When is the best time of year for a BVI vacation?
Are you planning your Caribbean vacation and would like to visit the BVI? Want to know the best time to sail? It helps to know which months are the best for visiting the Caribbean generally, and the BVI in particular. This post gives answers to weather and other “time of year” questions. It also gives tips on the main periods (Christmas, Spring Break) and the hurricane season. In short, you can visit the BVI throughout the year. Every month is great in its own way. They simply have pros and cons (for instance when there are crowds the sailing winds are the best, when it's hot there is virtually nobody else around, and so on).
If you'd like a one-word summary of my favourite time of year, all things considered, it is this: late November. Best time. Now read on for some more info to see if you'd agree. And to see the months you wouldn't want to travel.
Wind in the BVI
The best time for a sailing breeze is around Christmas when the legendary Christmas winds blow at around 25-30 knots for days. All of the winter tends to be good for breeze actually. Between November and February, you find fairly consistent 15-20 knot breezes coming from the northeast. After February the wind direction starts heading from the east then from the southeast, so by summer, it is coming from the southeast at around 10-15 knots. Heading to summer the winds continue to settle. Winds are at their weakest in the late summer/early spring months of August, September and October. This is also considered hurricane season (particularly mid-August to mid-September). If you'd still like to holiday in the Caribbean during the summer months (say July - September) we suggest Grenada or the Grenadines. This area tends to be below the main hurricane belt so has a reduced risk of getting hit. The last major (ie. named) storm that passed through Grenada was Ivan in 2004.
Surfing swells in the BVI
Ground swells tend to come from the north in the winter months, between November and April. This is great if you're keen for a surf. It just means you need to choose bays that don't face north if you'd like a quiet, non-rocky night.
Rain in the BVI
Prolonged rain is rare in the BVI. You are more likely to see short, sharp squalls that last for less than an hour. The rainiest months are May and September-November. If you'd like to see more info on rainfall check out this site: http://www.holiday-weather.com/tortola/averages
Water Temperature in the BVI
Water temperature is beautifully warm throughout the year in the BVI. Year-round the water temperature sits around 80º Farenheit (late 26-28º Celcius). It’s all good. :)> Thanks Michael Vanarey for the image.
The busiest months in the BVI are December-March (inclusive). This is when favourable winds combine with Christmas holidays and winter in North America. If you want the best of both worlds (low crowds and decent conditions) consider the "shoulder" months of November and June. If you want the place as deserted as it was in the 80's, head there during September. This is also when everyone remaining is even more relaxed than normal.
No big surprises here: pricing in the BVI follows pure supply-demand principles. Ie. things are most expensive straddling Christmas and cheapest in the summer months. If you are after off-season pricing make sure your service provider is actually operating during the period you are wishing to visit. A great compromise is the shoulder months of November and June, when boats are still likely to be in service and the demand is much lower.
Christmas and Spring Break tips
Christmas, New Year and Spring Break can be pretty crazy for crowds. Aim to sail in the early mornings and reach your chosen destination by lunchtime. For some of the more popular areas (such as Cooper Island, where you can get the best affogato EVER), you will most likely need to arrive there even before lunch, say by 11am.
Hurricane Season tips
You can still come during the hurricane season (June-October). Islands such as the BVI can go for years without seeing a named storm. Even so, make sure you have trip cancellation insurance that covers events like a named storm. And make sure your boat has air conditioning: things can get HOT during this period. Around 8-10 hurricanes form in the Caribbean basin each year. Most of these are in the north and west of the basin. Countries like Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico (west) and the Bahamas (north) tend to be hit the most. If you are around Guadeloupe or Martinique, a hurricane forms once every 3-4 years on average. In the southern parts of the Caribbean (Trinidad, Grenada, the Grenadines), Hurricanes are very rare. One note that few people know: hurricanes hardly ever happen in the Caribbean islands during July. The hurricane season tends to have a "break" during this period. Funny that July should be the best time to avoid hurricanes but according to the numbers it is.
Trip Insurance tips
Make sure you get trip insurance. It's the "best money you've ever wasted". In other words, it's your vacation: you don't want to spend it stressing if a camera gets lost/stolen or your trip is canceled due to weather. Spend a little extra (as low as 3-4% of the trip's value) and relax. We can vouch for Global Nomads. Here is a link to their quotation page.
It is possible to enjoy yourself in the BVI at any month of the year. There is no real "best time". Rather there are pros and cons. The winter months (around New Year) are the busiest and also have the best sailing conditions. The summer months (mid-year) are the hottest, have the potential for hurricanes and yet have no crowds. Whatever you decide, make sure you get travel insurance. It will help you to de-stress and therefore enjoy your holiday that much more.
Author James Kell is the founder of Sailing Virgins. Sailing Virgins turns regular people into sailing skippers. It offers weeklong liveaboard fast-track courses that double up as fantastic vacation weeks in the BVI. At the end of the week, students are tested according to the American Sailing Association (ASA) standards. If they pass they are awarded with ASA certification. Click here if you would like to be sent information on “10 Great Spots for a Sailing Vacation” and here for a Sailing Virgin to get in touch with you.