 21st
  • Pirate’s Bight at Norman Island: re-opening October 1st
  • Tipsy’s by Ann in Anegada

Fish of the Virgin Islands

Fish of the Virgin Islands

The fish of the Virgin Islands are similiar to what you can expect elsewhere across the Caribbean, from the Bahamas to Grenada.

Many of them, are delicious eaters, and others, fierce fighters.

If you’re planning a yacht charter or are thinking about booking a fishing trip, these are the fish you are most likely to encounter in the Virgin Islands. That includes the British Virgin Islands, Spanish Virgin Islands, and US Virgin Islands.

If you want to learn more about fishing techniques in the Virgin Islands, check out my tackle and fishing technique recommendations here.

Offshore fish of the Virgin Islands

Location: north and south drops, or in the deep water between St. Thomas/St. John and St. Croix.

Offshore is my favorite place to fish in the Virgin Islands. We typically head out to the north or south drop and troll back and forth in 200 to 600 feet of water.

Since we are usually sailing, we’ll have two lines out – one surface lure such as an Iland Ilander skirt. The second is a diving lure such as the Yozuri Bonita.

Here are the offshore fish species you can expect to catch:

Wahoo

Exuma fishing tips: filleting a wahoo in the Exumas
Here I'm fileting a fresh caught Wahoo to prepare it for sashimi and poke bowls on the catamaran
Fresh caught ono poke bowl
Wahoo poke bowl

Wahoo is by far my favorite eating fish that we catch. It’s great as sashimi and in poke bowls, or grilled up in fish tacos.

The wahoo fishing is always better in the fall, beginning in November, although it’s possible to hook one anytime of the year.

Since they claim to be the fastest fish in the ocean, they are also a lot of fun to fight. On my last trip, a huge one ran out most of my line and then snapped the 80 pound braid!

We’ve always had more success with wahoo using diving lures that swim 15+ feet below the surface of the water, such as the Yozuri or Rapala X-Rap Magnum.

Mahi Mahi (dolphin fish)

Filleting a mahi mahi caught in the Virgin Islands
Shot of me filleting a schoolie mahi mahi caught on a shelf area near the South Drop

Mahi are unmistakable with their shades of green, yellow, and blue.

You can catch mahi year round, in the shelf areas, as well as offshore.

Look for floating debris or sargassum – they don’t like the sun and enjoy shading themselves beneath. If you can see them, stop the boat and cast a popper lure near them. They can’t resist.

Mahi always become great candidates for fish tacos on our yacht charter trips. They are also excellent sauteed and crafted into a sandwich.

Tuna

Yellowfin tuna

Yellowfin tuna are also easy to identify with the yellow markings and distinctive sickles. They can get quite large, compared to their cousins the blackfin and skipjack. Skipjack can be distinguished from blackfin with their horizontal stripes on the belly.

Tuna can be targeted by trolling using skirts and diving lures. If you see birds attacking a bait ball, that’s also a good sign tuna can be near.

Yellowfin is the best eating tuna, but all three are worth eating. Straight up with some soy sauce or cooked rare is the way to do it.

 

Marlin

Blue marlin hooked up

Honestly, I’m not ever intentionally targeting marlin. If we ever caught one it would surely be released. I really don’t want to have a several hour battle either since we usually have a lot of ground to cover on our sailing trips (such as my crossing from St. Croix to Culebra on my Fall 2022 trip).

They can be caught in the Virgin Islands though, and it’s great fun if you have the right equipment and sportfishing boat.

Try pulling some bird teasers behind the boat to help raise them to your lures.

The size of the marlin that can be caught on the north drop is something of legends. You can also encounter marlin in the deepwater between St. Thomas/St. John and St. Croix.

Sailfish

Sailfish are typically caught for catch and release beginning in the fall months when the water begins to cool.

If you know where to look, you can see them surfing swells at the surface when their distinctive sail breaks the water. Anglers can then target sailfish by casting a surface lure or live bait to them.

Inshore Virgin Islands fish species

Location: shelf and reef areas, <150 feet

Inshore areas are great for bottom dropping, drift fishing, or fishing off the back of the boat while at anchor.

If shallow enough (I’m only a beginner at spearfishing), we’ll hop in and try and shoot with with a Hawaiian sling or speargun.

Barracuda

barracuda catch on a sailboat

This is, without a doubt, the fish we catch most frequently while trolling. They just can’t resist my lures, I guess!

They are fun to catch, but not the ones we want to eat. With the potential for ciguatera poisoning, especially the larger ones, we always release them. 

Another reason we don’t eat them? They smell…apparently the meat doesn’t but their skin is another story.

Mackerel

King mackerel caught in Key West
King mackerel we caught in about 50 feet of water

I’ve yet to catch a spanish mackerel, but for some reason we have hooked plenty of king mackerels. You can tell the difference since the spanish mackies have distinctive yellow spots.

Spanish mackerels are the better eating fish. King mackerels are oily and require a different type of preparation, such as by smoking.

Toothy fish, similiar to the wahoo and barracuda, you’ll want to use a wire leader if you think you might hook one.

Bonito (little tunny)

Little Tunny that I caught and released using a Iland Illander surface lure

Another fish on my list that we catch and release. I’ve just heard the meat is not that great to eat. They are shaped like tuna, but you can identify them by the squiggly dark lines on their back.

Jacks

Jack caught in the Virgin Islands
Jack we caught with a surface lure while trolling over a reef in 50 feet of water

There are many different types of jacks. I think some are good eating, but I don’t have a sharp enough eye yet…we typically catch and release them if we hook one.

They can be caught while trolling and also while spear fishing.

Grouper

Grouper is one of my favorite fish to eat.

Again, there several species, such as the black grouper and red grouper. You’ll want to make sure you are in compliance with fishing regulations. Sometimes there are certain seasons for these type of fish.

Also make sure you don’t keep any goliath groupers – they are typically off-limits all year round. Worth checking out the nassau grouper too, they are sometimes off-limits.

Groupers are best hooked while spearfishing or bottom dropping.

Snapper

Snapper we caught in the Spanish Virgin Islands

Snapper is another great eating fish. The three most common you might encounter are yellowtail, mutton, and mangrove.

I’ve hooked both mutton and yellowtail before while trolling over a reef, but they are easier to target by spearfishing or bottom dropping.

Yellowtail snapper also like to congregate underneath your yacht. You can even chum the waters to attract them with leftover meal scraps. If you see this, put on some light fluorocarbon leader and some dead bait – you’re likely to get a bite quickly!

