by Candyce H. Stapen
Note: This resort has suffered damage in the 2017 hurricane season and is closed until further notice.
Kids, some as young as seven, are perched in a Sunfish docked at the Bitter End Yacht Club, Virgin Gorda. They are learning about rigging, rudders and such de rigeur nautical terms as “starboard,” “port” and “mast” before their instructor heads them out for a hands-on sail in the splendid turquoise waters. Vacation at the Bitter End Yacht Club, Virgin Gorda, and you and your children can morph from landlubbers to savvy sailors.
Sailing is the prime past time of the British Virgin Islands (BVI). Along with fair winds, the British Virgin Islands are known for abundant harbors as more than 60 islands and uninhabited cays offer safe anchorage within a stretch of 80 nautical kilometers. With so many bays and secluded coves, BVI has always attracted sailors, including pirates. Ever sing “Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum” on a long family car ride? Legend has it that the ditty was inspired by the BVI islet where the notorious Blackbeard marooned 15 of his fellow swashbucklers along with one sword and a single bottle of rum.
The Bitter End Yacht Club, accessible only by water, is one of the best places in the Caribbean to learn to sail. The nautical term “Bitter End” refers to the end of a rope, but it’s also a perfect name for this resort, as it is located on the last spit of land before the open ocean. The resort attracts both experienced sailors, some docking their yachts at the property’s marina, as well as wannabes who don’t know their aft from a rudder but who are willing to learn. The best part of the Bitter End is everyone loves the ocean and no one cares or bothers to know who is sitting beside them at dinner, even if it’s neighboring Necker Island owner and Virgin Airlines and Records owner Richard Branson in his khaki shorts and flip-flops. The year-round sailing school offers a variety of hands-on courses as well as special classes for children at select times.
The laidback resort, where dressing for dinner typically means donning a clean T-shirt, offers 85 accommodations split between beachfront and hillside units. The windows, while screened to keep out bugs, are glass-less, meaning you’ll fall asleep to the sounds of the surf below and wake to spectacular sunrises.
Our Editor Loves
- Beachfront villas and suites
- Sailing lessons
- Special kids' camps
- All Inclusive Rates
- Water Sports
- Children Programs
- Kids' Theme Meals
- Meal Plan
- Onsite Dining
Find the Best Price for Your Stay
The property offers 85 rooms split between beachfront villas and the North Sound Suites. Be aware that the villas and suites require some stairs. Pen flashlights are provided at check in to help you navigate the resort at night, when it's dimly lit and you're trying to find which villa is yours. A little tricky! Rooms come with porches, hammocks, a ceiling fan and mini-fridge but no televisions. Air conditioning is also available in all of the rooms as a back up.
The beachfront rooms have what the resort calls a "West Indian treehouse" decor, a simple, but colorful ambiance with lots of wood, lilac walls, tiled bathrooms, teak vanities and batik fabrics. A ceiling fan, mini-fridge and coffee maker can also be found in these rooms.
These rooms are located on the resort's upper boardwalk and are considered the "tree house" rooms. There is a wrap-around veranda and the shower features a sea view.
Located within the mangrove forest, these rooms also feature a wrap-around veranda.
The Bitter End Yacht club was totally destroyed by the Sept 2017 hurricanes. They are slowly proceeding to clean up & remove all the demolished structures. Based on personal observations, it will take a long time before anything is up & running. It shouldn’t be listed as an available option at the moment.
by Philip M
This amazing property was TOTALLY DESTROYED by Hurricane Irma in 2017. We hear some limited facilities may be open for the 2019-2020 season, but it's misleading to advertise rooms which do not exist at this time.
There are three white sand swimming beaches at this resort. Families can find lounge chairs as well as Adirondack chairs to relax in as well. The swimming piers are also only steps away from all of the guestrooms, too.
The outdoor fresh water pool offers families a great spot to hang out. Several lounge chairs surround the pool deck area and a few shaded areas can be found too.
If you can handle a sailboat, take your kids snorkeling on one of the complimentary Sunfish or Boston whalers. Many Bitter End packages include a three-hour introductory sailing class. Families with 'tweens and teens can take this workshop together and, for more instruction, sign-up for private lessons. The resorts Junior Watersports program targets teens 13 to 17. As a family, show off your skills by participating in the weekly sailing regatta.
When children ages five to 12 are in-house, the resort offers two- to three-hours of activities once or twice day. These include a kid's kayak outing, sailing trip or a snorkeling trip, as well as afternoon arts and crafts at the resorts crafts center. With many children on property the resort may host an evening kids-only dinner followed by a movie or other activity.
Special sailing camps, geared for ages five to 12, operate during February President's Week, Easter, Christmas and Thanksgiving (not summer). Through mostly hands-on instruction, kids learn basic sailing as well as go tube riding and race in family regattas. In summer, the resort offers Junior Sailing classes for ages 7 and older.
The outdoor "theater" is a bit small, but it offers two movie screenings nightly, as well as a TV during the day running CNN and other news. Good to have, since the rooms come without TVs. At Bitter End, the goal is to be out and about and enjoying the water!
Hop aboard a number of the resort's sailing charters and visit The Baths, a must-see when visiting BVI. Here, snorkel the clear blue waters, climb in, around and through huge beachside boulders and caverns, and swim in private pools of water. When you're all done, climb the hill to grab a burger and a drink and look out at the view of sailboats moored in the bay. Other excursions include a visit to Norman Island, the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson's "Treasure Island" or Anegada, a tiny spit of land that requires a sail on open water to reach.
Catch More Wind
Kiteboarding is big at the Bitter End, and instructors are on hand to teach X Game-loving teens and their parents how to let the wind carry them away while kneeboarding. This sport is extreme and you may get bruised during the lessons but if you catch the wind, you'll literally fly through the air.
The resort offers three dining venues, and children's menus are available.
The Clubhouse, the resort's main steak and seafood restaurant, is open-air, yet covered buffet and table service dining for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Boaters not staying at the Bitter End often pull into a slip and grab a meal, particularly its fine dining dinners.
The Crawl Pub
The Crawl Pub provides casual dining for lunch and dinner, including brick over pizza. This pub is a hotspot during weekend evenings, where a DJ spins tunes and locals and boaters from across the islands come in for a good tune, especially on full moons. Fun for mom and dad, but keep the kids in the villas.
Almond Walk provides al fresco dining with buffets and live music -- the perfect place for sunset dinners.
Special Dining Options
Light lunches and snacks can be ordered while relaxing at the poolside bar. The resort also can arrange for private dinners on the beach. Most families book the weeklong Admiral's Family Vacations, which includes lodging, three meals daily, and the Junior Watersports Program for ages 13 to 17.
Planning & Tips
All About the Extras
A small sundry shop and a gift shop can be found at the resort.
The Art of Smart Timing
July and August can get very hot and humid in the islands, and most sailors have left the area for cooler waters in North America. As a warm-weather destination, the resort is busiest during school vacations, especially around the holidays and spring break.
To get to the Bitter End, you'll fly into Tortola on Beef Island from San Juan on a smaller plane -- catch Cape Air's six- to eight-seater Cessna's for a real treat! A walk across the street from the intimate airport brings you to the North Sound Express boat launch, where the Bitter End shuttle will pick you up and bring you to Virgin Gorda. While you wait, there are a couple of boutiques and a bar offering refreshing rum drinks.
Once on Virgin Gorda, boats will be your method of transportation.
For Mom and Dad
The Spa at Bitter End can provide full services in the spa, in-room or on a beach: You name the location. Private yoga sessions are offered through the spa, including a sunrise session on a pier overlooking the marina.