Cruising BVI: The Baths at Virgin Gorda

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The Baths at Virgin Gorda are one of the most spectacular attractions in all of the Virgin Islands. Giant natural rock formations have created caves and tunnels at the shore’s edge with incredible tide pools hidden inside.

Over the years, dozens of mooring balls have been installed near the entrance to the caves as well as outside Devil’s Bay. They are free for day use only on a first come, first served basis. During the high season it will seem as though every charter boat in the BVI is there. They start showing up from around 7am and rotate out like bees from a hive until sunset.

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If you prefer to tour the baths privately without crowds of people on your tail, be sure to get there just after the sun comes up. If you want to take any pictures without a bunch of strangers in your way, definitely get there at 6am! The caves are significantly more majestic when no other voices or sounds can be heard. It’s also recommended to not enter the caves after 4:30 pm because it takes a good 20 minutes each way through the caves. When the sun sets, the caves get dark and the tide rises, making for a potentially dangerous passage back out.

An alternative to fighting for a mooring ball is to anchor just East of all the mooring balls near the reefs at Little Trunk Bay. It was a bit rolly for us, but not too bad to stay overnight. The view is spectacular with a gorgeous palm-tree-lined beach just ahead, crystal clear water and up to 100′ visibility. From there it’s just a short dinghy ride over to the main entrance to the baths.

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A designated swimming area has been roped off at both the entrance to the caves, as well as at Devil’s Bay to keep the swimmers safe from the dinghy traffic. There is very little shore access and it’s recommended to swim in instead of being dropped off by dinghy. For those that don’t want to swim in, The Baths can also be accessed by land. Any taxi on Virgin Gorda can bring you there. Swimming in requires careful consideration of the weather conditions. If there is a Northerly swell, entrance to the baths is extremely dangerous and dinghies are not allowed to approach. Take care, especially those that are not strong swimmers.

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To access the caves just follow the signs and be prepared to duck down, crawl, squeeze and climb over these boulders. A series of wooden staircases and climbing ropes and have been installed to aid in the journey through these caves, yet they are quite steep.

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Peter and I tied our dinghy to the perimeter of the swimming area and swam in with our snorkel gear. We aimed for a gap in the rocks and made our way up onto the sand. Since it was still early, there were maybe only 4 other boats tied up to moorings already, yet we were the only ones entering the caves. We left our snorkel gear stashed behind a boulder and proceeded in barefoot, armed with only our iPhone and waterproof case.

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The Baths were warm and clear. The colors etched into the rocks were fascinating. These immense boulders formed windows to the sky as we looked upward. We waded and swam through passages in the rocks to the next set of hidden pools. Just beyond the caves we could see the waves crashing in around us, only to slow to a trickle of flow inside. Tiny little fish swam around in the pools with us. Shadows in the early morning cast upon the walls and golden rays of sunshine poured in through the cracks.

Each new cave led to another secret passage way as we climbed up the old wooden ladders and crawled through holes in the rocks. We slid over crevices in the rocks marked by the sand left behind from those that have gone before us. Some areas on the sandy floor had been washed smooth from the incoming tide the night before, making our footprints the first tracks to appear.

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The caves gave way to a trail leading to Devil’s Bay. The tree branches opened up to the crisp blue sky and a pristine sandy beach lay ahead. The water inside the bay was as clear as the water we saw in the Bahamas.

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We went for a swim and took a short walk on the beach just before a large family appeared behind us singing songs as they made their way out of the caves. We did it! Our whole journey through The Baths and Caves was done alone! Proud we had woken up early, we returned back the way we came and swam back out to our dinghy just in time to see dozens of families arriving on shore.

It was a spectacular morning indeed, and a place we want to visit again. The only thing we would do differently is get there even earlier, and bring a better waterproof camera 🙂

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We are currently reminiscing about our journeys this summer as we wait out the rest of hurricane season in Grenada…

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