The Virgin Islands are the western island group of the Leeward Islands, which are the northern part of the Lesser Antilles, and form the border between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. Politically, the group is divided into the British, American, and Spanish Virgin Islands.
The British Virgin Islands (Officially the “Virgin Islands”) is an Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom comprising approximately 60 islands and cays including Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Jost Van Dyke, and Anegada.
The islands are a popular destination for US citizens. In 2006 a total of 825,603 people visited the islands, of whom 443,987 were cruise ship passengers. Tourists frequent the numerous white sand beaches, visit The Baths on Virgin Gorda, snorkel the coral reefs near Anegada, or experience the well-known bars of Jost Van Dyke. The BVI are known as one of the world’s greatest sailing destinations, and charter sailboats are a very popular way to visit less accessible islands.
The U.S. Virgin Islands (Officially the “Virgin Islands of the United States”) is one of five inhabited insular areas of the United States, along with American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, and Puerto Rico. The territory comprises a number of islands including St. Croix, St. Thomasand St. John.
Tourism is the primary economic activity. The islands normally host up to 2 million visitors a year, many of whom visit on cruise ships. Additionally, the islands frequently are a starting point for private yacht charters to the neighboring British Virgin Islands.
The Spanish Virgin Islands, formerly called the Passage Islands and also known as the Puerto Rican Virgin Islands, primarily consisting of the islands of Culebra and Vieques, are part of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and are located east of the main island of Puerto Rico in the Caribbean.