Three couples were fortunate enough to spend some time in the Virgin Islands this past spring. The Virgin Islands Heart and Soul is alive and well. They are truly open for business. Considering that there are 60 US Virgin Islands and 40 British Virgin Islands, the opportunities are simply endless, when pursuing your Atlantic or Caribbean dream sailing vacation.

After the hurricanes of 2017, we were truly re-considering whether we would take our trip at the end of February 2018. We were concerned about the devastation, safety, access and unsure of what might be open for business. Given that all of the major chains seemed to have been shuttered, and remained so – we were fortunate enough to find accommodation in St. Thomas at Olga’s Fancy.

Olga’s Fancy, a comfortable hotel in St. Thomas US Virgin Islands

To cut a long story of anticipation short, we were delighted upon arriving in St. Thomas to see that the heart and soul of the Virgin Islands were still warm and welcoming. Yes, there were obvious remnants of the damage and devastation. I will not play that down, given the obvious impact that it had on the people of the area. However, not one of them seemed reluctant to give details of their experience. In some ways, I’m sure that it helps to heal some of the sickening memories of damage and loss that they experienced. But their pride and passion for the islands and its hospitality and warmth live on.

After leaving Olga’s Fancy, and a long morning coffee with Candy and Eddie, we headed for a wonderful local tour with Romeo to start our day with banana daiquiri’s on the mountaintop overlooking Magen’s beach. For some in our party as “newcomers” to Saint Thomas most things seemed just wonderful. For those who were returning visitors, it was evident to them the amount of change in the landscape where trees and growth had been hacked away like it had been trimmed with a giant whipper snipper. However, new green growth and colourful blossoms were popping everywhere.

overlooking Magen’s Beach

Our Captain and crew (Matt and Casey) aboard the Island R&R based out of Compass Point Marina were quick to welcome us with open arms and hospitality.

We were on our catamaran for eight days. We met so many wonderful people along our journey. We found that so many of the local businesses had laboured for weeks and months on end to be open for business. It was obvious to us that it had been months of hard work and determination to get their businesses back up and running to meet visiting tourists from around the world. Although many of the large chain establishments remained closed as of early March, the locals with Virgin Islands Heart and Soul were bound and determined to return the area to its revered state of beauty, hospitality and seaside pleasures.

With excellent “cell service” in the area, our group had many friends checking in on us. Is that open? Is that still there? Did you see this? Did you go there? Wasnt that spot spectacular? Did you try this? We visited most of the delights that friends had suggested that we see in British and US Virgin Islands. The natural wonders of beaches, hiking paths, seaside coves and snorkelling were just spectacular. Where reconstruction was complete, the facilities were brand new and in perfect working order.

To help with your Virgin Islands trip planning, I thought I’d highlight some of the sites and places we visited, so that you can rest assured that they will be ready willing and able to welcome you on your upcoming visit to the Virgin Islands. The Virgin Islands heart and soul is alive and well and open for business.

Anegada – Cow Wreck Beach – Anne’s place

Highlights of our trip to the Virgin Islands March 2018

Meeting our crew for the week we stopped in at the Dive Bar at Compass point Marina. Great drinks and hospitality abound.

We dined at XO Bistro in Red Hook and had nightcaps at Duffy’s Love Shack – great live music.

First stop after leaving Compass Point Marina was Great St. James Island for afternoon snorkelling and the unique Pizza Pi “floating pizzeria”.

At Jost Van Dyke the “bubbly pool” was a wonderful natural phenom. Don’t go too close to the edge !

Customs “check in” for the UK on Jost Van Dyke – we never made it to Foxy’s but heard it is spectacular.

In White Bay we were delighted with the famous Soggy Dollar Bar and Coco Loco’s Beach Bar.

White Bay at Guana Island was just a most spectacular “walk on the beach”.

At Trellis Bay we were truly fortunate to be there for the Full Moon Party – plan your visit around the moon.

We had a quick stop at Leverick Bay at Virgin Gorda. A beautiful marina and resort.

We met a wonderful and inspiring guide whose name is Gumption. Be sure to check out Gumption’s very inspiring story and don’t miss booking him for his tours and depth of knowledge. You will not be disappointed. Check out his Facebook page for more details.

Necker Island tour was a once in a lifetime experience, thanks to Matt and Casey arranging this with Gumption. Tortoises, Lemurs, an array of floral beauty, Pink Flamingos, white sandy beaches and examples of the good that Richard Branson has done for this world.

Prickly Pear Island stop was a wonderful shallow water beach for just lollygagging in the sea. There did not appear to be much re-built in early March, but the beach remains beautiful. The BVI Traveller has a great ongoing update on what’s open or about to re-open.

Oh my gosh – Anegada – what an island paradise. We were treated to a wonderful beachside Lobsterfest and late night dancing at the Wonky Dog. The following day we toured up the shoreline to explore the Conch Mountains. In the afternoon we settled in at Cow Wreck Beach for a lazy afternoon of beach time, snorkelling and the delights of Anne’s restaurant. We had a quick peek at the Anegada Beach Club – looks like a lot of fun too.

Unfortunately, we missed “The Baths” because of large swells that day, but everyone still raving about this natural attraction.

We moored at Cooper Island for lunch “onboard”. News is that Cooper Island Beach Club has re-opened just recently.

Norman Island and Bight Bay made for a wonderful overnight and partial day visit. We hiked on Norman Island to experience some wonderful vistas. The Pirate’s Bight restaurant and bar were open with usual food and drink delights.

After leaving Bight Bay we had an amazing snorkelling experience at Indian Rocks. A must do, if you are visiting Norman Island.

We moored as a “lone catamaran” near Ram Head. We then ventured in via dinghy to take in part of the Ram Head Trail experience near Salt Pond.

The other delight in this area of St. John Island is the “Drunk Bay” where you will find creations from those who have visited prior to you, and an opportunity to create your own signature of your visit on this stretch of rocky beach and coral remnants.

On our final full day of sailing, we stopped at “Booby Rock” for some spectacular snorkelling once again.

There were rare occasions when we left the catamaran for food and drink, due to the wonderful hospitality of Matt and Casey, however, they highly recommended a visit to Cruz Bay on St. John. We had a local beer at the  St. John Brewers’ tap room. The true delight was up the Longboard Coastal Cantina in Cruz Bay where we enjoyed some refreshing cocktails and awesome appetizers.

Our final overnight mooring was along Honeymoon Beach in Caneel Bay at St. John Island.

With one final mooring and snorkel, we were treated to a spot just off Secret Harbour Beach resort in St. Thomas. A calm bay with wonderful snorkelling delights below. A fitting “last snorkel” for the group.

In Closing…

So there is just a quick snapshot of the wonderful heart and soul of the British and US Virgin Islands that we were able to enjoy in early 2018. I hope that I have demonstrated and assured readers that the Virgin Islands are truly open for business. Enjoy planning your vacation. Don’t hesitate to reach out if I can be of assistance in answering any of your questions. Enjoy the sun and sea!  @FergDevins @TravelFerg

Matt and Casey – crew aboard the Island R&R 46 foot motor sailing catamaran