One Of The Caribbean's Most Unsung Islands Is A Snorkeler's Paradise

If you're planning a trip to the British Virgin Islands (BVI), you have a bunch of destinations to choose from, such as Virgin Gorda, Tortola, and Saint John. However, if you want to see some pristine beaches off the beaten path, there is one ideal island. It's not only lovely, full of white sand beaches and crystal clear water, but it's got some incredible animals to see, both on land and in the sea. And if you're a fan of snorkeling, this is going to be paradise. Unlike the other volcanic islands, this spot is limestone and coral. It's also home to part of the Horseshoe Reef, which is the largest in the Caribbean, the third largest on Earth, and one of the most beautiful reefs in the world. This is Anegada Island, which means "flooded land."

Anegada is home to some wonderful creatures like the threatened Anegada Rock Iguana and pink flamingos in the salt ponds on the western side. It's also home to a small island made of conch shells off the eastern side where fishers have been depositing them for hundreds of years. Underwater you'll find shipwrecks, and, of course, the 18-mile-long Horseshoe Reef to snorkel and dive. However, there are some things you need to know before you go.

All about Anegada Island

Anegada Island is the second largest in the BVI. There are only about 300 people who live there all the time, mostly in a single town called The Settlement. They take the ferry to Tortola or Virgin Gorda for things like school. Anegada is only about 28 feet above sea level at its highest point, and you can hike along a scenic trail from Bones Bight. 

There are no banks or ATMs on the island, so make sure to bring cash. There are also no dive shops on Anegada, meaning you have to rent equipment on another island like Tortola and bring it with you. To get around, you can hire a scooter, jeep, or even a water taxi in town. The island is only 11 miles long and 3 miles wide, so you can walk to many places as well. 

To get here, you have to take a ferry from Tortola, which only runs on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and has a stop at Virgin Gorda. It takes about 75 minutes and costs $55 roundtrip for adults and $40 for kids, or $35 and $20 one way, respectively. You can see the schedule here, and you don't need reservations. You just show up about 20 minutes beforehand. While on the island, you must try the fresh conch fritters and Caribbean lobster dishes at one of the restaurants. As you wander, look for the rare Anegada Rock Iguana, whose existence has been threatened by feral cats. 

Snorkeling on Anegada and the Conch Island

Something unique about Anegada is the Conch Island off its eastern tip. For hundreds of years, fishers have been harvesting conch and tossing their shells here, which created the island you see above. Anegada is full of stunning beaches with fun names like Flash of Beauty, Cow Wreck Beach (which has a great beach bar), and Loblolly Bay. While they're all worth a trip, Loblolly Bay is known for some incredible snorkeling despite the sometimes strong currents. There are also a number of shipwrecks here, like the Parmatta, which sunk in 1853, or Rooks Wreck for beginning divers.

Snorkeling is amazing in the waters off Anegada, and you may see turtles, rays, nurse sharks (make sure to read Explore's story on shark safety), groupers, barracuda, needlefish, parrotfish, and bonefish. The most popular snorkeling tour here is Kelly's Land and Sea Tours, which takes half a day and includes snorkeling at Conch Island, complimentary drinks, and the sight of some flamingos. (You can also drive a scooter over to Flamingo Pond on the west side to view them through a telescope or bring your own binoculars.)