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Why the British Virgin Islands Are Better Than Ever

Two years after Hurricane Irma, the BVI are making up for lost time. Here’s where to go now.

Why the British Virgin Islands Are Better Than Ever

Photo by @bvancleave

You’re kicked back on a white-sand beach next to a bonfire lit just for you, sipping an irresistible Painkiller, looking forward to a fresh seafood dinner, and feeling entirely at peace.

It’s a typical scene in the British Virgin Islands that you can make happen once again. Nearly two years after Hurricanes Irma & Maria hit the Caribbean, the BVI have rebounded with freshly renovated hotels, great restaurants, and cool experiences—from private chef dinners to fully transparent kayaks.

Here’s what’s new, what’s reopened, and where to go.

Photo by British Virgin Islands

Photo by British Virgin Islands

Stay in Style With the damage of Irma and Maria behind them, the BVI are sailing full-speed ahead with a wave of new hotels and freshly renovated properties. Escape to a private-island paradise on Guana Island, which reopened last summer, and enjoy a largely all-inclusive stay nestled between the beach and an organic orchard. Or settle in to world-renowned reggae musician Quito Rymer’s 21-room boutique hotel called Quito’s Gazebo & Inn on Tortola, where each room is inspired by a song. On Virgin Gorda, Rosewood Little Dix Bay, which closed for renovations prior to the storm, is set to reopen for March 2020. The legendary Bitter End Yacht Club also announced its comeback, with what it has dubbed as BEYC 2.0.

Photo by @cat_henson

Photo by @cat_henson

Savor Island Flavors In Little Harbour on Jost Van Dyke, Abe’s by the Sea is a great example of the BVI’s recovery. Sitting at an al fresco table today and watching the pelicans swoop down for their dinner, it’s hard to imagine this quaint, family-run restaurant had to close for several months after Irma and Maria blew through. Cherished for its generous servings of BBQ chicken, ribs, and lobster, Abe’s brims with the same welcoming spirit that you’ll find everywhere across the BVI.

The BVI dining scene is one of the Caribbean’s hottest, thanks to everyone from buzzy chefs who have cooked for the esteemed James Beard Foundation to seasoned home cooks. For a taste of what has put it on the radar of foodies, dine at the Ocean’s Seven 2, a recently opened restaurant on White Bay. This hot spot is also famous for the legendary Soggy Dollar Bar, where the destination’s signature cocktail, the Painkiller, was created. Then head to the Sugar Mill Hotel, set on the grounds of a former sugar mill, which offers a fantastic culinary program (as well as newly renovated rooms with a lower carbon footprint).

Explore Nature’s Secrets

Whether you’re island-hopping or staying in one spot, the BVI brim with exciting new ways to explore natural beauty and local culture. Paddle through reefs in specially designed fully transparent kayaks on Scrub Island with YOLO Adventures BVI, or take an after-dark tour in those same kayaks outfitted with LED lights to see aquatic nightlife. On Tortola, experience authentic flavors, sounds, and sights on the Long Look Heritage Tour, held at the site of the Nottingham Estate Manumission—purported to be the first free settlement for former slaves in the Western Hemisphere. You’ll see live performances from local fungi bands (a style of music named after a traditional cornmeal dish) and watch colorful moko jumbies (stilt walkers) dance in the street. Then shop for one-of-a-kind handmade pottery made in a wood-fired kiln at The Pottery Garden studio, located in Josiah’s Bay.

Also on Tortola, go for a stroll through miniature rainforests, lily ponds, and waterfalls at the reopened J.R. O’Neal Botanic Gardens in the heart of Road Town. And visit Cyril B. Romney Tortola Pier Park, renamed as a tribute to former Chief Minister Cyril Romney, who was a tourism visionary and local cruise industry pioneer. Have a meal at one of the pier-side eateries there and hop on an excursion to Jost Van Dyke. You can also take a ferry from Tortola to discover Anegada—a gorgeous island with just one road; an additional midday ferry on select days has made exploring here even easier.

Of course, you don’t want to skip the BVI’s beaches. Sit under the shade of newly-designed bohios, or thatch-roofed huts, on St. Thomas Bay Beach on Virgin Gorda, or relax by a bonfire built just for you by Bonfire Bliss BVI on Tortola. You can also go exploring with the local all-female-run tour operator Ultimate Vacation BVI; they offer go-fast charters, cookouts, picnics, and camping trips to secluded islands.

Whatever you choose to do, you’ll find that with so much fresh energy and excitement, the British Virgin Islands are better than ever.

Explore more great places and book your trip to the British Virgin Islands now!

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