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Day Trips: Visit Tortola and the Baths of Virgin Gorda

The British Virgin Islands is popular for island hopping vacations with over 60 islands to explore.  Tortola is the largest of the islands and offers dining, shopping, historic sites, galleries & museums, and national parks.

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All About Tortola and the British Virgin Islands

The British Virgin Islands is popular for island hopping vacations with over 60 islands to explore.  Tortola is the largest of the islands and offers dining, shopping, historic sites, galleries & museums, and national parks.

How to Get to Tortola in the British Virgin Islands

Getting to Tortola By Air – While there are no direct flights from the USA, Canada, or Europe, you can find connecting flights through nearby airports from surrounding islands such as, St. Thomas, Puerto Rico, Antigua, or St. Maarten.  You can arrange charter flights, as well as helicopter services.

Getting to Tortola By Boat – Several ferry services make daily scheduled trips from St. Thomas to Tortola and within the British Virgin Islands.

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Speedy’s Ferries depart from Tortola or St. Thomas to Virgin Gorda. Look for specials on the website that may include a package deal with rental car for the day or taxi/shuttle service.

Road Town Fast Ferries travels from St. Thomas to Tortola.

Tortola Cruise Port Information

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When you arrive via Cruise in Tortola, you’ll be at Road Harbour in Road Town, a gateway to connect to ferries and charters. You can arrange tours that take you to some of the most popular nearby islands such as, Virgin Gorda, Anegada, and Jost Van Dyke.    You can also venture on your own with a rental car and explore the Tortola beaches, keep in mind that driving is on the left as this is a British territory. You may find it hard to rent a car if you are under 25.

The cruise ships do not dock at the same place as the ferry terminal but it is a short walk away, under 10 minutes.  Road Town city center is also a short walk from the cruise terminal.  

What language is spoken in Tortola?

English is the official language although you may also hear Caribbean Patois.  

What is the local currency in Tortola (BVI)?

The US Dollar has been the official currency since 1959 and all major credit cards are accepted although you might have a hard time using your American Express so be prepared as it is not accepted in some places.

Tortola Ferries & Charters

If island hopping is your goal, then a charter will be your best option.  Your options are almost limitless.  You could try day sailing with Aristocat Charters which includes sailing, swimming, snorkeling, paddleboarding, unlimited drinks, and a freshly prepared buffet lunch.  Their private charters include pickup from nearby islands in the BVI and custom itineraries.  Shared charter day sailing itineraries are priced from $135 per person for ages 12+ on a catamaran for up to 25 guests and can accommodate cruise ship visitors or island visitors with stops at Norman Island, Jost Van Dyke, and Cooper Island & Peter Island.  The Baths are only available by private charter.  

For charter planning or captained yacht charters, try the Moorings, Bareboat Charters, or Horizon Yacht Charters. 

You will find familiar names in rental car agencies like Avis, Enterprise, Alamo, and Thrifty as well as independent agencies. Small SUVs are typical in the fleets, some larger SUV’s can be found as well.  The roads are paved but main roads are usually not as large as you may be used to if you live in a big city or large metropolitan area.  If you choose to drive, be sure to familiarize yourself with some rules of the road locally as signs may have different wording than you’re used to seeing.

There is no shortage of taxis which can provide you with easy transportation and even taxi tours.  Taxi services that can be found in Tortola include water taxis.  Do NOT rely on ride-share services as Uber and Lyft are not available.  

Tortola Beaches

If you’re not interested in leaving the island, there’s plenty to explore including historic sites, museums, and beaches.  About a 30 minute drive from Tortola Pier Park lies a hidden gem off the beaten path – Smuggler’s Cove.  Don’t expect too many luxuries and be prepared for some unpaved road on the way but you can grab a bite to eat and a drink at Nigel’s Boom Boom Beach Bar.

On the North side, you can head to Cane Garden Bay which is one of the busiest beaches but will offer more comforts and choices for chairs, food, and drinks with 3 recommended venues nearby  – Quito’s Gazebo, Elm Beach Bar & Restaurant, and Myett’s Garden & Grille.

Find more things to do in Tortola.

All About the Baths in Virgin Gorda

To get to the Baths, we opted to use Speedy’s Ferries.  Their taxi fares and ferry packages are documented on their site for easy reference.  A family of 4 would pay $32 for roundtrip taxi to the Baths from the Spanish Town ferry terminal or they could pay $150 for a 2 hour taxi tour of the island.  Look for specials like the 2 ferry tickets with car rental for $99.  You cannot book these online but you should mention any specials at the terminal when you purchase.

ferry terminal

If your cruise sells out of the experience and you can’t book it, this is how you can still see it on your own.  There is some risk involved whenever you opt out on your own adventure during a port visit so allow plenty of time and be diligent in setting plans and expectations.  You don’t want to get left at the port, I’ve seen quite a few sail aways where someone didn’t make it back in time.

