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British Virgin Islands

Tortola BVI Cruise Port: Tips, Excursions, Weather

The British Virgin Islands cruise port at Tortola is known for its white sand beaches. Credit: Depositphotos
The British Virgin Islands cruise port at Tortola is known for its white sand beaches. Credit: Depositphotos

The Tortola cruise port in the British Virgin Islands is known for Cane Garden Bay Beach, Dolphin Discovery and the Baths at Virgin Gorda.

The British Virgin Islands in the heart of the eastern Caribbean are an equally popular destination for cruise lines and overnight visitors.

The BVI chain, which is made up of more than 50 islands, attracts nearly 400,000 cruise visitors and about as many who stay at hotels and resorts, according to the Caribbean Tourism Organization.

About 15 of the islands are inhabited. Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Anegada, and Jost Van Dyke are the largest islands in the group.

The capital of the British Virgin Islands is Road Town on the island of Tortola. It also is the main cruise port.

As the largest island in the chain, Tortola has the most to do in terms of attractions, accommodations and restaurants.

Quick Travel Tips

  • Cruise ships dock at Road Town on Tortola island.
  • Top attractions include a Dolphin Discovery.
  • Cane Garden Bay has the best beach.

Attractions and Shore Excursions

Baths at Virgin Gorda
The Baths at Virgin Gorda are a popular attraction. © British VI Tourist Board

Walking Around Attractions

The Tortola cruise port has a modest number of tourist attractions.

Road Town, with a population of about 15,000 people, is small enough that cruise visitors can reach most of the shops, restaurants and attractions on foot.

Historic sites in Road Town include Britannic Hall, Her Majesty’s Prison, Old Government House, Sir Olva Georges Plaza and Virgin Islands Folk Museum.

J.R. O’Neil is a 3-acre park in the middle of Road Town. Mount Healthy features the remains of a thickly walled stone windmill that used to be part of an 18th century sugar plantation. Sage Mountain is the highest point in the U.S. and British Virgin Islands at 1,719 feet and offers expansive views of the area. Shark Bay is a nature preserve and the territory’s first coastal park.

Forts Burt and Recovery are near Road Town. Burt was originally built on a hill overlooking the harbor to defend the town. The foundations and magazines remain of this historic ruin rebuilt in 1776. The site is free and open daily. It is a two-mile walk or drive southwest of town.

Fort Recovery was built in the 1640s as a military gun post. The ruins are intact and are the oldest historical landmark in Tortola. It is a five-mile drive southwest of Road Town.
The parks on Tortola include J.R. O’Neal Botanic Gardens, Mount Healthy, Sage Mountain and Shark Bay.

Popular Shore Excursions

Tortola BVI Cruise Port Map

One of the most popular excursions in Tortola is the Dolphin Discovery Swim. This interactive dolphin program gives children and adults alike the opportunity to kiss, hug, and swim with a dolphin.

Starting prices for Dolphin Discovery excursions are $100 to $150 per person, depending on the program, with discounts for children.

Several excursions offer sightseeing trips around the island that may include a beach stop. These excursions cost about $50 per person.

Although touring Tortola itself is a popular activity for cruise visitors, the country’s 21 national parks are a big draw for anyone who likes beaches, hiking, tropical forests, bird sanctuaries and shipwrecks.

A private tour of Tortola and deep sea port fishing make for other great excursion opportunities.

Beaches Near the Port

Cane Garden beach
Cane Garden beach. Credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons license

Tortola has several major beaches near the cruise port, although they require transportation to reach them.

The most popular beach that is often called one of the best beaches in the Caribbean is Cane Garden Bay. It is a 25-minute drive from Road Town on the east side of Tortola near Callwood Rum Distillery.

This sheltered and curved bay is popular with boaters because it lacks heavy winds. It also attracts swimmers, windsurfers and local residents. Because of its popularity, it also has a number of bars and restaurants.

Shore excursions that go to Cane Garden Bay cost about $50 per person including transportation. Posted taxi rates show one way is $24 per person, $12 each for two people and $8 each for three or more people. Rates are subject to change at any time. Always ask for rates before getting into the cab.

Nearby and to the northeast of Cane Garden Bay is Brewer’s Bay Beach. It is known for the ruins of old plantations and distilleries and for snorkeling among the reefs.

Some cruise lines and excursion operators offer a 30-minute trip to Long Bay Beach at Beef Island.

Shopping and Restaurants

The Road Town cruise terminal has a complex of shops and restaurants. But Main Street is the place to go for the biggest concentration of shopping and dining.

A few of the restaurants in the town include C&F Bar and Restaurant, Calypso Cafe, Charlie’s Restaurant, Drakes Point, Le Grand Cafe, Marche, Maria’s by the Sea, Mariner Inn, Midtown, Nature’s Way, Origin Kitchen and Bar, Pusser’s Pub and Grill, Roti’s Palace, Sharky’s Mexitalian Grill, Simply Delicious, The Pub, The Watering Hole, Verandah, and Virgin Queen Restaurant & Pub.

Jost Van Dyke and Virgin Gorda

Jost Van Dyke is easy to reach from Tortola by ferry. The island is home to beautiful beaches and some of the most popular and unique bars in the British Virgin Islands.

The Soggy Dollar, a famous swim up bar and legendary creator of the Painkiller, is located on White Bay.

Virgin Gorda is the second largest of the British Virgin Islands and popular for cruisers because it is far less crowded than Tortola.

From Tortola, cruise lines often offer a shuttle to Virgin Gorda.

The Baths are a must-see in Virgin Gorda. Visitors can climb and swim through the giant boulders scattered along the bay by an ancient volcano eruption.

The Spring Bay Beach, located right next to The Baths, is a smaller but less popular beach, with enough boulders to make the landscape interesting.

Getting Around

Cruisers visiting Tortola for the day will find taxis for rent at the ferry docks in Road Town. Rates are standard, but be sure to ask for the rate before getting into the cab.

The ferries are the primary form of transporting visitors from one island to another. The ferries operate by schedule, and are very affordable.

Weather /  Best Time to Go

Weather is slightly cooler than the nearby St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands, which lie a bit to the southwest.

Average high temperatures are in the low to mid 80s Fahrenheit during the winter and nearly 90 during the summer.

The driest months are January through March with less than two inches of rain per month. December and April through July are a little more wet. The rainy season arrives in August and reaches a high point from September through November.

The best times to visit Tortola are March and April are for a combination of warm temperatures and low risk of rain. March and December are the most popular months for tourists to visit.

Other Tips

  • The U.S. Dollar is the dominant currency.
  • Cruise lines offer fewer shore excursions than other islands.
  • Major credit cards are accepted in most but not all establishments.
Scott S. Bateman is a professional journalist who has traveled widely throughout the Caribbean and the Americas. He is the author of four books about cruising in the Caribbean, Alaska and Mexican Riviera.
May 29, 2023

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