Located only 22 miles from St. Thomas, Tortola is the largest and most populated of the British Virgin Islands.
Tortola is a mountainous island spanning 12 miles (19 km) long and 3.1 miles (5 km) wide. Just under 24,000 people call Tortola home.
Known for its lush landscape and calm crystal-clear waters, Tortola is the place to be if you’re into diving, snorkeling, sailing or a spending a relaxing day at the beach. Tortola is also considered the yachting capital of the Caribbean.
Visitors – vacationers and cruise passengers – love that Tortola is not as commercialized as other Caribbean ports of call and is a good starting point to visit other parts of BVI – particularly Virgin Gorda and Jost Van Dyke.
Tortola is a port of call on Eastern and Southern Caribbean itineraries.
Primary Language Spoken: English
Currency: US Dollar
Contents & Quick Navigation
Where Do Cruise Ships Dock in Tortola?
Most cruise ships dock in Road Town – the capital of Tortola. The cruise pier can accommodate two cruise ships at a time however if there are more than two ships visiting, some ships will anchor off-shore and provide tender service to Road Town.
Tortola Pier Park – an 80,000 square foot shopping and dining complex is in the process of being completed at the foot of the pier.
While there are several stores and cafes at the dock, as with many cruise ports in the Caribbean, the majority of attractions and activities are just outside of the cruise pier. Cruisers will need to take a taxi, car or ferry to get to them.
Getting Around Tortola with Kids
Taxis and Open Air Safaris – Safari cabs and taxi vans is by far the most popular way to get around Tortola when visiting for the day. Taxis and safari cabs will be lined at at the cruise pier in Road Town when your ship docks. Make sure to discuss the fare before departing as taxis are not metered.
Car – If you’d prefer to rent a car for the day, you’ll need a BVI license which costs $10 and proof of a valid driver’s license. Driving is on the left side of the road in Tortola.
Ferry – If you’re interested in island hopping in the British Virgin Islands and US Virgin Islands, the best way to do that is with ferry service. Ferry docks are located in Road Town (Central Tortola), Soper’s Hole (West End) and Beef Island (East End).
There are several ferry companies that offer trips multiple times a day to surrounding islands. Click here to learn more about ferry service from Tortola.
Walking – There are several shops and dining establishments around the cruise pier (including those at Tortola Pier Park) however most of the popular attractions and activities are not within walking distance.
Kid-Friendly Beaches in Tortola
Below are 4 of the most frequented beaches in Tortola by families with kids:
Cane Garden Bay – Cane Garden Bay is located on the northwestern edge of Tortola and is the most popular beach for visitors. This beach has it all – fine white sand, crystal clear water, restroom facilities, lively restaurants, chairs and umbrellas for rent, and water sport equipment rentals including kayaks, paddle boards and snorkels. Cane Garden Bay is the closest beach to Road Town cruise port (about a 20 minute taxi ride – $8 per person each way) so expect crowds if there are multiple ships in port. You’ll have to navigate some roller-coaster hills to get there but it is worth the bumpy ride. Taxis are constantly lined up here just outside the beach area so there’s no need to worry about getting back to your ship on time.
Brewers Bay – If you’re looking for a day at the beach that is a quieter than Cane Garden Bay, then Brewer’s Bay is the perfect spot. Brewer’s Bay is a great place to do some snorkeling right off the beach. Beach chairs are available for rent and there are plenty of palm trees for shade. This clean, white-sand beach is definitely less developed than Cane Garden Bay with fewer amenities. There’s a beach bar for some refreshments and snacks. Restrooms are available but no shower facilities. There is no taxi stand at this beach so you’ll have to arrange a pickup time with your taxi driver. Expect to pay $6-8 per person for a taxi ride from the cruise port to Brewer’s Bay.
Long Bay West – Towards the western end of Tortola is Long Bay West Beach (not to be confused with Long Bay East Beach on Beef Island) – a quiet beach looking out to Sandy Cay and Jost Van Dyke – two other BVI islands. This beach has a mile-long stretch of white sand and Long Bay Resort is just a few steps away if you’re looking to rent water sports gear. There’s a bar, Italian restaurant and restrooms as well. The water is shallow enough for young swimmers but a bit rocky so water shoes are highly recommended if you’re headed to this beach.
Smugglers Cove – Known for its tranquility, this quiet beach is a favorite with locals and snorkelers. The reefs at Smugglers Cove make it dangerous for boats to dock so you definitely won’t see the day-trip crowds you’d see at the beaches mentioned above. Many reviewers have said though that the road to the Smuggler’s Cove is one of the worst in the Caribbean. It’s very steep and narrow but it will be worth it once you see the powdery white sand, calm turquoise waters and colorful sea life – parrotfish, brain corals and more. There aren’t many amenities here – just a small beach bar and several portable toilets. This is the beach to visit if you’re looking for an almost private beach escape.
What to Do with Kids in Tortola, BVI
If you’re looking for kid-friendly attractions or activities in Tortola, check out these places below. Most cruise ships spend less than 8 hours in Tortola – with many leaving before 3:30 PM – you may only have time for one attraction or activity.
The Baths at Virgin Gorda – This is one of the most visited spots in the British Virgin Islands – and for good reason. The Baths on Virgin Gorda’s north shore is a collection of immense granite boulders which have formed over hundreds of years and have created caves, grottoes and sheltered sea pools. Take your family on a geological adventure and explore the trail that goes right through the boulders – complete with steps and rope handrails. You’ll end up at Devil’s Bay Beach where you can spend the rest of the day swimming or snorkeling. Most cruise lines offer excursions to this national park and we’d highly recommend booking it if you’re looking for a unique one-of-a-kind Caribbean experience. Again, water shoes are highly recommended for anyone visiting Virgin Gorda.
Jost Van Dyke – Another popular side trip for Tortola visitors is Jost Van Dyke – the smallest of the 4 main islands of the British Virgin Islands. Many first-time visitors head to White Bay – a beach with perfect sand, turquoise waters, boats docked in the bay and coral reef protecting marine life that call the bay home. JVD is also home to Soggy Dollar Bar – the inventor of the cocktail Painkiller. The laid-back atmosphere is kid-friendly and it’s very common to see families spending their day between splashing around in the water or hanging out at the bar.
Dolphin Discovery Tortola – Surprise your kids by taking them to interact and swim with dolphins at the Dolphin Discovery Tortola. Not only will they be able to get into the water with the friendly dolphins but they’ll also learn a lot about them and their conservation. If your entire family is participating in a Dolphin Swim activity, be prepared to pay for individual photos or a photo package as no cameras or phones are allowed in the water.
Sage Mountain National Park – If you’re looking for a break from the sun and surf, head to Sage Mountain National Park for a day of hiking. The walking trail here is relatively flat, well-shaded and good for beginners – although sandals are not advisable. Sage Mountain National Park is home to the tallest mountain in both the US and British Virgin Islands. Be sure to visit the cafe/gift shop beforehand for directions and a map as the trail isn’t marked very well. And make sure you try the banana smoothie at the cafe after your hike – reviewers rave about it!
Where to Get WiFi in Tortola
There are several restaurants and cafes in Road Town that offer complimentary WiFi for paying customers.
Cruisers heading to Jost Van Dyke can connect to the WiFi at Soggy Dollar Bar.
Looking for more info on Caribbean Ports of Call? Visit our Port Guides page to check them out.
More About Caribbean Cruises with Kids
- Eastern vs Western vs Southern Caribbean Cruises – Which Itinerary is Best?
- Best Water Shoes for Toddlers and Kids
- Cruise Port Guide – St. Thomas, USVI with Kids