As little as 10% ($350 on a $3500 cruise) down can get your family of 4 booked on a 3 Night cruise on Disney Wish on the January 20, 2023 sailing with final payment due by October 1, 2022. (Sample pricing) 

The Baths are one of the most popular and well known places to visit in the British Virgin Islands.  When our ship docked in Tortola at 7AM, people with ship sponsored excursions were allowed off first.  That means you have to estimate what time you will really be able to make it off the ship and to the ferry.

We went to breakfast, which was fairly peaceful because many people were already off the ship. Then we made our way off around 9:00 AM.  We took a leisurely walk to the ferry terminal about 10 minutes away along the main road, there were many others going along the same way from the cruise ship with us.  While some port exits can be very touristy with pushy sales as you exit, this was not like that at all.  It was very low key and pleasant.

If you are traveling with children, you might want to take a taxi if they are not good walkers.  I would not recommend bringing children under age 5, even very active children ages 5 – 10 could have trouble with the path to the Baths.  It just is not a terrain that I would want to try to traverse when my children were smaller unless it is something you are already accustomed to doing.

Visit the Baths via this type of excursion is also NOT recommended for people with physical challenges as some parts are rocky and difficult to maneuver.  There are no paved paths for wheelchair access.  

path to the baths

Upon arriving at the ferry terminal, you can purchase a Baths excursion which includes roundtrip ferry to Virgin Gorda and taxi to the top of the Baths entrance for $38 adults (12+), $28 seniors and children 5 – 11, and $8 for 0-4 year olds.  You will board the ferry behind the building so be sure to make your way back there in time.

The ferry takes about 30 minutes and the taxi ride is about 15 minutes to the Baths.  You pay $3 per adult at the entrance, it is advised to have cash in small bills.  You can always email them for an updated schedule of ferry times in order to plan your trip better.  

What to expect at the Baths:

There is a restroom available near the entrance and a restaurant nearby.  If the Top of the Baths Restaurant and Bar is too busy for you, you can grab a quick snack and drinks at Mad Dog’s Bar across the street.

in Virgin Gorda

Upon entering, the path is a sandy soil/gravel mix.  The downward grading can be steep at some points with large steps and narrow with only one person capable of passing at times.  You will find captivating views of the water and rock formations as butterflies spontaneously flutter past you along the trail. 

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Have Free Hands. At times, you will need your hands to help stabilize you when climbing or climbing the ladders if you go into certain parts of the baths.  Expect the water to be pretty chilly especially during off peak seasons. 

Travel Light – a backpack or waterproof bag with water, sunblock, bug spray, phone/camera, ID, money/credit cards, and maybe snorkeling gear.  There are no chairs, don’t try to bring any.  Leave the big beach bag and any other non-essential items.  There are lockers near the entrance but you will need coins for them.

If there has been rainy weather, expect the paths to also be slippery adding more reason to travel with caution.

The Baths can get very crowded during peak times.  An alternative nearby is Spring Bay National Park for similar beauty with less people.

Be generous with your time allotments. We arrived at the Baths about 11:15 AM and after some pretty serious playtime, we headed back up the trail to the top around 2:15 PM because the last taxi bus to get us comfortably back in time for the ferry and our cruise ship departure was at 3:00 PM.  We made it back to the boat with at least 60 – 90 minutes to spare before departure.

Choose your clothing wisely when you do an excursion like this.  You need to consider adequate sun protection as well as the need for fast drying.  Wet clothing can get very uncomfortable while you’re heading back after a long day of exploring.  Opt for rash guards, quick dry shorts, and swim cover-ups that are fashionable and functional.

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Protect the reef.  Use reef-friendly sunblock like Reef Repair. Reef safe sunscreen helps give you the sun care you need while using ingredients that are not known to damage our delicate coral reefs.

All Natural, Travel Size, Water Resistant, Moisturizing, Biodegradable, Broad Spectrum UVA/UVB Coral Friendly

Best Shoes for Exploring the Baths

Footwear is very important to avoid injury, especially since your visit to the baths includes hiking down a path that changes terrain from dirt to gravel to steps with tree roots to watch out for and everything in between.  You also have to hike back up to leave.  

As much as I love flip flops, this is not the place to wear them.  Bring them with you and put them on while you’re on the beach but protect your feet along the way.  You should also be aware that there are stones in the water so having quick drying protective aqua shoes is a REALLY good idea.  Amazon makes it easy to find a decent shoe for your travels at a moderate price.  

 Lightweight Aqua Shoes for Sports Outdoor Beach Pool Exercise

Happy Wandering in the British Virgin Islands!

1 thought on “Day Trips: Visit Tortola and the Baths of Virgin Gorda”

  1. The British Virgins Islands were never on my radar before but it looks like I need to take some time to explore what they offer.

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