Cruise ships dock at the new cruise pier in Road Town, Road Harbour. Tortola is the yachting capital of the Caribbean, so it’s appropriate that its name refers to the nautical term “the roads,” which means a safe place to drop anchor. To experience the island’s unmatched surrounding waters, sign up for one of many fully crewed sailing excursions that are available.
Road Town is known for being a small town with a big heart, thanks to the hospitable British Virgin Islanders. Nearly 80 percent of the BVI population call Tortola home. There is not a lot of duty-free shopping in the UK territories, but the open-air Crafts Alive Village is a great spot to pick up authentic souvenirs. Good deals on imported British goods are available in some of the shops. Other Road Town attractions include the Virgin Islands Folk Museum, Fort Burt, the Callwood Rum Distillery, and the J.R. O’Neal Botanic Gardens.
The best beach on Tortola is Cane Garden Bay, a mile-long strip of pure white sand in a crescent-moon shape, flanked by lush mountains and translucent azure waters. The shore is lined with open-air restaurants, whose menus feature fresh lobster (during season), conch, and spicy goat curries. Wash it all down at a beachside bar with a Painkiller, a local concoction of rum, pineapple, coconut, and orange juices. Smuggler’s Cove, on the western tip of Tortola, is another superb stretch of sand.
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. Savor a picnic lunch at one of the lookouts and enjoy the astounding views of the former stomping grounds of the real pirates of the Caribbean.
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. Today, an incredible array of marine life just offshore makes Norman Island a treasure trove for snorkelers.
The waters surrounding the BVI teem with more than 160 varieties of fish, including 500-pound marlins and 100-pound tarpon, plus some of the aptly named speedy bonefish, which swim up to 40 mph.