Tarpon

You’ll often see tarpon in marinas near the areas where they throw fish scraps. In the British Virgin Islands, they like to hang out at Saba Rock, where they do a daily feeding.

These are definitely not eating fish – the meat doesn’t taste very good and the tarpon are quite bony.

You might, however, catch one if you drop a line down with dead bait in your anchorage. They are ferocious fighters and fun to catch!

Lionfish

Catching lionfish in the Exumas
Lionfish we speared on a reef in the Bahamas
Fresh caught lionfish ceviche
Lionfish ceviche appetizer on the boat - delicious!

Lionfish are in invasive species and can be taken any time of year. They don’t get very big, but the meat is excellent!

Spearfishing is the way to catch these suckers. For beginners, they make excellent targets since they aren’t afraid and don’t try to evade you (since they have no predators).

Check out my post about lionfish ceviche that we recently made in the Exumas. It has some cautionary notes about removing the venomous spines (painful but not life threatening).

Spiny Lobster

Fresh grilled Anegada spiny lobster
Fresh grilled Anegada spiny lobster on the boat | We got these from a local since tourists are not allowed to take them

Ok, not a fish, but worth mentioning.

Make sure you check local regulations, they differ, for example, between the USVI and BVIs. In the BVIs, tourists are not allowed to take them at all.

When in season and legal, we use a tickle stick and net to coax them out of their hideouts. A snare is also a good method.

Nothing beats fresh spiny grilled lobster with an epic Caribbean sunset (we’ve tried boiling too – grilling is better!).

The Best Caribbean Bareboat Charter Destinations

Best Caribbean Bareboat Charter Destinations

While far-off, exotic yacht charters might be intriguing, nothing beats a Caribbean bareboat charter destination right in our own backyard.

Tropical sandy beaches, steady trade winds, lazy beach bars, and convenient travel options characterize a visit to these many islands.

And if you’re limited to a week or 10 days, you’ll get to spend more time on your catamaran with a tropical beverage, and less stuffed into a crowded flight.

From Grenada to Puerto Rico, nearly every country in the leeward and windward islands has a Caribbean sailing vacation option for you.

If you are still early in your chartering journey, these are the top 5 Caribbean bareboat charter destinations you need to explore. They are the best sailing trips for beginners.

You can visit each many times, and still find new fresh adventure on a return trip.

I’m on my 9th yacht charter (still in my 30s), and I’ve only visited one destination outside of these top 5 (Key West and the Dry Tortugas).

Virgin Gorda Sound sunset with Saba Rock in the background (Pre-Irma)
Sunset at North Sound, Virgin Gorda in the BVIs

British Virgin Islands

Yes, the British Virgin Islands is the obvious choice, but you have to put it first on the list. It’s the global yacht charter capital.

Not only is the BVIs the best place for first-timers, but you’ll find yourself returning year after year. There’s something about it that keeps drawing you back.

I’ve spoken with some old salts that have made over 30 trips!

It’s popularity owes itself to the unique geography, with many islands and bays to explore, sheltered from the trade wind driven swells.

The sailing is predictable and navigation is easy with short, line of sight passages.

Beach bars, restaurants, and amenities galore, the majority of BVI’s economy caters to charterers.

My BVI FAQ page is a good place to start to learn more about the BVIs.

Boulders at Devils Bay at the Baths
Boulders at Devil's Bay | the Baths, BVI
Lagoon and beach at Cow Wreck
Lagoon swimming on the north shore of Anegada
White Bay JVD
Beach bars line White Bay, Jost van Dyke

Highlights of a British Virgin Islands yacht charter

  • Hike through the gigantic granite boulders at the Baths to Devils Bay

  • Anchor in North Sound and enjoy the sights of one of the finest harbors in the Caribbean

  • Sail offshore to the sunken island, Anegada. Sip cold beverages at rustic beach bars on the beautiful north shore

  • Go Beach Bar hopping for painkillers at famous White Bay, Jost van Dyke

  • Jump into the water from the second deck of the floating pirate ship bar, Willy-T

Sandy Cany sandbar in the Exumas
One of the many sandbars in the Exumas, this one at Sandy Cay

Exuma, Bahamas

Yes, I know, it’s not technically the Caribbean, but it’s close enough.

I love the Exumas for the fishing, solitude, and easy travel options from the USA.

This is also more of an advanced sailing destination and I would not recommend it until you have 2+ charters under your belt. You’ll need to anchor more frequently and pay close attention to weather, tides, currents, and depths. We first visited the Exumas on my third sailing trip.

The water in the Exumas is absolutely stunning, with some of the most vibrant turquoise blues I’ve ever seen.

If you want to learn more about the Exumas, check out my cruising guide.

Pirate's Lair anchorage at Warderick Wells
Pirate's Lair at Warderick Wells in the Exuma Land and Sea Park
Shroud cay anchorage and the mangrove river
Aerial view of the mangrove river at Shroud Cay
Wahoo caught on the drop in the Exumas sound
Catching wahoo on the drop in the Exumas

Highlights of an Exuma, Bahamas yacht charter

  • Visit the Exuma Land and Sea Park – our favorite mooring field is the Pirate’s Lair

  • Dinghy the mangrove river at Shroud Cay and hike up to Camp Driftwood

  • Pass through a cut to the Exuma Sound and fish the drop for mahi, tuna, and wahoo

  • Cross the Yellow Bank and stop for lunch at one of the many coral heads you’ll pass along the way

  • Grab a peanut colada at Staniel Cay Yacht Club and snorkel nearby Thunderball Grotto

Sunset at Green Beach Vieques
Sunset at Green Beach in Vieques

Spanish Virgin Islands

Part of Puerto Rico, they lie right next to the US Virgin Islands.

If you want to seek out the old school Caribbean vibe, the Spanish Virgin Islands are for you. They are far less popular and developed than their Virgin Island neighbors to the east.

The SVIs consist primarily of Culebra, Culebrita, and Vieques. There are also a number of smaller cayos to explore as well.

You can find two of the most stunning beaches in all of the Caribbean here: Playa Flamenco and Playa Tortugas.

If you want to learn more about the SVIs, I suggest Stephen Pavlidis’ Guide to Puerto Rico. You can also check out my cruising guide.

