Vieques is an island off the east coast of Puerto Rico, which as a U.S. Commonwealth; American citizens can visit without a passport. It is sometimes referred to as part of the Spanish Virgin Islands (Vieques and Culebra) and its nickname is Isla Nena (Little Girl Island). Beautiful sailing and diving are always at your fingertips.
The underwater world in the Virgin Islands is stunning and truly amazing! Explore corals and gorgonian forests of sea fans and sea whips. Dive around caves, explore sunken boat wrecks or take a night dive and explore the fantastic world of nocturnal marine life! Swim among turtles, bright parrotfish and blue tang in the clear waters of the Caribbean.
The south side of St Thomas features some excellent wreck diving. Miss Opportunity, W.I.T. Shoal, and W.I.T. Concrete are among the best dives in the area. The shallow reefs also hold many surprises. Spotted eagle ray armies swim about the reef, flamingo tongues decorate the soft corals, and eels, huge snappers, groupers, and lobsters abound! After exploring the dives of St Thomas, set sail for Cane Bay on St Croix and dive the dramatic walls, a few more wrecks, and the Frederiksted Pier, a world-class night dive. Take your time and find many exotic creatures such as seahorses, frogfish, and juvenile octopi.
BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS (BVI)
Known as a world sailing hotspot, the BVIs are located in the Northeast Caribbean, part of an archipelago of over 60 islands. Lush green landscapes, volcanic in nature (excluding the coral atoll Anegada), are home to four major islands – Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Anegada & Jost Van Dyke. This unique grouping of islands, most of which are uninhabited, is just 95 miles east of Puerto Rico and only a few miles east of their U.S. counterpart – the U.S. Virgin Islands.
ON VIRGIN GORDA
The Baths feature giant boulders that hide secret pools and labyrinths on the edge of the sea. Wildly beautiful, but only those who are very sure-footed should attempt a visit. The northeast side of this island has the famous Bitter End Yacht Club, reachable only by boat. Some tour groups from cruise ships visit Virgin Gorda on day trips.
The only flat, coral island in BVI. It has amazing reefs and wrecks that attract snorkelers and divers. Only issue: It can take all day to get there on a ferry from Tortola, so cruise ship passengers won’t have a chance to see it.
This is where big cruise ships dock. Whether you stay here a week or more, this island and its capital city, Road Town, have a friendly air. Most visitors end up at Cane Garden Bay Beach, a curvy slip of white sand with turquoise water. Road Town is a regular town, not a tourist town, and it does not have the pirate swash charm of Charlotte Amalie on St Thomas. But it’s fine for banking, shopping, and access to the Tortola Pier.
On Tortola, you can hike Sage Mountain, National Park. Off the beaten track for tourists, the hike will be through the cool shade of mahogany trees and over rough paths. It will be dirt paths, and there are some rocky uphill steps on the four-plus-mile hike. The payoff? The quiet peace of the tropical forest and amazing views. The park is on land donated by the Rockefellers, who also donated their land on the island of St. John to the U.S. Virgin Islands for its national park there.
At Sage Mountain’s visitors center, a short, warm, tropical rainstorm turned everything glistening green. Then came the topper: a double rainbow over the Caribbean Sea and the nearby BVI island Jost Van Dyke.
And on the way back? Some small buses stop at a high, hilly overlook. The tiny buildings of Road Town spread out below — red, yellow, green and white.
Flying here: Fly from your town to San Juan, Puerto Rico, then on to BVI. You also can fly to St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, and then take a ferry to Tortola.
Transport between islands in the BVI: Ferries operate between all major BVI islands. www.bestofbvi.com/info/map_bvi_ferries.htm.