"Stunningly Beautiful" are the words I would use to describe the British Virgin Islands. They are less cosmopolitan and more unspoiled then the U.S. Virgin Islands (St. John being the exception.) However, there is also a lot less to do and the B.V.I.'s are much more expensive to boot. I traveled to the British Virgin Islands on a NCL cruise with family in late March of 2010. It's definitely a place worth returning to for rest and relaxation.
The Islands were originally inhabited by an Arwak Indian tribe know as the Ciboney Indians. Christopher Columbus was the first European to set foot on the island of Tortola in 1493. It is widely believed that he called the island "Land of the Turtle Dove." However the reality was that he called it Santa Ana. Columbus gave the whole islands chain the name "Santa Ursula y las Once Mil Virgeness" or (Saint Ursula and her 11,000 Virgins.) The name was later shortened to the Virgins. The Spanish made the initial claim. However, the Dutch were the first to settle the island of Tortola in 1615, and they gave it the name "Ter Tholen," after the name of an island off the coast of Holland. When the British captured Tortola in 1672, the name was shortened to it's current name. The eastern islands have remained in British hands since.