Island Hops, Coral Gardens and Undersea Grottoes
The sapphire waters of the British Virgins are as intoxicating below the surface as above. If you dream of shallow reefs covered in a kaleidoscope of sea fans, this is your place. But that's also true if you want to swim into a pirate's sea cave, drift over one of the Caribbean's most storied shipwrecks, fin your way through a maze of giant boulders, or duck into an underwater archway guarded by a school of colorful tropical fish. And perhaps best of all, getting to these sites is every bit as memorable as what lies below, because you will be enjoying the Caribbean's favorite sailing destination.
- Best for: Everyone, beach and watersports enthusiasts
- Best season to visit: Year round
- Weather: Winter is a time of balmy 70-something degree weather that encourages sleeping with the windows open. Summer sees the occasional passing shower and mid-day highs approaching 90 degrees
Things to Do
- Spa and Wellness
British Virgin Islands Information
Snorkeling in the British Virgin Islands Overview
Though a number of small reefs can be reached with a swim from shore, most of the prime sites will require a boat ride. Some are just minutes from the dock, while a half-day tour will provide access to an even greater variety that includes coral reefs, volcanic formations, sea caves and shallow coves.
Snorkeling in the British Virgin Islands Tips
The best coral growth and greatest number of fish can often be found around areas of hard bottom that provide structure for corals. If snorkeling near a beach or in a bay, focus on the area where rock cliffs extend below the water or look for patches of brown that indicate coral growth.
Best Places to Snorkel in the British Virgin Islands
The jumbled stacks of giant boulders at The Baths form natural grottoes and hidden pools. Anegada's barrier reef holds hundreds of lost shipwrecks. A sea cave at Norman Island once held pirate treasure, and the swim-throughs and crevices of the Indians are covered in carpets of colorful soft corals. The wreck of the Rhone is visible from the surface. Great Dog Island offers amazing coral formations, some up to eight feet tall. At the Bitter End, Eustatia Reef and Cactus Point provide relaxing snorkeling close to a world-class resort.
What to Pack for Snorkeling in the British Virgin Islands
For longer boat trips, bring a hat and sun protection for the ride. A waterproof shirt will prevent sunburn while in the water. Bring a mesh carry bag for gear, and a waterproof case for phones, keys and other valuables.
British Virgin Islands
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Passport and/or Visa Requirements
Entry Requirements: All U.S. citizens are required to present a passport with one blank page for entry stamp. No visa is required.
Exit Requirements: Upon departure from the British Virgin Islands, there is a Government Departure Tax of approximately $20.00 US when departing by air.
No vaccinations are required for entry into the British Virgin Islands. It is recommended you check with your doctor and the Centers for Disease Control on recommended vaccinations for travel at cdc.org.
Culture and Customs
Don't expect clipped English accents when you land in the BVI. Though this island group remains a British Overseas Territory, its heritage includes Dutch, French, Spanish, Danish and African influences, along with a healthy dose of pirate lore. Blackbeard, Bluebeard and Sir Francis Drake plundered from island bases in the archipelago, and Norman Island inspired Robert Louis Stevenson's novel Treasure Island. Real-life pirate booty is claimed to still remain in hidden caves near the Bight. The same coves and harbors that once sheltered buccaneers are now filled with the Caribbean's largest collection of sailing yachts. Steady trade winds and easy line-of-sight passages between islands make the British Virgins an epicenter for bareboat sailing. It's not what it sounds like. Though uninhibited crews may actually shed clothing from time to time, bareboating actually refers to charter yachts that are sailed without the aid of professional captains and crew—the nautical equivalent of a rental car. With hundreds of these boats based in the BVI, there is a willing clientele for the numerous beach bars that line island shores. Iconic favorites include Bomba's Surfside Shack, Foxy's, The Soggy Dollar Bar and the schooner turned bar known as the Willie T.
Electricity, Phone and Internet Access
Electricity in the British Virgin Islands is 110/220 volts, 60 cycles, so U.S. appliances and electronics do not need an adapter. The area code/country code for the British Virgin Islands is 284. Check with your service provider for long distance/roaming information and costs. WiFi is available at most resorts and some restaurants and bars.
The water is safe to drink at most hotels, restaurants & bars. If you are staying in a villa, be sure to ask about the water supply. Bottled water is available in stores and restaurants.
Language & Currency
English is the official language. The local currency is the U.S. Dollar.
The British Virgin Islands are in the Atlantic Time Zone (AST) and they do not observe Daylight Savings Time. The BVIs are 4 hours behind Greenwich Mean Time (-4 GMT).
Location, Size and Population
The British Virgin Islands are made up of 4 larger islands and 50 smaller islands. They are a British overseas territory located in the Caribbean, East of Puerto Rico. They cover approximately 58 square miles. The capital of the BVI's is Road Town, located on Tortola. Tortola is the largest island approximately 12 miles long and 3 miles wide. The population of the British Virgin Islands is 30,659 (2016).