One of the British Virgin Islands’ treasures, Tortola’s lush mountainous landscape and beautiful sandy coves are enough to make any beach lover swoon. The island’s mountains and hills provide ample opportunity to explore greenery by trails on foot, and the capital city of Road Town offers a small-city feel with bars, restaurants, and shops.
If a Caribbean escape is on your radar, pack your flip flops and discover some of the best things to do in Tortola.
1: Explore the Baths at Virgin Gorda
Perhaps one of the most well-known natural attractions in the British Virgin Islands, the Baths at Virgin Gorda are a major draw for not only beachgoers and swimmers, but for the adventurers at heart, too.
Located on the neighboring island of Virgin Gorda, this natural site is easily accessible from Tortola. Giant granite boulders emerging from impossibly white sand and pristine blue-green waters set the scene for the ultimate sun-drenched experience.
As part of a national park, this protected coastline is full of hidden beaches, caves, and pools of clear seawater. Highlights include the “Cathedral Room,” a small cave with a pool of water, and Devil’s Bay, where shallow waters and snorkeling will be your reward. Venturing into the maze of boulders at Virgin Gorda is easily one of the best things to do in Tortola.
2: Get a Taste of Road Town
Get a taste of the laid-back charm the Caribbean is known for by venturing into Road Town’s bars, restaurants, and shops. Historic points of interest line Main Street, such as the 1800s-era post office, the Virgin Islands Folk Museum, and St. George’s Anglican Church.
If you’re hungry, there are plenty of restaurants to try local flavors like conch, seafood soup, roti, and stews. To bring a taste of Tortola home, a visit to Sunny Caribbee Spice Shop & Art Gallery won’t disappoint. This local shop is a favorite amongst visitors and has a hearty selection of spices and sauces from the West Indies region.
Don’t leave without visiting the Callwood Rum Distillery, which has been making small-batch rum for over 400 years. Go on a tour and taste a selection of white, spiced, and gold rum. Visit the onsite shop if you’re interested in bringing some home.
3: Hike in Sage Mountain National Park
This first-ever national park in the British Virgin Islands lets you explore Tortola’s native forest on 12 trails, most of which are looped. Sage Mountain itself rises 1,716 feet to the sky and is the tallest point in all of the U.S. and the British Virgin Islands, which makes Tortola one of the best Virgin Islands to visit for hikers. If you’re looking to stretch your legs or take a bit of a break from the beaches, this is a solid option.
Viewpoints provide panoramic views over the dotted Virgin Islands hugged by azure seas—it’s quite possibly the best landscape panorama in the BVIs. On the Central Trail, you’ll enjoy spectacular views in under an hour as you hike through the rainforest to an observation deck. A small restaurant and gift shop are located at the entrance and run by the knowledgeable park caretaker.
4: Relax at Cane Garden Bay Beach
Cane Garden Bay Beach, one of the best beaches in the Caribbean, is a well-known stretch of sand for swimmers, sunbathers, and watersports enthusiasts. For a laid-back beach day with options for activities and refreshments, this is a great spot. You’ll find yourself on island time while relaxing on the white sand and listening to the lapping waters of the Caribbean Sea.
Cane Garden Bay is lined with small hotels, restaurants, and shops, making it one of the most fun things to do in Tortola. One popular hangout for music is Quito’s, a long-standing watering hole owned by local singer and performer, Quito Rymer. Make sure to try the famous rum punch, a staple drink on the island. It’s an overall idyllic and fun destination for food, drinks, and entertainment.
5: Snorkel Around Norman Island
Norman Island, located just south of Tortola in the BVI archipelago, is an incredible island for snorkeling where you can swim amongst some of the best aquatic life in the region.
Three cliffside caves along the western harbor provide ideal conditions for incredible snorkeling adventures, where you’ll encounter schools of colorful tropical fish. Tarpon, sea urchins, triggerfish, corals, moon jellyfish, and pencil fish are just some of the types of sea creatures you might see.
Learn about the exciting legends of pirates tied to the history of this island paradise and the treasure that was allegedly buried here. It’s also said that this island was the inspiration for the book Treasure Island written by Robert Louis Stevenson.
