Tortola is one of the most scenic islands in the Eastern Caribbean. It’s also the largest as well as the central most point of the British Virgin Islands. Tortola is blessed with gorgeous blue vistas, verdant hills, and powdery white sandy beaches.
Aside from the beautiful landscape, its nearness to islands such as Virgin Gorda, Jost van Dyke, and Anegada makes it a perfect cruise vacation spot. In fact, island hopping is one of Tortola’s main attractions.
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Cruisers visiting the island can expect to have bucket loads of fun. Besides touring the scenic coasts, hiking the lush mountainside of the island, the warm and friendly nature of this tropical gem makes it a top destination in the Carribean. Planning a cruise to the island? Here are 20 things to do in Tortola.
1. Tortola Cruise Port
Located at the center of the island is Tortola’s capital city, Road Town. A city nestled on the hills surrounding a beautiful harbor. This is the busiest town in all of Tortola and is where your cruise ship docks.
Just like many Caribbean islands, you can go shopping in those quaint market streets like Main Street. Where you can get authentic island crafts and souvenirs. Or go sightseeing along the beautiful streets lined with brightly colored British colonial houses.
There are also plenty of eateries to grab a bite at. However, to truly experience Tortola you have to move away from the town and venture to the east and west coasts. Don’t be surprised to see the long queues found at the ferries dock, they all want to venture further along the coast of Tortola.
2. Visit Anegada
From Tortola, take a ferry or a short air trip to the island of Anegada. Amongst the volcanic archipelago of the BVI’s, this is the only island that is formed by a coral reef.
It actually looks quite peculiar with a flat lowland, that is not easily visible from any of the other islands. Go and enjoy its secluded beaches like loblolly and cow wreck beach or go snorkeling.
Also, visit the conch mound or go see the flamingos. This island offers a remote tropical island getaway that is just great. You can book it as an excursion with your ship or try a DIY tour by renting a car and exploring the island on your own.
3. Island Hopping
Go island hopping while in Tortola. Charter a sailboat to the nearby islands of Virgin Gorda, Jost Van Dyke, and Anegada. Go snorkeling in Anegada. Visit the famous baths of Virgin Gorda. And enjoy the rugged scenery and intriguing tales of Jost van Dyke.
Tortola is known as the sailing capital of the Caribbean and it truly lives up to this moniker. Charter a sail aboard a luxurious catamaran and cruise across Sir Francis Drake’s Channel.
This scenic tour of majestic coastlines will take you to some of British Virgin Island’s best not kept secrets. Visit places like Virgin Gorda, Norman Island, and Jost Van Dyke. You will discover pristine secluded beaches, natural wonders, and unbelievable snorkeling.
The British Virgin Islands are multicultural islands and Tortola is no exception. A good way to experience the cultural influence is through Tortola’s restaurants.
Enjoy Caribbean based cuisines with British and Indian influences. Try popular dishes like fungi (pronounced as fun-jee), roti, salt fish, pates (pronounced as patties), Johnny cakes, conch, jerk, and more. Don’t forget to try the island’s famous fruit the soursop that tastes like a cross between a pineapple and a banana.
Another unique thing to taste is the sorrel spice they use in soups that tastes like kiwifruit. And lastly but not least have a ‘Ting’, a refreshing Jamaican citrus soda. With all these flavors you are bound to experience an authentic Tortola island cuisine.
Shopping in Tortola is in plenty. Carryback home memories of the island with authentic island made crafts. Go shopping on Road town’s main street or try many more shopping sites on the other towns you visit.
Find all the Tortola Souvenirs you need at Amazon right here.
Visit the shops in Cane Garden, the little quaint shopping stores of Soaper’s hole at Pusser’s landing and do more shopping on the neighboring islands as you island hop. Interesting things on offer include handicrafts, beaded jewelry, gems, spices, unique island-made clothing, music, and art.
7. Jeep Safari
Tortola features a dramatic landscape made up of lush mountains. Discover inaccessible areas on a 4×4 adventure. Go on a challenging adventure driving through narrow winding roads, negotiating hairpin turns through lush vegetation.
You will get to explore tropical flora and fauna and enjoy beautiful vistas of Tortola and neighboring islands. Enjoy the numerous photo ops that this tour presents at the lookout points. Though a challenging tour on bumpy and uneven roads, it is totally worth it.
