Smuggler's Cove, Tortola, British Virgin Islands: Hidden Tropical Paradise
Of all the beaches in Tortola, Smuggler's Cove is probably the most cherished by locals for its privacy, beauty, and relaxing atmosphere. It's located very near Long Bay Beach, at the west end of the island, down a long rough dirt road. It's not too bad if you have a four-wheel drive vehicle, but many people choose to walk or get there by sea instead. Be warned, there's only little bit of space for boats to anchor, and some of the charter companies discourage it; if you do anchor here, you'll need to swim in to shore.
If you drive out to Long Bay, you can leave your car at either the Jolly Roger, the West End Ferry Terminal, or Long Bay Resort and walk the rest of the way. The beach can be reached from one of two roads, one near the Jolly Roger and the other through the resort at Long Bay Beach.
Though the journey there is sometimes harrowing, Smuggler's Cove is well worth the trip. A crescent of perfect white sand embraces a sandy-bottomed beach with just a little coral near shore; further out, coral reefs make for excellent snorkeling territory. Few people venture out this far, so there are few amenities – no hotel, no formal restaurants. There is one bar, the Smuggler's Cove honor bar, and a small snack stand.
Here, the bartender, a local surfer, is known for making great frozen drinks. He also rents limited snorkeling equipment. Many of the amenities are on the honor system, with customers expected to put payments in a cigar box on the counter for items like postcards and cold drinks.
The beach is excellent for swimming, with shallow warm waters that are usually calm with no undertow and soft white sands that are easy on your feet.
The waters are generally calm, with some slight wave action during winter but not usually enough to surf with. You can rent a beach chair at the bar. There are normally very few people at the beach, so while it's probably not secluded enough for skinny-dipping, it's certainly private enough for some romantic personal time.
Besides the beach itself, visitors can get a perfect view of the triangular Belmont Mound, an ancient volcanic formation, and of the island Jost van Dyke across a narrow strait.
Belmont Mound is especially interesting, as it seems to have been a religious spot for pre-Columbian Arawak Indians. A number of artifacts have been found there, and today are kept in a museum in Roadtown.
There are good reasons that Smuggler's Cove is undeveloped. It was purchased long ago by the Clerk family, who cut the roads back to it. They sold it, partly developed, to the American Demingtons, who made multiple abortive attempts to turn the beautiful stretch of beach into a Virgin Islands resort. Apparently fate was against them, and hurricanes demolished their hotel each time it was near completion, as well as destroying the buildings left by the Clerks. At last, the Demingtons gave up their development dreams and just let the bar and snack stands already there remain the sole businesses here.
In the bar, you'll find an old Lincoln that was once owned by Bob Demington. The Queen of England graced this car back in the 70s, when it was the newest car on the island.
In a very real way, time seems to stand still here. The Indian site overlooks the beach once used by smugglers and pirates; the fresh new boats from all around the Caribbean sail in for snorkeling and have drinks at the dilapidated bar that runs on island time. And yet, with people all around, the beach at Smuggler's Cove still remains pristine and eternal.
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