Tortola is the largest and most populated of the British Virgin Islands, a group of islands which form part of the archipelago of the Virgin Islands.
Local belief is that the name was originally given to the island by Christopher Columbus, meaning “land of the Turtle Dove”
The way of life on Tortola is resolutely Caribbean despite the infusion of so many people from different countries around the world; the people are known for their warmth and hospitality and new comers to the island soon find themselves slipping into a slower pace of life and easing into ‘island time’.
On the south shore is the scenic capital city, Road Town, situated around a deep yacht-filled harbour that is lined with cheerfully painted restaurants, hotels and shops.
International as well as local cuisine features on the menus of this varied community with specialities like fresh lobster, coconut curries or turtle dishes to tempt the palate.
Tortola is a mountainous island 13.5 miles (19 km) long and 3 miles (5 km) wide, with an area of 21.5 square miles (55.7 square km). Formed by volcanic activity, its highest peak is Mount Sage at 1750 feet (530 m). Tortola lies near an earthquake fault, and minor earthquakes are common.
Rising up in the centre of the island is the highest point in the archipelago, Mount Sage, which rises to 1,780 feet (524m) and affords wonderful views over Tortola’s lush tropical vegetation, its uncrowded beaches and lovely bays, and the surrounding islands. Ruins of 18th-century buildings are also visible, a scattered reminder of the plantation era when rum and sugar were the source of the island’s economy.
Economy & Demographics
The population of Tortola is 23,908. The principal settlement is Road Town, the capital of the British Virgin Islands.
Financial services are the main source of income to the island. The hugely popular International Business Companies Act, passed in the early 1980s, led to huge growth in government revenue. BVI residents are amongst the most affluent in the Eastern Caribbean. Because of this, a large number of residents from other Caribbean islands work there.
Even though the British Virgin Islands (BVI) are a British Overseas Territory, the U.S. dollar is the official currency.
The island is home to many offshore companies that do business worldwide. Visitors either arrive by boat or fly to Beef Island and drive across the short Queen Elizabeth Bridge to Tortola.
White-sand beaches, such as Cane Garden Bay, are popular attractions. Cane Garden Bay also offers an abyss of surfing potential if you catch it on the right tide and swell.
Located Just north of Apple Bay (a second good break that can hold swell significally longer than Cane Garden), Cane Garden Bay is a large bay that is usually filled with boats and activities. However, access to the spot is relatively easy. Park in the dirt lot located on the right side and walk out on the dock.