View of Culebrita, one of the Culebra anchorages
Tortuga Beach and the lighthouse at Culebrita
Tank at Flamenco Beach
One of the abandoned tanks at Playa Flamenco
Carlos Rosario sunset in Culebra
Epic sunset at a Carlos Rosario mooring ball

Highlights of a Spanish Virgin Islands yacht charter

  • Hike to the abandoned lighthouse at the top of Culebrita for incredible 360 views

  • Sip $2 Medallas from the vendors at Playa Flamenco

  • Snorkel the beautiful reef from your mooring ball at Carlos Rosario

  • Watch an epic sunset over the Puerto Rico mainland at Green Beach

  • Take a bioluminescence kayak tour at Mosquito Bay

Petit Rameau at Tobago Cays
The idyllic Tobago Cays, a must stop in the Grenadines

St. Vincent & the Grenadines

This is the only destination on my list I haven’t yet visited. We had plans, but were disrupted by Covid.

You’ll enjoy easy sailing, white sandy beaches, abundant marine life, and many vintage Caribbean beach bars to help cool you off.

You can do a roundtrip or a 1-way passage south to Grenada. This option avoids a potential uncomfortable upwind slog back to St. Vincent

Most people don’t spend much time on the main island of St. Vincent – the many unspoiled islands of the Grenadines to the south beckon.

If you want to learn more about the Grenadines, pick up a copy of the Sailor’s Guide to the Windward Islands.

Anchorage at Salt Whistle Bay
The anchorage at Salt Whistle Bay
Petit Tebac
Captain Jack Sparrow's island, Petit Tebac
The lone umbrella at Mopion Island
The lone umbrella at Mopion Island

Highlights of a St. Vincent and the Grenadines yacht charter

  • Visit the stunning Tobago Cays, snorkel the coral reefs, swim with turtles, and arrange for a lobster beach barbeque

  • Anchor at idyllic Salt Whistle Bay and walk along the beautiful palm-lined beach

  • Explore the island where Captain Jack Sparrow was marooned – Petit Tebac

  • Head to Mustique and grab a cocktail at the legendary Basil’s Bar

  • Get your picture taken with the umbrella on the castaway island, Mopion

Often photographed Trunk Bay at St. John, USVI

US Virgin Islands

During Covid, the US Virgin Islands made a resounding comeback due to travel restrictions elsewhere. Many long-time BVI visitors discovered the USVIs for the first time. Many were pleasantly surpised!

Why is the USVI appealing? Good provisioning options, cheaper prices, and direct flight options are a few reasons.

Consisting of St. Thomas, St. John, and St. Croix, most boaters spend the abundance of their time circumnavigating St. John and visiting the pristine National Park areas.

You can even use it as a jumping off point to explore the Spanish Virgin Islands.

Magens Bay USVI in St Thomas
The lovely bight - Magens Bay
Picturesque Dutch-inspired Christiansted in St. Croix
Beautiful Caribbean town of Christiansted, St. Croix
Ram Head and Salt Pond Bay

Highlights of a US Virgin Islands yacht charter

  • Lounge on the beach at Trunk Bay, the most photographed spot in the Caribbean

  • Be adventurous and conduct an offshore passage to St. Croix to visit the pastel-colored town of Christiansted

  • Stroll the lovely town of Coral Bay and grab a bite to eat or do some shopping

  • Sail the north shore of St. Thomas to the bight at Magens Bay. Simply enjoy the magical scenery or head ashore for a drink at the beach bar

  • Enjoy the solitude of the Salt Pond Bay anchorage – lime away the afternoon or hike for the views at Ram’s Head

Thanks for reading my post about the best Caribbean bareboat charter destinations! If you enjoyed it, please subscribe or check out some of my other articles, like this one about how the British Virgin Islands’ vibe is changing.

When is the Best Time to Visit the British Virgin Islands?

A typical day representing the best time to visit the British Virgin Islands

If you’re planning a yacht charter to the British Virgin Islands, you should consider the four different sailing seasons:

  1. High season: December to March

  2. Shoulder season one: April to June

  3. Peak hurricane season: July to October

  4. Should season two: November

My recommendation on the best time to visit the British Virgin Islands? I would visit during shoulder season one (April to June). We enjoy predictable weather, longer days, steady wind speeds, fewer crowds, and cheaper charter prices.

Below, I summarize each to help you make your decision. If you want to learn more about weather and marine resources for the British Virgin Islands, check out this post.

BVI Climate and Average Weather by Month

Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
Nov
Dec
Wind Speed (kts)
15.2
15.1
14.1
13.4
13.5
15.0
16.0
14.8
12.9
12.2
13.8
15.2
Wind Direction
NE
NE
E
SE
SE
SE
E
E
SE
SE
NE
NE
Daylight (hrs)
11.2
11.6
12.1
12.6
13.0
13.2
13.1
12.7
12.2
11.7
11.3
11.0
Precipitation (in)
0.4″
0.4″
0.3″
0.9″
2.1″
1.3″
1.2″
1.6″
2.8″
2.8″
2.5″
1.1″
Avg. High Temp.
83°
83°
84°
85°
86°
88°
88°
89°
88°
87°
86°
84°
Avg. Water Temp.
79°
79°
79°
80°
81°
82°
82°
83°
84°
84°
82°
81°

BVI high season (December to March)

This is the busiest and most expensive time of the year. Hurricane season is over, and the annual pilgrimage of cruising boats has made it’s way from mainland U.S. and Europe to enjoy the warm Caribbean winter.

Expect crowded mooring fields and frustrated skippers who lost the Boatyball lottery.

Days are shorter (~11 hours vs ~13 hours in the summer).

Most notably, you can expect the Christmas Winds: several days of strong winds (15-30 knots) created by strong high pressure systems in the Atlantic. Make sure you know how to reef those sails!

Wind is usually out of the E to NE and less precipitation falls this time of year.

Double rainbow over Anegada in the British Virgin Islands
A typical BVI day in Anegada with some cumulus clouds and the occasional shower

BVI shoulder season 1 (April to June)

This is my favorite and I believe the best time to visit the British Virgin Islands for sailing trips. We’ve been to the BVIs 3x in May. The crowds have thinned out somewhat and the weather has become more settled.

Expect easy 10-15 knots from the E to SE and an occasional shower to cool things off.

BVI peak hurricane season (July to October)

It can be hot, the trade winds lessen (5-15 knots), and tropical mischief can be brewing.

But, you might have the place to yourself. On the flip side, however, some establishments are closed, so keep that in mind if you are planning to hop around the beach bars.

This is the wet season thanks to developing low pressure systems.

