Tortola is the largest of the British Virgin Islands or BVIs and yet it is also one of the most laid-back and relaxed as well. While it is a popular spot for large cruise vessels and day trippers, it is a place where time seems to stand still. It is as if Tortola has been created for those who want a leisurely pace, and that is why it is such a popular choice for beach enthusiasts. However, there is more to Tortola than its fantastic beaches, and if you are planning a holiday, consider some of these activities that take you off the beaches.
The main port where large cruise ships unload their passengers, it is also full of fun streets lined with shops and dotted with delicious eateries. Think of this town as your starting point and best spot for picking up gifts and souvenirs, but don’t overlook it as the perfect place for a day trip. In fact, why not plan to spend a day in town just to enjoy three meals in the fun and funky atmosphere. Many locals enjoy a hearty Caribbean breakfast at Midtown. Lunches at Pusser’s Pub are also island-style and full of unique flavors. A snack at Crandall’s Pastry is not to be missed and you can even sample one of their savory conch patties.
While in the Road Town area, spend some time visiting an authentic 1600s Dutch ruin. Tucked along the western edge of the town, it features the original foundations and the artillery magazine. It also gives you wonderful views of the waters and harbor below.
Old Government House Museum
An official property until the 1990s, it is now a truly wonderful collection of historic items and displays from Tortola’s fascinating past. With galleries dedicated to the seafaring history of the island, it is a nice spot to show kids (even teens) a unique side of this tropical destination.
J.R. O’Neal Botanic Gardens
If history is not something you wish to delve into during a holiday, the four acres of this lush and absolutely gorgeous gardens might appeal. Divided into tropical species, it features a greenhouse full of orchids, a medicinal garden stocked with Caribbean plants and trees, an indigenous garden of seashore flora and even a succulent and cacti garden.
Hiking in Tortola is a delight when you visit this lovely nature reserve. There are 12 looped trails in the park, and all of them take you through authentic rainforest full of ancient cedars. Follow the trail leading to the highest point on the island and enjoy stunning views.
Mount Healthy National Park
Another national park, it is quite appealing and ideal for a picnic, but it is also home to the ruins of a 1700s sugar plantation. With a restored windmill and the ruins of the factory, stables, hospital, and mill, it is a remarkable spot to spend a few hours.
Cane Garden Bay
If you want to avoid the tourism spots of Road Town, head to this classic seaside village. There are many wonderful waterfront restaurants offering three meals a day, and the shopping is fun and full of local finds.
Technically, this is an island that you reach via a causeway at the western tip of Tortola. It is fun to visit for its colorful West Indian buildings with their gingerbread trim and sunny pastel hues. It is also fabulous for the dedicated shoppers and those who would like to sample some island-made rum while watching boats dip in and out of the lovely little marina and harbor.
While on Tortola, and while visiting any of the restaurants or bars, be sure you sample Callwood rum. This is actually the only rum still distilled in the BVIs and sampling it is certainly one thing “to do” while visiting Tortola.