The British Virgin Islands are one of the most idyllic and stunningly beautiful locations in the world to visit. Whether it is their picturesque beaches, spectacular reefs or world-class sailing, there is no shortage of things to inspire awe in all of us. Hidden to the north, however, may be the crown jewel of it all: the remote island of Anegada.
While all the other islands of the BVI archipelago are volcanic in origin, Anegada was born for the coral reef that surrounds it. With a maximum elevation of about 15 feet above sea level, it doesn’t seem to fit with its neighboring islands. In fact it’s so flat you won’t be able to see it from any of the other islands despite them being just 15 miles to the south. The differences don’t stop there. Unlike the main islands which are often teeming with eager travelers, Anegada is often quiet and sparsely populated with tourists. During our visit we encountered fewer than a dozen other tourists during our brief weekend stay. But this doesn’t mean Anegada doesn’t have as much to offer as the rest of BVI. As you’ll see below, Anegada has everything you’d want from a tropical vacation to the virgin islands and then some.
Anegada lies just 15 nautical miles to the north of Virgin Gorda. However, unless you’ve hired a captain, you’ll want to check with your charter company before visiting. Unlike the rest of the BVI, getting to Anegada can’t be done via line-of-sight sailing due to its low elevation. You’ll need GPS and the knowledge of how to utilize it to navigate there. You’ll want to keep an eye of the weather conditions in the area. As Anegada is surrounded by Horseshoe Reef, high winds or low visibility can be treacherous. Our sail to Anegada took around an hour and was highlighted with an unexpected rainstorm and a small pod of dolphins swimming in our wake. Just getting there was filled with great memories.
Once you arrive in Anegada and have navigated Horseshoe Reef, you’ll land appropriately in Settling Point, the main “hub” if you will of Anegada. Hub may be a bit generous but that’s the draw here. On Anegada, flamingos nearly outnumber the locals who are largely fisherman. If you’re going to be on Anegada for any period of time, consider arranging a rental jeep to explore the 15 square miles the island has to offer. We used SnK Amazing Rentals in Settling Point and were quite happy with them.
While there are several small bays and beaches on the island, there are two you shouldn’t miss: Cow Wreck beach and Loblolly beach.
Cow Wreck beach
Located on the north-western part of the Anegada, Cow Wreck beach is simply stunning. Stepping out of your car and just look down and follow the conch shells to paradise. Cow Wreck beach has soft, white sand as far as you can see in either direction. The north-facing bay can be vulnerable to weather and at times may not provide perfect swimming conditions, but the view is unbeatable with nothing but palm trees, blue sky and the ocean as far as the eye can see.
The bay is mostly sand lined with little reef to explore, however that doesn’t mean you shouldn't grab your mask and head in. Nowhere else in the world have we ever seen such a collection of conch shells in one place. We counted nearly 100 in our 90 minute swim hardly going a few kicks between each one. We found conchs of every color: bright pink, deep orange, even shades of violet were present. There were so many we re-named the bay Conch-a-Palooza! And the best part of visiting Cow Wreck bay is that we had this tropical paradise to ourselves. Throw in some pina coladas from the Cow Wreck Beach Resort and you’ll be in heaven. This is a stop you’ll not want to miss.
While the water on Cow Wreck beach can be a little choppy at times, the waters of Loblolly bay are quiet and tranquil. With a reef out in the distance to break the surf, you can swim and float to your heart’s content here. Contrasted by the lush tropical foliage that lines it, the beach of Loblolly Bay is as white and soft as my feet have ever touched. The quintessential tropical paradise, Loblolly Bay has something for everyone. Beautiful blue water, a nice reef to snorkel, abundant shells and sea life and the peace and solitude we all crave, you’ll have a hard time finding a more beautiful spot in the Caribbean.
As we noted in our introduction, the island of Anegada was fittingly born from the reef that surrounds it. This reef, nearly 18 miles in length, is the largest reef in the Caribbean and the fourth largest reef in the world. Over the years, the reef has caused hundreds of shipwrecks with even a few planes finding their final resting place here. In fact this is how Cow Wreck Beach got it is name, but I’ll let you use your imagination with how a reef, a ship, a storm and cargo of cows were sadly entangled on that fateful day.
On a happier note, Horseshoe Reef is a snorkeling and scuba mecca. The reef extends for miles with all types of soft and hard corals thriving amongst sea life and fallen vessel. In recent years, the government of the BVI has forbidden anchoring on the reef so you’ll need a dedicated captain to man the boat while you’re enjoying paradise.
Dining and Hotel options
While there are not many dining and lodging options on Anegada, there are plenty of great options to serve you on your visit.
At Anegada Beach Club you can become one with the beach as you stay in their luxury beachside tents. Don’t let this fool you, however, as the accommodations are quite nice. Recently renovated following the hurricanes of 2017, their tents are equipped with a king canopy bed, a furnished deck, beautifully crafted bathroom with hot shower and access to their pool and restaurant. Anegada Reef Hotel, located in Settling Point, is another great option. Their 20 hotel rooms have all the modern amenities including air conditioning, coffee makers and irons. The rooms and patios are spacious and tastefully decorated and they offer a full service restaurant for your dining needs. Finally, the Cow Wreck Beach Resort is the perfect spot to get away from it all. Rent one of their beachside villas and enjoy great food and drinks as well as their world-class beach.
Fresh lobster is the name of the game on Anegada. Caught right off the beach, lobsters are a BVI speciality and many come from right here in Anegada. Enjoy fresh seafood at any of the hotel restaurants listed above, with the Anegada Beach Club being our top spot. For a memorable evening, consider dining on the deck of the Lobster Trap restaurant. With perfect south-westerly views, you have a hard time finding a more perfect spot to enjoy the sunset on Anegada.
Other Points of Interest
If beaches are not enough to satisfy you on Anegada, consider one of these fun adventures to add to your trip.
- Take a trip to the salt flats in the interior of the island and check out the Flamingo Pond. Find your way up the observation tower and enjoy the view. If you have some, bring binoculars to find other birds and fauna in the area.
- Head up to SnK Amazing Rentals and rent a moped. Spend the afternoon circumnavigating the small island making stops in the Settlement and Flash of Beauty bay.
- Feeling adventurous? Then head to Tommy Gaunt Kitesurfing and take an afternoon kitesurfing lesson. They offer a range of lessons for every skill level from beginner to advanced and all instructors are internationally qualified. Lessons run from November to August with multiple time slots per day.
Whether you’re drawn to the beautiful beaches, the amazing Horseshoe reef, peaceful tranquility or world-class sunsets, there is something for everyone in Anegada. If your trip allows, take our recommendation and head north to the beautiful coral island, we’re sure you’ll be glad you did.