As you disembark in Road Town, be prepared for construction. You will find an information kiosk staffed with people handing out maps, ferry schedules and brochures, and taxis are readily available. For other facilities like ATMs, shops and cafes, it's just a quick walk into town, where you'll find pubs with Wi-Fi, restaurants and even a small market. Main Street features cute souvenir shops, where you can find local crafts and jewelry. While Road Town is worth a visit, if that's the extent of your Tortola experience, you will miss out on the best of the BVI.
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 (284-495-9278). It takes about 45 minutes each way to Jost Van Dyke.
Foxy's Bar in Great Harbour is 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.
Sandcastle, a hotel on White Bay, is a short walk from the ferry dock. In addition to its excellent beach, Sandcastle serves breakfast, lunch and dinner daily at the Soggy Dollar Bar, birthplace of the Painkiller. Entrees include flying fish sandwiches and rotis.
Peter Island: By and large, the island features one asset: the elegant, exclusive resort that often appears in the top five lists of Caribbean resorts by major travel magazines. Only 300 of the island's 1, 800 acres have been developed. Peter Island Resort (800-346-4451) operates its own fleet of ferries making roundtrips (about 40 minutes each way) from the resort's marina to Baughers Bay, which is located a long walk or short taxi ride from the cruise pier.
Peter Island Resort offers day visitors access to its private beach, the utterly beautiful Deadman's Bay. Powder-soft white sand curves along a crystal-clear Caribbean bay, with shallow snorkeling reefs at either end. To get to the beach, walk up the hill parallel to the marina and follow the signs down the other side to Deadman's Bay. Beach equipment (windsurfers, sailing equipment, sea kayaks, etc.) can be rented, if available, but resort guests have priority. The resort's swimming pools, beach furniture, hammocks and cabanas are off-limits for visitors, so, if you want to use the beach, bring your own beach towel to plunk yourself down on.
Deadman's Beach Bar & Grill has a dress code, and conservative coverups are absolutely required. Deadman's prices are not cheap, but the food - pizza, sandwiches and burgers - and setting are excellent. On select Sunday afternoons, a terrific steel band plays.
Marina Cay: Off the eastern tip of Tortola, Marina Cay and its eight acres offer a tiny beach, Pusser's restaurant and company store, small resort, marina, a handful of shops and an Internet cafe. A complimentary daily ferry service is operated by Pusser's Marina Cay Resort (284-494-2174) between Beef Island, Tortola and Marina Cay. The trip takes less than 10 minutes.
Pusser's operates a resort, shop and restaurant. The restaurant opens daily at 11 a.m. and specializes in seafood and Caribbean cuisine. The resort's marina also has small outboard motorboats, Hobie Cats and beach toys for rent. Try renting one of the Boston Whaler skiffs for a five-minute scoot across the bay to tie up at the mooring over the lush snorkeling reef, or contact Dive BVI (284-495-5513) to book Scuba or snorkeling trips.
Virgin Gorda: The main draws there are Virgin Gorda's yacht clubs, natural beauty and upscale resorts, including the famous Bitter End Yacht Club. 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)