8. Do a Canopy Tour
With all this talk of mountains, why not try exploring them from a bird’s eye view. Yes, you can in Tortola. At the top of the impossibly steep Ghut high hill is the Original Canopy Tour Company.
Where a fun and thrilling adventure is set up with a zip lining ride across the Canopy. Though similar the Canopy tour is different, much safer and quieter. Enjoy spectacular views of Road Town, the bay and neighboring islands.
Take a closer look at the flora and fauna that call the hill home and enjoy as the birds belt out rainforest tunes for your amusement.The ride through the narrow winding road on the steep hill is an adventure on its own. So, if you are adrenaline junkie be guaranteed you will get loads of it in this experience.
9. Visit Virgin Gorda’s Baths
The baths of Virgin Gorda are the most iconic attractions in BVI. They are huge boulders the size of houses strewn all over the rocky south-western coast of Virgin Gorda.
These volcanic rocks create grottos, tunnels and salt water pools that are interesting to explore and swim in. To get to Virgin Gorda, you have to live Tortola by ferry or any other water/ air transport and cross Sir Francis Drake’s channel over to the island. From there a transfer bus takes you to the baths.
At the baths, a challenging hike that requires you to crawl, squeeze, climb and swim through the boulders to get to the baths awaits you. Thus agility is required. If that seems as much work you can watch from Devils’s bay a horseshoe-shaped bay with a pristine white sandy beach with powdery soft sands.
Trave sunscreen is a must for this Caribbean destination.
Enjoy yourself in the south coast of Virgin Gorda, where wonders never cease. Swim, sunbathe or snorkel in the sparkling clear waters of the baths and enjoy a ton of photo ops.
10. Go Wreck and Reef Diving
Another unique experience in Tortola is wreck diving in the spectacular RMS Rhone. In fact, if you only have time for one dive tour in Tortola then the RMS Rhone is it. RMS Rhone is a British ship that was wrecked in the hurricane of 1867.
Certified Divers are able to swim through the bow of the ship to the stern near the propeller since much of it is still intact. A lot of history lies in this dive site and there are plenty of artifacts to explore.
Full face snorkel masks can be purchased from Amazon.
Other than the ship itself, other points of interests include the coral and marine life that is found at the place. You are likely to see lots of fish, lobsters, turtles, eels, stingrays, and even barracudas. It’s said that no matter how many times you dive the RMS Rhone there is always something new to discover, so start discovering.
11. Town and Country Dive
One of the most popular Tortola Excursions is the scenic countryside drive. It’s actually a great way to see the whole island in a few hours for cruisers who have limited time on the port.
The tour starts from Road Town and starts ascending the mountainous background of the island. Here you get to enjoy scenic views of verdant mountainside with lush vegetation. The bus stops at lookout points where one can enjoy breathtaking views of bays beneath, and the island itself.
Other beautiful vistas include other islands on the Atlantic side of Tortola and the view of the meeting point between the Caribbean and Atlantic sea. The tour then takes tourists to the heart of Tortola, Cane Garden Bay for lunch, shopping and afterward a chance to view island life in the north shores.
12. Snorkeling in Treasure Norman Island
Tortola has plenty of spectacular snorkeling spots. But none like treasure point caves. Enjoy treasure tales and even better snorkeling at these majestic caves at the bight in Norman Island.
The caves offer great snorkeling and you can venture deeper into the caves where the darkness creates a nighttime dive experience. The uninhabited island of Norman island is known for its caves, hidden bays, and wrecks.
More so it’s known for its pirate and treasure tales which is believed to be what inspired Robert Louis Stevenson into writing ‘Treasure Island’. To this day this is a favorite spot for cruisers and other guests to try their luck at finding treasure in or around the island. If treasure hunting is on your bucket list well, you can start at Norman Island.
13. Spend the day at Cane Garden Bay
Cane Garden Bay is a long, lovely curved bay in the northern shores of Tortola. It bears the longest and most beautiful beach on the island. This bay is sheltered from strong winds and acts as a great anchoring place for boaters.
The colorful shopping and eating outlets that line the bay make this beach the beehive of Tortola. It’s the main tourist town in Tortola and you can spend your day here shopping, eating, swimming, kayaking, and even windsurfing.
Go and enjoy the lively atmosphere, crystal clear turquoise waters and the white soft sandy beach of Cane Garden. Check out a beach transfer excursion to Cane Garden here.
