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The Best Things to Do on the Island of Tortola

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The Island of Tortola is the largest of the British Virgin Islands. With its powdery white-sand beaches, lush green hills, and crystal clear waters, this island is highly underrated!


This yacht hub and cruise port is a great stop while traveling through the Caribbean. Here are all the different things to know about this little island paradise.

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Where is the Island of Tortola?

Tortola is a British overseas territory, and it situated in the Caribbean Sea. The island is part of the British Virgin Islands, and is east of Puerto Rico and St Thomas, north of St Croix, and west of St Maarten.

where is Tortola

Tortola is located in the Eastern Caribbean, in the BVI.


Getting to the Island of Tortola

Tortola is one of the British Virgin Islands. It can be reached in quite a few different ways, which we will explain below.


Traveling to the Island of Tortola By Cruise Ship

This is one of the most popular ways to visit the island of Tortola. There are several large cruise lines that visit Tortola, the most common one being Norwegian Cruise Line. 


Ships usually stay in port from early morning until midday or early afternoon. Excursions can be set up directly with cruise lines, or you can go with separate tour companies, or on your own.

Traveling to the Island of Tortola By Ferry

There are several local ferries that run through both the US and British Virgin Islands. Ferries go into the capital of Road Town, and have daily departures to and from islands like St. Thomas, Jost Van Dyke, and Virgin Gorda.


Coming from St. Thomas? Check out all the fun things to do by reading our full article:


Traveling to the Island of Tortola By Flight

There is a small airport in the Tortola's Beef Island. There are very few daily flights that go into Beef Island, which are from surrounding Caribbean Islands. Some of the islands you can connect with to get to Tortola are San Juan, Antigua, and Dominica.


Entry Requirements for the Island of Tortola

Now that you know how to get to the island of Tortola, it's important to know the requirements to enter in the first place.


Visa Entry Requirements for Tortola

Tortola is technically a territory of the UK, since it is part of the British Virgin Islands. However, British nationals will still need their passports to enter, and can not just move to the island of Tortola without doing the necessary paperwork. Americans and other foreigners will also need their passport if they plan on flying in, or coming in on a private vessel via sea.


You won't need to go through customs if you plan on visiting on a cruise ship, as the length of time is always just a few hours.


Covid Entry Requirements for Tortola

All requirements have been lifted in regards to Covid, so all travelers whether vaccinated or not, can freely enter the island of Tortola without any extra testing.

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Local Adjustments

Being a British Island in the Caribbean, things can be unclear about what to expect with language, currency, and others. Here are a few things to keep in mind when visiting Tortola.


Language

The official language of the island of Tortola is English. 


Currency

Although Tortola is a British Virgin Island, they do not use the pound, nor do they have their own currency. They actually use the US dollar oddly enough. Many shops and small food establishments don't accept card, so make sure you bring cash with you.


Outlets

The outlets in Tortola are also the same as the US, and most Caribbean Islands. Tortola uses both plug types A and B. The standard voltage is 110 V with a frequency of 60 Hz.


Things to Do on the Island of Tortola

Although the island of Tortola is small, there are plenty of fun ways to spend your days! Here are our favorite 8 things to do in Tortola.


1. Visit Cane Garden Bay

Cane Garden Bay is one of the most popular spots on the island of Tortola. With its white sandy beaches, turquoise waters, and colorful buildings. it makes a great place to take a dip, have a bite to eat, or check out the shops.

Cane Garden Bay, Island of Tortola

Cane Garden Bay is one of the nicest beaches in Tortola.


2. Check out Virgin Gorda Baths

You can't go to Tortola without visiting the famous Virgin Gorda Baths- a  labyrinth of boulders along the beach, forming a series of natural pools. Take an excursion if you are docked for the day, or if you have a few days it is cheaper to go by public ferry.


If you are traveling with NCL there are two excursions- one with snorkeling and one without. However, the difference is very big.


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The Different Tours to Virgin Gorda

The snorkeling tour is a little more expensive, and is a speed boat which takes you there faster. On the other hand, this is for strong swimmers. You can't bring your towel on the beach, and you will anchor about 100 meters from the baths.