Benures Bay Sunset in the British Virgin Islands
Don't worry, you can expect epic sunsets year round in the BVIs

BVI shoulder season 2 (November)

This is my second favorite time to sail in the Caribbean and the British Virgin Islands.

Again, the crowds haven’t arrived yet and the weather tends to be settled – similar to April-June.

Trades blow 15-20 knots with wind direction from the E to NE.

The biggest downside of this time of year is the shorter. It can make a difference if you plan to spend long days on the water. Otherwise, not a big deal!

Thanks for reading my post about the best time to visit the British Virgin Islands! If you enjoyed it, please subscribe or check out some of my other articles, such as this one about sailing to Anegada.

5 Ways the British Virgin Islands’ Vibe is Changing

Lounging on the trampoline in the British Virgin Islands

The British Virgin Islands were devasted by the hurricanes of 2017.

They since come roaring back only for the recovery to be held back by Covid.

But hang on, the 2021-2022 season looks to be a record breaker. Restrictions eased and crews leapt at the chance get back on the water.

Popular anchorages have been crowded, more than ever.

Legendary establishments such as the Bitter End Yacht Club are back in business.

The painkillers are flowing in White Bay, Jost van Dyke.

Despite this resurgence, the British Virgin Islands’ vibe is gradually changing. Good or bad? I’ll let you decide. If I sound like a pessimist, don’t be alarmed. I love the BVIs and I’ll be back for years to come.

white bay east side jost van dyke
A typical day at White Bay, made busier by the visiting cruise ship

BVI mooring fields are becoming more crowded

The British Virgin Islands is benefiting from a booming yacht charter industry. Interest in sailing vacations is higher than ever.

As the global bareboat charter capital, the BVIs are feeling those tailwinds strongly.

This is great news for the local economy and the industry as a whole.

But gone are the days of finding your own remote piece of paradise in the BVIs. I know of a couple secret spots, but I have to keep those to myself! I’ll let you in on a few others in this post about secret BVI anchorages.

If you’re in a mooring field, expect to have lots of neighbors, close at hand. So, choose your ball wisely.

Navigating the often crowded mooring field in Setting Point, Anegada

Boatyball is also a more recent development. Some would argue they haven’t added any new mooring balls, rather just replaced existing balls.

Regardless, expect balls to be packed in as tightly as might allow in the future.

Mooring fields that went into disrepair after the hurricanes are now coming back online.

Other beautiful places, such as Benures Bay, that used to be anchoring only…now have mooring balls. This is bad news if you prefer to anchor in (relative) solitude.

Best advice to avoid the crowds? Try and visit in the shoulder seasons (April-May, November). Or better yet, squeeze a trip in during the summer.

The old Saba Rock in the BVIs before the 2017 hurricanes
A view of the old Saba Rock on my first bareboat charter trip over 10 years ago

Resorts and iconic beach bars are catering to the masses or going upscale

I’m too young to have experienced what the undiscovered BVI vibe used to be 30+ years ago.

One symptom of development and progress? Many of the local, old school beach bars are disappearing or being replaced.

After the 2017 hurricanes, when places such as Saba Rock or the Loose Mongoose rebuilt, they went upscale, likely due to the capital that came in to make the rebuilding happen.

Other well known iconic spots such as the Soggy Dollar Bar or Foxy’s now cater to the crowds that often come with visits from cruise ships.

painkillers at the soggy dollar bar in white bay jost van dyke
Tour boats leaving at the end of the day in White Bay
Tipsy's by Ann on the north shore of Anegada, where you can still find that old school BVI vibe

If you’ve been to the Soggy lately, you’ll notice an abundance of USVI day tour boats that crowd the beach.

So can you still find that old school vibe? The good news is, yes! You just need to know where to look. The best spots are going to remain secret, for good reason, but they’re out there.

Anegada, however, is still clearly a winner in this category. The old school vibe, from what I understand, can still be discovered.

Local bars on the beautiful north shore beaches and at the anchorage in Setting Point still dominate, and defend that vibe.

Cape Air Cessnas, one of your options for the puddle jumper flight to BVI
Cape Air Cessnas at SJU, one of your options for a puddle jumper flight

Travelling to the British Virgin Islands is becoming more difficult

You might think ease of travel would be important for a country who’s GDP is supported by the yacht charter industry.

But that’s just not the case! In recent months, it’s actually trending worse. BVI’s fault? No idea, but I would make it a priority.

Getting to the BVIs has always been about jumping through hoops. And yes, there is still no direct flights from the USA or Europe and likely never will be. They just don’t have the space to do a runway extension similar to what St Thomas, USVI did about 20 years ago. 

You’re committed to a full day travel affair on both ends of your trip.

Recently, the smaller regional airlines have encountered staffing difficulties, leading to many delayed and cancelled “puddle jumper” flights – these are the short trips from nearby San Juan or St. Thomas, USVI.

With only a few of these a day, a cancelled flight can lead to an entire lost day sailing the British Virgin Islands. Ouch! Throw that planned itinerary out the window.

Axopar water taxi

Alternatives to flying into the British Virgin Islands

So is there a better way to arrive? Yes, and here’s your best option.

Many people prefer a direct flight from the USA to St. Thomas. Once you arrive, skip the public ferries who’s schedules are difficult to keep up with and are often late.

Book a direct water taxi from the likes of Island Time or Chillout Charters. They will pick you up in Red Hook, handle clearing you into BVI Customs while you stay on the boat, and then deliver you directly to your marina.

It will all take 1-1.5 hours.

Sit back, relax, and enjoy a cold beverage along the way.

A couple words of caution:

  • You’ll pay up for this option $$$$

  • Some are limited to 6 passengers, so if you have a larger crew, you may need to book two

Eustatia Sound Anchorage
One of the recent catamarans I took out in the BVIs, a Lagoon 450

Larger catamarans are taking over the British Virgin Islands

OK, not literally, but the trend is your friend.

It seems to be two-fold:

  1. Catamarans in favor of monohulls

  2. Bigger is better

I get it, and I tend to fall into the group that prefers a bareboat charter aboard this type of sailing yacht. I explain my feelings in this catamaran vs monohull post.

The market is simply responding to what crews prefer these days.

Bareboat charter in the BVIs on a monohull
The first boat I captained in the BVIs: a 33 foot monohull

I captained my first sailboat on a 33 foot monohull, and my latest: a 54 foot catamaran. Every yacht charter since the first has been on a 45 foot cat or larger.

