Kids at the Trellis Bay Full Moon celebration

What to do with the Kids

Activities that both youngsters and adults can enjoy

by Jessica Jeffrey

Traveling with kids sometimes takes a little more effort than traveling alone, but as long as you plan some awesome activities, you and your kids are sure to get the best out of the BVI.

Traveling with kids sometimes takes a little more effort than traveling alone, but as long as you plan some awesome activities, you and your kids are sure to get the best out of the BVI.

So, you've packed-up the kids, taken a long flight and finally you've landed on shores of the BVI. You're looking forward to lolling on the beach and devouring that bestseller, but your kids? Well, they might have a slightly different conception of fun. But don't despair, there's plenty for the entire family to do in the BVI.

Kids learning to kayak at The Bitter End Yacht Club. Photo by Jim Scheiner

Above: Kids learning to kayak at The Bitter End Yacht Club. Photo by Jim Scheiner

As a longtime visitor to the BVI, I should know. I've been traveling to the area since I was only a-year-old and I remember my childhood trips to the islands as nothing less than ideal. So what's there to do? Start with what the BVI is known for. You were probably drawn to the Virgin Islands for the first-rate beauty and proximity to the water. Kids will also appreciate the aquatic activities available. The fabulous thing about all of these activities is that you will enjoy them as much as your kids.

Luckily many spots around the BVI will teach kids the basics of surfing and windsurfing. The Bitter End Yacht Club in Virgin Gorda's North Sound offers a water sport camp for kids ages 13 to 17. Younger kids (five to 12) can enroll in the Kids Camp. The programs teach children the fundamentals of sailing, kayaking and windsurfing. While you might not think your child has what it takes to handle the rough and tumble sport of windsurfing, think again. Sometimes, the youngest kids are the best beginners out there. The Bitter End also runs weekly sailing regattas in North Sound. Once your children have learned to sail they can join in on the fun. Prizes are given to the winners and while adults are awarded a bottle of rum, children can look forward to receiving a rash guard.

On Tortola, Boardsailing BVI located at Trellis Bay is the territory's oldest windsurfing and water sports company. Trellis Bay is a terrific windsurfing spot that attracts everyone from seasoned professionals to those with no experience. Enroll in Boardsailing BVI's guaranteed success program and after two hours you will be able to stand-up and sail, or your money back. Their water sports warehouse stocks a superb selection of equipment ranging from kayaks to surfboards. Located at Trellis Bay and Road Town is HIHO (stands for Hook In Hold On and is nicknamed after a famous windsurfing race in the islands.) Stop into the store and take a look at its island-inspired clothing for adults and kids. The firm also rents out equipment and is known for its stand-up and paddleboards. If surfing is more your kids style, your tiny wahine can take a surf lesson on Tortola. Instructors will teach the basics from paddling to actually catching a wave. In no time, they'll be hanging ten like the best of them. If your children are bitten by the surf bug, Long Bay on Tortola is a good beach for beginners. Shallow water and rolling waves make Long Bay a favorite for surfers just starting out. The waves are located close to the beach, so your kids won't be far from shore.

Kids getting ready to hit the waves. Photo by Jim Scheiner

Above: Kids getting ready to hit the waves. Photo by Jim Scheiner

If these water sports seem a little extreme for your tykes, then you might want to stick with snorkeling. As long as your kids are strong swimmers, snorkeling can be a simple family activity that is enjoyable for everyone. The great thing about snorkeling is that it only requires a mask, snorkel and fins! Kids will be amazed at the world underneath the water. With so much to see, who can blame them? From parrotfish, clownfish, conch, starfish and even sea turtles, snorkeling is an age-old activity that never seems to lose its appeal. The BVI, with its pristine waters and wide variety of sea creatures is a wonderful way for novices to get started. Kids will feel a sense of accomplishment by learning a new skill, which can really boost their confidence when they get back home.

A great place to bring the kids snorkeling is The Baths on Virgin Gorda. This natural playground will mesmerize the young at heart. The huge boulders that dot Virgin Gorda's southern shores culminate in a congregation of topsy turvy boulders to climb up and through. Every little explorer (and rambunctious child) will love investigating the grottos and caves that surround the area. There's great snorkeling there, so get out the mask to enjoy the sights under the sea.

Other options are to enroll in an eco tour. Jost Van Dyke Scuba and Eco Tours will tailor an itinerary to suit your family's interests. They offer snorkelling, hiking and bird watching around Jost Van Dyke and its surrounding islands with an emphasis on the area's nature and historical sites. Tortola's Kayak and Eco tours takes groups out on an environmental expedition aboard kayaks through mangroves that serve as breeding grounds for young fish. The tour leader will guide you through eco-structures and historical sites surrounding the area. The journey culminates with a snorkel at a shallow coral reef.

For the aspiring marine biologist in your family, check out Prospect Reef's Dolphin Discovery, where kids (and adults) can get up close and personal with dolphins. If you've never seen a dolphin before, you will be amazed at the size, strength and distinctive texture. There are two programs available and each is supplemented with a lesson in dolphin behavior and lifestyle. It's a hands-on classroom that teaches kids a lot about the animals, but is a whole lot of fun too! For younger children, the Dolphin Encounter offers a basic introduction to the majestic mammals. Kids will touch, shake hands and kiss the dolphins. This program is perfect for those who might be a bit timid or not have the swimming skills for the more advanced program. The Royal Swim actually lets you get wet with the dolphins. Hang on tight during the dorsal tow, as the dolphins pull you across the pool, and don't be surprised during the foot push when you are actually propelled out of the water! The Royal Swim is available for kids eight and up and is a once in a lifetime experience.

Above: Teen surfing at Long Bay, Tortola. Photo by Jim Scheiner

Above: Teen surfing at Long Bay, Tortola. Photo by Jim Scheiner

If you happen to be in the area during a full moon, then take part in one of the BVI's best evening events – a full moon party. Trellis Bay hosts its own full moon festivities that are geared towards families. The big bash kicks-off at 7 pm with a West-Indian barbeque. While the celebration continues all night, the highlight occurs at 9 pm when the stunning fireball sculptures are lit. This party is great for your older kids and teens, and it really has a little something for everyone. Keep your eyes and ears open for live fungi music, fire jugglers and few mocko jumbies. The event is free and is held on the full moon each month.

One great thing about traveling with children to the BVI is that there are so many kid friendly restaurants. While, the territory certainly has its share of upscale eateries, it is also home to restaurants that are big hits with kids. Pirates, a beachside restaurant at Norman Island has buccaneer ambiance and a nautical theme. The Willy T, located in the bight off shore at Norman Island, is a 100-foot floating restaurant fitted out with a grill for burgers and picnic tables for chowing down your grub. Norman Island is said to have inspired Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island tale and the nearby "treasure caves" also provide great snorkelling. Foxy's in Great Harbour on Jost Van Dyke is another kid-favorite restaurant. The world famous beach bar might get a little rowdy in the late hours, but during the day it's great for the kids. From the interesting décor choices, to Foxy himself, this place is jam packed with character. If you go to Foxy's Taboo, a dockside restaurant on Jost Van Dyke's eastern end, walk to the "bubbly pool," a natural sea pool that fills with bubbling froth when waves crash through the rocks.

Please note: kids should always be under adult supervision when in and around the water, and that wearing a life vest is advisable.