The Baths and Virgin Gorda
We’ve been to a lot of beaches in our time (like the gorgeous beaches of the Dominican Republic, or the black sand beaches in Bali), but nothing quite compares to what we just experienced at the Baths on Virgin Gorda Island. If you only visit one place in the British Virgin islands, this should be it.
The second to last port of call on our Carnival Cruise was the British Virgin Islands; A lesser visited chain of islands in the Caribbean made famous for its reputation as a hideout for the wealthy (e.g. Necker Island – Richard Branson). Our cruise docked on the quaint island of Tortola, but the thing we really, really wanted to check out was the beautiful looking Baths on the Island of Virgin Gorda (aka… the ‘Fat Virgin’ Island).
We briefly considered getting there by ourselves (which would have been considerably cheaper than via the cruise ship excursion), but we’d had a lazy start and for once we just wanted someone else to take care of everything. Skip to the end if you want to know how to do it yourself.
Booking through the cruise ship cost us about $170USD for 2 people, including 2 return ferry tickets, 2 return open top bus tickets and two entries into the Baths. Figuring it out by ourselves would probably have saved around $100USD, but the ferry times were tight and ultimately we didn’t want to deal with that headache.
Getting to Virgin Gorda from the cruise:
From the cruise ship, it was as simple as stepping off one boat and onto another. We were shepherded onto a smaller boat which then blasted off to Virgin Gorda Island at high speed. The trip took around 40 minutes across the sea, and I can imagine it gets pretty choppy when the weather’s bad.
Once we arrived at the Virgin Gorda ferry pier, we were all ushered into open-air buses (sides were open but fortunately there was a roof to protect us from the rain on the way back) and we drove around 20 minutes to the Baths. If you look out the side as you drive, it’s hard to miss the devastation caused by Hurricane Irma in 2017; Broken ship masts and crumpled buildings litter the drive on both sides.
Walking to Devil’s Bay
Once we’d got to the Baths visitor centre/restaurant, there was a quick briefing before our designated guide took us along the 15 minute walk to the Baths. Our walk would have been significantly faster, but we immediately caught up with some slow walkers from the group ahead of us and our quick pace rapidly turned to a shuffle. The walk from the parking lot to Devil’s bay is a gentle walk, although there were some slightly sloped rocky sections where a few elderly people struggled.
Just before the beach, there’s a final brief section of sea water to wade through or a rock to climb over to reach the sand.
Words struggle to describe the beauty of this beach. Hopefully the photos can paint a better picture!
Crystal clear water surrounded by enormous smooth boulders on both sides. If there was one beach on our entire cruise that I’d like to spend more time, it’s this one. This beach has remained beautifully unspoiled, and there are no toilets, cafes, bars or bins here.
Louise and I wanted to explore the rocks for hours, but before we knew it, our tour guide had sounded her claxon and signalled that it was time to move on to the Baths.
Devil’s Bay to the Baths
This is where you need a bit of agility, as the walk from Devil’s Bay to the Baths takes you through narrow cracks in the rocks and up and down a couple of steep step ladders. There were a couple of times where I was crouched and shuffling through a tiny gap and I can imagine that if I was a bit heavier set or less nimble it would have been a real struggle. If you fall into either of those categories it would be a lot easier to head back to the info centre and then take the other route to the Baths.
If you are able to take the interesting route, then it’s going to seriously blow you away. Honestly, I have no idea how formations like this are even physically possible. Our tour guide told us that formations like this only happen in two places; Madagascar and the British Virgin Islands.. So I’m going to take a leap and say this’ll probably be unlike anything you’ve ever seen before.
After a few twists and turns, you’ll finally pop out at the Baths. Kind of similar to Devil’s Bay, except this one has changing facilities, showers, a bar and tables. If you feel like a rum punch, the “Poor Man’s Bar” can help you out for a whopping $9 a pop.
For most of the morning, we’d managed to avoid the crowds, but that’s because they were all apparently hiding at the Baths. It’s definitely the busier half of the tour, and this is where you’ll just have to embrace the hordes and the chaos and snorkel around/ jump off the rocks with everyone else.
Still epicly beautiful and unique and not disappointing in the slightest.
When it’s time to leave, you can head back up to the viewpoint and the restaurant at the “Top of the Baths”. We preferred to spend more time at the Baths rather than eat there, but I had a sneaky dip in their pool when I noticed that the showers were $2.
Back to Tortola
To get back to Tortola, we hopped back on the bus and did the same bus/boat journey in reverse (except this time with fistfuls of rum punch).
This was probably my favourite excursion of the entire trip and the first thing I’d recommend to anyone with a day to spend on Tortola or the British Virgin Islands.
How to get to the Baths and Virgin Gorda by yourself
Walk to the Road Town ferry boat terminal and get a ferry to Virgin Gorda. It costs $20 one way or $30USD return (per person). Click Here for a link to the ferry times for the two ferry companies.
Once you get to the island, grab a taxi straight to the Baths (it’s around $4-7) each way. Bring cash. Entry to the Baths costs $3.
In total, for two people it should cost no more than $80USD, but if you have a ferry to catch be cautious and give yourself a decent window. Apparently some ferries are less reliable when it’s not busy.
The real reason we took the cruise tour was because it’s a private charter and you know you’re going to be back by a certain time. Worth the extra money if you have a deadline you can’t miss!
Disclaimer: Carnival cruises was kind enough to sponsor our cruise, but all opinions expressed are our own.
Can you explain more about the “other route” to the baths? I’d like to take my mother but don’t think she could do the more treacherous hike. If there was another option to get there that would be great.
Basically the guides will take you on a one way loop to get to the baths. The normal direction takes you along a dirt path that eventually leads to a beach, then to get to the connecting bar, some of the rocks and the final part of the trail, you have to climb, crouch and wade through various rock features. If you go in the reverse order, you can get to the beach, some rocks and the bar/cafe without hitting too many features. The most interesting part of the paths is kind of nestled in the middle of the rock features, and this might be the only part your mother might struggle with. Hope that helps!