Virgin Gorda Trip Report 05-2008

Old May 18th, 2008, 07:00 PM
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Virgin Gorda Trip Report 05-2008

Hello all:

My wife and I just returned from our vacation to Virgin Gorda and here's our report on it.

Please be aware that since this is our return trip to the island we had bypassed the Baths directly (see our Tortola Trip report on the Baths instead) and focused on the other parts of the island. Nevertheless it was a marvelous trip!

1) Airline and Transit

We chose to fly out of JFK via Delta this time to San Juan (instead of JetBlue) and it was hassle free. We chose to spend our first night in Old San Juan instead just to do some shopping and our fill of rum and cokes. Mission accomplished. We stayed at this funky place called "Da House," which was fun but a bit of a mistake because it was right above a famous bar called Nuyorican Cafe and it was really LOUD until the wee hours of the morning. The booze and the Medellas during the day helped but I can't say we had a great night of sleep prior to our departure to VG.

The transit next morning was with Air Sunshine and it was problem free. I was especially impressed with the pilots as they flew "old schoolquot; no GPS, no radar - just plain ole flying by visual markers.

The view from the air both ways were spectacular. We were able to see some of our old "hang outs" like Cane Garden Bay, White Bay at Jost, and our favorite Trunk Bay at St John with great clarity.

2) Villa and Car Rental

This is the first time that we had decided to rent a villa with a pool and BOY did we make the right decision. We rented a villa called Island Dream in Nail Bay and it was perfect. Lots of privacy and in a more secluded part of the island.

The property faces west which means a lot of perfect sunsets right on your porch. The place was very comfortable with two very reasonable sized bedrooms, and the outdoor shower was a bit of a fancy treat. The only thing was, we felt the lighting could be a little better. No problem, as my wife always brought an extra supply of tea light candles to spice up the atmosphere (highly recommended for any of your trips).

If you are not comfortable with dirt road driving with a 4WD, getting to Island Dream would be a bit of a "treat." The road isn't paved and the approach to the villa a bit steep.

The bottomline: you MUST rent a 4WD! Even when you simply wanted to head north to the North Sound the grade of the main road is quite steep up the mountain. By the recommendation of the renter of the villa we got ours from Mahogany and we rented a basic, Suzuki soft top 4WD for $50 a day. It operated fine and did not guzz up much gas. Over six days with some pretty extensive driving we only spent $40 on gas - may be a island was smaller?

3) Beaches, Beaches, Beaches

Our favorite, hands down, was Savannah. It was close by and quiet. Even when there's people around we could walk to the far right-hand-side of the beach where we could claim a hut on higher ground to observe the entire beach. The snorkling there was mediocre - some live coral but not that many fish when we were there.

Our second favorite was Spring Bay to the north end of the Baths. We skipped the Baths this time and instead spent time exploring the fringes of the landmark. There were always an inflow of day-trippers to the site (which we did in the past) so for the sake of privacy we chose to skip. Spring Bay was very pretty with some very interesting rock formations and since we went early in the morning we seemed to have the beach to ourselves all the time. They had picnic tables and bench seating in the shade which meant you could pack a light lunch and enjoy it there while on the beach.

To the south of the Baths is Devils Bay. When we visited there was a high surf warming and we witnessed a few scary incidents of dinghies approaching and the occupants got into trouble because of the high surf. I swam out just to get a dip and the undertow was strong. Visibility was close to zero when I tried to give the bottom a quick look.

We did only minimal snorkling during our trip due to the high surf. Would like to check out Mountain Trunk and Long Bays in the future.

4) Excursions - Food and Beverage

First things first. When we rented this villa we knew we will spend a lot of time there and had planned to cook most of my meals. So please excuse if the restaurant reviews were a bit sparse.

Island Dream had a great gas grill and I used it everyday. I especially liked the cheese brats (hey man they were Johnsonville!) and the cajun ribeye that we brought.

As far as going out, our best time out was our "bar hop" between The Bitter End and Saba Rock. One evening we decided to head over to The Bitter End for a quite drink and snack. It was awesome. The surroundings were very cool and the setting was just perfect. On our way back we hopped on to a water taxi from Saba Rock to take use across for a night cap. That was just perfect. The lighting at Saba Rock after dark was especially amazing.

