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Destination I Do
Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Secret Virgin Islands

Words by Abby Clark
Photos courtesy of Courtney Cox

The Virgin Islands have character, with charming names like ‘Salt Island’ and ‘Ginger Island’ and a unique history (they were at one point inhabited by the Danish). The islands are a distinct region, but offer the same crystal clear waters, perfect beaches, coral caves and colorful sea life you’ll find elsewhere in the Caribbean.

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St. Thomas and St. Croix are the most popular of the Virgin Islands – their white sands, lively nightclubs and reputation for some of the nicest and most popular beaches in the Caribbean attract thousands of travelers annually.

But there are those who like things less busy, for whom ‘biggest and best’ aren’t important, who don’t mind sidestepping the quintessential ‘resort experience,’ where the sand is raked free of footprints every morning and Margaritaville is always playing off in the distance somewhere.

The smallest of the US Virgin Islands and the British Virgin Islands (BVIs) offer a more serene and natural vibe and are merely dotted with beaches and resorts, rather than shrouded in them.

Sailing tours visit the more remote Virgin Islands – of the 50+ islands in the region, more than 30 of them are completely uninhabited – and many of these untouched treasures are worth a visit, or at least close appreciation from the rail of a sailboat.

Let’s look at some of the quieter Virgin Islands:

St. John

The U.S. bought the Virgin Islands back in 1917, and in the shadow of the larger and more populated isles of St. Thomas and St. Croix, St. John has stayed lower profile, despite how beautiful it is. If you like things peaceful, it might be the best of the U.S. Islands to visit. There isn’t a single traffic light on the island.

St. John’s secluded beaches and trails and fantastic dining are second-to-none, and there’s plenty of beachfront accommodation available for lodging.

Anegada

Unlike other lush and green British Virgin Islands, Anegada’s sparse landscape has earned it the moniker "the Odd Virgin." Far-reaching coastal reefs make it difficult to access, but experienced boatmen can get you there – a trip to Anegada really provides that ‘castaway’ vibe.

The coral reefs make for outstanding snorkeling, particularly off the beach at Loblolly Bay on the northeast coast, and also provide sanctuary for the spiny lobsters that headline Anegada's famous feasts.

Beachfront lodging is available in several spots on the island.

You can fly directly to Anegada on a 45 minute flight from San Juan, Puerto Rico on Caribbean Wings Airline, or if you're already on the British Virgin Islands, take the hour-long ferry crossing from Tortola, the largest of the BVIs.

Marina Cay

Covered in flowers, this eight-acre island is surrounded by a soft white sand beach, tucked alongside an emerald green lagoon whose shallow waters are always lukewarm.

The reef and calm, shallow water are ideal for snorkelers and safe for kids, making Marina Cay a great family vacation spot, accessible via a ferry from Trellis Bay on Beef Island.

Jost Van Dyke

With only 200 inhabitants, Jost Van Dyke is known as “the friendly island” –evidently those 200 are a hospitable bunch, delighted to see visitors.

It’s a beautiful but small island, only 4 miles by 3 miles in size, but rises steeply, its rainforest-covered peak reaching 1000 feet. It is home to some of the nicest beaches, warmest hospitality and strongest cocktails in the Caribbean!

Jost Van Dyke has almost a village atmosphere with its community revolving around a pair of pubs famous through the Caribbean, ‘The Soggy Dollar’ and ‘Foxy’s’.

Foxy’s is probably best known for its famous ‘Old Year’s Night’ New Year’s Eve party, which spans two days, and is one of the most unique and memorable NYE parties in the world.

You can reach Jost Van Dyke by ferry from Tortola and once you arrive you can camp, lodge in a hotel or just visit for the day.

Norman Island

You can’t stay on Norman Island as it is uninhabited, but you can visit by ferry from Tortola or via boat charter from anywhere. Legend plays a large part in the identity of the island, with tales of pirates and treasure caves. Norman Island is, in fact, the setting of the epic “Treasure Island” by Robert Louis Stevenson.

Norman Island sits close to the international boundary line separating the British Virgin Islands from the U.S. Virgin Islands. With an area of 610 acres, the island is approximately 2 ½ miles long. Treasure Point, at the southern entrance to The Bight, comprises a rocky headland along which the famous caves can be found at the base of the cliffs allowing access to snorkelers.

About the Author: Abby Clark was hit by wanderlust as a teenager and loves to visit well-known as well as remote little corners around the world. She also writes blogs and guest blogs for Best Quote Travel Insurance---a company which offers Super Visa insurance for travel.

*Note: The photos above were taken in Virgin Gorda, an island in the British Virgin Islands.

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