Visitors come to Tortola not for historic sights but to explore the island's natural scenery, with its rugged mountain peaks, lush foliage, and wide sandy beaches.
Shadow's Ranch, Todman's Estate (tel. 284/494-2262), offers horseback rides through the national park or down to the shores of Cane Garden Bay. Call for details daily from 9am to 4pm. The cost is from $100 per hour.
Snorkeling & Diving
A good beach for snorkeling is Brewers Bay. Snorkelers should also consider heading to the islet of Marina Cay, or taking an excursion to or booking a room on Cooper Island, across the Sir Francis Drake Channel. Limited ferry service is run by the hotel. Blue Water Divers leads expeditions to both sites. Or consider a trip to Norman Isle, the fabled setting of Treasure Island, for its caves and protected pools.
The Wreck of the Rhone & Other Top Dive Sites -- The one site in the British Virgin Islands that lures divers over from St. Thomas is the wreck of the HMS Rhone, which sank in 1867 near the western point of Salt Island. Skin Diver magazine called it "the world's most fantastic shipwreck dive." The wreck teems with marine life and coral formations, and was featured in the 1977 movie The Deep.
Although it's no Rhone, Chikuzen is another intriguing dive site off Tortola. It's a 266-foot steel-hulled refrigerator ship, which sank off the island's eastern end in 1981. The hull, still intact under about 24m (79 ft.) of water, is now home to a vast array of tropical fish, including yellowtail, barracuda, black-tip sharks, octopus, and drum fish.
South of Ginger Island, Alice in Wonderland is a deep-dive site with a wall that begins at around 3.6m (12 ft.) and slopes gently to 30m (98 ft.). It abounds with marine life such as lobsters, crabs, rainbow-hued fan coral, and mammoth mushroom-shaped coral. Spyglass Wall is another offshore dive site dropping to a sandy bottom and filled with sea fans and large coral heads. The drop is from 3 to 18m (10-59 ft.). Divers here should keep an eye out for tarpon, eagle rays, and stingrays.
Blue Water Divers, Road Town (tel. 284/494-2847; www.bluewaterdiversbvi.com), is a PADI outfitter that offers various dive packages, including one to the wreck of the Rhone. A resort course costs $105; a PADI open-water certification is $410.
Tortola boasts the largest fleet of bareboat sailing charters in the world. The best place to get outfitted is the Moorings, Wickham's Cay (tel. 888/535-7289 in the U.S. and Canada, or 284/494-2331 in the B.V.I.; www.moorings.com). This outfit, along with a handful of others, makes the British Virgins the cruising capital of the world. You can choose from a fleet of sailing yachts, which can accommodate up to five couples in comfort and style. Depending on your nautical knowledge and skills, you can arrange a bareboat rental (with no crew) or a fully crewed rental with a skipper, staff, and a cook. Boats come equipped with a portable barbecue, snorkeling gear, dinghy, linens, and galley equipment. If you're going out on your own, you'll get a thorough briefing session on Virgin Island waters and anchorages.
If you'd like sailing lessons, consider Steve Colgate's Offshore Sailing School (tel. 800/221-4326), which offers courses in seamanship year-round.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.