We find the bigger cats more appealing for a number of reasons:

  • Extra lounge space: flybridge, trampolines, etc.

  • Large crews that can spread out

  • Better stability, and galley above the waterline

  • Most will come with the features to keep the crew at ease: AC and water makers

So if you’re with me, this is a great development.

Here’s why you might not like it: things that go bump in the night. Mooring fields are getting increasingly crowded and catamarans, by nature, have a much wider beam.

In most trade wind prevailing conditions, this is not an issue. But if the breeze falls or there is a back winding scenario, it’s possible for yachts to get rather close for comfort.

BVI and the USVI, a view of the Narrows
A view of the Narrows, with BVI on the left, and USVI on the right (St. John)

BVI-flagged charter vessels only

This might be a lesser point, but it’s worth taking into account.

It’s not impossible, but recent BVI regulations have made it extremely difficult for charter yachts to clear into the country.

They’ve created enough paperwork and bureaucracy to make it not worth the effort.

Why would this be an issue? Some crews used to charter out of the USVI (or elsewhere) and cruise throughout the Virgin Islands (Spanish, US, BVI), clearing in and out of customs along the way.

So if that was your plan, just make sure you have the latest information.

Why did the BVI government do this? I think they lost a lot of revenue during Covid when the USVI enjoyed a resurgence of yacht charter tourism. The BVI charter vessels mostly remained dockside. It was simply a move to protect their vital industry.

Thanks for reading my post about 5 ways the British Virgin Islands’ vibe is changing! If you enjoyed it, please subscribe or check out some of my other articles, like this one about the perfect week-long BVI sailing itinerary.

Top 10 Mistakes to Avoid on a Yacht Charter Trip

mooring mistake with a single line through the pennant eye

Photo: catamaran with one line to secure to the mooring ball. This method can easily break the line and cast the yacht adrift. 📸 Sean O’Leary

We all make mistakes.

That’s part of becoming a seasoned yacht charter skipper.

But, want to get a head start? Read these and you’ll be ahead of 75% of other skippers.

I also suggest you pick up a copy of the Smarter Charter – lots of good practical chartering advice. I usually give it a scan through as a review before my next trip.

These are my top 10 mistakes to avoid on your yacht charter trip, some of which I’ve had to learn the hard way.

  1. Arriving to your anchorage too late
  2. Entering off-limits, red lined areas
  3. Running a single line through the mooring ball
  4. Not conserving water
  5. Forgetting to pull the dinghy line in when mooring
  6. Ignoring weather reports
  7. Sticking to a planned itinerary
  8. Leaving your fenders out
  9. Letting your engines run unattended
  10. Racing through a mooring field
Cane Garden Bay | Read about an incident below that happened here as the result of arriving too late

Arriving to your anchorage too late

Don’t be that crew that pulls into the mooring field while everyone else is relaxing over a sundowner, or worse, after dark.

Most yacht charter trip contracts require you to be anchored or moored at least 1 hour before sunset.

There is good reason for this.

Arriving before daylight begins to fade allows you to safely navigate through the approach. This matters if you have to pass through a channel and identify the markers (such as Cane Garden Bay or North Sound). Or, you want to be able to see where you are dropping the hook – pick the sandy patch, not the coral.

Additionally it gives you time and the visibility necessary to inspect your mooring ball condition or to dive on the anchor.

What can happen if you arrive to your anchorage too late

Here’s a real world example of what can go wrong from an incident that happened at Cane Garden Bay in 2020:

  • The crew of a Helia 44 arrived after dark, tied off to a mooring ball, and then went ashore for dinner or drinks
  • The mooring ball they tied off to? A private, ill-maintained ball not designed for a 44 foot catamaran. If they had arrived with more daylight, they likely would have noticed it was not a regular ball
  • When they returned on their dinghy, the boat was missing 😮 The yacht had broken loose and went adrift. Somehow no one noticed and it drifted past the reef
  • Luckily, it was later recovered off the north shore of St. Thomas, USVI
  • The crew learned an expensive lesson and had to pay a hefty fee for the recovery

Having a backup plan

Another reason to arrive early? What if your Plan A falls through? What if there are no mooring balls available?

You need enough time to be able to execute your backup, Plan B.

This yacht entered the red lined area between Beef Island and Little Camanoe in the BVIs
Off-limits passage between Little Camanoe and Beef Island
This red lined areas has claimed more charter yachts than anywhere else

Entering off-limits, red lined areas

Red lined, off limits areas present serious hazards to yacht charters.

Reefs, shallow water, and exposure to weather conditions such as north swells, to name a few.

Don’t believe me? Check out Groundings of BVI for some examples of the severe consequences that can result.

It’s simple.

Pay attention during your charter briefing and stay out of areas that are red lined. You can read about the more notorious BVI red lined areas here.

Running a single line through the mooring ball

I see this happen often with beginners.

When tying off to mooring balls, they run one line, through the pennant eye, and then tie it off to the cleat on the other side of the vessel..

This is bad practice.

As the yacht swings on wind and tide, the pennant eye acts like a saw on the line. Eventually it can break it loose, setting your yacht adrift.

Better idea? Run two independent lines, one from each side or pontoon. Secure the lines back to the same cleat on either side.

Check out my charter beginners guide where I posted a video about how to properly pick up a mooring ball.

The consequences of your yacht going adrift? Find out what happened to the Sunsail catamaran Panema.

Not conserving water

Ever heard of a navy shower? 

Or better yet?

We like to bring reef-safe shampoo and take a sea shower off the back of the catamaran. Do your final rinse with fresh water.

Many yachts have water makers these days, but not all of them. Relying on a water maker to work for your whole trip is, well, playing with fire.

It’s no fun needing to pull into a marina to fill up your water tanks when you could be offshore catching fish or lazing on a beach.

Brief the crew: use water sparingly. Don’t take long showers. Do dish washing heavy lifting with sea water if you can.

If your water maker is working and you have just a couple days left with full tanks? Go wild! You are water rich.

Forgetting to pull in the dinghy line when mooring

Yup. I’ve done it.

I’ve wrapped the dinghy line around a prop.

Not a big deal, but I did have to spend 30 minutes diving on the prop to cut loose the line. If this happens you should also inform the charter company since there could be unseen damage to the saildrive.

Just make this one part of your crew’s anchor/mooring routine. 

Have someone responsible for pulling in the dinghy so there is minimal slack in the line, every time.

