Secrets of the Shoulder Season
|Dive In: The British Virgin Islands entice watersport fans year-round. (Corbis)|
Diving is clearly a big attraction for trips to the Caribbean this time of year and the British Virgin Islands, especially Tortola, have some of the best. Hurricane season doesn’t lash at these islands until September—and even then most of the time you will only get five days of rain a month. Interestingly enough, the British Virgin Islands can actually be cooler than much of the U.S.'s dank eastern seaboard, with refreshing ocean breezes keeping the humidity low and temperatures in the mid-70s to 80s year-round. Places like Cuan Law (www.bvidiving.com) offer unique diving trips off the world’s largest sailing trimaran starting at $2,050 per person for six days, with off-season specials that include one free person in groups of ten or more and an additional 20 percent off per person during the fall. Blue Water Divers in Nanny Cay and Sopers Hole (www.bluewaterdiversbvi.com), meanwhile, offers five two-tank dives starting at $320 as well as private chartered rates.
But the diving isn’t the only attraction here. The British Virgin Islands are arguably the multisport capital of the Caribbean. If you’re looking for something with a little more adrenaline than the hypnotic float of scuba diving, try your hand at kiteboarding. Those trade winds that keep the humidity down also make for a ripping good time.
The Bitter End Yacht Club (www.beyc.com; 800-872-2392)—though rather chichi—has an on-site kiteboarding school, Carib Kiteboarding. From June 26 through July 3, the school’s instructors hold a discounted clinic for those who’d like to try their hand at the sport. ItÂ’s not the cheapest at $1,000 for eight hours of lessons, but by the end of your week you’re practically guaranteed to have mastered the basics (1.5-hour beginner’s lessons run $150). Of course, you can always just stick to windsurfing the 20-knot easterly trade winds that comb the resort. For $150 a week, you’ll have unlimited use of the area’s high-performance boards and sails. Prices for beach villas here during the shoulder season are drastically reduced to $3,115 as well, including meals, unlimited use of kayaks, sailboats, and wave boards (they have motorboats, too), saving you more than $3,000 on weeklong stays compared to winter prices.
Moving around to Jamaica, summertime is a better time to hike the stunning Blue Mountains. Typically these 5,000-foot mountains, known for their rich and exotic coffee crop, can be a touch chilly in the winter. But come in summer and the air warms up to the 70s—still much cooler than most of the country—and you can bike, hike, swim in waterfalls, and otherwise wander around the Caribbean’s highest mountain range. Blue Mountain Bicycle Tours (www.bmtoursja.com; 876-974-7075) offers downhill rides for about $90 per person, all-inclusive. Strawberry Hill, a lush complex of villas high in the hills, charges about $315 and up per night for a bedroom villa, knocking off up to $50 a night from regular winter rates (www.islandoutpost.com/strawberryhill; 876-944-8400). For a less expensive option in the big Blues, check out a package tour that gives you six nights of lodging and includes all activities for $780—$140 cheaper than during the winter (see insert, “The Perfect Package” for additional information).
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
Best Hotels in British Virgin Islands
Rosewood Little Dix Bay
Long Bay Beach Club
Sebastians On The Beach
Scrub Island Resort, Spa and Marina, Autograph Collection