Weather and climate in the British Virgin Islands

The Caribbean is a dream holiday location for many people from all over the world, and the British Virgin Islands offer an idyllic setting.

With gentle crystal-clear waves lapping at white sandy beaches, azure-blue skies and lush tropical gardens, the British Virgin Islands are the perfect choice for a dream holiday.

Being a tropical location, there's warm weather all year round, but with wet and dry seasons, it's important to know the facts before you decide when to travel.

The geography

The British Virgin Islands - BVI - are made up of more than 50 islands and rocky outlets, but just 16 are inhabited, the largest one being Tortola.

Some of the islands are made from coral while the others are comprised of volcanic rock, so there's a wide diversity in the appearance and nature of each individual one.

The topography of each island varies, as you might expect, with some of the main islands which are inhabited offering flat terrain which is easy to navigate. The smaller islets often feature a more hilly terrain, with lush, dense vegetation which is almost jungle-like in appearance. 

The Volcanic rocks at "The Baths", Tortola, British Virgin Islands

The difference in the terrain can mean that different islands or even different parts of the same island, experience slightly different weather, with the parts which are higher up slightly cooler and also wetter. This is of course a relative description because the BVI are part of the tropics, and no matter where you are, the weather is largely sunny, dry and warm.

General weather

The BVI enjoy a tropical weather system which means that the climate is fairly constant all year round.

The temperature typically sits at an average high of 30ºC and rarely drops far below this. Even at night, despite the sun having gone down, it's usually still a very balmy 23ºC or higher, so unless you're quite sensitive, you won't need long sleeves.

The sea stays warm all year round, with the water temperature remaining in the mid to high 20's. To put it in context, this is a similar temperature to a bath so if you fancy a dip or a paddle, you won't be braving cold waters even in the middle of winter! 

The beautiful sea as seen at Necker Island, British Virgin Islands

There are different seasons in the BVI but the temperature stays fairly similar throughout, and the trade winds from the north east help to cool the blistering heat, taking the sting out of the sun's rays. These winds also mean that islands in the north of the archipelago tend to be slightly cooler than those in the south.

Wet and dry seasons

Similar to the rest of the Caribbean, the BVI have a wet and dry season, and depending on when you travel, you could encounter significantly different weather.

Although the temperature is similar all year round, there are other differences such as humidity and rainfall which could help to determine when you take your holiday.

Dry season

The most popular time to travel, the dry season is marginally cooler than the wet season, although in practice there's not much difference in temperature, just lower humidity.

Lasting from January to July, the dry season is the time when the majority of holidaymakers pick for their luxury break, because the weather is more stable and predictable than during the wet season.

As the name suggests, the dry season experiences far less rainfall, and brings blue skies and warm sunshine, without the uncomfortable humidity. Being a tropical location, there is still the chance of a shower, but these are typically short-lived with the sun making an immediate reappearance and drying up the rain.

Rainfall is fairly well spread out over the dry season, other than a slight increase in May. These tropical downpours can be heavy but mercifully brief and often feel refreshing rather than troublesome.

Wet season

Although there's more rain in the wet season, there's still plenty of hot and sunny weather so the BVI are a popular place for holidaymakers even during this time of year.

The wet season officially lasts between August to December and can feel dramatically hotter, and more uncomfortable, than the dry season. This isn't due to the temperature; in practice there's very little difference, but the markedly higher humidity.

And it's this humidity which can cause the sudden tropical rains which are far more common during the wet season.

These rains are also fairly brief, with hot and sunny weather returning immediately afterwards but the nature of them can be quite devastating for anyone who's not prepared. Tropical rains during the wet season can appear very suddenly and the amount of water falling to the ground can be shocking. Sheets of water can fall during a tropical storm and this volume can cause flooding and structural damage at its worst.

The storms in the British Virgin Islands can be quite spectacular

The BVI are also at risk of hurricanes, although in practice are rarely affected. Travel disruptions may occur however due to hurricanes which have hit other islands or land masses so if you're travelling in this more unpredictable season, it's important to keep an eye on the weather news.

If you plan in advance for occasional possible rain showers, and keep an eye on the news for the appearance of any hurricanes, there's no reason why you shouldn't enjoy a hot, sunny and gorgeous holiday in the BVI, even during the wet season