It’s been a long road to recovery for the British Virgin Islands. Hurricane Irma and Maria – which tore through the islands with 185 mile per hour winds and 30-foot waves – left behind a wake of destruction.
That’s left many potential visitors wondering: Can I still book a yacht charter in the British Virgin Islands?
The short answer is yes! In fact, the yacht charter industry was one of the first to open for business, welcoming guests just months after the hurricanes. Now, a year later, the charter industry is rockin’ and rollin’, and numerous resorts, spas, bars, and restaurants welcoming guests for the winter charter season.
But things weren’t always so rosy. It’s taken a Herculean effort to restore the island’s numerous natural landmarks and visitor hotspots.
The hurricanes – the largest and most destructive to ever make landfall in the Caribbean – left a significant imprint on the islands. Nearly 70 percent of the islands’ homes, resorts and restaurants experienced significant damage. (The hurricane photos from the Soggy Dollar Bar in Jost Van Dyke show just how bad it was.)
Plus, many of the islands’ beaches, coral reefs, and nature trails were also affected, with major clean-up and restoration projects taking place to return them to pre-Irma splendor. Today, although clean-up and rebuild efforts continue, the British Virgin Islands are back and ready for visitors the world over. In short, if you dream of a winter BVI charter, this year is as good as any to visit the Caribbean’s favorite yachting destination.
Although a few resorts, golf courses, and natural landmarks remain closed, the vast majority of the British Virgin Islands’ must-see attractions – from the Baths in Virgin Gorda, to the Soggy Dollar Bar (where you can grab a painkiller) – are ready to welcome guests with open arms.
Marinas, Hotels and Restaurants Nearing Pre-Irma Capacity
You’re probably wondering: What’s open in the BVI? You wouldn’t want to travel down there just to learn your favorite beach bar or spa isn’t ready for business. But here’s the good news: A large percentage of the island’s destinations are open and ready for the upcoming charter season. In fact, many of the resorts, marinas and shoreside attractions have rebounded and even upgraded their facilities.
In a lot of ways though, the yacht charter industry was one of the first to welcome tourists. In fact, charter operators were welcoming guests just months after Irma.
Today, the charter industry is nearly back to its pre-Irma self, with numerous berths and yachts available for charter. Beyond that, though, you’ll notice a lot of the BVI’s favorite destinations are happily open. The cruise ships have returned, the snorkeling and dive shops are open, and visitors are once again flocking to the islands. Here’s a look at what’s open for the winter charter season:
Irma significantly damaged yachting infrastructure in the BVI. Prior to Irma there were more than 3,500 berths available. That had dropped to 1,500 by April of this year. Similarly, a large number of vessels were significantly damage.
Yet, today, the charter industry has rebounded in a big way. By this winter, BVI’s travel authorities expect about 3,000 berths to be available – with the rest coming online in early 2019. Popular stops like Soper’s Hole and Virgin Gorda are up and running, and the majority of the marinas have undergone extensive repairs and improvements. Sailors will see noticeable changes in the BVI’s top harbors, marinas and coves.
A visit to the Virgin Islands wouldn’t be complete without a painkiller or daiquiri. There’s nothing quite like relaxing on a beautiful beach with a fruity cocktail in your hand. Fortunately, many of the island’s legendary bars have rebuilt and reopened. Favorites like Ivan’s Stress Free, Hendo’s Hideout and the Soggy Dollar on Jost Van Dyke are all open. On Anegada, you’ll find the Cow Wreck and Lobster Trap serving up ice cold island cocktails, and Hog Heaven and Pusser’s are open as well. If you plan to go for the beach party, you won’t be disappointed.
Wondering how the trip there will be? Like most structures in the BVI, the region’s airports suffered extensive damage following Irma. Terrance B. Lettsome International in the BVI and the Cyril E. King Airport in nearby St. Thomas both faced short-term closures and interior and exterior damage. But today, both are fully operational. You’ll have no trouble getting down to the islands for your charter. Plan a flight into St. Thomas (Tortola is just a short ferry ride).
Resorts, Spas & Golf Clubs
Want to spend a day onshore, exploring the BVI’s best resorts and beach clubs? That’s no problem. Many of the top resorts have rebuilt and are welcoming guests. The Anegada Beach Club, for example, has been open for nearly a year, while the Cooper Island Beach Club and Oil Nut Bay’s villas and suites are welcoming guests. Many of the world-class golf clubs, restaurants, spas and retail spots are open as well.
Festivals & Regattas
Fancy a festival? Irma hasn’t stopped the BVI from being the festival capital of the Caribbean. Many of the BVI’s top festivals haven’t skipped a beat. In fact, this year, some of the festivals have been better than ever. The BVI Spring Regatta and Sailing Festival, the Spanish Town Fisherman’s Jamboree, and Wreck Week were big successes. Bottom line, if you’re planning to head to BVI for a festival or regatta, you don’t have to worry if it’ll be on this year.
BVI’s Nature Parks, Beaches and Reefs Looking Great
The Virgin Islands are as well known for their natural beauty, as they are the incredible sailing. Fortunately, many of the island’s natural wonders – from The Baths on Virgin Gorda, to the incredible beaches – weathered the storm, and following clean-up, almost all are open and as beautiful as ever. If you go, be sure to check out:
- Beaches: The BVIs are home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the Caribbean. The good news: Almost all of them have been restored, cleaned up and they look better than ever. A few favorites like Smugglers Cove Beach in Tortola and White Bay Beach in Jost Van Dyke are looking great. Many of the beach clubs are open as well. And here’s an added benefit: They’ll likely be less crowded in 2018 than previous years.
- Reefs & Dive Spots: The 30-foot waves brought by Irma directly hit the numerous barrier reefs and dive spots in the BVI. But for the most part, the barrier reefs and dive sites fared well, with only minimal damage. Already, though, snorkelers are being welcomed by the Caribbean’s abundant sea life. Eagle rays, turtles and even reef sharks are all common sights on snorkel and dive trips, report many of the islands’ dive shops and snorkeling outfitters. Plus, favorite dive spots like the Chimney, Big Grotto and POS are all open and offer great experiences for divers.
- Natural Landmarks: All throughout the 36 islands, you’ll find hidden natural treasures, from The Baths on Virgin Gorda, to Sage Mountain National Park on Tortola. Many of these sights experienced felled trees, cosmetic damage, and debris buildup, but some (like The Baths) were unscathed. Bottom line, if you want to hike, bike, search for sea shells, or soak in the warm waters, you won’t be disappointed.
Start Planning Your Winter 2018 Charter in the BVI
Hurricanes Irma and Maria were unlike any storms the islands have ever seen. But in the last year, the islands have responded in a big way, and the locals, the businesses, and the charter operators are ready to welcome guests this winter.
If you’re going, you won’t be disappointed. All of the great things about the Virgin Islands – from the casual island hopping, to the laid-back bars and sleepy beaches – are as great as ever. Planning a Caribbean charter this winter? Contact your broker with Worldwide Boat; we’re happy to help you plan an unforgettable getaway.