During this time of social distancing, mandatory stay-at-home orders and self isolation everyone is worried about their jobs, their loved ones and the future. I wanted to get this blog post up earlier but time slipped away. Now it seems I have a little more time, so here is a recap of our January 2020 trip to the BVI. Enjoy the photo gallery at the end and leave comments if you have been or want to go, one day, hopefully soon.
My husband and I are both in the medical field (human and veterinary medicine) and have high stress jobs that require us to find ways to decompress and reduce burnout. During the week we run or work out and my husband will surf if we happen to get a good swell. Being on the east coast the waves are not always consistently big and winter in South Carolina still requires a wetsuit. So Robbie started looking for easy flights and surf in the Caribbean. He found Tortola, a British Virgin Island, that has consistent surf breaks that only get better with a swell.
This is our third international trip with our daughter and we think we are doing okay with the planning and execution. Now that she is older than 2 years old we have to purchase a seat for her on the plane. The Cosco Scenera Next DLX convertible car seat is a great travel seat for toddlers. It is definitely safer for her but also keeps her from wanting to wander. We were fortunate enough to have earned enough credit card points to get three round trip flights to the US. Virgin island of St. Thomas. This saved us many airline miles by flying into the USVI instead of the BVI.
While our trip was focused on the BVI we definitely wanted to see some of the USVI while we were in the area. So we spent two nights in St. Thomas at a little condo near Red Hook, so that we could easily jump on a ferry to head to Tortola. We stayed in Point Pleasant and got in around dinner time we decided to walk around the bay along the beach to eat at Margaritaville we usually try to avoid touristy restaurants , but it was best bet for food that a tired cranky toddler would eat). The food was what you would expect, but they had a great reggae band that got us in vacation mode after a long travel day.
We headed back to our place and surprisingly made it safely on the tree roots and slick concrete in the rain. The next morning we wanted to check out Coral World Ocean Park, a marine park, and then to Coki beach. Along the way we had traveled the night before Robbie slipped and fell while holding our daughter. He landed on her foot, she was crying, shocked and wouldn’t put weight on her right leg. We had to get her checked out. Only wanting momma, I carried her all the way back up slippery stairs and into the condo. I was terrified I would slip with her again.
She calmed down and we got some Tylenol down and I went into Doctor mom mode, gently palpating her legs to feel for swelling and assessing range of motion. She definitely had a distal limb injury. We called a taxi and headed to a local orthopedist that came recommended by a local, no other referral needed. We get there and their X-ray technician was out that day. So we were sent to the ER, just the place we wanted to avoid. We waited nearly 5 hours just for a radiograph, meanwhile, the longer we waited the more our daughter would put weight on her leg. We questioned if it was worth waiting but we needed peace of mind. As soon as I saw the X-ray I knew she was good, no fracture just a really bad sprained ankle.
We finished out our day in St. Thomas looking for dinner and playing in the condo alternating Tylenol and Motrin for our daughters pain. I had to sleep on the pull out couch with our baby that night.
The next day we got up early had breakfast then and headed to the ferry terminal. The ferry from Red Hook to the West End BVI was only around 45 minute. Quickly made it through customs, paid our entry tax (which is $40 US dollars per person- thankfully our daughter wasn’t taxed) and met our rental car driver. No cellular service here without paying overages so we were winging until we got some WiFi. We made it to our apartment we booked through Airbnb and met the most friendly locals and expats upon our arrival.
The islands are still recovering from Hurricane Irma in 2017, but everyone is still incredibly welcoming and trusting. You arrive and feel like you are taken back in time. Doors were left unlocked or cars parked with windows down and sometimes the keys in the ignition;even hitchhiking was common place. “Anything you need, anytime, just come let us know, we will take care if you,” this what we heard from nearly everyone we met. They weren’t selling anything or wanting something in return, they just wanted you to enjoy their island with them.
We spent the next week exploring the island of Tortola in our rental car from Jerry’s Car Rental (highly recommend). Robbie rented his surfboard from BVI Island Surf and Sail. He was even able to catch some waves on the break just down from our apartment in Belmont Estates area. Although he spent the most time surfing Apple Bay. A beautiful A-frame with long rides and smooth barrels with this perfect swell. I didn’t attempt surfing this trip as I’m out of practice and we would have had to rented 2 boards. I was content to watch from the beach and play with Avi at the house for those sunrise sessions.
We made it to most of the attractions on the island of Tortola we had researched prior to coming as well as a nice day trip to Jost Van Dyke. The calmer waters of the protected bay of Smugglers Cove were great for Aviana to swim and play on the beach. We spent the most time here as it was just 5 minute drive down the road and an easy picnic spot as well. We drove into Road Town, checked out the touristy cruise ship stop and then had a nice lunch at Pussers Pub. We enjoyed some fish and chips then went looking for a brewery we had read about that we had hoped reopened after the hurricane. We were disappointed to learn they were reopening only it was in 2 weeks. So we made a stop at the market and restocked our drinking water and more food for breakfasts. The tap water is not recommended to drink and we had to keep water stocked regularly.
There are a couple of hikes on the island and most famously is Sage mountain. We tackled that hike the day after a few tropical showers moved through the evening before. It was a easy drive the entrance then a very muddy hike to the view point. The old lookout was pretty much blown away in hurricane Irma, so the muggy, muddy hike was a little unimpressive but fun nonetheless. At the entrance of the trailhead there is a little gift shop and bar, manned by Jim, a British navy veteran, who became a world traveler after his service then settled in Tortola 40 years ago. He made us some banana smoothies, a welcomed cool treat for all of us after our hot hike. Aviana enjoyed it most of all.
Cane Garden Bay was that afternoon’s stop. We ate lunch again at a Pussers pub this time at Myett’s Restaurant & Hotel, with a more island inspired menu. Then we played in the Bay’s calm waters and on the white sand beach. On the way home we stopped at quaint lookout bar (Stoutt’s Lookout Bar) for an afternoon drink and soaked in the amazing views.
Then next day we took a short ferry ride to Jost Van Dyke. We didn’t make to the Soggy Dollar, even at 10:30am, a little too rowdy for a toddler. We walked down to One Love Bar and Grill and found a nice little mangrove to play under with Avi while we enjoyed the views, a couple of Bushwackers and conversation with visitors and locals alike. The lunch was simple and affordable considering.
The food on the island was delicious and my personal favorite meal was chicken roti. Our daughter ate most everything we offered and could easily find healthy meal options even when she would be picky. The Airbnb we booked with had a home-cooked meal in our refrigerator the very first night. It was so much food and so good we ate it for three nights!! Since we had a fully equipped kitchen we made breakfast and lunch nearly everyday and dinner a couple of nights. We had dinner at D’Coal Pot BVI, Tropical Fusion Beach Bar and Grill, and Quito’s Gazebo; all very, very good meals!
We spent our last full day on the beach at Smuggler’s Cove and just relaxed. The next day was a travel day and we took at ferry from West End Tortola to Charlotte Amalie East then grabbed lunch at a local brick oven pizza joint near the airport. We got a taxi and headed to the airport 3 hours early as required when leaving from St. Thomas if your flight leaves after 5pm, as TSA security screening stops promptly at 5pm.
In summary, we LOVED our trip to Tortola, BVI. We definitely cannot wait to go back and explore more of the British Virgin Islands. If you have traveled to the Virgin Islands (US or British) what was your favorite trip or location while visiting? Please leave comments!