Aquamarine, turquoise, sapphire, cerulean: Any and every shade of blue can be found in the BVI. The 50-plus islands and cays here are lapped by the Caribbean Sea, an ever-undulating artist’s canvas that’s delightfully stuck in a blue phase. The chain’s four main islands of Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Jost Van Dyke, and Anegada are surrounded by dozens of smaller islets and cays, while the protected waters along the coral reefs offer different hues. When you’re sailing around the larger islands, the sea is a deep blue. But come closer to shore at spots like Norman Island and you’ll see the shallows cut through with turquoise and jade. And on Anegada, swimming takes on a different shade entirely, with delicate baby blues dominating the colorscape at popular swimming spots like Cow Wreck Beach and Loblolly Bay (seen here).
One of the most fascinating aspects of the BVI for beachgoers is the sheer array of sandy shores to explore. On Jost Van Dyke, the sand at White Bay skews more toward the white-gold end of the spectrum and gives way like piles of sugar beneath your bare feet. Hit the Soggy Dollar Bar to try the iconic Painkiller (a mix of rum, orange, and pineapple juices and cream of coconut, sprinkled with freshly grated nutmeg) in the place where it was invented. Just around the headland on the beach at Great Harbour, the sand skews slightly more golden, and the famed Foxy’s Tamarind Bar, another classic BVI watering hole, beckons. And for the most diamond bright, sugar-spun sands in the islands, make your way to Anegada, the northern and easternmost island in the BVI. Here, Cow Wreck Beach is a calm stretch with one mellow bar and a gentle slope of white sand leading to the water’s edge. On the far eastern end of Anegada, Loblolly Bay lures with an enticing crescent strand and a beach bar called Big Bamboo that serves up a mean piña colada, best enjoyed with a plate of conch fritters.
Green is for the beautiful British Virgin Islands themselves. And while Hurricanes Irma and Maria did a number on the tropical foliage blanketing the islands, it’s already growing back at places like Mount Sage National Park (seen here), the country’s oldest national park. As hillsides morph from brown to that signature soft shade of emerald once again, visitors can help the process by donating to the Seeds of Love project. Funds raised by the organization go toward the replanting of indigenous seedlings and saplings to protect the islands from wind and storm erosion. It’s not only the rain forests that are green here, however. Green ways to travel include reducing your carbon footprint by exploring the islands with sail power on a charter with a company like The Moorings or staying at Cooper Island Beach Club, a beloved eco-resort on Manchioneel Bay with ten eco-minded rooms, an onsite brewery, and a passionate commitment to sustainable tourism.
British Virgin Islands
Gray may not be the color of most tropical dreams. But in the BVI, the islands’ most famous landmark is the cool gray of granite. At The Baths National Park on the southwestern tip of Virgin Gorda, huge granite boulders that are the result of an ancient volcano line a sublime stretch of sand. You can follow a series of boardwalks and ropes along the beach and through the towering gray and black-flecked boulders. The towering stones lean against each other, forming secret spaces washed by the sea, including a favorite of Instagrammers, the Cathedral. Here, it’s nothing short of heavenly to pause to swim in a calm, shallow pool within a hallowed, natural space streaked with beams of sunlight from above.