British Virgin Islands, Days Four and Five

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On my last full day in the British Virgin Islands, I took it easy. I enjoyed a communal breakfast of the best Swedish pancakes ever (and homemade at that) in the morning, while the chickens perched on the banana trees underneath our balcony snacked on bananas.

Banana-eating chicken

Afterward, Seher and I split from our group to take another stab at dining at Cruzin in Carrot Bay. By the time we arrived, it was lunchtime and thankfully they were open. Seating at Cruzin is outdoors and surrounded by lots of lush, green foliage. A baby lizard crept past our table as we perused our menu and we could see the beach from across the street as we waited for our food to arrive.

The first dish to arrive was the lobster and beef patties.

Lobster Patty

Beef Patty

Beef is my favorite patty filling but I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the lobster one too. The thick, crispy shell was filled with generous chunks of lobster and bits of fresh peppers. The beef version was extremely rich; the cabbage and raisin coleslaw on the side helped lighten things up.

We also split a plate of curry chicken roti.

Chicken Curry Roti

This was my first taste of Caribbean roti, and a delicious one at that. The warm curry was wrapped inside a thin layer of fresh roti bread with a crepe-like consistency. The dish came with rice and salad too, but I was too stuffed to continue.

We said goodbye Cruzin after our meal and headed next toward Smugglers Cove to join the rest of the group.


Located on the West End of Tortola, Smugglers Cove is accessible via a dirt road, but the bumpy ride was completely worth it. The cove is one of BVI’s most beautiful beaches, and it quickly became my favorite. Even though it was overcast when we visited, it was still calm and I spent a few hours in the water before calling it a day.

Smuggler's Cove

It was nighttime by the time our group arrived back at the villa and the weather was getting worse. By the end of the night, it was storming like I’d never seen, and the rain and heat made for the arrival of some pretty serious mosquitoes. The lighting, thunder, wind and mosquito free-for-all meant I hardly slept that night.

Seher and I said our goodbyes early the next morning and headed back to Beef Island to catch our flight back to San Francisco. But not before making a stop at the grocery in Road Town for some pepper sauce – what’s a trip to the Caribbean without pepper sauce after all?

The flight back was long, stopover-filled and exhausting, but the view leaving BVI was spectacular.

Flying over the Virgin Islands

The British Virgin Islands may not have been among the places I thought I’d ever visit, but I couldn’t be happier that I did.

British Virgin Islands, Day Three

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I woke up extra early on my third day in the British Virgin Islands. The wedding that Seher and I had traveled to Tortola for was later in the day, but we had plans to check out neighboring Carrot Bay first. Our housemates had tipped us on Cruzin, a roti restaurant in Carrot Bay, so we made the hour-long walk over in hopes of catching an early lunch. The gorgeous scenery made the hike on an empty stomach worth it.

En route to Carrot Bay

Unfortunately, Cruzin turned out to be closed, and so was every other restaurant in Carrot Bay. One of the more curious things about the British Virgin Islands are the odd hours at its eateries: many require you to call a day ahead of time to make a reservation to ensure they’ll be open, presumably so that the chef can prepare the ingredients ahead of time.

Luckily for us, there was one lone stand in Carrot Bay selling saltfish and bread; Seher and I ordered a plate and shared it on the beachside curb before heading back to Apple Bay.

Saltfish and Bread

The bread was a little stale but the saltfish was flavorful and cooked with fresh peppers. A splash of vinegary pepper sauce spiced things up even more.

Back at the vacation house, we got ready for the wedding and made our way to the wedding site, but not before stopping at another roadside stand at the bottom of the hill. Our housemates had told us about this one too, open only one day a week. The woman behind the stand had cooked everything, from the johnny cakes to the barbecued chicken to the stewed shrimp.

Lunch from (another) roadside stand

I got a box of stewed oxtail, stewed conch, baked macaroni and cheese, and a johnny cake. The conch was was really soft and almost gelatinous, but interesting to try nonetheless. The oxtail was incredible: super tender and coated with a rich, savory meaty sauce. That and the johnny cake together was my favorite thing to eat on this trip.

After the beautiful beach wedding ceremony, dinner was held at the Sugar Mill Hotel’s restaurant, the site of the wedding which also used to be 370-year old sugar stone mill. Reputedly one of the best restaurants in the Caribbean, I was excited to try their island fusion cuisine. For my appetizer, I chose the roast duck breast.

Roast Duck Breast

Served with banana chutney and cilantro, this was absolutely delicious. I don’t even like cilantro, but I loved this appetizer. The duck was lean and flavorful and the banana chutney was a surprisingly excellent accompaniment. I wouldn’t mind a jar all to myself.

For salad, I was served a Caesar-esque plate of hearts of romaine.

Hearts of Romaine

Topped with bacon, brioche croutons and tossed in a garlic anchovy aioli, this was good. Caesar salads can be run of the mill, but the Sugar Mill made this stand out by using high-quality ingredients.

My entree was the vanilla poached shrimp, which I ordered because I was so curious about the vanilla-seafood pairing.

Vanilla Poached Shrimp

The restaurant gets major bonus points for serving the shrimp with their heads on, which I love (plus, it adds flavor), but as it turns out, vanilla poached shrimp is a little too sweet for my taste. The dish was served with steamed vegetables, saffron risotto, mango chutney, in keeping with a sweet theme.

Weather in BVI can be stifling even at night, so I chose the trio of sorbet and ice cream for dessert.

Trio of Sorbet and Ice Cream

I’m so glad I did. This was refreshing and the highlight was the extra-creamy pistachio ice cream that was as good as my other favorite pistachio ice cream (Haagen-Dazs in case you’re wondering).

