Excursion Review: The Baths at Virgin Gorda
When on vacation, the Princess wants to do, see, and experience as much as possible. I too like to experience a new port of call, but to me, sometimes that means just relaxing on a beach. After all, it is a cruise vacation!
The Baths at Virgin Gorda was a great shore excursion option to satisfy both of us during our recent stop in Tortola onboard Norwegian Escape. Part adventure hike, part photo tour, and part beach break, exploring this natural wonder is truly a unique experience.
Our visit 8 years ago
We first visited the Baths about 8 years ago during our second cruise together as a couple. Since the details were a bit fuzzy, we took this opportunity to visit the The Baths at Virgin Gorda again. Our recent stop at this picturesque locale reminded us of why we enjoyed this place so much.
The Baths at Virgin Gorda are easily accessible from your cruise ship via a ferry ride from Road Town, Tortola. You can choose to book an organized excursion through the cruise line or simply take the ferry over to Spanishtown on your own. Speedy’s and Smith’s are two ferry services offering trips over to Virgin Gorda every couple of hours. Given our time in port and the ferry schedule, we chose to play it safe and book the organized tour through Norwegian Cruise Line.
View of Tortola from the ferry
After an approximately 35 minute ferry ride followed by a 10 minute bus ride, we arrived at The Baths at Virgin Gorda with about 2.5 hours to explore and enjoy the area.
Arriving at The Baths
The Path Down to The Baths at Virgin Gorda
When you first arrive at The Baths at Virgin Gorda, you are located about 300 meters above sea level. From here, you can get some great panoramic shots of the neighboring islands and boulders below from the Top of the Baths Restaurant. After your day down at the Baths, you may want to stop in for a bite to eat or a drink, or perhaps utilize the free Wi-Fi for social media posts like we did. A few shops can also be found here, including a local art gallery and your typical souvenir shop, as well as a restroom.
Top of the Baths Restaurant
After taking a needed restroom break, you are greeted with two options: a path to Devil’s Bay and a path to the Baths. We suggest taking the main path down to the Baths, which is about a 10-15 minute walk depending on how many pictures you stop to take during the descent. This path through the desert-like terrain should be manageable for most, with natural stairs guiding you down to the beach. Be sure to capture a photo of the skull rock formation along the way.
Path down to The Baths
When you finally arrive, you are greeted with a beautiful white sand beach with large granite boulders strewn throughout the Caribbean Sea creating a small perimeter where you can enjoy a quick swim. You do need to be careful as the tides can be rough though. During our visit, the “red flag” was up when we first arrived at the beach, indicating it was not advised to swim or snorkel. Even if you plan to continue along the path to Devil’s Bay, be sure to pause for a few minutes to admire the beauty and take a few selfies of course.
The Baths beach
Additional restrooms can be found at the beach, as well as lockers and the Poor Man’s Bar. Keep in mind that if you do plan on continuing along the path to Devil’s Bay, you will have to back track to pick up your belongings from the locker later. While you could relax and enjoy the warm waters at this beach, this is only the beginning of the adventure at The Baths at Virgin Gorda.
Heading to the Devil’s Bay Trail
Making Your Way to Devil’s Bay
After taking in the sights at the beach, follow the signs to Devil’s Bay Trail. Before embarking along the cavernous path, be sure to grab a few photos of the “shelf” boulder. Now, the journey begins as you enter by crawling through a narrow cleft opening. Keep in mind that you do need to be somewhat agile to make it all the way through the Baths.
The “shelf” boulder
Along the way you will encounter varying water levels depending on tide, slippery rocks with rope handholds, ladders, and narrow openings between boulders that you will need to maneuver. Water shoes are recommended. We personally like our Columbia Drainmakers.
DB enjoying the water
Take your time and don’t worry about the crowds as they will also be in awe of the natural beauty of the caverns and sea pools. If you are like the Princess and can’t swim, you can make it through the path with water that is less than knee height. However, for those who love to swim, take advantage of these natural pools especially in the opening right before Devil’s Bay.
