The Caribbean is indisputably America’s number one vacation spot, but it can be argued that it remains largely unexplored. While destinations like Cancun and Punta Cana are all awash with visitors, other lesser-known sunny spots are still flying under the radar of most travelers.
That is the case with the British Virgin Islands (BVI), an autonomous archipelago that is overseen by the United Kingdom and a direct neighbor of Puerto Rico to the East.
An up-and-coming destination, the BVI is trending among sunseekers right now.
Here are 4 reasons why you should give the Cancun-Punta Cana power duo a miss this year and be among the first to explore this British dependency:
It Feels More Exclusive
Whether you’re staying on the most populous and best-equipped island or any of the more remote paradise islets that surround it, you will be met with long stretches of virtually deserted white-sand beaches glistening against the turquoise waters and beautiful palm tree-lined promenades.
The British Virgin Islands host, on average, 83,000 tourists every year.
If you’re looking for some utter relaxation away from the hordes of holidaymakers flocking into Mexico’s gentrified mega-resorts, then the BVI will definitely feel a lot more exclusive.
According to 2019 estimates, the islands have a population of about 30,000 British subjects, and due to their relatively compact sizes – the main island, Tortola, is only 12 miles long – their capacity is reduced. In other words, expect fewer crowds.
One of a handful of five-star listings on Booking.com, the Sugar Mill Hotel has deluxe double rooms with sea views starting at US $399.
Still, within the US $400-US $500 price range, the Long Bay Beach Resort, 7 km from Road Town, the main settlement on Tortola, offers overnight stays from US $489, but if you’re on a tighter budget, you will find guesthouse stays as cheap as US $81 per night in the city center.
As a natural world destination, the British Virgin Islands boast unique biodiversity and a truly pristine nature you are unlikely to find anywhere else in the overtouristed subgroup.
Comprising more than 50 islands, the BVI is famous for having stunning beaches lined with coral reefs, scenic coastal drives, volcanic terrain, and unspoiled rainforests serving as natural parks dotted with tourist trails and wildlife observation areas.
It is somewhere you go for disconnecting from the craziness of the modern world, placing it at the front of the ‘digital detox’ travel trend.
If lying on the warm sands all day as the Caribbean Sea caresses your feet under the bright tropical sun, notifications off, sounds like your idea of fun, these unheard-of islands are definitely where you should be headed.
As tourism isn’t as prominent in the BVI as in their Caribbean counterparts, and the islanders enjoy a high level of social development due to their status under the British flag, you are extremely unlikely to be disturbed by beach vendors or even face safety issues.
Your only job is to kick back, relax, and take in the oceanic vibes.
The BVI may be primarily a resort destination, but it is also an incredibly underrated cultural site waiting to be discovered.
Originally inhabited by indigenous Americans hailing from the continent’s South, the islands were re-settled by Europeans following Christopher Columbus’ second excursion into the Americas in 1493, after which they were renamed ‘British Virgin Islands’.
Throughout the centuries, the archipelago would fall under the control of several different empires, being administered by the English, Dutch, French, the Danish, and even the Spanish, who fought their Anglo-Saxon rivals in an attempt to assert their Empire’s borders in the New World.
Ultimately, the territory would return to British control when it became an important trading hub associated with the sugar cane trade.
During this period, a large number of enslaved Africans would be forcibly brought to the BVI to work in the fields.
Today, the archipelago’s multi-ethnic populace is reflective of centuries upon centuries of racial diversity and intermarriage, though Afro-Caribbean descendants continue to form a majority. Nonetheless, all islands are British citizens.
For those interested in the complex History of the BVI, especially tourists who would like to add in some culture to their sunny break, there are four major museums in Tortola where they can learn more:
- H.M. Prison Museum, the oldest building on the island, was established as early as 1794
- The Old Government House, the official residence of the archipelago’s Governor, originally built in 1899
- The 1780 Lower Estate Sugar Works, a plantation formerly linked to slavery
- The Folk Museum, chronicling the History of the islands’ native inhabitants, the Arawak and Carib peoples
Finally, if you’re thinking the BVI are not worth the hassle as they are more remote than other resorts a stone’s throw away from home, you might want to reconsider upon learning that the first-ever nonstop flight between the mainland U.S. and the territory has launched recently.
Offered by American Airlines, the inaugural three-hour journey took place on June 1, linking Miami to the BVI’s main international airport on Beef Island.
Although it is not the capital or most populous island, it is connected to Tortola via the landmark Queen Elizabeth Bridge, spanning the bright-blue sea.
The daily flight will remain operational through August 14, pausing in the fall before restarting service in November.
Overall, the BVI administration estimated that more than 2,100 monthly visitors would be transported to the archipelago during active months.
The flights depart Miami at 10:07 a.m. arriving at Beef Island at 1:06 p.m. Returning to America, guests will take off at 1:47 p.m., touching down in Miami at 4:25 p.m.
Additional flights have also been added on certain June dates due to strong demand.
As stated by BVI Premier Natalio Wheatley, ‘this is the first time in history that a flight has completely sold out in such a short amount of time‘, and the administration is grateful to American Airlines for partnering with them in fulfilling this long-awaited service. ‘bringing ease and accessibility’ to the ‘treasured’ destination.
Round-trip flights from Miami start from US $998 and US $503 from San Juan in Puerto Rico.
Low-cost options are non-existent, as both seat availability and capacity are lower, but this is a more exclusive destination where you’ll be able to truly enjoy the natural wonders of the Caribbean without battling for a spot in the sun amid the raging crowds.
For some, that might be worth the extra hundred bucks.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com