The regular tour will take you on a large ferry over to the island of Virgin Gorda, where you will then take a 20 minute bus ride to the baths, and you will need to hike down to the baths.


Keep in mind, for going to the baths you MUST be in good shape, no matter which excursion you choose. The baths are also extremely crowded. If you are visiting and are not on a cruise ship, we suggest going in the afternoon after the rush of the cruise ships.


3. Take a Trip to Jost Van Dyke

Jost Van Dyke is a small piece of Caribbean paradise, right around the corner from the island of Tortola.


Take a boat trip over to this smaller of the British Virgin Island. Known for its famous Soggy Dollar bar, the beach of White Bay is lined with yachts, and is colorful, clean, and has some great Rum Punch Cocktails.


4. Go on a Canopy Tour

Canopy is actually very similar to ziplining, but a little quieter and safer. Go high up in the hills of Johnson's Ghut, and soar through the rainforest on a series of traverses, and get your adrenaline pumping, while enjoying the best views of the island, as well as the surrounding Virgin Islands!


Cruise lines usually have this as an excursion option, but if you're visiting the island on your own time you can get more info and book on your own.


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5. Relax at Long Bay Beach

Looking for an all natural beautiful beach? Long Bay beach is the perfect spot to have a relaxing beach day. Take a dip in the crystal clear waters and admire the mountains around it. The beach has lounge chairs and umbrellas for rent, bathrooms, and a couple of vendors selling snacks and beverages.


To get here from Road Town, you can hop on the local bus towards the airport, and then grab a taxi for the last 5 minutes of the drive, or enjoy the scenic walk along the bay on the way there.

Long Bay Beach, The island of Tortola

Long Bay Beach is the perfect place to relax.


6. Snorkel at Norman Island

The uninhabited Norman island is the perfect place to take a boat trip to for a few hours. What is also known by the locals as Treasure Island, it has the perfect spot to snorkel with it's wonderful marine life and the two colorful caves.


Norman Island, things to do on the island of Tortola
Norman Island, things to do on the island of Tortola
Snorkeling at Normal Island, Things to do on the Island of Tortola

Norman Island is great for its snorkeling and caves.


7. Check out Fort Recovery

Built around an original 17th Century Dutch Fort, Fort Recovery is possibly one of the oldest and last standing Forts that is completely in tact, not only in the British Virgin Islands, but in the entire Caribbean.


As one of the most famous historical landmarks in the BVI, it's worth checking out the fort and hanging out at the nearby resort.


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8. Sail Around the Island of Tortola

The best part of Tortola is the beautiful landscapes it has to offer. Taking a boat around will let you admire the cliffs, crystal clear waters, and colorful houses on the hills, with views of all of the surrounding Virgin Islands.


This was one of my favorite excursions while working on cruise ships and there are a few to choose from. Our personal favorite was the speedboat. It was exhilarating, and let us see so many different areas in just one day! There are also plenty of boats that you can charter on your own, but we just suggest booking in advance.


Island of Tortola boat tour
Boat around the island of Tortola
Sailing around the island of Tortola

Sailing around the island is the best way to see Tortola.


Food on the Island of Tortola

We haven't been to able to have a ton of dining experiences on the island of Tortola, but we did learn about a few things to eat, and some ways to save while eating out. Here are a few things to know about the food on the island of Tortola.


Cuisine

Throughout the Caribbean you can find very similar food on many of the islands, and it is no different here in Tortola. Barbecued meats accompanied with a side of rice & beans, corn, coleslaw, salad or potatoes is a pretty standard meal to find, and usually runs from $8-15 depending on where you go.


Where to Eat on the Island Tortola

When it comes to restaurants, the ones on the beach of course will be more expensive. If you dine further into the city of Road Town, you will find more budget friendly prices. Our personal favorites are the food trucks! Although not the friendliest, we do very much enjoy the food that they offer at Bang Good, and the prices are reasonable.