14. Party at Pusser’s Landing
Seating at the water’s edge of Soper’s hole is Pussers Landing, believed to be the landing point of the first Europeans to settle in Tortola. This restaurant is one of the island’s most ambient. It has a great view of the bay.
You can stop by to enjoy their popular drinks; the painkiller and bushwhacker. Or try their menu full of mouth-watering dishes made up of fresh seafood and Caribbean favorites.
Other than eating, the lively harbor is full of colorful houses that play host to a myriad of shopping outlets to quench your shopping thirst. The restaurant’s outside seating affords visitors a chance to seat in tranquility enjoying great vistas of the bay and seaside.
15. Snorkel in Brewers Bay
Just as the name suggests, Brewers Bay is set in the sugar cane and rum distillery district of Tortola. Set in a hidden bay on the northern shores of the island, Brewers Bay is the perfect escape from the masses in Cane Garden.
Located just a few miles away from Cane Garden, you can reach this Bay by car or by boat. The car trip is a bit challenging as you drive on a narrow twisting road with very thin turns. But this risk is all worth it, once you feast your eyes upon the majestic bay with its pristine soft golden sand dotted with palm trees.
The waters there are also crystal clear and great for snorkeling. This sheltered bay is known as one of the best snorkeling spots in the entire BVI.
16. Surf at Josiah’s Bay
On the east ends of Tortola’s coast is found another amazing Bay/beach, Josiah’s Bay. The beach at this Bay is long and wide featuring powdery soft sand. The dramatic lush hills that jut out into the waters on either side of the bay add to this beach’s beauty and offer stunning views.
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In calm conditions, the warm, sparkling clear waters of the bay are excellent for swimming but with the North Swell, the beach becomes a surfer’s paradise. While it may look harmless, the rip tides on this beach are rather strong and guests are warned to swim with precaution.
17. Escape to Smugglers Cove
Smugglers Cove is a secluded, beautiful serene beach found on the western coast of Tortola. If you are looking to escape in a secluded beach for the day, then this is the beach.
The warm clear waters of the beach and the relaxing atmosphere makes it the perfect beach to just beach bum or float in the water all day long. Snorkeling on smugglers cove is also good and the waters feature a fertile marine life. Though a bit difficult to get to, this unpolluted beach is worth it.
18. Hike Up Mount Sage
At 1716 ft, Mount Sage is the highest mountain in all of the British Virgin Islands. For the love of nature and stunning views, take this easy hike up the mountain and enjoy some majestic views.
The mountain has several trails which form into a loop that leads to the top. It’s a great place to spend the day, exploring the flora and fauna of Tortola.
After a day in nature, you can retreat to the hotel found at the entrance of the park and refuel with sumptuous lunch and drinks
19. Dolphin Discovery
One of the top excursions in Tortola is the Dolphin Discovery experience. Go learn, meet and greet these charming creations. The Dolphin Centre is fun packed and great for the entire family. It gives you a chance to swim, play, pet, kiss and hug the dolphins.
It’s a heart-melting experience that you and your family should try out. Other than playing, the reserve also teaches you how to care for the marine environment and the dolphin’s nutritional program.
20. Old Government House Museum Tortola
If you enjoy history and culture, then a visit to the Old Government House Museum in Tortola will suit you. This museum which has been voted the best in BVI is within a walking distance of the cruise port in Road Town.
It mostly features the island’s British colonial history with plenty of pictures, documents, signs and even artifacts of the royal family and other important British personas that have graced the island before. Go explore this beautiful, peaceful house with two floors of History and culture within the walls.
The British Virgin Islands experiences a pretty consistent weather all throughout the year. The peak season for cruisers is late November to February, which is the winter season in the island with temperatures ranging between 70-80° Fahrenheit.
Get all your cruise accessories ready for your Caribbean cruise.
The hurricane season runs from June to November. Because of the relatively dry weather of the archipelago, Tortola has some of the clearest waters, enjoy swimming and snorkeling on the island.
See You There!
Whether you are seeking some quality time with your family, seeking an adventure or simply after relaxation, you will realize that Tortola has something for everyone.
Apart from lush mountain landscape that offers stunning vistas and soft sand beaches, Tortola is also a place to make friends, to tick unique attractions off your bucket list and to enjoy the laid-back nature of this Caribbean Gem.
Therefore, plan well, book in advance and see you in Tortola. Happy Cruising!!