Tortola, the largest of the British Virgin Islands, has no shortage of places to sink a cold beer. Among its forest-clad peaks and white-sand beaches are boat bars, historic distilleries and English-style pubs serving up rum cocktails – the Painkiller is a favourite – alongside fresh seafood and barbecued meat. Pull up a chair and get ready to chat and party with the locals at these bars.
Drinks with a view and lively conversation are the hallmarks of a visit to Stoutt’s Lookout Bar. As the name suggests, this much-loved hillside perch overlooks the breaking waves of Cane Garden Bay and the rolling green hills beyond. Open to the sea breeze, the cantilevered deck gives the impression of being in a treehouse at times, surrounded by banana trees moving in the wind. It’s a great place to get to know the locals over a Cooper Island IPA.
The welcoming Nigel’s is a home-made affair, with a small bar built from shipping pallets and a simple shelter to provide respite from the sun. You’re likely to meet Nigel himself, pouring drinks and whipping up plates of jerk chicken. There are no toilets, and it’s cash only. However, you can expect lethal cocktails, sizzling hotdogs and good company. Bring your snorkelling gear – the bar sits opposite one of the most beautiful bays in the Caribbean.
Across from the Road Town Ferry Terminal, Pusser’s location couldn’t be more convenient; it’s an ideal stop to start or end a voyage or after a trip on the inter-island ferry. It describes itself as “Tortola’s version of an English pub”. The wood- and trophy-clad walls, Victorian chandeliers, chandlery and vintage photos give it that lived-in feel you want from a convivial watering hole. Don’t leave without trying the famous Pusser’s Painkiller, made with rum distilled on-site (watch out, it’s strong). Want a keepsake? Order the souvenir mug.
While it’s not a bar, you’ll want to visit this historic spot if you love rum – it’s among the oldest continuous pot distilleries in the Caribbean, dating back at least 400 years. The Callwood family has been making rum at this stone-built former plantation since the 18th century, and they still use the same method, pouring pure cane juice into a 200-year-old boiler. You’ll see it all on a tour of the site, where you can sample some before you leave or, if driving, buy a bottle to take home.
How sturdy are those sea legs? How about after a Painkiller or two? You can’t go to the British Virgin Islands without swinging by Willy T, the famous floating bar. While the original vessel was lost to Hurricanes Irma and Maria, the spirit was reborn in this new ship, moored off the Bight at Norman Island. Catch a water taxi from Tortola for a day of high-tempo fun, pumping tunes and shots off paddles.
Sit beneath the palms at this patio-based South African wine bar in Road Town. Despite its roots, it has a different evening theme from Monday to Saturday. Some nights are Italian (think pizzas and wine), while others are Mexican (two shrimp tacos and a margarita, please). Monthly parties with live music draw a mix of locals and travellers. Service isn’t fast, but who cares? You’re on island time now.
Reggae beats are at the heart of this beach bar in Cane Garden Bay. Since 1983, it’s gone through several incarnations – “some by the hands of man and a couple by hurricanes”, according to the bar’s operators. After all, Quito’s is steps from the Caribbean Sea. Come sunset, the view across to Jost Van Dyke is priceless. Relax on a sun lounger with old friends, or prop up the bar with new ones.
Remember full moon parties? Trellis Bay Market Bar and Grill is renowned for them. Expect moko jumbies (stilt walkers), sizzling barbecue ribs, fire dancers, live music and mountains of seafood. Moon phases aside, there are weekly events to cater for the party crowd – from karaoke on Saturdays to weekly DJ sets. During the day, the atmosphere is more relaxed, catering for the yachts that moor in the bay.
Looking for more? If you need somewhere to stay while you’re here, book into one of the best hotels in the British Virgin Islands, or read about the Saba Rock Resort, which sits on its own private island. For more inspiration, read our guide to the most beautiful places on these Caribbean isles, including the best beaches. While you’re here, don’t miss out on the best restaurants on Tortola, the largest of the British Virgin Islands.
Destinations Unlocked:Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip
Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
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