Navigating The Virgin Islands Paradise
Exploring the Spanish Virgin Islands, British Virgin Islands, and United States Virgin Islands
Ah—the Virgin Islands…the Caribbean’s tropical haven. Discover the allure of the three Virgin Islands groups: the Spanish Virgin Islands, the British Virgin Islands, and the United States Virgin Islands.
The Virgin Islands, a cluster of islands scattered across the Caribbean Sea are made up of the Spanish Virgin Islands, British Virgin Islands (BVI), and United States Virgin Islands (USVI). These islands boast an unparalleled allure with their turquoise waters, white sandy beaches, and lush green landscapes. Each island group of islands has its own distinct character: the untouched nature of the SVI, the lively island hopping scene in the BVI, or the blend of culture and natural beauty in the USVI. Gentle trade winds, warm waters, vibrant marine life, short distances between islands, and a welcoming atmosphere for sailors make all these islands ideal yacht charter destinations.
The Spanish Virgin Islands
The Spanish Virgin Islands (SVI) nestled in the northeastern part of the Caribbean Sea are a group of unspoiled isles just east of Puerto Rico and west of the USVI/BVI. The main islands of the SVI include Culebrita, Vieques, and Culebra. These secluded gems offer an escape for travelers seeking tranquility, untouched beauty, and a genuine sense of adventure. Compared to their more popular neighbors (BVI and USVI), the SVI remains relatively off-the-beaten-path making it ideal for those who prefer chartering in a beautiful uncrowded destination.
In the SVI you can anchor in remote bays, hike to breathtaking viewpoints, and snorkel in uncrowded reefs. The SVI boasts some of the most pristine beaches in the Caribbean – for example, Playa Brave and Playa Caracas – even post Hurricane Maria. They are also an underwater paradise for snorkelers and divers. Hiking trails on Culebrita lead to the island’s lighthouse and tide pools and offer breathtaking views. In Vieques, you can explore the National Wildlife Refuge and its diverse ecosystems, including mangroves, lagoons, sandy beaches, and a myriad of bird species and wildlife. And not to be forgotten are the bioluminescent bays that light up like stars at night (Vieques’ Mosquito Bay being the brightest in the world).
While the SVI are easy to get to (fly into San Juan, Puerto Rico, and take a taxi Fajardo), the NauticEd Sailing Vacations charter agents note that there is currently just one charter operation there with 2 monohulls and a handful of catamarans. Nevertheless, the SVI are a must-do destination for a yacht charter.
The British Virgin Islands
Renowned as one of the world’s most beloved sailing destinations, the British Virgin Islands (BVI) are an archipelago comprising around 60 islands and islets in the northeastern Caribbean Sea. Famous for their sparkling turquoise waters, idyllic anchorages, and vibrant island-hopping scene, the BVIs have earned the title of “Sailing’s Crown Jewel.”
One of the biggest draws of the BVIs is the ease of island-hopping. Short sails and line-of-sight navigation make the BVI perfect for first-time charterers. The natural protection provided by the surrounding islands creates calm and sheltered waters. BVI has an abundance of anchorages that cater to sailors of all levels: Popular anchorages like The Bight on Norman Island, The Dogs, and North Sound on Virgin Gorda offer safe mooring options along with opportunities for snorkeling, swimming, watersports, and beach activities.
Another reason the BVI attracts sailors to return again and again is the island’s charm. Each island has its own personality — from the vibrant beach bars on Jost Van Dyke, to the picturesque shores of Virgin Gorda, to the coral Anegada island known for its sandy beaches and lobster, to the Treasure Island of Norman. Not to mention the iconic attractions only available by sea such as the Baths, the Indians, Willy T’s, and Soggy Dollar. Each island stop brings new adventures.
A charter in the BVI is an unforgettable journey. It’s where NauticEd Sailing Vacation agents send first-time charterers; it’s also the destination we recommend sailors go for an experiential learning yacht charter with an instructor. And we find it’s often where experienced charterers return time and time again, and for good reason.
The U.S. Virgin Islands
Situated to the southwest of the BVIs, the United States Virgin Islands (USVI) consist of three main islands—St. Thomas, St. John, and St. Croix—each offering its unique blend of natural beauty, historical richness, and vibrant Caribbean culture. The USVI is a captivating destination that combines picturesque landscapes, colorful traditions, and a deep-rooted sense of history, making it an easy to get to and a fantastic choice for a sailing yacht charter.
With a diverse cultural heritage (Native American, European, and American), the islands are home to a variety of historic landmarks and museums that offer a glimpse into the past (e.g.: Blackbeard’s Castle in St. Thomas and the ruins of Annaberg Sugar Plantation in St. John).
The natural beauty of the USVI is unparalleled, featuring lush hills, turquoise bays, and pristine beaches. The USVI provides plenty of opportunities for nature lovers to hike scenic trails, swim in refreshing waters, and spot diverse wildlife. On St. John, over 60% of the island is part of the Virgin Islands National Park; Trunk Bay is renowned for its underwater snorkeling trail, and Buck Island Reef National Monument, located near St. Croix, is an underwater paradise.
The USVI is also home to stunning beaches that cater to various preferences. Some of the best beaches in the USVI include Trunk Bay, Magens Bay, Honeymoon Beach, Maho Bay, and Secret Harbour Beach. Whether you prefer shallow waters, mesmerizing views, secluded romance, watersports, wildlife sightings, or just pure relaxation, you’ll be sure to find a beach in the USVI that suits your mood.
Nature, beauty, culture, and easy sailing make the USVI an appealing yacht charter destination. While many charterers often think they should charter a boat and sail to the BVI, the NauticEd Sailing Vacations agency team advises that the USVI makes for a wonderful stand-alone destination with plenty to do and see in the USVI itself (and some boats are not legally allowed to cross international waters). Of note, monohulls for charter are quite limited in the USVI.
Why Charter in the Virgin Islands?
There is no better way to explore the various Virgin Islands regions than by sea and by boat. A yacht charter allows you freedom and flexibility. Anchor in secluded covers, explore hidden beaches, join the fun at the beach bars, hike or swim, enjoy nature, or completely relax….the islands belong to you and the wind.
Which of the Virgin Islands should I choose?
People always ask us which island group should I choose? While there are pros and cons to each, we always tell them that all three Virgin Island regions must be explored in your lifetime, so just pick one (and plan to do the others in subsequent years). Note that for the SVI and the USVI, no passport is required for US Citizens.
Picking between the SVI, BVI, or USVI largely depends on personal preferences, interests, and the type of sailing experience you seek. Consider your desires—seclusion and serenity, vibrant island-hopping, or a blend of culture and natural beauty. The SVI are a serene escape. The BVI offers an ultimate island-hopping adventure. And the USVI offer a blend of culture and beautiful diverse landscapes with more white sandy beaches.
Ultimately—you can’t go wrong with picking any of the Virgin Islands. Sun….sea…adventure. A yacht charter in any of the Virgin Islands is a gateway to paradise.