72 Hours in Tortola
Tortola is nature’s beautiful little secret nestled in the Caribbean. It is a vacationer’s dream paradise. Once considered a sleepy island; this mysterious place now exudes positive energy. It is often visited by cruise ships and throngs of eager visitors soaking up its breathtaking beaches and powdery sandy shores. They indulge in the delectable island cuisines of pub fares and fine dining while nestled within magnificent mountains, lush greenery and sitting yachts.
During my visit to Tortola, it was clear to see that cricket was a favourite sport but it wasn’t the only one. Soccer and rugby in Tortola are also popular and traces back to the 1960s. Soccer competitions were then between expatriates working in Tortola and the visiting British Royal Navy. August is perhaps the best time to visit. It is a time that permits the opportunity to be at the front row of one of the largest festivals, the Tortola Carnival also known as the British Virgin Islands Emancipation Festival. It’s a time to be entertained, enjoy the local foods, and a sea of souvenir booths. And since US dollars is Tortola’s local currency, you may want to make sure that’s handy. Tortola’s activities for kids are unlimited and can be found in the sea or land. There is hiking, swimming, snorkeling and bowling, just to name a few. While visiting this beautiful island of turquoise beaches, I quickly gravitated to the kindness of the islanders. A local tour to the top of the mountains, sipping on coconut water (from the coconut) and watching ships dock while tourists muddled about was the beginning of my perfect day.
- Tortola is considered a crime free island.
- Tortola is minutes away from St. Thomas, St. Croix and Virgin Gorda among others.
- Tortola is the largest of the British Virgin Islands but is considered a small one compared to others islands like Barbados.
5 MUST SEES
- Smuggler’s Cove is accessible by an unpaved road. An SUV is your best bet to discovering sea turtles and clear waters. The option of snorkeling in the secluded, western-most end of Tortola is also an option.
- Cane Garden Bay Beach is Tortola’s most popular, shaped in a perfect crescent. Rolling green hills is its magnificent backdrop and it shelters the bay from winds within the barrier reef. Enjoy the melodious island music while soaking up the sunshine.
- Sage Mountain National Park offers a panoramic view of all the islands since it is the highest point on the island. This gorgeous unspoiled land creates rain as the warm air rises from east to south and cools down as it crosses the mountains. Hikers are sure to enjoy the dangling vines, philodendrons, ferns and beautiful mahogany trees. Remember to pack your binoculars for a glimpse of tropical birds such as kestrels, hummingbirds, and martins.
- J. R. O’Neal Botanical Gardens are four acres of gardens with an impressive display of exotic tropical plants. A few of these gardens’ attractions include a lily pond, waterfall, tropical bird houses, and mini rainforests. In addition, gazebo of native and exotic orchids can be discovered by the pond, where lilies float and tortoises swim.
- Zion Hill Chapel is an early 19th century chapel built atop Zion Hill. This beautiful piece of history was destroyed by hurricanes and is replaced by the present Methodist chapel. It is a fine example of the simplicity of West Indians. Zion Hill Chapel was built to celebrate the emancipation in 1834 and was served as a church and school.
5 MUST EATS
- Callaloo or Kallaloo is a soup made from spinach, taro and dasheen green leaves flavoured with fish, spices, okra, salted meats and onions.
- Pâté (pronounced patty) is one of the most common foods in Tortola. It’s a deep fried pastry filled with spiced meat, fish or vegetables.
- Conch (pronounced conk) is served as fritters or in a chowder. Conch is a type of marine mollusk that is tenderized before cooked.
- Jerk chicken is prepared with a spicy barbecue treatment. This dish is popular throughout the West Indies and was originated with the native Arawak tribe.
- Roti is another island favourite. Originating in India, roti is a light, flaky cloth-like bread and often served with curried vegetables or meats.