At these premier island properties, the reefs are right off the beach
The British Virgin Islands are ringed in colorful coral reefs. But getting to many of these snorkel-worthy sites will require a boat ride, which means showing up on time, and getting in and out of the water on a time table. Wouldn’t it be great if you could just wade in from shore, make a short swim to the reef, then stay as long as you like? At these select beachfront resorts, that’s exactly what can happen.
Bitter End Yacht Club
This landmark property is a favorite with both visiting yachtsmen and shore side guests, who enjoy sweeping views of Virgin Gorda’s North Sound from hillside cottages. The resort bustles with activities that include sailing regattas, dive excursions and fishing charters. The resort offers 15 weekly snorkel trips to area reefs and more distant sites such as the Baths and Anegada. Guests can use one of the resort’s Boston Whalers to create their own snorkel cruise, or simply walk down the beach to Wedding Point to discover a reef line where colorful tropical fish hide among the corals and rocks close to the shore. A swim into slightly deeper water provides a chance to see stingrays, turtles, and silver-sided tarpon. Keen-eyed snorkelers may even catch a glimpse of relics from the days of sail such as anchors and cannon balls, now encrusted within the corals of the reef.
Mango Bay Resort
On a quiet beach on the west coast of Virgin Gorda, the private villas of Mango Bay Resort overlook a large coral reef that begins less than 50 feet from shore, and stretches the entire length of Mahoe Bay. The waters are rich in fish life, but not accessible by boat, so resort guests have the reefs all to themselves. The property includes six villas, two located directly on the beach, and four more tucked into a tropical garden just inland. Interiors feature upscale Italian contemporary furnishings, with studio to five- bedroom floor plans that allow for flexible groups. Each unit includes kitchens, living and dining areas and expansive outdoor terraces with BBQ grills and outdoor showers.
Peter Island Resort & Spa
Each of the five beaches on this private 1800-acre island resort has its own personality, from the lively water sports scene at Deadman’s Beach to the intimate seclusion of Honeymoon Beach. To find the best snorkeling reefs, guests can check out complimentary equipment from the water sports center, follow a footpath over a low hill to White Bay and settle in to a beachfront tiki hut. The reef is just a short swim away, and the fish life is abundant. With more than 70 percent of the island left in its natural state, guests have miles of trails to bike and stroll, plus a variety of active pursuits that include beach volleyball, tennis and morning yoga. Accommodation choices include ocean view rooms, beachfront suites and private hillside villas. The spa offers 10 indoor treatment rooms, two outdoor pavilions and a couple’s suite, all with spectacular views of Big Reef Bay.
Marina Cay Hotel
Just off the eastern shore of Tortola, the green speck of land known as Marina Cay sits within a coral-rimmed lagoon. Snorkelers can wade in from most any point on the white sand beach that rings this eight-acre private island, and a few fin strokes will bring them to reefs swarming with a wealth of colorful fish life. The boutique resort offers just eight hillside rooms, decorated in a casual island style with wicker furniture, louvered windows and verandas that provide expansive views of the turquoise Caribbean Sea. The resort is owned by the Pusser’s Rum company, and is a favorite stopover for sailors, who come to shop in the Pusser’s Company Store and dine at the on-the-beach restaurant, which specializes in traditional West Indian-style and Caribbean dishes like conch chowder, spicy jerk chicken, and cod-and-potato fish cakes.
Cooper Island Beach Club
Sitting on the northwest shore of its namesake island, the Cooper Island Beach Club is a family owned eco resort that delivers a lifestyle of tropical barefoot luxury. Ten beachfront guest rooms sit nestled among palm trees and tropical flowers, with expansive views of Sir Francis Drake Channel and the islands beyond. Interiors blend whitewash timbers with the warm tones of recycled teak furniture and the elegance of gauze-shrouded canopy beds. With mask and snorkel in hand, guests can enter the water at the resort’s dingy dock and swim along the shoreline to a u-shaped reef that holds schools of blue tang, butterfly fish and snapper, along with passing eagle rays. Sea turtles are also a common sight, and the resort sponsors a turtle tagging and conservation program. After returning to shore, guests can freshen up and take in the sunset at the resort’s rum tasting room and on- site microbrewery. Order the signature Turtle IPA and a portion of the sale will go towards turtle conservation.