Tortola: Always Laid-Back

As the gateway to the BVI, the harbor tends to be bustling, but Tortola’s general vibe is one of utter relaxation.

February 14, 2019 No Comments
Tortola Palm Beach Shore

Tortola is the yachting capital of the Caribbean, so it’s appropriate that the name of its capital, Road Town, refers to the nautical term “the roads,” which means a safe place to drop anchor. There are a number of sailing excursions that allow guests to get in on the pristine yachting action. It is a small town with a big heart, thanks to the hospitable locals.

There is no duty-free shopping in the UK territories, but the open-air Crafts Alive Village—about a five-minute walk from the pier—is a great spot to pick up authentic souvenirs. Other Road Town attractions include the Virgin Islands Folk Museum, Fort Burt, the Callwood Rum Distillery, and the J.R. O’Neal Botanic Gardens.

Tortola Botanic Gardens

J.R. O’Neal Botanic Gardens.

To the west of Road Town, undulating roads peppered with stunning lookouts lead to Sage Mountain National Park. Hiking trails crisscross the 92-acre park, which features the Virgin Islands’ highest peak (1,752 feet) and a steamy primeval rainforest.

If pirate legends and buried treasures pique an interest, set sail for nearby Norman Island, which served as the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island. Or, sail to the glorious beach of White Bay on the island of Jost Van Dyke, named after a notorious pirate.

Tortola Palm Tree Road Town

With no building taller than a palm tree, Road Town radiates a serene charm.

To explore the famous Virgin Gorda Baths, set sail across the Sir Francis Drake Channel to Spanish Town, Virgin Gorda, about 12 miles from Road Town. Huge boulders form a labyrinth of hidden caves and grottoes filled with shallow wading pools, one of the most popular attractions in the BVI.

Back on Tortola, the best beach is along Cane Garden Bay. The mile-long strip is flanked by lush mountains and azure waters. Local legend has it that Jimmy Buffet penned the hit “Cheeseburger in Paradise” with this oasis in mind. It’s lined with open-air restaurants serving lobster, conch, and goat curry. Wash it down at a beachside bar with a Painkiller, a local concoction of rum, pineapple, coconut, and OJ.

Glide across a mountaintop on a thrilling zip-line tour through Tortola’s rainforest.

See the Virgin Islands by sea as you cruise from Tortola to neighboring Jost Van Dyke, the smallest of the main British Virgin Islands, for a beach break.

Visit Virgin Gorda’s unusual beaches. The Baths are named for the boulders—batholiths—that form tranquil grottos and pools; a rugged trail connects to Devil’s Bay.

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