Things to Do in Tortola
||The islands have a sub-tropical climate with high humidity, although temperatures are moderated by trade winds. Temperatures in summer average from 79-88°F (26-31°C) and between 72-82°F (22-28°C) in winter. Rainfall is erratic with occasional droughts.
There are parts of the British Virgin Islands so beautiful, you'd happily marry the closest iguana just so you could stay there forever. Think green hills, blue skies, tripped-out sunsets and beaches where the loudest noise is the donk of a coconut dropping on sand soft as a baby's bottom.
Once the hideaway of buccaneers and brigands, the islands now attract a more salubrious yachting crew drawn by steady trade winds, well-protected anchorages and a year-round balmy climate. Tourist development has been limited by enlightened environmental policy.
The islands have a thoroughly different character from their raucous neighbors. While the US Virgin Islands have pursued the tourist dollar, the British Virgin Islands have been keen to stay limey and out of the limelight.
The peak tourist season is December to May, but this has more to do with the weather in North America and Europe than it does with the reliably balmy Virgin Islands weather. It's therefore best to visit outside this period, when you can expect room rates to be about two-thirds of those charged during the busier months. An additional draw is that the calmer weather between April and August tends to keep the waters clearer for diving.
The BVI Summer Fest is a two week riot of noise and color: calypso, fungi and steel bands shake it up, pageants crown festival queens and people flood the streets. The festival is the British Virgin Islands' own version of Carnival and celebrates the emancipation of the islands' African slaves. Most activity takes place in Road Town on Tortola.
Yachties sail in for the Annual Spring Regatta held in Road Town in April, and windsurfers converge on the islands for the HIHO Races held late June or early July. The competition lasts seven days, and a gaggle of cruisers follows the racers in a weeklong portable party. Fourth of July isn't normally celebrated in British territory for obvious reasons, but there are enough Americans in the BVI to justify fireworks and a spate of barbecues.
Tortola is the hub of the British Virgin Islands. People come for its top notch beaches, banks, customs and the best range of hotels, restaurants and nightclubs. The capital, Road Town, is a little more picturesque than its name suggests. Main St, one street back from the waterfront, is a pretty stretch of brightly painted wooden and brick buildings. If you're here waiting for someone to get their hair braided, it's worth flexing out in the peaceful JR O'Neal Botanic Gardens or admiring curios in the small BVI Folk Museum.
What really makes Tortola special though are its great bays and beaches. The best spots to lay down your beach towel or don a mask and flippers are on the northwest coast at Cane Garden Bay, Smugglers Cove and Brewers Bay. When you tire of being horizontal, there are fine views of the surrounding islands from the Sage Mountain National Park, though not from the dense scrub at the 1780ft (534m) peak. The North Shore Shell Museum in Carrot Bay is about as cluttered and chaotic as a museum can get; as well as thousands of shells, there are boats and various dibbets of craft crammed in among scores of homilies painted on driftwood.Virgin Gorda
This half-mountainous, half-flat 'Fat Virgin' with a scrawny neck lies a few miles northeast of Tortola. Though it's home to just 2500 people, it has one of the Caribbean's most amazing sights. The Baths are a surreal collection of gigantic granite boulders strewn across blindingly white palm-lined beaches at the southwestern end of the island. Tide and wave action turns caves into baths and back again, eroding a snorkeller's playground of crevices and pools. It's on the south side of Devil's Bay and is well worth scuba diving when the water is calm.
The Baths are one of the most visited spots in the British Virgin Islands, so if you want to escape from the hubbub, head for North Sound, a large protected bay encircled by reef, or Mosquito and Prickly Pear islands off the northern coast. The former has a resort; the latter is a national park. The northern half of Virgin Gorda island is mountainous, dominated by Gorda Peak (1359ft; 408m), while the southeast contains an abandoned copper mine, a reminder of the islands' industrial past.Anegada
Anegada is a place for people who enjoy the feeling of nothing but sea and reef for miles around. Unique to the Virgin Islands, it is a flat coral and limestone island. Its highest point is only 28ft (8m) above sea level, and miles of isolated white beaches line the northern and western shores. The third largest reef in the world, Horseshoe Reef extends 11 miles (18km) to the southeast of Anegada and hosts hundreds of shipwrecks, creating unlimited potential for divers.
Anegada is 12 miles (19km) long and a couple of miles wide. There's an airstrip, a smattering of hotels and campgrounds, and only 200 people on the island. No regular public ferries dock here. If you're staying on the island, check with your hotel about transport. Otherwise, hire a boat or a water taxi from Tortola or grab a puddle-jumping flight from Beef Island.Jost Van Dyke
A sleepy settlement by day, Jost Van Dyke comes alive at night and is a favourite haunt of nightcrawlers from nearby Tortola. Life in Jost Van Dyke is basically one long island-style happy hour, with pig roasts and beach bars attracting more yachties than a sale on sunblock. The island is surrounded by several good sunbaking 'n' snorkelling daytrip destinations, such as Little Jost Van Dyke, Green Cay and Sandy Cay.
Jost Van Dyke has a population of only a few hundred people and lies 4 miles (6km) northwest of Tortola and 4 miles north of the US Virgin Island of St John. Ferries run from Tortola's West End to Great Harbour, but it's much more fun to rent a motor boat and putt over independently.Salt Island
Before electricity brought refrigeration to the islands, salt was critical to preserving as well as seasoning food. And where do you get salt when there's no grocery store? Salt Island, 3 miles (5km) southeast of Tortola. Early in the 20th century, about 100 people lived on this tiny wishbone-shaped island, gearing up around April when the salt ponds evaporated and the salt could be 'harvested' by the not too farmerly method of hacking off chunks and bagging them up. These days most people prefer to get their salt off the shelf the boring way, and Salt Island's population has been reduced to about six West Indians. Salt Island is also known as the site of the wreck of the RMS Rhone, a favourite with divers.