Don't Miss in Tortola
Jost Van Dyke: Named for a pirate (as legend has it), this pristine island lies to the northwest of Tortola. It has a lovely sand beach at White Bay and a popular beachside bar. Ferry service is offered from West End by New Horizon Ferry Service (284-499-0952). It takes about 45 minutes each way to Jost Van Dyke.
Once on the island, many people head to Foxy's Bar in Great Harbour, a renowned beachside hangout serving West Indian specialties. Try the Sly Fox and Dread Fox, specialty house drinks made with Foxy's own rum. A major draw is Foxy Callwood himself, a legend in the BVI. A prolific songwriter and storyteller, he holds court most afternoons - offering, in addition to his regular repertoire, calypso tunes improvised on the spot, featuring specifics about his individual audience members, maybe even you.
Due to damage from Hurricane Irma, Sandcastle, a hotel on White Bay remains closed, but its world-famous watering hole, the Soggy Dollar Bar, has reopened. The Soggy Dollar is the birthplace of the Painkiller. You can also grab flying fish sandwiches and rotis here for lunch.
Virgin Gorda: The main draws there are Virgin Gorda's yacht clubs, natural beauty and upscale resorts, including the famous Bitter End Yacht Club, which while still not open due to hurricane damage, is in the process of rebuilding. Virgin Gorda is also home to the famous rock formations called the Baths. A popular tourist destination, these large volcanic boulders sit on a stretch of beach on the southern end of the island. They form grottos, caves and pools where visitors can snorkel and explore.
Speedy's Ferry Service (284-495-5235) and Smith's Tortola Fast Ferry run frequent ferries between Road Town and Spanish Town, Virgin Gorda. Depending on the vessel and weather, allow between an hour and 90 minutes for passage.
Helicopter Tours: For a different perspective, see Tortola and the BVI by air. Antilles Helicopter Services is a BVI-based company that provides scenic helicopter tours starting at $90/person. (Beef Island Airport 284-441-7335)
Private Yachts: There is no shortage of sailing yachts available for full-day or half-day trips. These excursions usually include a sail across the Sir Francis Drake Channel to one of the islands to the south of Tortola and normally feature snorkeling, beach time and lunch either onboard or at a shoreside restaurant.
Prominent charter operators sail from Road Harbour or the nearby Village Cay Marina. Patouche Charters (Road Harbour; 284-443-9763) offers sailings on a 50-foot schooner, a 36-foot catamaran or a 28-foot Bertram power boat. Aristocat Charters (Soper's Hole, West End, or Village Cay, Road Town; 284-499-1249) offers day sails and snorkel trips to the surrounding islands on its two 45-foot catamarans.
Scuba Diving: Operators offer two-tank morning dives. Contact individual dive operators for the availability of "discover Scuba" programs for non-certified divers. The British Virgin Islands offer some of the best Scuba diving in the Caribbean. Of special interest is the wreck of the RMS Rhone, sunk in a hurricane in 1867 and considered by many to be among the top 10 wreck dives in the world.
Also worthy of exploration are the many reefs off the coast of Tortola and the neighboring islands. Dive operators serving the Road Harbour area include Blue Water Divers (Nanny Cay, West End; 284-494-2847 and Sail Caribbean Divers (Hodges Creek, East End; 284-541-3483).
Sage Mountain: Tortola's national park, Sage Mountain, is crisscrossed with well-marked hiking trails. Hook up with a ranger for a guided walking tour to explore great scenery and views of the sea.