Sea pools and “anvil” formation
There are plenty of nooks and crannies to discover, so be sure to explore them all. You can easily make it through the path in 30-45 minutes stopping along the way to take as many pictures as we did. Do have your imagination and camera ready as there are several formations that are said to resemble a lion’s head, an anvil, and more.
The Princess stopping for some pictures along the way
Once you reach Devil’s Bay, you are greeted with more amazing views. After capturing the beauty on camera, now is your time to relax, snorkel, or swim in this area that is protected by the natural rocks.
Luckily, by the time we made it to Devil’s Bay, the swimming conditions had improved, and now it was only a yellow flag advisory. So, while the Princess relaxed on the beach, I spent the next 45 minutes floating in the refreshing, lukewarm water.
As the morning wore on, more and more travelers were making their way to this beach. Although we had to wake up early, we were thankful for our 7am arrival in Tortola, as we were able to beat the crowds to The Baths at Virgin Gorda and enjoy a relatively quiet morning.
The beach at Devil’s Bay
Knowing that we had to be back for our bus pick-up at 10:45am, we decided to begin our walk back slightly after 10am to allow some time to peruse the gift shop and capture some panoramic views from The Top of the Baths Restaurant.
While you can venture back through the boulders and retrace your steps back to the top, the most direct route is a separate dirt path directly from Devil’s Bay to the parking lot, making a full circle from beginning to end. While still an uphill climb, this path is easier (and drier), and walking at a leisurely pace, it takes only about fifteen minutes to get back to the top.
The path back to the top
Once back to the parking lot area, we dried off, rinsed out our water shoes, and made another quick restroom pit stop (as there are no restrooms located at Devil’s Bay). With a bit of time to spare, we headed over to the restaurant’s patio area to grab some photos and utilize the Wi-Fi for a few minutes before hopping a bus for the transport back to the ferry.
View from the patio at Top of the Baths Restaurant
With an action packed morning including some thrills, pictures, and even some beach time, we were happy to relax during our ferry ride back to Tortola. The ferry ride did take slightly longer on the return trip, approximately 45 minutes, but still left us plenty of time to explore Road Town upon our return.
Overview of an Excursion to The Baths at Virgin Gorda
All cruise lines stopping in Tortola will offer a beach break to The Baths at Virgin Gorda, but as mentioned above, you can also get there on your own via local ferries. The cruise lines use the same ferry companies but have chartered service. Once on the island of Virgin Gorda, it is about a 10 minute cab ride through Spanishtown to reach The Baths. If you purchase the excursion through your cruise line all additional costs are included, but if you choose to venture there on your own, the cost of a taxi ride is about $6-8 a person each way, and there is a $3.00 entrance fee to the Baths.
The Baths at Virgin Gorda are a great departure from your typical beach break. You can experience all the Baths have to offer in an action packed morning and still have time to see some of the sights in Tortola later in the afternoon. You can choose to swim, explore the terrain, or just relax at the Top of the Baths restaurant which has a patio and a pool during your visit.
Booking the tour through the cruise line does limit how much time you get to spend at The Baths at Virgin Gorda (Although, we did not feel rushed). Depending on how long your ship is docked, you may want to head there on your own to maximize your time at the Baths. While you can find some websites with details on the different rock formations, you are on your own once you get to the Baths. There are a few staff members to assist travelers climbing over the boulders in the more difficult locations, but there are no guided tours.
This was our second trip to The Baths at Virgin Gorda, and we are glad we visited the beach again. It is certainly an exciting time and one of the best things to do in Tortola on a cruise. The excursion is ideal for families and solo travelers alike. The beaches are small, so getting there early is recommended. The best part is, you can still find time to explore the main island of Tortola if you do a morning excursion. Also, if you must see The Baths at Virgin Gorda, but are not traveling to Tortola, there are ferries that run from St. Thomas to Virgin Gorda. Albeit, they are limited, and the total travel time one-way is 1.5 hours.
Have you visited The Baths at Virgin Gorda during your stop in Tortola? Did you venture through the caves and boulders to make your way to Devil’s Bay? Drop us an anchor to tell us about your experiences at The Baths at Virgin Gorda or any other activity you enjoy to help your fellow cruisers make the most of their visit to Tortola.