We also heard that there was some good food and entertainment at Leverick at night (we made a quick stop there during one day) but had decided to not go because of the drive back (not friendly with alcohol in the system).

We focused our time and effort experiencing the famous local delicacy, Conch Fritters. Of the few we tasted we liked the ones at The Bitter End Pub the best because there was a great briny flavor in the conch meat. The others were a little bland.

We also looked forward to some nice local Goat Water (stew) at the Bath and the Turtle but too bad they didn't make it the 3-4 times we had checked in.

Sugarcane (f.k.a. The Dog and the Dolphin) in Nail Bay also was good. The owners - Leslie and Martin were new to the island and Chef Martin brought his refined cooking from The Caymans to VG. Worth a stop for a Carib and a snack. Great hospitality!

Otherwise we had always enjoyed a Carib (or two, or three) at the dock at Spanish Town while picking up supplies at Bucks (more on this later).

5) Provisions

Comparatively speaking the quality of supplies at VG was average to above average as compared to our prior visits to other islands. We liked Bucks at the dock.

We pretty much gave up on fresh produce and had utilized frozen veggies as our source of greens. We brought a lot of frozen meat for this trip but felt good when we saw that there was some decent meat and poultry on display (let's say its average to below average by Stateside standards).

Beer and rum were cheap. About $27 for a case (about what I pay wholesale in NYC which means I am not complaining) of Carib and Red Stripe, and about $10 for a bottle of rum. Wines? Didn't even touch because they were of lesser quality and much more expensive. Variety and selection also were inferior.

CONCLUSION

We loved our trip to VG this time around. Granted we both needed this time off I think there's something about the friendly people at VG and the laid back spirit there just made us felt very welcome. Hey, let's say as New Yorkers we felt safe to not lock the door to our villa AND car when we are out and about!

Highly Recommended!

See the following link to our photo album of the trip!

http://community.webshots.com/user/foodiechan

Peace!!!

Peg and Ed (New York, NY)
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Old May 19th, 2008, 05:05 AM
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Your trip report brought back some very strong memories of my own trip to VG last year. Island Dream is a villa that we had strongly looked at it but then passed over--you're the second Fodorite in a few months to post about how much you enjoyed Island Dream, so I'll certainly consider it next time.

Was the road between Mango Bay and Nail Bay repaired at all? It was the only road on VG that we drove that was pretty bad. Everywhere else that I saw I was impressed with the conditions of the road.

So, you didn't snorkel at any of the Nail Bay beaches? Any particular reasons or that you just didn't get to them?
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Old May 19th, 2008, 05:54 AM
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ejcrowe:

The road from Mango Bay into Nail Bay is still a work in progress. Sections of it had been paved, and during our stay there there is a crew working on another section. That said there are still some pretty tricky sections.

As for Snorkling, there was not particular reason for us to skip the other spots like Nail Bay. Our main purpose there really was to just rest and chill and by the time that we got around to snorkle we had some pretty strong surf so we missed the window. Would like to revisit the next time!
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Old May 19th, 2008, 06:36 AM
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Hi Foodiechan,

Great report and pictures!! We are going to VG next February and have been toying with the idea of staying at Island Dream. How far away from the beach is it? Is Nail Bay Resort including the restaurant within walking distance? Poster TT loved this place also.

I am concerned about the strict cancellation policy since we'll be flying out of New England during the winter and dealing with the weather. Was the owner easy to communicate with?

Right now we have Upper Sunset Watch in Nail Bay booked because it looks like it's closer to the ocean, but we would have to share a pool. I like the idea of a private pool.

Any suggestions and thoughts would be much appreciated! Glad you had such a good time!!
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Old May 19th, 2008, 03:20 PM
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Foodiechan: Thank you! We have a villa booked at Nail Bay for an October trip. You got me all excited again - not that I wasn't before. Love the pics!
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Old May 19th, 2008, 04:40 PM
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Hi Foodiechan,
Thanks for posting the great TR and pictures! Ahh, VG, our favorite island so far. Makes me want to go back (if only there weren’t so many other islands to see first!) You even got a shot of the villa we stayed in on Mahoe Bay, Caribbean Wind (the one w/2 stories at the end of the beach). What a great place. Loved the shot of the 2 frogs-too cute! Savannah bay looked gorgeous-we drove by it but never made it to that beach. Glad to hear you had a good experience with Air Sunshine too-maybe we just caught them on a bad week, or they changed their customer service in the last couple years.

