Tortola is the largest and most populated of the British Virgin Islands. If visiting the BVIs, your cruise ship will likely dock in Roadtown, the capital of Tortola. This mountainous island, formed by volcanic activity, offers many amazing sights of its own, but is also a starting point for trips out to neighboring BVIs including Virgin Gorda, Jost Van Dyke, and Norman Island for some great diving, snorkeling, and sailing opportunities. If your next cruise is visiting Tortola, be sure to check out our 5 Best Things to Do in Tortola on a Cruise to help you decide what you want to do while visiting this lovely island.
5 Best Things to Do in Tortola on a Cruise
Visit Jost Van Dyke
Jost Van Dyke, the smallest of the four main British Virgin Islands, is a popular day trip from Tortola as it lies only 5 miles in the northwest direction. An approximately 25 minute ferry ride from Tortola (West End) and private tours/water taxis shuttle tourists to this island paradise. If you are looking for sandy beaches and a lively party atmosphere, then a visit to Jost Van Dyke should definitely be one of the 5 Best Things to Do in Tortola on a Cruise.
While in Jost Van Dyke, you can head to White Bay, a 20-30 minute walk from the ferry, for some fun in the sun. Here, you can relax on the beautiful white sand beach, partake in some water sports, and visit the famous Soggy Dollar Bar, birthplace of the potent cocktail the “painkiller”. You can also make your way to Great Harbour, a 5-10 minute walk from the ferry, where you will find restaurants and shops. Be sure to spend some time at Foxy’s, another island bar well-known for its live music and beach parties.
Explore the Baths at Virgin Gorda
Most cruisers will agree that a visit to Tortola would not be complete without a ferry ride over to explore the Baths at Virgin Gorda and that is why it makes our list of the 5 Best Things to Do in Tortola on a Cruise. Travel to Virgin Gorda can be done via an organized shore excursion or on your own by simply taking the approximately 30 minute ferry ride to Spanishtown. The ferry is about a 10 minute walk to the left from the cruise pier in Roadtown, Tortola (Speedy’s and Smith’s) and offers trips over to Virgin Gorda every couple hours. Once in Spanishtown, taxis are available for a short ride to the Baths. If going on your own, do be sure to coordinate the time of the return ferry trip so you don’t miss the cruise ship!
The Baths is a natural collection of giant granite boulders, sandy beaches, and sheltered sea pools and grottos formed over time from volcanic rock. The Devil’s Bay Trail guides visitors through the boulders to Devil’s Bay, where you can enjoy some snorkeling or just relax on the beautiful beach. Water shoes are encouraged for this walk. Spring Bay is another nice beach area located not far from the Baths. The Baths offer lockers, refreshments, and the Top of the Baths restaurant with amazing panoramic views.
Hike Sage Mountain National Park
If you want to explore some natural beauty on the island of Tortola itself, then head over to Sage Mountain National Park. Named for its highest point, Sage Mountain measuring in at 1716 ft, this national park was the first established in the British Virgin Islands in 1964 to preserve the remaining forest.
This park has 12 trials forming a circular route through the forest and is mostly an easy hike, offering breathtaking views of neighboring BVIs and plenty of flora and fauna to admire including mahogany trees, elephant ear vines, and tropical birds. At the entrance of the park, there is also the Mountain View Restaurant to refuel after a long day of outdoor activity.
You can choose to meander through the park on your own with a trail map or book one of many ecotours offered that include a visit to Sage Mountain National Park. Regardless of how you get there, a visit to this national park should make your list of the 5 Best Things to Do in Tortola on a Cruise.
Make it a Beach Day
No visit to a Caribbean island should be complete until spending some time relaxing on the beach. Cane Garden Bay and Brewers Bay are the two most recommended beaches on Tortola.
Cane Garden Bay, on the north side of Tortola, is the busiest beach strip on the island. It offers plenty of sand, sun, and generally calm waters at no cost. There are plenty of amenities at Cane Garden Bay including several beach bars and restaurants, chair rentals (at Myett’s, among others), and water sport rentals sure to please cruisers of all ages.
If you are looking for a quieter scene, Brewers Bay is just north of Cane Garden Bay. It too offers a great sandy beach, Nicole’s beach bar where chair rentals are available, and great snorkeling.
Smuggler’s Cove, on the west end, is also another great snorkeling location on Tortola and a great spot to relax without all the crowds. It is a bit more off the beaten path, consisting of some unpaved and bumpy roads, and there are currently no facilities available here.
Whichever beach you choose, your beach day in Tortola is sure to make the list of the 5 Best Things to Do in Tortola on a Cruise.
Take an Island Tour
Taking a scenic drive through Tortola to marvel at the island’s lush landscape and beautiful coastline rounds out our list of the 5 Best Things to Do in Tortola on a Cruise. As you journey through Roadtown, along Ridge Road which is the “central spine” of the island or along the Sir Francis Drake Coastline, there are a few stops that you should make.
Skyworld is a restaurant that sits above Roadtown high up in the hills (off Ridge Road). It has an observation deck that offers panoramic views of Tortola and other neighboring islands. Whether you stop in for a bite to eat or just to enjoy the view, it is definitely worth a visit during your island tour.
Nanny Cay, on the south side of Tortola, is one of the most popular sailing destinations in the world and definitely worth a stop for the picturesque views of the marina.
Pusser’s Landing at Soper’s Hole on the west end of Tortola is a great stop for some leisurely shopping and visit to Pusser’s Bar and Restaurant where you will certainly want to grab a drink.
The Callwood Distillery, located in the woods near Cane Garden Bay, is the world’s longest continuously running distillery. You can enjoy a tour of the facilities and sample the different types of rum distilled onsite for a nominal fee.
Have you visited Tortola on a cruise? If so, what is your favorite thing to do on the island? Are we missing any tours or excursions from our Best Things to do in Tortola on a Cruise? Drop us an anchor below to tell us about your experiences on this BVI and help fellow cruisers make the most of their visit to Tortola.