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Tortola and St Thomas are two of the larger Virgin Islands which both use the US dollar as its official currency.

Nonetheless, there are several differences that exist between these beautiful islands.

In this article, we will provide a detail and comprehensive comparison of these two Virgin Islands to help you decide which one is right for your next vacation.

As a general rule, St Thomas is better for travelers who are interested in beaches, snorkeling, entertainment, island hopping and duty free shopping. Alternatively, Tortola is ideal for a visitor who is looking for tranquility, relaxation, hiking, enjoying beaches, diving and snorkeling.

Read on for further details and explanations on how these two magnificent Caribbean islands compare. Contribution to this article was made by individuals who visited both islands on vacation.

Tortola Vs St Thomas: Is Tortola The Same As St Thomas?

Tortola and St Thomas are not the same. St Thomas is a US Virgin Island which is an overseas territory of the United States of America.

Alternatively, Tortola is the largest of the British Virgin Islands (BVI) which are overseas territories of the United Kingdom.

Tortola Vs St Thomas: Entry Requirements & Access

The Cyril K King International Airport is located in St Thomas and is the main airport for the entire US Virgin Islands.

Several international airlines provide flights from major US cities, Toronto and London. As a US overseas territory, US citizens do not require a passport for entry into St Thomas.

Contrastingly, the Terrance B Lettsome International Airport is the main airport of the British Virgin Islands.

Previously called Beef Island Airport, this facility is located on Beef Island which is a small island that is joined to mainland Tortola by Queen Elizabeth II Bridge.

For entry into Tortola, both US Citizens and British Citizens require a passport.

One key challenge of visitors to Tortola is that there are no direct and non-stop international flights from North America, Canada, Europe or South America.

According to the BVI Tourism Authority, incoming international travelers must connect through other Caribbean islands such as Puerto Rico, St Thomas, Antigua or St Maarten.

If you are visiting the BVI from Europe the easiest route is through Antigua as British Airways have direct connections from London Gatwick.

Alternatively, if you are traveling from North America, St Thomas or Puerto Rico are the best routes to consider.

Also, visitors arriving in St Thomas may choose to take a ferry to Tortola.

Native Son Ferry provides reliable transportation from St Thomas to Tortola. Feel free to visit their website for details.

Tortola Vs St Thomas: Which Island Is Bigger

St Thomas is the bigger of the two islands. It is 32 square miles whereas Tortola is 21.5 square miles.

The highest point of elevation in St Thomas is Crown Mountain at an elevation of 1,556 feet.

On the other hand, the highest point in Tortola is Mount Sage at 1,709 feet. Mount Sage is the highest point in the entire Virgin Islands.

Tortola Vs St Thomas: How Does The Landscape Differ

The landscape of the two islands are very similar but Tortola is more hilly and mountainous in topography and hence more suitable for individuals who love hiking.

Mount Sage, the highest point for both the US and British Virgin Islands is located in Tortola. There are several hiking trails located in Mount Sage National Park.

Tortola Vs St Thomas ( Which Island Is Better To Visit)

Tortola Vs St Thomas: Which Island Is Better For Shopping

The clear winner in the category of shopping is St Thomas. As the main commercial hub of the US Virgin Islands, there are several international brands located on the island.

Each visitor including children is allowed $1600 each of duty free purchases back into the United States of America (USA).

St Thomas is the capital of duty free shopping in the Caribbean. Brands such as Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Little Switzerland, Diamonds International and Bebe have a presence on the island.

Yacht Haven Grande is a premium waterfront development which features a marina and a number of medium to high end stores.

In addition, to some of those previously mentioned, Coach and Bulgari have retail operations at Yacht Haven Grande.

International retail brands such as Kmart, Walgreens and Home Depot all have outlets in St Thomas. Fast food chains such as KFC, Mc Donalds, Wendy’s also have a presence on the island.

On the other hand, the selection of shopping options available in Tortola is limited.

