DETAILS: Virgin Gorda
GETTING THERE: There are no direct flights from Washington to Virgin Gorda or, for that matter, anywhere in the British Virgin Islands. But you can avoid multiple flights and puddle jumpers by flying to St. Thomas, USVI (about a 4 1/2 -hour flight), then taking a ferry to Tortola, BVI, and another from Tortola to Virgin Gorda (about 1 1/2 hours total). My round-trip flight on United from Washington Dulles to St. Thomas was $368; the two ferries were $74 round trip. You can also fly from St. Thomas to Virgin Gorda; round-trip fare on Air Sunshine is $250.
GETTING AROUND: If you stay in the Valley, you can get away without renting a car; restaurants are nearby, Spring Bay is about a half-hour walk, and you can take a taxi to the Baths or Little Dix Bay ($4 to $6). But if you want to explore the north end of the island, a rental car is recommended. As you'd expect, BVIers drive on the left.
WHERE TO STAY: I loved the casual, slightly raffish atmosphere at Fischer's Cove Beach Hotel (the Valley, 284-495-5252, http:/
Another affordable option is Guavaberry Spring Bay Vacation Homes (284-495-5227, http:/
WHERE TO EAT: Eating out on Virgin Gorda isn't cheap, with entrees at most "nice" places in the $20 to $30 range, but the open-air dining rooms with killer views help. Order the catch of the day grilled and you can't go wrong. I liked the Rock Cafe for its intimate outdoor decks set amid boulders and waterfalls (dinner for two about $75); the Mine Shaft Cafe for its 360-degree sunset view (dinner for two about $65); and Little Dix Bay for its bountiful lunchtime buffet ($40 per person; try the grilled swordfish and chilled cantaloupe soup). The Bath & Turtle, a lively bar and restaurant in Yacht Harbour, is a good place to grab breakfast or a burger (about $15).
WHAT TO DO: The dramatic boulder-strewn beach known as the Baths is the island's most famous attraction and can get crowded, but you'd be crazy not to go. It's one of the most beautiful beaches on the planet. Admission is $3. Once on the beach, don't miss the 20-minute hike under, around and over the rocks to adjoining Devil's Bay; pack your snorkel gear. Also check out Spring Bay for its less touristed, more secluded boulder scene. Diving and snorkeling are huge here; rent equipment, join group excursions or charter boats at Dive BVI in Yacht Harbour (284-495-5513, http:/