Tortola, British Virgin Islands

Tortola, British Virgin Islands

Tortola is one of the British Virgin Islands, in the eastern Caribbean..Tortola and most of the British Virgin Islands are mountainous, and while they boast verdant-green hills, the climate and vegetation are much drier than many Caribbean isles. In Tortola, cactus and succulents are more common than ferns, and rushing streams and waterfalls are virtually nonexistent. The dry climate of the islands has a beneficial side effect: because of the lack of runoff, the water clarity is dependably higher than many other places in the Caribbean.

For that reason, Tortola and the BVI are a popular destination for divers and snorkelers. The protective effect of the islands surrounding Tortola causes the seas to be calm most of the time, making the region an attractive destination for those prone to motion sickness during small-boat excursions. The steady winds and calm seas also make Tortola and the BVI one of the world’s premier yachting regions. Sailing excursions should be at the top of every interested visitor’s list.

A popular place to visit is Jost Van Dyke island to the northwest of Tortola, which has a lovely sand beach at White Bay, a ferry service is offered from West End (Soper’s Hole).

Ferries also depart from Road Town (central) and Beef Island (East End). Soper’s Hole and Beef Island can both be reached by taxi.

Other popular trips include sailing, diving and hiking in Tortola’s National Park, Sage Mountain.

The disabled cruiser visiting Tortola

Where You’re Docked

Ships dock in Road Harbour, Tortola’s only “town.” A major expansion of Tortola’s cruise dock was under way in 2015, with plans for the development of the land alongside the pier, which will completely transform this tiny port. The five-acre development plan has two phases. The first (completed in summer 2015) involved lengthening and widening the existing pier, while the second phase includes landside development, including the addition of several restaurants, a marketplace, retail stores, a pool, bar and trolley line, among other features.

You can cover most of Road Town on foot; most eateries and shopping venues are within easy walking distance. The major asset in Road Town, however, is the ferry docks. For those who want to see what the British Virgin Islands are really about, the ferries are your best friends.

As you disembark in Road Town, be prepared for construction. You will find an information kiosk staffed with people handing out maps, ferry schedules and brochures, and taxis are readily available. For other facilities like ATMs, shops and cafes, it’s just a quick walk into town, where you’ll find pubs with Wi-Fi, restaurants and even a small market. Main Street features cute souvenir shops, where you can find local crafts and jewelry. While Road Town is worth a visit, if that’s the extent of your Tortola experience, you will miss out on the best of the BVI.

Taxis are available.

Ferries are the main form of transport, taking people between Tortola and the other islands in the British Virgins, it is frequent, dependable and affordable.

Good to Know

You won’t encounter dangerous animals or snakes, but a few plants (oleander and elephant ears, for example) are poisonous if consumed. The manchioneel, or poison apple tree, is a shrub or tree that grows near the beach. It’s fruit, sap and leaves are caustic — a severe irritant to skin and eyes — and toxic if ingested.

Also, smoking is prohibited in all public indoor and outdoor spaces and within 50 feet of these spaces. This applies to all beaches.

Getting Around

On foot: 

By car: 

By bus:


The BVI use the U.S. dollar for its currency. ATMs are commonplace.


English, though Caribbean patois is common.


Tortola isn’t known as a shopping mecca. But if you like Caribbean island music, track down a CD by Tortola’s main recording star, Quito Rymer. These CDs can be found at the gift shop at Rymer’s restaurant/club, Quito’s Gazebo, in Cane Garden Bay or from numerous other gift shops on the island.

Other great souvenirs include a bottle of Pusser’s Rum (or a piece of Pusser’s signature logo merchandise, their duffels and outdoor-wear are high quality) or a sampling of spices from Sunny Caribbee.

Meals often include a variety of seafood, chicken, and goat. Saltfish is also popular. Common side dishes include rice and peas, sweet potatoes, fried plantains, beans and lentils. Fresh fruits abound, like passion fruit, mango and soursop. A favorite dish is fungi, which is similar to polenta and is made from cornmeal and okra. Also popular is roti, a flatbread that is deep fried or stuffed with other ingredients, like lentils, curry and vegetables. And don’t forget the rum.

Why not try the signature drink of the British Virgin Islands – The Painkiller, a concoction of dark rum, cream of coconut, pineapple and orange juices, topped with nutmeg.

Points of Interest

  • Tortola – a seven-

Tortola Accessible Excursions

Whether your cruise ship stops in 

Tortola Accessible Guided Tour

This 4 hour accessible