Tortola is the largest and most populous island of the British Virgin Islands known as the sailing capital of the Caribbean.
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The main island of the British Virgin Islands is Tortola, translated from Spanish as land of the turtle doves, with large towns such as Road Town, Wesley Hill, Parham Town, Kingstown and Freshwater Pond. It is known as the yachting capital of the Caribbean, particularly popular for sailboats, but other boat charters are seen in large numbers as well. Most dive shops are located on the protected south side of Tortola but when conditions are good, northern dive sites are well worth the long boat ride. Most international visitors arrive at Terrance B. Lettsome International Airport on Beef Island. Island northeast of Tortola included in this section are Scrub Island, Great Camanoe and Guana Island. At West End you can also visit Little and Great Thatch Island almost touching St. John, US Virgin Islands.
Besides sailing, diving and other water activities you can find plenty of other highlights. There are steep hills and winding roads offering spectacular views and vistas across some of its many pristine bays. Its capital Road Town offers excellent shopping at Main Street, several museums, restaurants, bars and lush tropical gardens such as Queen Elizabeth Park and the Joseph Reynold O'Neal Botanic Gardens. There are quite a few forts (Fort Recovery, Fort Burt) around the coast and plantation ruins like the William Thornton Estate and the Josiah's Bay Plantation are visible everywhere. You can hike in rain forest filled with exotic plants to Tortola's highest point (1716ft) inside Sage Mountain National Park. Other sights are the Callwood Rum Distillery at Cane Garden Bay, the wall paintings at Fahie Hill Mural or the in coconut palm trees white beach Smuggler's Cove.
Popular dive sites and bays are Brewer Bay and Shark Bay National Park. The Sir Francis Drake Channel provides divers with sinkholes, ledges, caves, canyons and with soft corals decorated drop-offs. The days after full moon in August is when the coral is blooming and reproducing itself, called coral-spawning. There is plenty of diving around its shores, however, many boats visit the more secluded islands across the Sir Francis Drake Channel or the dive sites towards the Dog Islands.
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