The Baths, British Virgin Islands

The Baths is unlike any other beach in the Caribbean. It features white sandy beaches framed by gigantic granite boulders.

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The British Virgin Islands are made up of a collection of smaller islands, each with its own unique topography and island vibe. Virgin Gorda, 1 of the largest islands, is a popular tourist spot with posh resorts, pristine beaches and great sailing. Virgin Gorda is probably most famous for the Baths, a unique national park on the island's southwest coast. The Baths is unlike any other beach in the Caribbean. It features white sandy beaches framed by gigantic granite boulders, some of these with diameters reaching 40 feet. Geologists believe that these odd formations are the result of volcanoes. However, there's no need to worry about exactly how Mother Nature created these awesome sculptures. Instead, bring along your water shoes, a snorkel and a waterproof camera and explore the series of caves and grottos created by these irregular boulders.

The Baths formations truly are majestic, but it seems every visitor to the island has the same destination in mind. For an escape from the crowds, Virgin Gorda's natural wonders continue on from the Baths. Visitors can follow winding paths and trails to Devil's Bay Beach. These shores are lined with coral sands that blend into startling blue water. Spring Bay is another great beach that is easily accessible from the Baths. This popular snorkeling spot is home to even more unique sea creatures.

Getting There
The nearest airport is Terrence B. Lettsome International Airport in Tortola, British Virgin Islands. However, visitors traveling from North America typically need to connect through Puerto Rico or the US Virgin Islands, as there are no direct flights. Once visitors arrive in Tortola, they can catch a boat to the neighboring Virgin Gorda. Many of the island's resorts have their own private transfers available from Tortola, either by boat or chartered helicopter.

Once there, visitors can take private, open-sided buses to travel the most popular roads on the island going from the Valley to the Baths. Many resorts provide transportation around the island as well. Visitors who prefer to take in the sights at their own pace may opt to rent a car; however, the road conditions can be dangerous at points and, as in Britain, driving is on the left side of the road.

It seems the weather is always perfect in the Virgin Islands, with daytime temperatures in the mid-80s and evening temperatures in the 70s throughout most of the year. The busiest time of year (and most expensive) is the high season, from mid-December through mid-April. Then, of course, there's the Caribbean hurricane season from June to November, but many travelers still plan trips during these months to take advantage of low rates.

A trio of upscale resorts dominate Virgin Gorda's hotel scene. Each resort is unique in its setting and atmosphere, but all offer incomparable service and luxury -- generally with a high price tag. Laurance Rockefeller developed the sophisticated Little Dix Bay in the 1960s, and the resort is still lauded for its elegant and rustic style today. The Bitter End Yacht Club is perfect for accomplished first mates or sailing prot��g��es who want to learn the ropes. Biras Creek is a private retreat on the northern side of the island. It's the most secluded of the resorts, accessible only by a quick private boat ride from the mainland, and the most intimate, with a full capacity at 60 guests. Less expensive accommodations are available around the island, including the vacation homes at Guavaberry Spring Bay and the condos at Olde Yard Village.

Classic Caribbean fare can be found around the island. Fish is usually the most requested menu item and can be prepared in dozens of ways. The most popular catches include red snapper, mahi mahi, wahoo, yellowtail and lobster. An island specialty is callaloo soup. It is made with leafy greens, okra and a selection of ingredients to the chef's liking, conch and crab being the most popular. A variety of bars and casual restaurants can be found at the Baths. The bar at Mad Dog serves up tropical drinks with a fabulous view, while Poor Man's Bar is a beachside bar offering drinks, sandwiches and snacks at the Baths. The Rock Caf�� and Top of the Baths offer great views and more formal indoor and outdoor dining with more extensive menus.

While You are Here
Spring Bay can be reached by the series of trails that stretch out from the Baths. Large boulders form more coves and hidden grottos along the beach. Bring along your snorkel and a pair of flippers and explore the calm, fish-filled waters.

Take in a different view of Virgin Gorda from the highest point on the island at Gorda Peak National Park, on the northern part of the island. The trek to the top of the mountain is about 30 minutes and offers a nice view of the chain of islands below.

To Fake That You've Been Here
o truly experience the wonder of the Baths, it's best to see the park in person. If there's no room in your calendar or budget for an island getaway, curl up (preferably in a hammock) with Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island for some inspiration.

Linking for a Better Vacation
For more information, visit the British Virgin Island Tourist Board.

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