Spoiled in the Unspoiled Caribbean: the British Virgins
Celebrities love the British Virgin Islands – Princess Di sailed here, so did Jackie O. Sir Richard Branson bought his own island and built a home here. There is an abundance of holiday options in the "fabulous" category, not to mention the unspoiled beaches and clear water.
"When the owner of Virgin Atlantic and 200 other companies is not in residence, you can rent the entire island for $20,000 to $42,000 a day."
Though tourism is the principal industry, the BVI may be the least commercial, the least touristy and the most pristine of the island groups. There’s an absence of the honky-tonk atmosphere found in other islands, the presence instead of a quiet dignity, in the place and the people.
Tortola is the main island in this group of 60 (some uninhabited), but there are hotels, resorts and guesthouses on other islands that can be reached by ferry.
Heading the "fabulous" holiday category is Branson’s private paradise, Necker Island. When the owner of Virgin Atlantic and 200 other companies is not in residence, you can rent the entire island for $47,000 per night. For this price you can bring along 25 of your closest friends and you’ll all live like Sir Richard himself, with a staff of 42 in attendance. You’ll dine when you please on whatever you like and sleep in one of the gorgeous, Balinese-inspired rooms of the main house or the cottages. All amenities will be at your disposal: the outdoor Jacuzzi, tennis courts, windsurf boards, snorkeling equipment, a private gym, boats to take you to other islands and even a local calypso band. For personal pampering, the Bali Leha spa offers face and body treatments.
Perhaps one of the best buys in the BVI is Allamanda Estate, the former residence of the governor. Located on a breezy hilltop and surrounded by lush flower gardens, this stately, 7,000-square-foot, four-bedroom, four-bath estate can comfortably accommodate 10 people (Prince Andrew and his entourage stayed here). Priced at about $5,700 a week in high season (about $4,200 in spring) for 1-4 people, the estate has a beautiful private pool and a beach nearby, a gourmet kitchen, maid service twice a week and all the "mod cons" satellite television, VCR, DVD player, Jacuzzi in the master bath, air conditioning, laundry room, computer with Internet access and printer, fax, kitchenette and wet bar in the outdoor pavilion, gas grill, ping pong table, a large selection of books and games and – for families traveling with a small child – a crib and high chair.
For those who don’t want to lift a finger during their BVI holiday, Peter Island provides nonstop service, beginning with an airport pickup and a smooth ride to the resort on a private ferry. As the island is private, vacation rates here are all-inclusive. Room rates begin at $325 per night. Available services include Hobie Cats, Sunfish, Laser sailboats, windsurfing, snorkeling, mountain biking, evening tennis, swimming and a fitness center. Peter Island recently added a full-service spa.
Another all-inclusive and exclusive (fewer than 60 guests can stay at one time) resort is Biras Creek, located on 140 lush acres on Virgin Gorda. Room rates start at about $675 a day for Garden Suites, which can accommodate up to three people. Rates are based on double occupancy and include three meals and afternoon tea, complimentary transfers (minimum of four nights stay); they do not include beverages or tax and service charge. Biras Creek also has a full-service spa.
Little Dix Bay Spa and Resort is located on a crescent-shaped beach on Virgin Gorda. Opened in 1964, the resort experienced a multimillion-dollar renovation in 1996. It has 100 well-equipped guest rooms and suites, a fitness center, tennis courts, programs for children and teens and water sports equipment. The spa is set in an idyllic spot, on a hillside overlooking the resort’s bay. Prices for an ocean-view room start at $550 and rise to $725 in mid-November.
Fort Recovery Estate Villas, which was featured on the Discovery Travel Channel, has 17 beachfront villas with room rates of $210 per night. Package rates are also available.
The Arawak Indians (and before them, the Ciboney Indians) inhabited the area long before Columbus "discovered" the islands and named them Las Mil Virgines, after the 11,000 followers of St. Ursula. Though the islands are beautiful, they were given some quirky names: Mosquito, Dog, Cockroach, Dead Man’s Chest, Tortola (Land of the Turtle Dove) and Virgin Gorda (Fat Virgin). And though the coastlines are beautiful, they are also treacherous, proving to be the final resting place of many a ship, which is why pirates like Edward Teach (Blackbeard) and Captains Kirke and Bone liked to ply their trade here. Pirate legends abound: Blackbeard is said to have abandoned his mutinous crew on Dead Man’s Island with nothing more than one sword and a cask of rum. Locally known as Treasure Island because of legends of pirates and buried treasure, Norman Island is believed to have inspired the Robert Lewis Stevenson classic "Treasure Island.
Necker Island www.neckerisland.com
Allamanda Estate www.allamandaestate.com
Peter Island www.peterisland.com
Biras Creek www.biras.com
Little Dix Bay Spa and Resort www.littledixbay.com
Fort Recovery Estate Villas www.fortrecovery.com
For more information, visit www.bvitourism.com