The British Virgin Islands, a British overseas territory, which comprises four main islands and 50 + smaller islands, is a popular place to visit for vacations and island hopping. The BVI is a natural paradise and is home to 9 national parks. Tortola, the main island, houses the British Virgin Islands’ capital, Road Town and is the largest island out in the BVI. Tortola is very popular for cruises and single destination vacations alike. With its beautiful scenery, amazing beaches, plentiful scuba diving sites, and booming tourism, there is no doubt that Tortola is one of the best places to visit in the Caribbean.
When to Visit Tortola, BVI
The weather is beautiful in Tortola year-round. Since the island is located in the Caribbean, it is best to avoid visiting during the hurricane season. Hurricane season for Tortola lasts from June to November, with the highest chance from August to October. Tortola has experienced many devastating hurricanes, such as Hurricane Irma in 2017.
Currency in Tortola, British Virgin Islands
The Tortola currency is the U.S. dollar (USD), the only currency they accept. So if you travel from another country and your currency is not USD, you will need to go to an exchange to get your cash exchanged.
What to do in Tortola, British Virgin Islands
Covered in forests and surrounded by water, there are many things to do in Tortola that appeal to vacationers and adventurous alike. From Tortola beaches to Tortola excursions, there are many things to do while visiting Tortola, British Virgin Islands. Here are a few suggestions to keep in mind when deciding what to do in Tortola.
Things to do in Tortola off a cruise ship
Since the Caribbean Sea surrounds Tortola, it is common for tourists to visit via cruise ship. Tortola is a very popular destination for cruise lines, and the island has many day trip excursions for cruisers. In addition to excursions, many day trips are planned to popular and off-the-beaten-path beaches on the island.
While these excursions are popular amongst cruise passengers, they are available to anyone on the island and ready to have some fun.
One of the most popular excursions in Tortola is visiting Sage Mountain National Park and hiking to the top of Mount Sage. With this excursion, you can hike to the highest point of the island, reaching thousands of feet above sea level and the highest elevation of the British Virgin Islands. The hike is beginner-friendly and kid-friendly but also challenging. From the highest point in Tortola, you can see breathtaking views of Jost Van Dyke island, the smallest of the four main British Virgin Islands, and other surrounding islands. The views from the lookout point are like no other.
The Impulse Traveler’s experience: When I took this excursion, there was a five-year-old that hiked it faster than me. I was out of shape. In the end, you can take beautiful pictures showing off the entire island of Tortola (like the one below), and you won’t even remember the hike. After the hike, you can buy beverages such as rum punch and native Tortola dishes that you can only get on the island.
Ultimate British Virgin Island Tour
Discover the highlights of Tortola on a private guided tour. You can explore the island’s most famous beaches, Brewers Bay and Cane Garden Bay. Additionally, there is a private tour of the iconic Callwood Distillery.
There is a special stop for lunch and drinks; visitors can swim at one of the beaches. This tour is ideal for visitors who want to see the best of the British Virgin Islands in one day.
Jost Van Dyke Escape
With this excursion, visitors will be able to experience the smallest island of the British Virgin Islands. Visitors experience four hours of beach paradise and get to eat and drink at beach bars. Additionally, visitors will experience some of the best snorkeling in the world and dive from the two 90-foot tall rock formations known as the “Twin Towers.”
Jost Van Dyke is widely known for its beautiful white beaches, restaurants and bars, and yacht anchorages. The busy port of Jost Van Dyke has contributed to its many famed beach bars like Foxy’s bar.
Callwood Rum Distillery
The Callwood Rum Distillery is a historical site on the island. This distillery has been operating for over 100 years and has been passed down from generation to generation. Voted one of the top 6 Caribbean rum distilleries in 2020, this distillery is a great spot to get a true taste of Caribbean rum.
Soper’s Hole Wharf and Marina
Soper’s Hole Marina is where boats can anchor on the island of Tortola. It is located on the west side of the island off Frenchman’s Cay. There are plenty of businesses that offer activities, dining, shopping, gift shops, and much more.
Check out these additional excursions:
The beaches in Tortola are home to some of the most beautiful and diverse coral reefs and white-sand beaches. They are home to a variety of marine life, such as sea turtles and tropical fish. There are many beaches to choose from that offer excellent snorkeling, swimming, and other water sports. Here are some of Tortola’s best beaches.
Smugglers Cove is located about 10 minutes from the West End and 25 minutes outside Road Town. It is off the beaten path, and to get to the beach, you must travel a bumpy, winding dirt road. Once you arrive, you will discover Tortola’s secluded paradise.
Smugglers cove is a beautiful beach near a reef with great snorkeling opportunities. The beach is composed of clear white sand and bright blue water. The beach is often populated by snorkelers enjoying the fish and the reef and sunbathers soaking up the sun.