Large international chain stores as well as fast food restaurants are banned on the island in order to protect small local businesses. 

Luxury retail operations such as Diamonds International and Little Switzerland have a presence in the capital city, Road Town.

Tortola Vs St Thomas: Which Island Has The Better Nightlife

St Thomas is the better of the two islands when it comes to nightlife.

Visitors seeking entertainment should choose St Thomas while those seeking relaxation and tranquility should consider Tortola as the preferred destination.

There are variety of restaurants and bars in places such as Red Hook, Frenchtown, Charlotte Amalie and Haven Sight areas at various price points.

These restaurants and bars are nearby so it is very easy to go bar hopping on foot. Restaurants and bars usually feature live music from local bands.

Alternatively, there are restaurants and beach bars as well in Tortola. Some of the more popular ones include Pusser’s and Aromas Cigar and Martini Bar.

Tortola Vs St Thomas: Which Island Has Better Beaches

Both islands have fantastic beaches. Cane Gardens Bay is one the most popular beaches in Tortola.

It’s an amazing beach for water activities such as kayaking, snorkeling and jet skiing. Access to the beach is free and it is located 5 miles west of the capital, Road Town.

Magens Beach and Coki Beach are some of the favorites on the island of St Thomas. Magens Bay is a beautiful one mile stretch of white sand.

Located on the Northern end of the island, this beach is the island’s most popular with both locals and tourists alike. The water is usually very calm which makes it perfect for small children.

Another well-loved beach on the island is Coki beach. In terms of snorkeling, Coki beach is one of the best options in St Thomas. 

This beach is perfect for beginners and individuals new to snorkeling.

Tortola Vs St Thomas ( Which Island Is Better To Visit)

Tortola Vs St Thomas: What Are The Unique Things To Do

Unique Things To Do In St Thomas

Visit Coral World Ocean Park– This Park is an amazing way to see and learn more about sea life in St Thomas.

There are activities available for all ages such as educational shark and sea lion tours. In addition, you can enjoy kayaking with the dolphins while at the park.

This location is perfect for multi-generational families.

Visit Mountain Top & Drake’s Seat– These two areas are must visit spots to take in the panoramic views of the island.

Mountain top is 1500 feet above sea level and provides a stunning view the other Virgin Islands and the British Virgin Islands. From mountain top you can see a total of 20 islands.

Explore Fort Christian– This is one of the key landmarks located in the capital city of Charlotte Amalie and is the oldest structure in the US Virgin Islands.

Built between1672 to 1680, Fort Christian has a red exterior with a Victorian clock at the front. A tour explores the history of the Danes and slavery. The admission fee is $10 for non-locals.

Climb 99 Steps- is another key feature that stands out in Charlotte Amalie.

These steps were constructed from bricks brought to the island from Denmark and are used to connect the streets in the city.

At the end of 99 steps is Blackbeard Castle which is another must visit historic site while on the island.

Unique Things To Do In Tortola

Explore Callwood Distillery- this is one of the oldest distilleries in the Caribbean and the original boiler is still in use today. Drink is still stored in the original storage cask.

There is an art gallery and shop available on site.

Visit Rhone National Marine Park- located in Road Town which is the capital city, this marine park features two amazing dive sites being the wreck of HMS Rhone and the dive of Dead Chest Island.

The wreck of HMS Rhone is also accessible to snorkel enthusiasts. Individuals can enjoy several types of sea life at this park.

Explore Mount Healthy National Park- a former 18th century plantation, this site features windmill ruins. Visitors can learn more about the sugar production and its history in Tortola.

Final Thoughts

On a whole, Tortola is an ideal choice for a traveler who wants to enjoy beautiful natural scenery, tranquility and amazing beaches. Alternatively, St Thomas is an exceptional choice for a traveler whose priority is enjoying the beach, seeking a bustling night life atmosphere and duty free shopping.

Need More Information?

Feel free to browse our website for more content on the Tortola, St Thomas and the Caribbean by using the search bar located at the top of this page.

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