6: Enjoy a Beach Break on Jost Van Dyke
A ruggedly beautiful gem in the British Virgin Islands, Jost Van Dyke is a popular anchorage for boaters and host to some gorgeous stretches of sand. One of the main points of interest is White Bay on the southern coast of the island. Because of its position in a sheltered cove, White Bay Beach is an ideal spot for a swim and a lounge session in the sand.
Make sure to grab a refreshment at the world-famous Soggy Dollar Bar, where the delicious “painkiller” cocktail originated. Flying fish sandwiches, fresh barbecued seafood, and local West Indian roti are all cooked here on the beach. If you feel like venturing further, trails and old sugar mill ruins are waiting to be discovered.
7: Scuba Dive RMS Rhone Shipwreck
If diving deep into the Caribbean’s otherworldly underwater realm is up your alley, grab your gear and prepare for an amazing shipwreck dive within the British Virgin Islands National Heritage Site. This dive site is one of the most visited spots in the BVIs in the marine park that takes up 800 acres between Salt Island and Dead Chest Island, to the southeast of Tortola.
The wreck itself is an over 300-foot-long Royal Mail Steamer that sank in the mid 1800s during a hurricane. Since much of the ship is still together, divers have the opportunity to see the steam engine, cannon, decking, rigging portions, and the propeller, as well as all the marine life surrounding it. You may get to swim alongside pufferfish, damselfish, green moray, octopus, and observe the coral gardens.
Divers will also come across many artifacts such as tools and silverware. When the ship sank, it was split into two parts, both approximately 100 feet apart, requiring two dives to completely explore this site.
8: Shop at Craft’s Alive Village
Support the local community by purchasing handicrafts and souvenirs at Craft’s Alive Village. Located a short stroll from the pier in Road Town, it’s a quick trip to this shopping area, where you’ll mingle with shop owners and browse island goods.
Colorful huts near the harbor feature local vendors selling crafts, jewelry, straw hats, beach attire, ornaments, and other market items. Original artwork is a highlight, as are hand-sewn dolls with traditional clothing. On Saturdays, a farmer’s market with island fruits and other culinary treats is set up. Make sure to try a fresh fruit smoothie, the perfect way to cool off in the island heat.
9: Discover Island History at Mount Healthy National Park
Perched above Brewer’s Bay on the northern portion of Tortola, Mount Healthy National Park is host to windmill ruins that once played an important part in the production of the island’s sugarcane. At this 18th-century plantation, you’ll find the only windmill of its kind on the island.
After the industry took a hard hit from several hurricanes, the plantation stopped production and the ruins of this windmill became a historical landmark. An educational plaque describes the history and pertinent information regarding the plantation and ruins.
10: Stroll the J.R. O’Neal Botanical Garden
Located in Road Town, this lush four-acre tropical flora and fauna sanctuary is a respite from the city. The gardens were named after Joseph Reynold O’Neal, a key person in the creation of the National Parks Trust and the first conservationist in the British Virgin Islands.
You’ll enter through the avenue of palms and be enchanted by the park’s fountain and flower-adorned pergolas. Other highlights include exotic and native plants like orchids, lilies, and a miniature rainforest. Explore the pond, waterfall, tropical birdhouses, and nursery gardens housing endangered species of flora and fauna. You might even come across some land tortoises during your visit, too.
11: Enjoy Beachside Bliss at Smuggler’s Cove
On the lesser-known western shores of Tortola, you’ll find the unspoiled beach of Smuggler’s Cove. Enjoying this stretch of sand is one of the best things to do in Tortola. Only about a half an hour from the capital city of Road Town, this secluded cove is less frequented due to the bumpy road conditions. However, this is the perfect spot for relaxing in the sand, a casual swim, or a snorkel to see some lively little fish and possibly some sea turtles as well.
Stunning sunsets are a draw here, and if you’re looking for some refreshments, two seaside watering holes are ready to serve. The only possible problem might just be not wanting to leave this more remote beach haven for the real world.
Caribbean paradise is calling. Browse our luxury cruises to the British Virgin Islands and discover the best of Tortola and the surrounding islands.