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Home to the likes of ultra-luxurious Peter Island Resort, Rosewood Little Dix Bay and even Sir Richard Branson's Necker Island, talk of the BVIs often stirs up five-star imagery of the most indulgent and glamorous getaways. While many of the BVIs' cays deliver secluded, upscale vacations, there is one island in the BVIs that should not be overlooked for its friendly, down to earth nature and Caribbean charm… Tortola.

You won't find the likes of Sir Richard Branson hanging out on the beaches of Tortola, but what it lacks in the five-star it makes up for in its authentic feel and laid-back vibe. Tortola touts a mix of comfortable hotels, affordable vacation rentals, a few outstanding restaurants, a plethora of surf-able waves (when the conditions line up) and down right cool spots to hang out and drink it all in.

From Road Town, the capital, a-blaze with commercial centers, to Frenchman's Cay's colorful harbor, Soper's Hole, to Apple Bay's windswept Bomba's Shack, the funky locales are many. Each of these are well worth a visit and a day of exploring.

One beach that jumps to the top of the "must-visit" list is Cane Garden Bay.

At the heart of all of the action, this is one of the island's bigger beaches, one that has often been named the best beach in the Caribbean. Lined with beach bars and beach goers, with sailboats calmly bobbing in the harbor, this strip of sand comes alive during the high season and when cruise ships are in town. Although cruise ships don't dock in the harbor, it's a first stop for everyone visiting Tortola. Naturally, there are times when you can have this beach virtually to yourself. Visit in the off-season or early in the morning if you're seeking tranquility.

Down on the beach, Tortola's lush, green mountains surround you. Sandy shores meet crystal clear blue waters, with Jost Van Dyke just in the distance. The setting is simply jaw-dropping, and facing northwest, the sunsets here are especially explosive.

A perfect spot for taking in that sunset? Myett's. This beach bar is loved for its lively happy hours and tasty eats, including next-morning breakfasts of coconut French toast and banana pancakes. Their Rum Punch is a favorite, but, when in the BVIs, the drink to sample is the region's signature cocktail, the Pain Killer.

As you would expect, there are plenty of beach-side businesses renting chairs and umbrellas, and sports equipment as well, including kayaks and snorkel gear. And, when the waves are just right, you will spot a few hungry surfers out on the beach's eastern side. Depending on the time of year, these waters are known to produce some of the best surfing in all of the Caribbean.

Before packing it in and calling it a day well spent at Cane Garden Bay, be sure to stop in at Green VI Glass Blowing Studio for unique souvenirs. With a glass oven right on site, Green VI creates glassware of all kinds, from beer glasses made of Corona bottles, to sea-inspired wine glasses and other pretty pieces for the mantle. They make lovely take-homes of a memorable trip to Tortola.

By Nori Evoy of AnguillaBeaches.com

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