Where will your next adventure take you? We’re headed to Long Island, Bahamas in February. I see you’ve been to Eleuthera-another place we’d love to visit –maybe in 2 years we’ll make it there. Did you like VG or Eleuthera better? Just curious
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Old May 20th, 2008, 03:08 PM
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Thank you all for your great responses, and glad that you liked the pictures! We had several days of nearly perfect weather and the color of the water was just unbelievable!

Here are a few answers to your questions.

From Island Dream you probably will need to take a short drive to the beach. Mountain Trunk, Nail, and Long Bay are all very close. Savannah Bay our favorite is about 10 minutes driving away.

The fact that we are not right by the beach never bothered us because we know we will always have a jeep. If you want to be closer to the water I suggest loooking into Mahoe Bay or Guvaberry in Spring Bay. All in all we chose Nail Bay because it offered the most privacy.

Mary Dawn the owner of Island Dream is very nice and quite flexible. We actually had to switch our dates due to a last minute conflict and she was very cool with it. Their housekeeper Irma and their maid Jackie are both very nice.

As for potential transit problems (especially during winter) I highly recommend having a one night layover in San Juan or St Thomas on your trip from the states, whichever your hub is. That buys you an entire afternoon to "catch up" with the flights. Rescheduling flights on Air Sunshine or any other island hopper is a bit trickier because most planes can only seat 9 people.

As for our next vacation here are some of the candidates: Cat Island, St. Croix, or returning to Vieques. If we could string together our family trip to South Africa we might do Zanzibar or Seychelles.

One last thing - we do love Eleuthera. I think Eleuthera had nicer beaches but Virgin Gorda is smaller, more accessible, and had better infrastructure (search for my Eleuthera Trip Report from October 2007). Not to mention the uniqueness of Saba and the Bitter End!
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Old May 20th, 2008, 04:03 PM
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I am also happy you enjoyed VG. It turns out that the snorkeling in Oil Nut Bay is just o.k from shore. You need to have a boat and go out a bit. Besides Oil Nut and the Baths fiols have heard me say over and over based on 2 trips in 3 years to VG that one does not go to VG or Anegada any longer for snorkeling, unfortunately as that is. It was 8-9 years ago that the coral really began dying and fish thinned out.
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Old May 20th, 2008, 04:35 PM
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That was very helpful- thanks. I am considering VG for 2009. You said you "chose a villa this time"- could you tell me where you stayed before on VG and any comparison that might help? I am interested in Nail Bay but I am a little concerned about the road. If you are familiar with the horrible road in N. Palmetto Point in Eleuthera (our most recent adventure) then you can perhaps see why I am hesitant. If you know what I am referring to, how do those roads compare?? Thanks again. I appreciate any advice or help.
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Old May 21st, 2008, 06:10 AM
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ishkribbl:

Not sure if yor question was directed to me...

I honestly think you will have time to look into villas for VG. Obviously if you intend to go during the high season in 2009 then start looking. Good villas on the island do get booked quickly.

Use websites like VRBO.com or other similar ones as most would list availability as well.

If you don't like bad roads then do not pick Nail Bay. Even getting to Mahoe there is a little rough stretch of road before you get there.
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Old May 21st, 2008, 01:27 PM
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Hi foodiechan,

Thanks again for all the great information. I've decided to stay at Island Dream after reading your glowing report (and the other poster's report too). I'm so excited, just hoping there isn't a blizzard on Feb 16, 2009!!!

I'm also hoping to do a day sail or visit another island, but the villa might be so relaxing that we won't want to leave at all!!

