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Tortola British Virgin Islands Port Guide

A British Virgin Islands cruise takes you to an archipelago made up of low mountains and rolling hills. Surrounding the peaks of the islands are gorgeous lagoons that are home to coral reefs and white sand beaches. The British Virgin Islands (BVI) encompass dozens of islands, though most are uninhabited. Tortola is the largest island followed by Virgin Gorda and Jost Van Dyke, though to give you scale, Virgin Gorda is only eight square miles and Jost Van Dyke is even smaller at just three square miles. Despite their small size, a lot of beauty is packed into their coastlines.

Caribbean cruises pull into port in Tortola. From there, you can explore the main island’s 21.5 square miles of landscape and quaint coastal towns, or take an excursion to one of the smaller islands.

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Top Sights & Attractions for Cruises to Tortola

Brandywine Beach

This beach is close to Road Town and features a long, sandy stretch of sand. It is also next to a calm bay that makes it ideal for families with children and anyone who wants to go for a relaxing swim.

Smuggler’s Cove

Smuggler’s Cove is a lovely beach located on the western edge of Tortola. The sandy beach is lined by the turquoise sea to one side and pretty sea grapes and almond trees on the other side, the latter of which provide nice shade for beachgoers. Within the bay of Smuggler’s Cove, you’ll also find coral reefs you can snorkel along.

Apple Bay

If you love to surf or simply love watching surfers, head to Apple Bay, nicknamed “the Surfing Beach”. This bay is home to one of the Caribbean’s best surf breaks, particularly in the winter months during a north sea swell. You’ll also find a surfer’s bar there called Bomba’s Shack to get a drink in after you’ve caught a wave or two.

Lambert Beach

If you’re looking for a picturesque white sand beach in the British Virgin Islands, head to Lambert Beach. Located on Tortola’s east end, the soft white sand is framed by palm trees and sparkling teal water.

Norman Island

Feel like a pirate navigating a secret island when you take an excursion to Norman Island, a privately owned and uninhabited island. It’s open to visitors for hiking and sunbathing on the white sand beaches. Norman Island also has excellent snorkeling and scuba diving spots surrounding it.

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Top Things to Do in Tortola

Explore Road Town

Take a guided tour of Road Town or explore it on your own to see the top sites of this colorful capital city. The streets of Road Town are lined by candy-colored buildings housing bars, shops, restaurants, and markets. The picturesque harbor is a popular yachting hub and will likely have you dreaming of owning a boat someday.

Virgin Gorda Baths

The Baths of Virgin Gorda are a gorgeous stretch of coastline lined with huge boulders. These massive rocks create pockets of seawater by tiny white sand beaches. It makes for an exhilarating excursion to hike between the different baths.

Water Sports on Cane Garden Bay

Cane Garden Bay is a great place to do watersports since it’s sheltered from high winds due to the curve of the bay. You can go swimming and snorkeling or rent equipment for windsurfing, paddleboarding, or other watersports.

Hike in Sage Mountain National Park

Sage Mountain National Park is home to Sage Mountain, the highest point in the British Virgin Islands. You can hike one of the 12 looped trails, which go through beautiful rainforests.

Top Food and Drink Spots Near the Tortola Cruise Port

The British Virgin Islands has an array of dining options with Caribbean flair and flavors. Here are some of the top places at which to eat during BVI cruises.

Bananakeet Cafe

If you have time in port to catch the sunset, this is a great place to do so thanks to its incredible sea and mountain views. Arrive early to take advantage of happy hour and get a good sunset viewing spot. The cuisine served here is Caribbean fusion with a strong emphasis on seafood, including the local Anegada conch. Try the free sundowner shot for a fun way to celebrate the gorgeous sunset.

Brandywine Estate

Located on picturesque Brandywine Bay, the Brandywine Estate features a romantic outdoor patio with views overlooking the sea and nearby islands. The cuisine is inspired by the Mediterranean and is constantly changing. The restaurant was beautifully reconstructed after being heavily damaged by Hurricane Irma and is open for diners again to enjoy its fabulous views and cuisine.

Capriccio di Mare

If you want something more casual to eat during your British Virgin Islands cruise, this is a great Italian café serving espresso, pastries, pizza, and pasta. You can also get a Bellini or other cocktail to enjoy from the onsite bar if you’re looking for something heavier than a cappuccino.

Sugar Mill Restaurant

This unique restaurant is located inside a 17th century sugar mill and features a menu that changes nightly, though you’ll find a variety of Caribbean favorites like Jamaican pulled pork and rum-based desserts.

Culture & History of the Tortola Cruise Port

The British Virgin Islands were formed by volcanic activity, which contributed to its mountainous terrain. The islands were first inhabited by the Arawak, an indigenous tribe, until the 15th century when Caribs took over the island. Christopher Columbus documented seeing the islands on his expedition to the region in 1493, and eventually the Spanish Empire took claim of the islands in the 16th century. Later, the Dutch took hold of the islands and established a permanent settlement on Tortola in the 1600s and held onto the islands until 1682, when the British conquered the island of Tortola and later annexed the other islands in the archipelago.

Today, your British Virgin Islands cruise will take you to islands that have British influence while still maintaining an island charm all their own. The two main components of the economy in the BVI are tourism and offshore financial services.

Tortola Port Facilities & Location

Your British Virgin Islands cruise ship will dock in the city of Road Town on the island of Tortola. The cruise terminal is conveniently located next to Tortola Pier Park, which is an 80,000-square-foot area that includes 50 different shops and restaurants. For those wanting to explore Road Town on foot, it’s a short walk to get to the city center.

Transportation in Tortola

Taxis are a reliable and affordable method of transportation in the BVI. No matter what your travel requires, you’ll find transportation to accommodate you, from open-air safari buses to enclosed air-conditioned buses and smaller passenger vehicles. In the BVI, taxis are for more than just point A to point B. They’re some of the most popular methods of touring the beautiful landscapes quickly and comfortably. Whether you are looking for a ride from the airport to your hotel or a trip around one of the islands, taxis and water taxis help you make it happen.

For getting to other islands, take one of the inter-island ferries that can transport you to nearby smaller islands that are part of both the BVI and U.S. Virgin Islands.

Shopping Near the Tortola Cruise Port

Top souvenirs to get during your British Virgin Islands cruise include gems and metal bracelets pounded out right in front of you by local jewelers. To bring the flavors of the Caribbean home with you, local rum and spices are also popular. You can also find local art and pottery in the shops of Road Town.

Local Currency & Tipping Customs

Though the British Virgin Islands are a territory of Great Britain, don’t expect to use the British Pound while there. The official currency of the islands is actually the U.S. Dollar, making it convenient for those sailing to the islands from Florida or also visiting the nearby U.S. Virgin Islands.

Tipping in the BVI is often expected and is similar to what you’ll encounter in the U.S. with 10% to 20% being a common tip in restaurants, bars, and for taxi drivers.

 

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Besides being one of the most scenic islands in the Caribbean, Tortola also has a fascinating cultural and historical side. For a glimpse into the island’s colonial past, visit the Virgin Islands Folk Museum. The restored house was once the family home of shipwright, Joseph Wilfred Penn and features a deep collection of Arawak and Carib pottery and stone tools, as well as plantation artifacts. Hike along the seven available walking trails in Sage Mountain National Park for stunning panoramic views of the island and the surrounding natural habitat. Snorkeling in the crystal-clear Caribbean Sea and a rum tasting at Callwood Rum Distillery are essential on a cruise to Tortola. Sample the delicious curries, spicy soups, and sumptuous shellfish dishes available in abundance at local restaurants and many snack shacks around the island.