Kayaking, hiking, and diving on Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands
Mornings on Virgin Gorda, especially those experienced from the gin-clear waters of Valley Trunk Bay, are quiet. The cruise liners have yet to arrive, so you have the water – and the nearby beaches – all to yourself. To experience them firsthand, start by navigating the light surf in a kayak, where you'll discover tranquil beaches separated by granite boulders that have been there for eons. The most stunning belong to the Baths, a collection of three-story-high boulders that create a labyrinth of tide pools and grottoes similar to the slot canyons of southern Utah. Once your shoulders start burning, head for Top of the Baths, a restaurant with a world-class balcony (and tasty conch fritters) that overlooks the picturesque southern side of the island.
After lunch, spend your afternoon either exploring the nearby 19th-century copper mine or driving up the narrow, one-ish lane road toward Gorda Peak National Park. Along the way, you'll dodge livestock and encounter rows of Easter-egg-colored homes, but the goal is to find a trailhead. Take the first entry point you spot, then head into the park for an hour-long hike up the 1,350-foot peak, which boasts some of the most spectacular views in all of the BVI.
From there, travel east to Bitter End Yacht Club, the homebase for two of the island's most coveted pastimes: nautical sports and drinking. Fuel up on the herb-backed grouper filet at Clubhouse Grill, then either charter a sailboat or explore the shipwrecked RMS Rhone, where a handful of candy-colored coral reefs await. Once you've had enough (or your oxygen tank's running low – whichever comes first), head back to Bitter End's Crawl Pub and celebrate with a grilled mahimahi sandwich and a Bitter End Buddy – two shots of 156-proof rum splashed with pineapple and guava juice. Sound strong? It is. But after the day you've had, you deserve two.
More information: Rent your Jeep at L & S Jeep Rentals [from $65 per day; landsjeeprental.com]. For everything else, including kayaks, sailboats, powerboats, SCUBA equipment, and even kiteboarding gear, stick with the folks at Bitter End [beyc.com].