Sailing in the British Virgin Islands

Deep blue skies, calm weather and crystal-clear waters mean that sailing and the British Virgin Islands are a match born in heaven.

Part of a large archipelago of many islands, the majority of which are uninhabited, the British Virgin Islands offer so many different places to explore. Bird sanctuaries and wild, unspoilt landscapes await, with secluded bays and beaches perfect for uninterrupted snorkelling.

There are also trips to other populated islands too, so you can enjoy the best of what's on offer and of course, there's the ocean itself, full of stunning fish and marine life, and dropping anchor is the perfect place for a lunchtime picnic.

A long history

The British Virgin Islands have a strong maritime history; from the arrival of the famous explorer Christopher Columbus in the 15th century, and later on Sir Francis Drake, as well as the feared pirate Blackbeard.

The Spanish used the islands as a convenient point to anchor their boats as well as go fishing and this reliance on the ocean continues unabated to this day.

Chasing Blackbeard's ghost in the British Virgin Islands

With so many tiny islets and rocky crops in the sea, with many islands lying in close proximity, some of the harbours can be quite small and tricky to navigate for large vessels. This has encouraged the sailing of smaller ships and boats to continue to thrive and the industry remains an important part of the BVI, even in the modern world.

Today it's possible to either take a boat between the islands yourself, or if you're not a sailor - and don't want to become one! - There's plenty that can either be hired or that are offering ready-made excursions.

Why it's so popular 

There's nothing quite like the feeling of being out on the ocean, with a gentle sea breeze cooling your skin, as the sun beats down from a deep blue sky.

In the British Virgin Islands, every day is just like this, with calm, turquoise waters gently lapping against the hull of your boat.

The sea here is so clear you can watch the rainbow-coloured fish darting around your boat as you sail across the bay, and further out, you could even have the chance to swim with some of the gentle sea turtles that are so indigenous to the area.

There are some spectacular sights to see when sailing in the British Virgin Islands

There's line of sight navigation too, so no complicated reliance on compass readings to move from one island to the next. Each of the places in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) offers a different slice of paradise, with sophisticated beach bars on idyllic palm-fringed sands and tiny, secluded bays where there's not a soul to be seen.

And that's the beauty of the British Virgin Islands; you're only ever a short boat ride away from either being lost in an enchanting tropical island, far from the hustle and bustle, or an upmarket resort, with exquisite restaurants, pools and spa facilities.

Hire your own yacht

If you're able to navigate the waters yourself and have always dreamed of the chance to take the helm in a luxury yacht, now's the perfect chance.

There are plenty of opportunities to hire private vessels in the BVI so you can spend the time out on the sea visiting the places that most appeal to you.

Typical yacht packages include everything you need to enjoy a sailing trip, including equipment for snorkelling, so you can take to the waters as soon as you're ready.

There's a number of marinas around Tortola and Virgin Gorda where you can stop off to stock up on requirements, plus anchorage sites and moorings around many of the other islands.

If you've never been sailing before, there's also lessons and courses available from a number of schools on the islands so you can fly back home as an accomplished sailor!

Excursions and trips

If you don't want to spend too much time on the water, or prefer an experienced crew to do the sailing, there's organised excursions you could join to visit some of the other islands.

Snorkelling trips take you to waters which are more secluded and which have fascinating natural features, such as underwater caves and tunnels. In these spots you'll find an array of wonderful marine life hiding below the glass-smooth surface of the water.

Out on the water, catamaran trips to swim with giant sea turtles are another popular excursion, with the gentle creatures found in great numbers in the waters around the islands.

As well as going to visit more remote islands in the group, you could also enjoy a twilight trip to one of the populated islands such as Virgin Gorda or Tortola and enjoy an evening meal of freshly caught sea food, before sampling some of the local nightlife with the crew.

The ease of sailing in the BVI means there's no-one which can be reached by boat; staying on one island doesn't mean you have to spend your whole holiday there! The British Virgin Islands have so much to offer, with each place complementing the others, creating a whole new type of holiday experience.