On our trip to the Virgin Islands this past December, we decided to stay in the Red Hook area of St. Thomas. Red Hook is one of the most popular marinas on the island, so there were plenty of ships leaving from the port at Red Hook to go to other islands. There are numerous islands around St. Thomas that are a short boat ride away, and one of those is Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands. Virgin Gorda is best known for its baths, and tons of tour groups make stops there each day. As we received countless recommendations to go to the baths and saw numerous advertisements for it, we decided to take a day trip to the British Virgin Islands and check out Virgin Gorda for ourselves. Here is our guide to taking a day trip to Virgin Gorda from St. Thomas.
Taking the Ferry
When it comes to traveling by ferry from St. Thomas to Virgin Gorda, you have a few options. There are ferries with direct routes between St. Thomas and Virgin Gorda, but these ferries operate on a limited schedule only run a few days a week. There were no direct routes offered the day we wanted to visit Virgin Gorda, so we had to first buy a ticket to Tortola, the largest of the British Virgin Islands, and then another ticket from Tortola to Virgin Gorda. We arrived at the port early in the morning but found that even though we had given ourselves a good amount of time to buy tickets, the line at the ticket counter was incredibly long and moved very slowly (this was likely due to the fact that most of the locals knew each other, and those working at the ticket counter would serve their friends first). We stood in line well past our boat’s departure time, but thankfully, everything on the island truly runs on island time, and we were able to buy our ticket and board the ferry. Close to an hour after the boat’s scheduled departure time, we finally left the marina.
Arrival and Customs
Upon arrival in West End, Tortola, we were immediately required to fill out a customs form and pass through customs. The line moved slowly, but finally our family passed through. We then had to take a taxi from West End to Road Town, where we would be catching another ferry to travel on to Virgin Gorda. Many taxis in the Virgin Islands resemble large party trolleys, and they are very easy to find and flag down. Our taxi ride took only about 20 minutes and offered beautiful views of the Tortola coastline. Once in Road Town, we purchased our tickets to Virgin Gorda and received a wristband that offered us complimentary taxi rides from the pier to the baths. Not all ferry lines offer this option, so I would recommend purchasing your ticket through a company that does offer the free taxi transportation to and from the baths.
The Virgin Gorda Baths
There is a small admission fee required to get into the baths, but it is only $3/person and can be purchased at the entrance to the baths. Near the starting point, there were a few diverging paths leading to different attractions around the baths. However, there were plenty of signs around and we followed the one to the caves and baths. There was a short hike before reaching the baths, and it was an interesting and scenic route with cacti and a surrounding desert terrain, which we found odd for a tropical location. At the end of the path, there was another fork where we could either go to the beach or the caves and baths. We decided to go to the caves and baths first and left our things on the beach, which we found to be a fairly safe option.
The actual baths are essentially a series of inlets filled with ocean water and surrounded by caves. There is a trail running through the caves that leads from the first beach to another larger beach. At times, we had to climb over large rocks, crawl through tight cave entrances, and shimmy our way through narrow openings. It was, overall, an extremely fun hike, though it does require a basic level of fitness. We were able to see the most beautiful rock formations and inlets of sunlight and ocean, leading to plenty of incredible photo opportunities.
At the end of the trail, we arrive at a larger beach area. It almost seemed like its own little town as it was replete with stands where people were selling souvenirs and even a bar. We stayed there for a while, enjoying our drinks and taking in the views from atop some of the larger rocks, and then headed back the way that we came as it was the only path available. We made our way back to the first beach and found that the waves were a lot choppier than we’d expected, most likely due to the formation of the rocks around the swimming area. After spending a short time enjoying the beach and jumping the waves, we packed up our bags and headed back to the entrance of the baths.
Taking the Ferry Back
We took the taxi back to the port, making sure to arrive early to ensure we did not miss our ferry, as it was the last one leaving the island that day. On our way back, we stopped in St. John, USVI to clear customs. Since St. John was the first stop in the U.S. Virgin Islands, everyone had to disembark the ferry and pass through customs, and then those who were going on to St. Thomas would re-board the ferry and continue on. One thing to note is that the process of crossing the border both into the British Virgin Islands and back into the US Virgin Islands took much longer than anticipated, so keep this in mind when planning a day trip to other islands.
We thoroughly enjoyed our time in Virgin Gorda and would highly recommend a day trip to the Virgin Gorda baths to anyone visiting the Virgin Islands. It was overall an easy process to travel to the different islands, though we did have to constantly remind ourselves to be flexible in terms of timing, as we were not immediately accustomed to island time. To make your experience more enjoyable, I would recommend looking up the ferry schedule online ahead of time and accounting for extra time on the day of your travels. If you do this, taking a day trip to Virgin Gorda and other islands should be a relaxed and rewarding experience.
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