Virgin Islands NOAA Forecast Zones
NOAA marine forecast zones for the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico

Ignoring weather reports

On my first trip to the BVIs, I didn’t pay attention to the weather reports at all during the trip.

That was a big mistake.

Luckily, we had the consistent, beautiful BVI trade wind weather that is often present.

But what if a north swell was running? I could have been caught off guard.

Take it a step further beyond the marine forecast printout you’ll receive (sometimes) at your charter briefing. Check the forecast resources everyday. In most charter destinations, cell phone coverage or wifi should be available most days.

If you are sailing during hurricane season, be even more vigilant.

I talk about which resources I use for by bareboat charter trips in my BVI marine weather post.

Dodging squalls on the way to the Dry Tortugas on a bareboat charter trip
A squally day on a recent trip to the Dry Tortugas, the least of the challenges we encountered

Sticking to a planned itinerary

Be. Flexible.

The boat is going to have a maintenance issue.

Someone of the crew might be seasick.

A day or two of thunderstorms and squalls might interrupt your plans.

On my recent yacht charter trip to Key West to the Dry Tortugas, we had a lot of issues to deal with, but we adjusted. That’s part of the territory with yacht charter trips.

  • We had to swap boats after our first day
  • The AC didn’t work in August in South Florida ☀️☀️☀️, so we moved the boat to a better slip for a breeze
  • We added an extra day to the trip so we could make it all the way to the Dry Tortugas
  • Lost a day of exploring in the Dry Tortugas, but it was better than not going at all
  • Lastly, we grabbed a hotel room the last night, well, because of ☀️☀️☀️

One of your jobs as skipper is to create a happy ship. Shake off the disruption, whatever it is, and adjust the trip as needed. Even if it means you have to cut out a favorite stop or destination.

Another good piece of advice? Don’t try to do too much on your first day. Have a short and easy passage. Let the crew get adjusted to the yacht. We also rarely get out of the marina as early as we’d like to.

Leaving your fenders out

Ok. This really isn’t that big of a deal.

But.

There is no better way to identify yourself as a beginner to other yachts 😎. Don’t be that skipper!

Letting your engines run unattended

It might be tempting to charge the batteries in idle while your ashore enjoying a specular meal.

No one likes to hear the engines running.

But seriously, don’t do that. We don’t run any systems – engines, generator, or water maker, when we are not on the yacht.

Here’s an example of what can happen if you don’t take my advice.

Anegada Setting Point anchorage and mooring field
The somewhat crowded mooring field at Setting Point, Anegada

Racing through a mooring field

Don’t try and race another yacht to try and pick up the last first come first serve mooring ball at Cooper Island.

It’s dangerous, and not worth it.

Lots of people, myself included enjoy swimming off the back of the boat and would love it if you don’t run us over 🤝.

Thanks for reading my post about the top 10 mistakes to avoid on a yacht charter trip and making it all the way to the end! If you enjoyed it, please subscribe or check out some of my other articles, like this one about my favorite BVI anchorages.

BVI Redlined: What Areas are Off-Limits?

Brewers Bay in the British Virgin Islands

If you are planning a sailing trip in the British Virgin Islands, you’ll want to make sure to familiarize yourself with what is off-limits. These BVI areas are so-called redlined on charts.

Take note that each charter company has different rules. Just because White Bay is redlined by one, does not mean it is off-limits with the Moorings (I believe you can go there with them).

So, make sure to check with them for the latest information during your chart briefing.

Regardless, it’s a great idea to understand each of these areas well and to exercise extra caution if you are allowed to go there. There is a reason some charter companies have made certain areas off-limits…

And as always, do not use any of this information for navigational purposes – it’s informative, but leave it at that. Stick to your charts and local knowledge provided by the charter company.

Here are the BVI redlined areas I am going to cover (there are more, but these are the big ones).

  1. Channel between Little Camanoe and Beef Island near the airport

  2. Channel into North Sound between Virgin Gorda and Mosquito Island

  3. Eustatia Sound

  4. Anegada (other than the main anchorage)

  5. Brewers Bay

  6. White Bay

Off-limits passage between Little Camanoe and Beef Island
The redlined passage between Little Camanoe and Beef Island | Source: Navionics

Channel between Little Camanoe and Beef Island near the airport

Please, 100% make sure you know where this one is on charts. It has probably claimed more charter boats and VISAR responses than anywhere else in the BVIs.

Here are two examples.

Reports were that they ventured too far west trying to avoid traffic
Aftermath of this Lagoon 450 that struck the reef in 2021

Why is it redlined?

On charts, it looks somewhat innocent, but there is actually a large reef/rocks right in the middle of the channel.

It is marked by a buoy(s), but at times these can be missing. If you aren’t paying attention to your charts and are in the middle, you are very likely going to hit the reef.

If you are passing through this area, the correct passage is the channel between Little and Great Camanoe.

Off limits passage between Mosquito Island and Virgin Gorda
The redlined passage between Mosquito Island and Virgin Gorda | Source: Navionics

Channel into North Sound between Virgin Gorda

This one is tempting for shallow draft vessels, especially at high tide. Leverick Bay is right there on the other side! You’d be tied off to a mooring ball with a beverage in no time.

Patience. Spend the extra 15 minutes to motor (or sail) through the well marked channel on the north side of the sound.

Why is it redlined?

Easy – it’s shallow and unmarked. Some charter vessels also don’t have the draft to get through this one.

You may even see yachts use this channel. Don’t be tempted unless you have local knowledge, shallow draft, and are not violating your charter company’s off-limits areas.

Eustatia Sound Anchorage in BVI
Overview of the Eustatia Sound area | Source: Eustatia Island

Eustatia Sound

This one is somewhat of a head scratcher for me since I really like this anchorage. I’ve even stayed on the hook overnight (no it was not redlined at the time).

There’s a lot to like about this area – white sandy beaches at Prickly Pear, snorkeling at the reef, good holding, and solitude. I write more about what to do here in my post about BVI anchorages.

If not off-limits, give it a shot in settled conditions. You can also dinghy over here easily from North Sound mooring balls.

Eustatia Sound Anchorage
Our catamaran lying at anchor on a trip to the BVIs several years ago

Why is it a BVI redlined area?

