June 18, 2024

Obama in the British Virgin Islands

Barack Obama kitesurfing off Moskito Island in the BVI.(Photo credit Jack Brockway)

When you’re the former president of the United States and have been living inside a security bubble for the past eight years, where do you go to celebrate your newfound freedom? Barack Obama chose the British Virgin Islands, where, as a guest of Richard Branson, he tried his hand at kitesurfing off Moskito Island. This small private island will soon be joining Necker Island as an exclusive island retreat of Virgin Limited Edition, but there are other, more affordable ways to enjoy the BVI.

Chartering a sailboat is one option. Large charter fleets are moored at marinas on the main island of Tortola and Virgin Gorda, and boat bunks are as plentiful as hotel beds in the BVI. You won’t find high-rise hotels or casinos in this unspoiled island paradise, where yachting and diving are popular pastimes

Another way to visit the BVI is on a cruise ship. A variety of cruise lines call at Road Town on the island of Tortola, these ranging from contemporary megaships to mid-sized premium ships to luxury yachts. Tortola receives far fewer ship calls than busy St. Thomas in the neighboring U.S. Virgin Islands, but Tortola is well serviced with taxi companies and car rental firms.

Cane Garden Bay is one of many beautiful beaches on Tortola.

Shore excursions offered by the cruise lines include sightseeing in an open-sided safari bus and island-hopping by catamaran. Sailing, snorkeling and dive excursions are all featured, including one to the wreck of the Rhone, a 19th-century mail ship lying in 80 feet of water off Salt Island. The Baths on Virgin Gorda, a unique beach of giant boulders, sea caves and shallow pools, can also be visited by boat from Tortola.

Christopher Columbus named the Virgin Islands in 1493, but Sir Francis Drake set the tone a century later when he sailed along the channel now bearing his name, which runs through the middle of the BVI. Rich in pirate lore, the BVI were a hideout for the Dutch pirate Jost Van Dyke and for Blackbeard, who is said to have marooned a dozen or so of his men with a bottle of rum on Dead Chest Island. Nearby Norman Island inspired Robert Louis Stevenson to write Treasure Island.

Pusser’s store and pub are popular stops in Road Town.

First colonized by the Dutch, then annexed by the British in 1672, the BVI are today an overseas territory of the United Kingdom. English is the official language and the legal currency is the U.S. dollar. Pusser’s Co. Store in Road Town is the place to buy its famous Royal Navy Rum and the adjoining Pusser’s Pub is where you can enjoy an English-style pub lunch. Road Town is a charming port of shuttered wooden houses and shops trimmed with fretwork, its narrow streets just a short stroll from the cruise port.

Avatar photo About Anne Vipond

Anne Vipond is the author of several guidebooks to cruising destinations around the world. She draws on an extensive sailing background to impart her enthusiasm for cruise travel. From her home port of Vancouver, she travels by cruise ship to a wide range of destinations to keep her books current and useful for her cruise readers. Her cruising articles have been published in magazines and newspapers throughout North America and over seas.