Nestled in the heart of the Caribbean, Tortola, the largest and most populated of the British Virgin Islands, invites you with its sun-kissed shores and vibrant culture. Tortola is located east of Puerto Rico (USA) and St Thomas (USVI). It is a popular cruise stop that welcomes travelers to captivating landscapes and the warmth of its local charm.
Cruise ships dock at the Tortola cruise port in Road Town, nestled on the southern shores of the island. In this article, I’ll provide you with practical information on the Tortola cruise terminal and reveal the 7 best things to do in Tortola. Let’s go deep into the heart of this Caribbean gem, where turquoise waters meet sandy beaches, and an adventure awaits!
Tortola Cruise Port
Tucked in Baughers Bay, Road Town Cruise Pier is where cruise ships usually dock, easily combining the island’s capital, Road Town, with the cruise experience. The port consists of two berths that can accommodate two large vessels simultaneously. In case the port is busy, the third vessel may anchor in the bay and tender passengers ashore to the Road Town Pier.
Tortola cruise terminal, also known as Tortola Pier Park, provides a duty-free shopping paradise, with a variety of stores selling jewelry, souvenirs, and local crafts. Besides shops, the port area also has a passenger welcome center, a museum, tour booths, and a couple of restaurants and cafés, offering visitors the chance to try both local and foreign cuisines while taking in the views of Tortola’s tropical beauty. Make sure to try local rum and gin to complete your Tortola experience!
Getting around the island is easy, by local open-air safari buses with bench-style seating. These are available near your cruise terminal and offer rides to popular tourist attractions. US dollars are widely accepted, and make sure to bring some cash on you as taxi drivers and many businesses do not accept credit cards.
A boat/ferry boat is another popular option to get to the nearby islands of Virgin Gorda and Jost Van Dyke. There are two docks on Tortola – in Road Town and West End (a 30-minute drive from the cruise port). There will be detailed information on how to get to Virgin Gorda and Jost Van Dyke further in the article.
The cruise lines sailing to Tortola include:
- Royal Caribbean International
- Norwegian Cruise Line
- Disney Cruise Line
- Princess Cruises
- Carnival Cruise Line
- Celebrity Cruises
- Holland America Line
- MSC Cruises
- Windstar Cruises
- Costa Cruises
- Regent Seven Seas Cruises
- AIDA Cruises
- Virgin Voyages
- Viking Ocean Cruises
- Oceania Cruises
7 Best Things to Do in Tortola Cruise Port
From the stunning islands and sun-kissed beaches to the rich cultural heritage, Tortola invites you to an array of captivating activities. Whether you want to relax on gorgeous beaches or immerse yourself in culture in lovely villages, this tropical paradise offers something for everyone!
1. Smuggler’s Cove Beach
Embark on a scenic drive to Smuggler’s Cove Beach, a tranquil beach nestled a 35-minute drive southwest of Tortola cruise port. This idyllic spot boasts pristine white sand and crystal-clear waters, inviting visitors to unwind in a serene tropical paradise.
Known for its untouched beauty, Smuggler’s Cove is not only a picturesque destination but also a haven for water activities. The calm and inviting waters make it an ideal spot for swimming, snorkeling, and basking in the warm Caribbean sun. As you immerse yourself in the tranquility of this secluded beach, take advantage of the opportunity to explore the vibrant marine life beneath the surface.
To reach Smuggler’s Cove Beach from the cruise port, consider taking a taxi or arranging a guided excursion. The journey offers glimpses of Tortola’s scenic landscapes, building anticipation for the hidden gem that awaits. Keep in mind that the road to the beach may be unpaved, adding a touch of adventure to your excursion.
2. Cane Garden Bay
Indulge in the laid-back charm of Cane Garden Bay, a coastal gem within a short distance from the Tortola cruise port (around 20 minutes). This lovely bay is known for its pristine crescent-shaped beach, vibrant atmosphere, and a variety of activities that cater to different tastes.
For beach lovers, Cane Garden Bay offers a perfect escape with its soft, golden sands and clear turquoise waters. Take a stroll along the shoreline, bask in the warmth of the Caribbean sun, or engage in watersports like paddle boarding and snorkeling. The bay’s calm waters make it an ideal spot for both beginners and experienced water enthusiasts.
Music and culture also thrive in Cane Garden Bay, and one of the best things to do is immerse yourself in the local scene. Visit the beachside bars and restaurants where you can savor delicious Caribbean cuisine while enjoying live music performances. The laid-back atmosphere invites you to relax, socialize, and soak in the authentic island vibe.
To explore beyond the beach, I highly recommend taking a short hike to the Callwood Distillery, where you can learn about the traditional process of making rum. This historic distillery provides a fascinating glimpse into the island’s cultural heritage and offers tastings of their locally crafted spirits.
