Updated: Jan 23
Boasting lush green hills, serene turquoise bays, abundant marine life, and fun-loving islanders, Tortola houses the capital and is the 'mainland' of the British Virgin Islands. Those who know us, already know that our sailing dream began sitting on the beach at Cane Garden Bay, Tortola, so sailing into the bay on our own boat, Kuma Too, in 2019 was a fantasy fulfilled!
Cane Garden Bay can be a tourist hotspot when cruise ships are in port, but once the ships depart the true personality of the bay comes alive! Our home-base when in BVI, Cane Garden has a small grocer, laundry facilities, plenty of restaurants, and all family-run accommodations. Callwood Rum Distillery was originally founded by the Ardundel family in the 1600s and is one of the oldest continuous pot distilleries in the Caribbean, still producing rum by grinding (although they've added a diesel powered engine to replace the donkey) locally grown sugar cane. Locals refer to this rum simply as Ardundel, but there are different flavors including the most infamous, Panty Dropper. Whether at Pusser's at Myett's, Elm Beach Bar, Paradise Club, or Quito's Gazebo there is no shortage of live music nightly across the bay! Quito's band members play throughout the week during happy hour putting on a fantastic show, but you're in for a real treat if you catch Quito himself; a BVIslander, artist, and owner of Quito's Gazebo, Quito Rhymer has raw talent and pleases the ears of listeners with his Reggae beats. The party runs into the wee hours of the night at Paradise Club with the beachfront bonfire blazing and life-size jenga.
Surf's up on Josiah's Bay! On the north shore of Tortola, a north ocean swell brings gnarly waves to the beach sending all surfers flocking with boards under arm! A surf school and snack shack is the loan establishment on the set back beach, and a rocky outcrop makes for the perfect viewing platform while beginners practice their skills on the less intimidating rollers. Other favorite north shore beaches include Brewer's Bay, Long Bay, and Smugglers Cove. These less crowded beaches are a little harder to access and may require a 4-wheel drive island car which in turn means less tourists, more locals, and more wildlife! Jurassic-like iguanas, colorful geckos, squawking chickens, and countless bird species are encountered on the white-sand beaches while sea turtles, tropical fish, and elegant rays play below the surface.
The hustle and bustle of the cruise ship pier and city-center of Road Town can easily distract from the sleepy tropical vibe of the rest of the island. A great stop for banking, provisioning, and just about every professional need, Road Town became a regular stop for us when finalizing all the legalities of chartering in the BVI. The convenience of chandleries within walking distance of marinas and dinghy docks is only rivaled by Nanny Cay Marina in all of the BVI. Nanny Cay is a boaters paradise, and a marina complex with full-service boatyard, contractors for just about any marine service, a boutique resort and spa, restaurants, a small provisioning center, laundry facility, good wifi, and a beachfront swimming pool.
Located near Beef Island International airport, Trellis Bay is known for full moon parties when the ordinary bay roars to life filling with dancing moko jumbies, flaming fireballs, bands, and BBQ! After the full moon festivities, take a ferry or private vessel to explore Scrub Island, Great Camanoe, and Guana Island. Scrub and Guana Islands are private island resorts, and although Scrub is open to the public, Guana offers underwater attractions! Scrub Island houses a marina complex and luxury dining options, while Monkey Point is a snorkel spot with intriguing rock formations on Guana Island. The wildlife on the rugged Guana Island tantalizes the ears and eyes with feathered friends. Tropic Birds nest on the cliffs that surround the anchorages putting on an aerobatic show as they soar by with their long white tail feathers and bright red bills. Being on the north side of the island chain, Guana, Scrub, and Great Camanoe neighbor the open Atlantic Ocean, and we frequently see dolphins along their shores! Although Great Camanoe is habited by private residents, there is a colorful reef and calm anchorage for a lazy day aboard your private catamaran.
Soper's Hole at West End has recently reopened to full capacity after being devastated in the 2017 hurricanes. Once cleared in by the customs and immigration officers, pop over to Pusser's restaurant for an obligatory Painkiller cocktail. With a full service marina, charter boat base, shops and cuisine options, it's a fruitful stop for any BVI vacation.
Head inland and down a road that no longer seems to be a road for an all-terrain adventure in Mount Sage National Park, named for its highest peak. Park the car once you can go no further and continue on foot. Much of the area is shaded by the dense foliage that is slowly recovering from the hurricanes, making for an enjoyable hike. Climbing over and under boulders, sliding down dirt trails, and breaking on outcrops with stunning views is all part of a vacation-day's routine!
Tortola can be easily overlooked and viewed just as a jumping off point to a BVI vacation, but the main island can be a destination all on it's own! I barely scratched the surface, so come see for yourself the deluxe dining selections, powdery sand beaches and stunning vistas that dot the island of Tortola. To learn about charters on board Kuma Too, visit www.SailingKumaToo.com.
Until next time, Happy Sailing!