After dinner, the wedding party headed to the Bomba Shack, a beachside bar famous for its monthly full moon parties where they give out mushroom tea. There was no full moon when we showed up though, but the shack was still lots of fun. And oh, it really is a shack.

Bomba Shack

We were exhausted by the end of the evening, so we called for a cab to take us back up the hill and called it a night. Despite the relaxed atmosphere, it felt like time travels faster in BVI – we only had one full day left on the islands.

British Virgin Islands, Day Two

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Even though we were staying on the main island of Tortola during our trip, I knew that I wanted to check out at least one other island during our stay in BVI. I’d read over and over again that the island of Virgin Gorda, with it’s incredible rock formations at the beach, was not to be missed. On our second day, Seher and I caught a ride to the capital, Road Town, to purchase our ferry tickets to Virgin Gorda. We had a couple of hours to kill in the capital while we waited for the next departure, so we stopped by Bazz Natural Juices, a roadside fresh fruit and juice stand, for smoothies.

Bazz Natural Juices

I ordered the Chef’s Special, which included strawberry, mango, orange and coconut cream. Maybe this is the heat and humidity talking, but it may have been the best smoothie I’ve ever had. I went back for another before the day was over.

After a walk through downtown, we boarded our ferry for the forty-five minute trip to Virgin Gorda. The scenery, needless to say, was breathtaking.

Virgin Gorda

Seher and I got a cab to take us to the Baths, which is the main attraction on the island. Located on the southern end of Virgin Gorda, the Baths are the result of the island’s volcanic origins, which deposited granite that formed into huge boulders on the beach. These, in turn, formed tidal pools and grottoes which open out into the sea. In my excitement, I left my camera in a locker while I was at the beach, but the view from afar wasn’t bad at all either.

Virgin Gorda

Before we made our way down, we stopped for lunch at Top of the Baths, a restaurant located, well, at the top of the Baths. We had hoped to find some street food in this area of Virgin Gorda, having passed by some on the way there, but alas. We shared some crab fritters that looked curiously like mini-doughnuts and split a mahi-mahi sandwich.

Crab Fritters

Mahi-Mahi Sandwich

Mahi-mahi is the local fish and it was apparent, as this was extremely fresh, and well-seasoned too. Finally fortified, we continued down the rocky slope before reaching the Baths.

I was surprised by how rocky the beach was and how strong the current was, but we (carefully) explored the grottoes and marveled (and became slightly afraid) of the aquatic life. The highlight was coming upon a boulder covered with purple, prickly sea urchin. I immediately envisioned an endless platter of glistening uni before me.

By the time we boarded the ferry for our ride back to Tortola, the sun was beginning to set. The ride back was super relaxing and think I nodded off more than a couple of times, waking up to admire the view and falling back asleep again.

Ferry back to Tortola

Back in Apple Bay, we enjoyed an incredible sunset before settling down for the wedding rehearsal dinner. Our hosts cooked up a multi-course feast from scratch. If there’s one thing that stood out about my trip to BVI, it’s the memorable food, be it home-cooked, in a restaurant, or from a roadside stand.

Sunset in Apple Bay

British Virgin Islands, Day One

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Ever since I visited Jamaica last year, I’ve been enamored with the Caribbean and couldn’t wait to go back. Belize and Trinidad and Tobago are at the top of my list, and honestly, I hadn’t really planned on visiting the British Virgin Islands. But when the opportunity presented itself a few months ago, I couldn’t resist. And that’s how I ended up spending a few days in BVI in May with my friend Seher for a beautiful wedding and exploring the islands.

The mosquito bites are still fading but I’m wishing I was still there. Getting to BVI, though, was another story. After a “random” but very brief detainment in SFO (I like to think of it as a free massage), we stopped over in Boston, then San Juan, Puerto Rico, before making our way to Beef Island Airport in BVI. The entire journey took about a full day, and the highlight was finding beef empanadillas at an airport stand in San Juan.

Beef Empanadilla

I don’t expect much from airport food, but this was hands-down the best I’ve ever had. Filled with a savory ground beef and potato filling, these flavorful empanadillas were encased in a super-flaky shell. They held me over until Seher and I arrived in BVI. The short flight to BVI was an adventure in itself: we flew in a small propeller plane. But hey, at least the view was amazing.

British Virgin Islands

After passing through customs, we got a cab to take us to our vacation home in Spyglass Hill where a few members of the wedding party were also staying. Spyglass Hill overlooks Apple Bay, on the main island of Tortola. I don’t think I could have asked for a more picturesque view.

Morning in Apple Bay

Nightfall soon arrived and we were famished. We joined up with the larger group and had dinner at the bottom of the hill at Sebastian’s on the Beach. Even though the food caters mostly to American travelers, it was fresh and tasty. We started with the conch fritters.

Conch Fritters

These were delicious. I’d tried to get conch fritters when I was in Negril last year, only to find they were sold out everywhere I went. The fritters had a semi-spongy texture, and were flecked with chopped bits of tender conch. A spicy, creamy dipping sauce rounded things out.

We also shared a plate of fried calamari as an appetizer.

Fried Calamari

The batter on these was much crispier than what calamari is usually fried in. They were delicious though – briny and tender, and gone in minutes.

For my entree, I chose the garlic shrimp with lentil rice.

Garlic Shrimp and Lentil Rice

The garlic shrimp was, well, garlicy. It came doused in a rich sauce that was a little too oily for my taste, but otherwise good. The lentil rice tasted similar to adas polo, an Iranian lentil pilaf and was a good vehicle for soaking up the shrimp’s juices.

Fully sated, we were exhausted after our day-long journey and drove back up the hill to get some rest. I had no trouble going to bed: a humming fan and the sound of waves crashing lulled me right to sleep.