3. The Baths National Park (Virgin Gorda)
Embark on a ferry adventure to Virgin Gorda island and uncover the natural marvels of The Baths, nestled within The Baths National Park. From Tortola Pier Park, you need to walk about 5-7 minutes to the ferry terminal and take one of the ferries to Virgin Gorda Island. The ride takes 30 minutes and ferries run frequently, as this is one of the most popular locations and excursions on Tortola. Once on Virgin Gorda, taxis and local buses are readily available to transport you to The Baths National Park. You can check the ferry schedules at https://www.bviferries.com/
As you arrive on Virgin Gorda, prepare to be captivated by the massive granite boulders that shape the landscape of The Baths. These colossal stones create a unique maze of grottoes, tunnels, and pools, providing an enchanting environment for exploration. It’s a geological wonder that beckons both nature enthusiasts and adventure seekers.
Must-try activities at The Baths include swimming in the crystal-clear waters surrounding the boulders and navigating through the natural corridors formed by these giant rocks. Snorkeling is a favorite pastime here, allowing you to discover the vibrant marine life. Don’t forget your water shoes for comfortable traversing over the boulders and through the shallow waters.
Devil’s Bay National Park is another national park connected with The Baths by the trail that starts at The Baths car park and ends at the Devil’s Bay. The hike is short – only 15 minutes – through massive granite boulders and lush vegetation. This horseshoe-shaped bay is one of Virgin Gorda’s most beautiful beaches and is known for its tranquil waters and perfect snorkeling.
4. Sage Mountain National Park
Set off on a nature-filled adventure to Sage Mountain National Park, an attraction for hikers looking for magnificent views in the British Virgin Islands. Sage Mountain is situated just a short drive away, approximately 20-30 minutes southwest of the port of Tortola.
Mount Sage is set at the highest point of the island, some 1,716 feet (523 meters) above sea level. Hike up Sage Mountain to the peak, where you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views of the neighboring islands and the Caribbean’s turquoise waters. The path provides a well-marked and moderately challenging route, making it suitable for people of all fitness levels. Make sure to wear suitable hiking shoes and bring water with you to remain hydrated on your hike.
Popular activities at Sage Mountain include not only the thrilling hike but also the opportunity to immerse yourself in all the different plants and animals that thrive in this national park. The trail winds through lush rainforests, showcasing a variety of plant species, including exotic orchids and towering mahogany trees. Birdwatchers will surely appreciate the chance to spot local and migratory birds along the way.
5. Jost Van Dyke Island
Embark on a nautical adventure to Jost Van Dyke, a serene island paradise and an oasis of laid-back charm located north of Tortola. One of the main attractions of Jost Van Dyke is the renowned White Bay, a stretch of pristine beach known for its powdery white sands and crystal-clear waters. Spend your day unwinding on the beach, basking in the sun, and taking refreshing dips in the Caribbean Sea. The tranquil ambiance of White Bay will surely give you the perfect setting for relaxation and rejuvenation.
The island is also famous for its iconic beach bars, with the Soggy Dollar Bar standing out as a must-visit destination. This iconic bar earned its name from the tradition of customers paying for drinks with wet banknotes after swimming ashore at the bar.
For those looking for a little adventure, consider hiking to the Bubbly Pool, a natural rock formation where waves crash into a shallow pool, creating bubbly bubbles. It’s a unique and delightful spot that adds a touch of adventure to your Jost Van Dyke experience.
To get to Jost Van Dyke, you can either book a guided excursion or take a ferry from the West End (West End is a peninsula located on Tortola’s southwestern tip, about a 30-minute drive from Tortola cruise terminal). The New Horizon Ferry runs ferries between the West End and Great Harbour on Jost Van Dyke and the ride takes about 30 minutes one way. The cost is $40 per person round trip.
6. Callwood Rum Distillery
A visit to the Callwood Rum Distillery, a hidden gem about 20-30 minutes away from the Tortola cruise port, will take you on an adventure through Caribbean history. Callwood, one of the region’s oldest distilleries, welcomes you to experience the intriguing world of rum production against the backdrop of magnificent island surroundings.
Immerse yourself in the rich history of this distillery, where traditional rum-making processes have been passed down through generations. Stroll through the rural settings and observe the historic copper stills and barrels that have been used in the production of the famed Callwood rum.
One of the best things to do at Callwood is to take a guided tour, where knowledgeable staff members share insights into the distillation process and the distillery’s historical significance. Learn about the art of aging rum in oak barrels, the selection of local sugarcane, and the meticulous craftsmanship that goes into every bottle.
Finish your tour with a tasting session where you may sample all of the flavors of Callwood rum. From smooth and aged varieties to spiced and flavored options, the distillery has something for everyone! Don’t forget to purchase a bottle of your favorite mix to take home as a tasty souvenir of your Caribbean adventure!
7. Road Town
Last but not least, explore the vibrant capital of Tortola, Road Town, which is within an easy 5-10 minute walk from the Tortola cruise dock. Here, a wide range of experiences awaits, blending local culture, history, and shopping delights.
Start your exploration with a leisurely stroll along Main Street, where you’ll encounter a charming collection of shops, boutiques, and cafés. From stylish boutiques offering unique fashions to charming cafes serving local delights, Main Street provides a diverse range of experiences for every visitor.
For a taste of local arts and crafts, make sure to visit the Crafts Alive Village. This bustling market showcases the talents of local artisans, offering a vibrant array of handmade souvenirs, jewelry, and traditional Caribbean crafts. Engage with the artisans, discover unique pieces, and take home a souvenir of your time in Road Town.
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