Sip a cocktail next to royalty, or maroon yourself on a remote atoll: these are the best hotels on the British Virgin Islands for all budgets and tastes.
Known as a paradise playground for the world’s ultra-rich, and with more than 50 islands, islets and cays, the British Virgin Islands (or BVI to the initiated) may be famous for world-class water sports and exclusive private islands, but there’s adventure, and backpacker-friendly beach stays to suit every budget too.
Keen to up the ante on your next private-island stay? Cruise over to Saba Rock, an iconic stay in the North Sound of Virgin Gorda, not far from Richard Branson’s Necker Island. Suited to sailors and celebrants of the sea, this castaway caye now houses a bar and restaurant, a dive shop and a small shoal of tropical-tinged rooms and suites thanks to a recent renovation following Hurricane Irma. But don’t let those pristine looks fool you: the resort’s history actually goes way back, more than half a century, to the time when diving legend Bert Kilbride called this private patch home and later opened up the Pirate’s Pub to welcome many a gilded guest.
Why get up to go to the bar for a cocktail when you have a personal butler and a service button under your beach umbrella? Zen is the word for this stylish retro retreat located on the BVI’s third-largest and second-most populous island. Built in 1964 by conservationist Laurance Rockefeller, the 80 rooms, suites, beach houses and hillside villa that line the half-mile, luminous-white beach, are purposefully concealed by the surrounding jungle canopy. Each has stone feature walls, mid-century modern touches and an outdoor shower. Alongside fresh seafood, an on-site sustainable farm means all fruit and veg used is grown on the hotel grounds.
With a slick marina, the private Scrub Island attracts the yachting sort. Read: shiny boats and sun-tousled hair. They come to make the most of the on-land facilities including a renowned spa, two restaurants and beach bar. If you’re keen to join them, an on-site dive school and sailing school will help you acquire or sharpen your skills. But if relaxing with a rum punch is more your thing, private yacht charters are also available. Join the weekly beach party with live music under the stars to mingle with the jet set.
Attuned to those who want to take life slowly, the Anegada Reef Hotel has been owned by the same family since the 1970s. The low-lying and sparsely populated island of Anegada was until recent years a remote and hard-to-get-to draw for divers. The only town, evocatively named The Settlement, has just 200 residents. Nowadays, the island and its 29-km (18-mi-) long barrier reef – one of the largest in the Caribbean – is an easy distance from Tortola via a regular ferry service. You’ll find the rooms at the Reef Hotel close to the beach bars of Settling Point. Write your name at the hotel’s honesty bar by the beach, and settle up when you’re done.
Surf’s up at Sebastian’s. When the waves hit right in Little Apple Bay, novices can take to the channel and pick off the mellow inside waves, while those with honed skills can head to the middle of the reef where the big ones break. It’s a fact that exercise makes you hungry, so it’s just as well the award-winning Sebastian’s Seaside Grille, one of the island’s best-known dining spots, is right on-site. Homely cliffside rooms will get you close to the breakers, even as you sleep.
‘A sunny place for shady people’ is the infamous Soggy Dollar Bar’s motto. Located just across the bay from the White Bay Villas, the bar lays claim to being the birthplace of the Painkiller cocktail. So, shame on you if you skip a sip of this potent rum, coconut, pineapple and orange juice libation. Sundowners at the White Bay Villas are a must though, with every room guaranteed a sunset view. Fully equipped kitchens mean you can make the most of local produce; blend those local fruits to make your own morning smoothie. Alternatively, book a private chef and relax. A private water taxi is also available exclusively to guests.
Mango Bay has its own natural wonder: this peaceful resort is just 15 minutes from one of the BVI’s biggest natural attractions, the towering granite boulders and sheltered sea pools of the Baths on Virgin Gouda’s north shore. But a protective reef near this resort means that its bay has calm waters ideal for snorkelling, kayaking and swimming, and is inaccessible by larger boats. Borrow equipment free of charge. Ideal for groups, the six villas, including two on the beachfront, can be rented whole, or divided into individual rooms.
Catch the characters and conversation at the bar at Cow Wreck Beach – a hotspot for day trippers, and occasionally, Richard Branson. The relaxed vibe and beach location will soothe you to sleep. Aside from a rightly adored beach bar, lapping waves and the brightly coloured beach chairs, there’s little to spoil the marooned-on-a-tropical-island fantasy here. Wake and drift to the sound of the ocean at one of the guest house cottages (known as Ann’s Guest Houses). Each has their own BBQ grill and patio, with rocking chairs and beach view.
Sketch your fantasy tropical island on a piece of paper, and you’ll likely have a rudimentary but authentic depiction of Guana – especially if your dream is to have it to yourself. This private island resort covers 3.3sqkm (1.3sqm) of mountain and jungle, with no less than seven white-sand beaches. But you’ll only ever share it with a maximum of 35 guests. There’s no public bar, marina or day trippers either. Instead enjoy farm-to-table food, a waterfront spa or the 19km (12mi) of hiking trails, passing through coconut and mango trees on the way to sunset views. You may even spot the island’s flamingo flock.
Big resort facilities meet private island life on the family-owned Peter Island. At almost 8sqkm (3sqm) you can still get deliberately and enjoyably lost. Rooms range from oceanfront doubles and suites, to large villa-estates up in the mountains. The largest, Falcon’s Nest, sleeps 12 across three villas, and alongside an infinity pool, three-storey waterfall and grotto, you’ll also have your own butler, chef and housekeeper. Sail, snorkel, scuba, hike, bike, take free yoga classes or play basketball or tennis day or night.
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