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Old May 21st, 2008, 01:38 PM
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Foodiechan,
Sorry, I did not mean to sound vague. Yes, I was trying to ask you this: since you said you had been to VG before and this recent trip was a return trip and on this trip you rented a villa for the first time, I wondered where on VG you stayed on your previous trip and how this area of the island compared with wherever you had stayed before? Thanks for info about the road- I don't mind something that is rough in places but miles of bone-jarring is something else and since we did that for a week recently I just wanted clarification on how bad it was there at Nail Bay.
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Old May 21st, 2008, 02:15 PM
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ishkribbl:

Our previous trip to VG was a day trip from Tortola so we didn't stay on the island itself the last time.

The drive from Mango to Nail Bay may be 10-12 minutes at the most so it is not "long." That said there are a few stretches that were still quite bad, especially they still have dirt on sloping surfaces (remember VG is much more hilly than Eleuthera).

Jaynean:

if you want to do a day sail I suggest doing the Dive BVI trip (they have a shop right at the yacht harbor in town) to Anegada. You will love Island Dream!
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Old May 21st, 2008, 02:48 PM
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Jayneann, I'm so happy your going with Island Dream (albeit jealous!!) You'll love lazing by the pool and watching sunsets on the front porch.

Say "hi" to Mary for me . . . she's a gem to deal with.
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Old May 21st, 2008, 08:12 PM
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foodiechan,

Thanks for suggesting DiveBVI! I'm also interested in visiting Tortola for the day.

Tamsentm,
I'm so glad you read this post! I was planning to send you a PM on TripAdvisor to let you know we decided on Dream Island. I will definitely say hi to Mary, she's been so nice!

Maybe we'll bump into each other during the week! Here's to Feb 2009 in Virgin Gorda!!
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Old May 22nd, 2008, 03:13 PM
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Jaynean:

If you want to day trip, Tortola is not that fun. Roadtown, their largest town, is still a little sleepy and from the ferry dock you will still need a taxi cab to take you into town. There really isn't much to see or do there. Of course you have Cane Garden Bay (immortalized by Jimmy Buffet, of course), but it is not any more spectacular than anything you see on VG.

May be a day boat trip to St. John? Jost would be the best but not sure if there's a direct way to get there from VG.
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Old May 22nd, 2008, 06:47 PM
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Foodiechan,
But you can get a day trip to either Anegada or maybe Jost van Dyke? I would be more interested in either of those than Tortola, I think- any information from anyone on day trips from VG to either place?
Thanks
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Old May 22nd, 2008, 07:54 PM
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Ishkribbl:

Dive BVI will definitely do a day trip to Anageda provided they have at least 8 people signed up. Cost is about $90 per person.

As for going to Jost, it might be a bit more difficult from VG because it is to the far west of the BVI chain of islands (VG is east of Tortola and JVD is West).

Instead of going through the trouble to head to JVD I think it might be better for you to string a day trip to The Bitter End, head over to Biras Creek and and visit the Fat Virgin Cafe and of course do Saba Rock.....that might be more fun. You could potentially take a ferry to Tortola, then cab it to the west end of the island and then hop on to a ferry to JVD... but with all that time invested in traveling I do not think it would be worth it.

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Old May 23rd, 2008, 04:29 AM
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Thanks for the advice!
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Old May 23rd, 2008, 06:36 AM
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Hi ishkribbl,
Check out this site for day trips-looks like they're based in VG and do day trips to all of the neighboring islands, including JVD. When we were there I really wanted to do the day snorkel trip to the small islands south of VG (Cooper, Peter, Norman) but ended up not being able to (we had our daughter with us who was 9mths and didn't want to leave her w/our in-laws for the whole day-too long away from her-maybe next time!).

http://www.limincharters.com/

This site has a good map too of the area so you can see what's where.

Also, depending on your budget, Mahoe Bay villas and beach are spectacular. I also just found this villa online which looks amazing-it’s located by the baths on the south shore.

http://www.caribbeanway.com/villa-page/ind/105205.asp

If we return we’ll definitely be considering this place (although note that it’s located all the way on one side of the island. Mahoe Bay is located centrally which IMO is a better place if you’re a first time visitor as it’s easily accessible to both the Baths on the south end, and Leverick Bay/Bitter End on the north end). The roads on the island are paved (except the nail bay road) but are VERY steep. Still easier driving than St. Lucia or Kauai/Maui (if you’ve been to either of those). Enjoy!
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