I think there are 2 explanations:

  1. It’s exposed to northerly swells, which can catch ill-advised skippers off guard if one shows up in the middle of the night. Read more about northerly swells and other marine conditions to be aware of in my post on BVI weather

  2. The approach from inside North Sound past Saba Rock requires careful navigation (there is an easier approach from the north)

Sunset at Setting Point in Anegada
Squally sunset shot looking west on a recent trip

Anegada (other than the main anchorage)

Most, if not all charter companies, now allow charter boats to sail to Anegada. You should not miss out! It was my favorite British Virgin Islands destination – north shore beach exploring, great snorkeling, and fresh spiny lobster are reasons we go.

The channel is (usually) well marked, and the approach straightforward. Although, you do want to take extra care in your navigation.

If you go, most companies ask you to limit your visit to the main anchorage.

Looking for coral heads on the way to Anegada
Bow watch set as we approach the shallows around Anegada

Why are other areas of Anegada redlined?

Uncharted reefs and shallow areas that require local knowledge – that simple. This includes Pomato Point which is an anchorage next door to Setting Point.

Brewers Bay chart
You'll have an undersea cable and reefs to negotiate if you go to Brewers Bay | Source: Navionics

Brewers Bay

Some companies may allow you to go to Brewers Bay for a day stop, but I believe it’s off limits for overnighting by all.

Brewers Bay is located next door to Cane Garden Bay on Tortola and remains one of those somewhat undiscovered bays (since it’s mostly off-limits!).

If it’s not off-limits and you visit, enjoy the view, solitude, and spectacular snorkeling.

Brewers Bay in the British Virgin Islands, a top BVI beach
The beach at Brewers Bay is quite appealing!

Why is it a BVI redlined area?

  1. It’s exposed to northerly ground swells in the winter months (see my weather link above)

  2. There are lots of reefs, including one right in the middle that juts out from shore

  3. There is an underwater cable that you need to make sure not to foul

Looking at it on charts it just appears, well, crowded with obstructions.

white bay east side jost van dyke

White Bay: a rather notorious BVI redlined area

Ah, White Bay. One of the pearls of the British Virgin Islands. A perfect, white sandy bay lined with beach bars and palm trees.

It also plays host to a lot of boating incidents! I talk all about it here and why I may not anchor here overnight anymore. I also give suggestions on where else you can go in the area to still enjoy White Bay.

A 50 foot Moorings cat that barreled straight over the reef and grounded hard

Why is it redlined?

  1. It’s a tight anchorage and it gets very crowded in peak season, especially on the west side. Some charter companies have learned the hard way.

  2. If there are thunderstorms forecasted, it’s best to avoid. Boats have been thrown up on the beach or the reef when an unsuspecting squall rolls through. By the time one is upon you, it’s unlikely you’ll have time to get the boat in gear and take action.

Thanks for reading my post about BVI redlined areas and making it all the way to the end! If you enjoyed it, please subscribe or check out some of my other articles, like this one about a catamaran that was set adrift from it’s Cooper Island mooring.

Sailing to Anegada: How to Navigate to and Visit the Sunken Island

Anchorage in Anegada at Setting Point

Anegada is my favorite destination during a British Virgin Islands yacht charter. Secluded north shore beaches, fresh spiny lobster dinners on the beach, and the best snorkeling in the Caribbean are top reasons to go.

However, many charterers avoid sailing to Anegada – it can seem intimidating, especially if you are a novice bareboat charter skipper. Shallow water, reefs, and careful navigation require extra care.

We visited Anegada 10 years ago on our first ever bareboat charter, and so can you.

Once dubbed the forbidden island since it was off limits to charter boats, it now has a well-marked channel thanks to the charting efforts of Walker Magnum.

I love the Anegada vibe, but be careful – it’s addicting. Part of the appeal is that it’s not an accessible destination. There are a several boutique hotels, but other than the couple hundred residents, the only visitors come by sea.

That leaves you an enormous tropical paradise to explore and discover in relative solitude – that’s my kind of place!

Here’s how work Anegada into your BVI sailing trip and what to expect:

dancing in Anegada
Visiting Anegada will make you want to dance like this!
Anegada overview map

One of the reasons the BVI is such a great destination for beginners is that navigation is generally easy – mountainous islands allow for line of sight travel and depths drop off quickly from shore.

That’s not the case for Anegada.

Unlike the other volcanic islands of the British Virgin Islands, Anegada was formed from coral and limestone. It’s quite flat you and you won’t see the tops of the whispering pines until you are couple miles out.

Turquoise clouds on the way to Anegada
You can often see the reflection of the shallow turquoise water in the clouds on your way to Anegada

I like leaving from North Sound in Virgin Gorda for two reasons. First: it’s the shortest jumping off point, allowing you to make the most of your first day in Anegada.

The second is that with the prevailing tradewinds from NE – SE (depending on the time of year), it allows for a better point of sail. You should be on anywhere from a beam reach to a broad reach. You can read up more about BVI weather and marine conditions here.

If winds are over 20+ knots, you may want to re-arrange your itinerary and wait for a better weather window. It could make for an uncomfortable passage.

The Cruising Guide recommends a course of 008 degrees magnetic from North Sound. In general, you want to land west of the channel entrance to give yourself room to drop sails and avoid some dangerous coral.

The Two Sisters coral formation near Anegada
Two Sisters coral formation | Source: Navionics | Not to be used for navigation

There is a coral formation named the Two Sisters that has claimed several charter boats over the years from ill-advised skippers that tried to cut the turn too closely. Give it a wide berth, stay in the marked channel, and you will be fine.

Due to leeway and a ~1 knot current, expect to be set farther to the west of your course. You might have to make some adjustments.

You might see several other boats approaching Anegada – use caution about following them. Some might disregard channel markers or use local knowledge to take a short-cut.

Keep following the channel markers to the anchorage and mooring field on the left.

Looking for coral heads on the way to Anegada
Make sure you post a bow watch (or two) to look for coral heads on your approach to Anegada

Once inside the anchorage at Setting Point, go slowly. It can feel tight, especially if it’s crowded. Watch your charts, but there is room at the back of the mooring field to turn around and approach the ball of your choice. Winds are usually from the east, so a U-turn is often necessary.

Depths can sometimes get shallow towards the back of the anchorage. Use caution, especially if you are in a monohull.

There are plenty of first come first serve mooring balls and ~10 Boaty Ball reserved moorings. You can familiarize yourself with their reservation program here. If you’d prefer to anchor, there’s plenty of room.

Anegada Setting Point anchorage and mooring field
The mooring field at Setting Point Anegada

What to do in Anegada

I think Anegada is best enjoyed over 2 days. However, if you only have time for one night during a week-long trip, it is 100% still worth going. You can either skip the reef tour, or have a single action-packed day: morning tour and north shore beach exploring in the afternoon.

