Maps and Tourist Information
Free, pocket-sized road maps are widely available throughout the Virgin Islands. These are handy and reliable and will meet the needs of most travelers. Maps are also printed in the free tourist-oriented magazines that are widely available.
Specialized hiking maps of St. John are available from the National Park Service headquarters in Cruz Bay. The NPS shops in Cruz Bay and Christiansted, St. Croix, have the best selection of maps in the islands.
If you want a good, detailed map of the entire Virgin Islands, you should buy it before you come. Map publishers Berndtson and International Travel Maps have high-quality maps available from major online map stores and booksellers, including Barnes and Noble and Amazon. You can also find them at www.vitrader.com. The National Geographic Society has an excellent map of the Virgin Islands National Park on St. John.
Detailed government survey maps of the British Virgin Islands are on sale at the Survey Department (284/494-3459). This office also sells what it calls a “tourist map” for $12, which is a detailed, large-format, foldout map of the BVI.
It is best to obtain nautical charts before you arrive in the Virgin Islands. This will allow you to plan your cruise ahead of time and avoid the frustration of looking for charts in the islands, where availability is often limited. While most charter companies provide a chart with the boat, you may find it is not as detailed as you want.
Chart series published by Caribbean Yacht Charts, Imray, the U.S. National Ocean Service (NOAA), the U.S. National Imagery and Mapping Agency, and British Admiralty are all fine for navigating in the Virgin Islands. The NOAA, Caribbean Yachting Charts, and Imray products are probably the easiest to find. A good source for nautical charts is www.nauticalcharts.com. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (www.nauticalcharts.noaa.gov) lists official NOAA chart retailers throughout the United States.
The U.S. National Ocean Service chart no. 25640 is the only chart that encompasses the entire U.S. and British Virgin Islands. Other charts, however, show greater detail. Single charts range $20–30; a complete, detailed set of charts for the Virgin Islands can cost several hundred dollars.
Electronic charts are the latest thing in sailing, but they can be very hard to obtain in the islands. Electronic charts produced by C-Map, Navionics, Garmin, and BSB/NOAA are good for cruising the Virgin Islands.
You will find tourist offices and information desks in Road Town, Tortola; Spanish Town, Virgin Gorda; Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas; and Christiansted, St. Croix. The National Park Service office on St. John doubles as an information desk.
Both the U.S. and British Virgin Islands have tourist offices in the mainland United States and Europe, plus useful websites.
The British Virgin Islands Tourist Board (www.bvitourism.com) has offices in Road Town, Tortola (284/494-3134); Virgin Gorda (284/495-5181); San Juan, Puerto Rico (787/721-2525); New York (212/696-0400, U.S. toll-free 800/835-8530); Houston (713/968-9256); Atlanta (770/874-5951); Los Angeles (213/736-8931); Alexandria, Virginia (703/647-6560); London (44/20-355-9585); Milano, Italy (39/02-667-14374); and Düsseldorf, Germany (49/2104-286671).
The U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Tourism (www.usvitourism.vi) has offices in St. Thomas (340/774-8784); St. Croix (340/773-0495); St. John (340/776-6450); New York (800/372-8784); Chicago (312/670-8784); Miami (305/442-7200); Los Angeles (213/739-0138); Atlanta (404/688-0906); and Washington, D.C. (202/624-3590).
© Susanna Henighan Potter from Moon Virgin Islands, 4th edition