Food to Try in Tortola

  • Potato Stuffing is a side dish that is a virgin island specialty, consisting of mashed local sweet potatoes, raisins, and vegetables.
  • Johnny Cakes are cornmeal flatbreads that are fried and golden to perfection.
  • Soursops are fruits that are very abundant to the island of Tortola, and are spiky on the outside, and taste like a mix between pineapple and mango.

Getting Around the Island of Tortola

The island of Tortola may be small, but it certainly can't be walked for the majority of it. Here are a few ways to explore the island.


Taxis in Tortola

Taxis are the easiest and fastest way to get around, but have exceptionally high rates. Road Town cruise terminal has plenty of taxis available right outside the port, with set rates so there is no need to barter. However, if you walk further into town you can negotiate for some cheaper prices.


Public Buses in Tortola

The public buses are a much cheaper option than taxis, costing about only $1-2. Road Town has plenty of buses that you can catch if you just walk into town a bit. We love using local transportation- even though it may take longer, it is the more authentic and budget friendly experience.


Rental Cars in Tortola

We love renting cars as they give you the liberty to go as many places as you want. If you are short on time, this is a great option. Rental cars aren't the cheapest, but if shared with a few people it can definitely be cheaper than a taxi. We've found a list of  rental car companies in Tortola that you can take a look at.


A few things to note are that you should definitely book in advance to save time and make sure that you are on the same time zone. You need to be at least 25 years old with a valid drivers license, and make sure you are comfortable with driving on the left side of the road.


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Renting a Scooter in Tortola

Scooters run for about the same price or slightly cheaper in some cases than a car. If you are with one other person this is a great option. Scooters are definitely the most fun option, and give you a lot of freedom! Just make sure that you are a confident driver, and 25 years old with a valid drivers license. We found a list of companies that offer scooters for rent that you can check out.

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Where to Stay on the Island of Tortola

If you're looking for a relaxing vacation with beautiful beaches, plenty of restaurants, and some shopping, we suggest staying in the area of Cane Garden Bay.


If you're looking for the most budget friendly places to stay on the island of Tortola, and the area that is most well connected to the surrounding islands, then we definitely suggest staying in or around Road Town.


Find places to stay near Road Town:

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Is the Island of Tortola Safe?

The British Islands in general are ranked to be very safe for travelers. The crime rates aren't too high, and we never felt unsafe on the island of Tortola, nor in the surrounding islands.

 

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Other Things to Know About the Island of Tortola

Now that you know the best things to do, and how to best get around the island of Tortola, here are a few other things to keep in mind:


Weather in Tortola

The island of Tortola experiences hot and sunny weather year round. Summers are particularly humid, while winters are a bit more mild, with more comfortable temperatures. Showers are common in the summer, but are very sporadic, and the days in winter are almost always sunny.

weather on the island of Tortola

Summers experience a big mix of sunshine, rain, and rainbows.


The Best Time to Visit the Island of Tortola

While many Americans flood to the Caribbean in the summer, the best time to visit is truly in the winter. This is when the weather is much better, crowds are fewer, and prices are at its best. Our favorite months to visit the island of Tortola are November, January, and February.


Island of Tortola
Island of Tortola


Packing for a Trip to the Island of Tortola

Whether you're packing for a day trip to the island via cruise ship, or visiting on a proper vacation, here are some of the things you'll want to bring with you:

Here are a few things you won't need:

  • Fancy clothing (it's a very relaxed vibe)
  • Straightener (it's way too humid)
  • Warm clothing (even in the winter the nights are warm)


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Tips for Visiting the Island of Tortola

  • Don't stay in the port if you are cruising. The shops are not anything to write home about, and the Caribbean doesn't have great shopping in our opinion.
  • Venture Out! The capital of Road Town may not seem very exciting, and well, it isn't. However, the island has some gorgeous beaches, and really nice surrounding islands.
  • Wear lots of sunscreen. The sun is extremely strong so stay protected!
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The island of Tortola may be small, but it really has some great landscapes. Don't miss out on the beautiful beaches, snorkeling, or the surrounding islands while visiting!


Cruising and seeing other places in the Caribbean? Check out How to Make the Most of the Caribbean in order to save money and enjoy your time to the fullest.


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