Here’s how I would plan out my two days.

Double rainbow over Anegada in the British Virgin Islands
Double rainbow in Anegada

First day: sailing to Anegada and beach exploring

Get an early start from North Sound. If you leave by 8:00 and have some decent wind, you’ll be tied off to a mooring ball by 10/10:30. If it’s your first time, you can even watch/follow other sailboats as they head through the channel.

The first thing you need to do is make dinner reservations – browse through the menu and have your crew’s order ready to go. You can reach them on the VHF or do it in person.

You really can’t go wrong with any of restaurants – Potter’s, Lobster Trap, Wonky Dog, Anegada Reef Hotel, etc. Lobster, of course is the specialty, but most also offer fresh caught fish. They’ll cook it all up for you right there on the beach.

Pack a bag for a full day – water, towels, sunscreen, snorkel gear etc. You can tie off your dinghy at Potter’s dock.

The dock and beach bar at Potter's by the Sea | We usually tie our dinghy off here

If you like donuts, go find Kenny – he has a cafe at Setting Point and does them up right.

Rather than coordinate taxi pick up and drop-offs all day, get a rental vehicle. There are plenty of options, and we’ve never coordinated in advance. If you’re visiting in the busier season, this might be a good idea, however. You can also call them on your way to the anchorage. Cell phone service exists along the route.

Don’t rent the scooters unless you want to risk ending your vacation early. Many tourists have gotten in accidents – inexperienced drivers, sand/gravel on the roads, and rum don’t mix well.

If you have 8 people, rent 2 mokes (4 passengers each). You’ll have a blast exploring the north shore beaches in these open air vehicles. Check out Amazing Rentals for the mokes.

Dean Wheatley and Lauren Creque offer jeep rentals.

We’ve also previously rented a pickup truck with bench seating in the back that works just as well.

Mokes parked at Cow Wreck Beach
Mokes parked at Cow Wreck Beach - they are a fun way to explore the island

North shore beaches of Anegada

The speed limit is 30mph – driving around Anegada is a lot of fun! You don’t need a map. Head east and start exploring. Getting lost is part of the fun.

I would start with Flash of Beauty which lays claim to the best snorkeling spot. On your way, you can stop at the Flamingo pond overlook for a peak at the pink birds if they aren’t out feeding.

Flamingo Pond overlook Anegada
Flamingo Pond overlook
Anegada flamingos
Anegada flamingos | Source: the Moorings

After a morning snorkel grab a bite at Flash of Beauty or next door at Big Bamboo on Loblolly Bay. Monica at Flash of Beauty makes a mean roti and she can pour you an eye opener if that’s your thing.

In the afternoon, work your way back west along the north shore. You can drop by the Anegada Beach Club (try the lobster pizza or their famous BLLT), a popular glamping resort with a pool. If you want to visit another time, they run a free shuttle from the Lobster Trap.

Exploring the beaches in Anegada
Exploring the north shore of Anegada - go get lost!
Lagoon and beach at Cow Wreck
Lagoon style swimming is waiting for you at Cow Wreck Beach
TIPSY by Ann at Cow Wreck Beach - not a bad place for a sundowner: Source - TIPSY's

I would park myself for the afternoon at TIPSY’s for a rum drink or two, and some swimming. Cow Wreck Beach is more of a lagoon with shallow turquoise water and beautiful white sand. Rinse and repeat.

Get cleaned up back at the boat, put on your finest resort wear, grab a sundowner, and enjoy your lobster dinner on the beach – one of the highlights of a stop in Anegada.

Horseshoe Reef tour
Getting ready to snorkel offshore on the Horshoe Reef

Second day: explore Horseshoe Reef

A couple weeks before your trip, you’ll want to reserve a Horseshoe Reef tour with Kelly or Sherwin. I’ve used Kelly in the past, but I’ve heard Sherwin is great too.

They’ll pick you up right from your yacht sometime mid-morning. You’re going to be in the sun for awhile, so again, pack accordingly (I’ve heard some of the boats now have canopies). Long sleeve cover ups are a good idea.

It’s a fun ~30 minute speedboat ride out to the reef. He’ll set you up on a drift snorkel and you can also help him look for lobster. While it’s illegal for visitors to take lobster, Kelly and Sherwin are able to when they are in season. They can also hook you up with conch.

The reef is really beautiful, and we’ve even seen nurse sharks and eagle rays.

After the snorkel, you’ll stop by the famous conch mounds on your way back. Make sure to hop in the water and get your picture taken.

If you want more peace and quiet, consider moving your catamaran around the corner to Pomato Point. It’s well protected and Sid’s Restaurant gets rave reviews. You may also want to cook up the fresh lobster you picked up during your tour.

Anegada lobster
Lobster's from Kelly that we picked up during the tour
Fresh grilled Anegada spiny lobster
Fresh grilled Anegada spiny lobster on our charter catamaran - what more could you ask for?

Planning to go back to the north shore beaches? Grabbing the free shuttle to the Anegada Beach Club is a good idea too.

Another idea? Just beach bar hop the establishments at Setting Point.

Sunset at Setting Point in Anegada
Isolated squalls make for a beautiful sunset in the mooring field

Other Anegada Activities

Fishing

The North Drop is only about an hour’s sail to the north where you have excellent chances of catching mahi mahi, tuna, and wahoo. Check out my BVI fishing guide where I talk more about it.

If you are serious about fishing the drop, consider doing this on the morning you plan to leave. This route offers mostly downwind sailing where you can zig zag and troll over the drop for 25+ miles. It’s a long day on the water, so make sure your crew is up for it and weather conditions are settled.

You can also hit Kingfish Banks for some bottom dropping closer to Jost Van Dyke.

If you are into fly fishing, Anegada offers some of the best bonefishing there is. Arrange for a tour with one of the local operators several weeks in advance.

North drop fishing route
Possible fishing route hitting the North Drop and Kingfish Banks

Kite boarding

Tommy Gaunt offers kite boarding lessons and rentals on the north shore at the Anegada Beach Club. I’m not a kiteboarder, but I might give a lesson a shot the next time I visit.

Rock iguanas

If you are a nature lover, you might want to check out the Anegada Rock Iguana Headstart Facility. These iguanas are only found only on the island and are currently critically endangered. The Headstart Facility protects the young iguanas from their cat predators.

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