The largest island of the BVI, Tortola is home to Road Town, the BVIs capital. This mini-metropolis is a major docking point for cruise ships and the BVI’s cultural epicenter, hosting many restaurants, hotels, nightlife and more. From there, you have easy access to the other islands and attractions of the BVI via charters and ferries. For the eco-interested, Sage Mountain National Park is home to the highest point in BVI as well as a vibrant tropical forest. Or enjoy the beaches of Tortola which offer many fantastic and unique dive sites in the surrounding waters, including reefs, marine creatures and shipwrecks. Chalk this up as victory for Caribbean vacation.
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Mapping Out Tortola
The largest and busiest of the islands, Tortola offers many eateries and shopping venues, but if you know where to go, you can find slices of paradises. Road Town, the BVI's capital city, hums with life, as cruise ships docking in the port and other tourists pulse into the local attractions.
Away from the bustle of the city, Tortola’s beaches are calmer, and the north coast is serene. Cane Garden Bay, Smuggler's Cove and Long Bay are famously beautiful and home to delicious, beach restaurants and Caribbean-paced relaxation. If you want to discover your own island paradise, charter a yacht on Tortola to explore the more than 60 islands in the BVI. As the hub of the BVI, Tortola offers plenty of routes to relaxation.
Nightlife the Musical
The BVI takes music very seriously, and Tortola is the musical heart that pumps excellent tunes through the veins of the BVI.
Much of Tortola’s nightlife revolves around music venues. For example, Jolly Roger in West End, Myett’s at Cane Garden Bay, and Pub in Road Town all feature live music. The island’s culture is deeply connected in music. At Bomba’s Surfside Shack at Apple Bay, bands play all night on nights of a full moon.
The music doesn’t end with sunrise, though. In May, Tortola is host to the BVI Music Festival. For 3 days, gospel, reggae, blues and salsa musicians play their music for huge crowds of people who flock to the island. The island also has a local celebrity in Quito Rhymer, who owns Quito’s Gazebo Bar & Restaurant in Cane Garden Bay. Catch him playing his acoustic guitar solo on Tuesdays and Thursdays. On Friday and Saturday he brings the whole band.
Down the Rabbit Hole
Diving adventures abound around Tortola. Before you suit up and dive in, let us show you a couple of dive sites you'll brag about well after you've dried off.
Alice in Wonderland is a reef known for its distinctly mushroom-shaped coral. Painted Walls is a dive site where Technicolor-like coral has grown on the walls of gullies.
Similarly, Indians dive site lets you get up close to coral growing on 50-foot tall spikes. The waters around Tortola are also home to several shipwrecks. Most intriguing is the RMS Rhone, a steamer from 1867. The ship, now home to many different species of coral and fish is remarkably well preserved, making for memorable dive. There are a lot more dive sites to explore around BVI, but these will get you started.
The Beaches – East and West End Edition
On Tortola, the beaches are numerous and beautiful, no matter which side of the island you're on.
Out west, Smuggler’s Cove is a haven for swimmers, snorkelers and sunbathers. This palm tree lined stretch of white sand is everything you expect from a Caribbean beach. Popular with Long Bay Resort guests, the beach draws a crowd on the weekend, but check it out during the week for a more secluded experience.
Back east, Long Bay Beach on Beef Island is on the opposite side of Tortola, and it’s a big beach. The calm waters suit swimmers and snorkelers wonderfully, and the picturesque pearly sands stretch on and on. There are no amenities at the beach, so come prepared with snacks, clothes and whatever else you'll need. The tranquil setting and the room to roam make for an unforgettable beach visit.
The Beaches – North Shore
Head northwest out of Road Town, and you'll find these 2 beaches. They're wonderful fusions of Tortola's culture and beauty.
Cane Garden Bay offers snorkeling and swimming in clear water and great sunbathing on smooth, white sand. Located close to Road Town, the beach shows some the city’s more urban influence. But that simply means more facilities and a nice cultural undertone to the pretty scenery.
Apple Bay is home to Bomba’s Surfside Shack, one of the island’s famous establishments that serves up drinks, food and music from a building that's decorated with floatsam. The restaurant’s name and location are no accident. Surfers head to Apple Bay to catch killer waves. The beach is narrow and not ideal for swimming, so surfers can focus on what they do best.
Be a Day Tripper
One of the BVI’s greatest strengths is the sheer number of potential destinations among the over 60 islands. As the largest of these, Tortola offers many opportunities for daytrips to remote and gorgeous beaches. Ferries leave from Road Town, and you can rent a yacht or charter.
Visit the giant rocks at The Baths beach on Virgin Gorda, or stop by Anegada for excellent diving. Anchor near Jost Van Dyke and come ashore for food, drinks and music at one of the beachfront eateries. Transportation to these destinations will be readily accessible, so you can make the most of your time in the BVI.
Of course, for the quintessential island experience, you can always hop on chartered boat and search for your own pristine spit of land to lounge in the sand and surf. Don’t worry. Tortola will still be there when you get back.
Tortola Quick Facts
110 volts – American appliances work fine
All U.S. citizens must have a valid passport when traveling to and from Tortola.
Tap water comes mostly from desalination plants, but some places use cisterns. Drink bottled water if you're unsure of the tap water's cleanliness.
Eastern Standard Time (UTC/GMT -4 hours)
late-December – early-April