A few drink stands and bars are on the beach at Smuggler’s Cove. The most popular bar is Patricia’s Beach Bar. Patricia’s beach bar has raving reviews on Tripadvisor, with one review by Kimralphie stating, “it should be called Patricia’s at Smuggler’s Beach,” insinuating that Patricia’s Beach Bar was a key contributor to her great time at the beach.
Cane Garden Bay
Cane Garden Bay is a beautiful beach located in the British Virgin Islands on the north side of Tortola. With velvet sands and sapphire blue water, Cane Garden Bay is a hidden gem in the Caribbean and worth visiting.
The ride from the cruise port to Cane Garden Bay is about 20-30 minutes. Many cruisers visit the beach as part of a tour purchased through their cruise line, but many taxis are also available for transport.
Many bars and restaurants line the shore of Cane Garden Bay. Food and drinks are just a few steps away. With beach bar and restaurant options such as Quito’s Gazebo and Indigo Beach House, there is no need to leave the beach.
Lounge chairs and umbrellas are available for rent so you can take a break from the beaming Caribbean sun. Additionally, there are also changing rooms available. Local vendors are in the area, and there are many opportunities to purchase reasonably priced souvenirs.
Access to Cane Garden Bay is free, and there is no need to spend money on a day pass like on other beaches. My first tip for visiting this beach and Tortola, in general, is to wear mosquito repellent. While mosquitos may not bother you on the beach due to the wind, they will bother you on your walk to and from your transportation.
Brewers bay is a beautiful bay on the north end of Tortola Island. This bay is perfect for snorkeling with heavily populated fish wildlife and calm, serene waters. Beautiful palm trees and tropical plants that you only see in paradise cover the beautiful coastline of Brewer’s Bay.
After snorkeling the beautiful waters of Brewers Bay, you can have lunch and a drink at Nicole’s Beach Bar, with a deck with views overlooking the pristine bay.
The drive to Brewers bay is exhilarating, with many steep curves and hills. If you are uncomfortable driving slender roads with lots of bumps, you should get a ride or an excursion that includes transportation.
On the north-facing end of the coast of Tortola is a paradise of a beach called Josiah’s Bay. Josiah’s Bay is perfect for swimming, sunbathing, and just observing the beautiful nature of Tortola. With calmer waves, this beach is ideal for surfers, especially beginners. The waves are calm enough for snorkelers and paddleboarders, making this beach a paradise for adventurers.
Note: The water is not always calm enough for swimming. Check sea conditions before going.
The beach is outlined with powder soft, white sand with views of Guana Island and White Bay. Once you have an appetite and are ready for a tropical beverage, you can visit one of the two beach bars to get refueled and rehydrated.
Access to Josiah’s Bay is straightforward by road, and you should have no problems driving there. If you would like to visit the beach with an experienced guide, here are a few options:
Apple Bay is a smaller, more narrow beach that offers the perfect conditions for surfing. Apple Bay, or Capoons Bay, is located off the west coast of Tortola Island. Many seaside villages have excellent surfing, resorts, and superb dining spots near the bay.
From this bay, you will have great views of Jost Van Dyke and the northwest coast of Tortola Island. This beach is close to the cruise port and is a perfect place to visit if you are looking for things to do in Tortola off a cruise ship.
White Bay Beach (Jost van Dyke Island)
While not on the island of Tortola, this bay is too popular not to mention. On the southern coast of Jost van Dyke, White Bay is a great area to relax and have a drink in hand. There are several restaurants and bars nearby, such as the famous Soggy Dollar Bar, where the original painkiller drink was invented. Read the story of the painkiller here.
British Virgin Islands Resorts
Of the beautiful resorts in the Caribbean, the British Virgin Islands houses some of the most secluded luxury resorts with views of the tranquil island sunset. Tortola being the paradise that it is is home to many beautiful hotels and resorts. If you want to make your time on Tortola island the ultimate vacation, you should consider one of these beautiful Caribbean hotels.
This is a 5-star hotel on the island of Virgin Gorda, one of the larger islands of the British Virgin islands. This resort is on a secluded beach overlooking Little Dix Bay. This refined resort is 2.2 km from Virgin Gorda Airport and 10 km from Leverick Bay Marina.
Set along a beach on the Caribbean Sea, this sleek resort on a private island is a 10-minute boat ride from Terrance B. Lettsome International Airport on nearby Beef Island. The resort offers adventure and luxury living set within the magic and beauty of the British Virgin Islands.
Set on an entire private island in the North Sound on the northern end of Virgin Gorda, this upscale hotel is only accessible by free ferry services or seaplane. It offers an outdoor pool, a private beach area, free Wi-Fi and ocean views. You will have a luxury experience like no other at this resort. Check it out now.
In addition, these are a few more of our favorite resorts:
This is an ultimate travel guide for Tortola, British Virgin Islands. If you are in the mood to island hop, you should definetely visit Puerto Rico. Check out my ultimate guide to Puerto Rico, here.