With its white-sand beaches, forested groves, and yacht-filled harbors, Tortola is the epitome of a tropical paradise—without the isolation. This island is also the the largest and most populated of the British Virgin Islands and home to the capital of Road Town, meaning that it is easy to access and full of visitor amenities.
It’s easy to spend a whole day swimming and sipping coconuts at Tortola’s coveted beaches such as Brewers Bay and Cane Garden Bay, but visitors would be remiss to skip the island’s other attractions. Gentle swells and clear waters make beginner surf lessons, stand-up paddleboarding, and snorkeling attractive options for water-lovers, while a number of caves, botanical gardens, and national parks satisfy the siren call of the island’s forested peaks. Sage Mountain National Park, J.R. O’Neal Botanic Gardens, and Queen Elizabeth II Park are all popular options. With all this activity, Tortola offers a number of dining options that fuel days of fun. Eat your fill of fresh seafood at beachfront shacks or grand historic properties, whatever suits your taste.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Tortola leans toward luxury, but some budget hotels are available.
- Don’t fret your packing list—you can find most of what you need on the island if you forgot something at home.
- Those visiting on a cruise ship can look for easy-to-book shore excursions that fit tight schedules.
- If you're not sure where to start, book an island tour with a tour guide for an overview of Tortola's attractions.
How to Get There
Tortola has three ferry docks: West End, Road Town, and Baughers Bay, making it easy to catch a boat between Tortola and other nearby islands such as Jost Van Dyke and Virgin Gorda, home to the Baths, a popular beach area. Routes are available from St. Thomas and St. John, as well. Those arriving by air will fly into the BVI’s only airport on Beef Island and can take a shuttle or taxi to Tortola, about a 30-minute drive to Road Town. Personal yachts are also allowed; just be sure to check local and embassy regulations before you dock.
When to Get There
Sunshine and warm weather are practically guaranteed year-round. You will get more rain during hurricane season from June through November, and, of course, the threat of a big storm, but satellite forecasts generally give enough warning. Still, trip insurance is advised. High season runs from December through April, so expect crowds and higher prices during those months.
A Cultural Cocktail
Although Tortola is a British territory, the culture is far removed. Hundreds of years of global trade, including the massive impact of the Atlantic slave trade, brought West African, Indian, Hispanic, Dutch, Caribbean, British, and other cultures together into a unique mix that isn’t found anywhere else outside the British Virgin Islands.