Virgin Territory

By Allison Mitchell | October 8, 2015 | Articles

Opened in March 2010, Scrub Island Resort, Spa & Marina, a Marriott Autograph Collection property positioned just minutes from the bustling island of Tortola, is one of the British Virgin Islands’ swankiest hidden gems. Spread over 230 acres of lush terrain formed by volcanic activity, the property boasts three sandy stretches of shore (Pavilion Beach, Honeymoon Beach and North Beach); a 55-slip marina; three pools (two with swim-up bars); 52 ocean-view rooms and suites; in addition to six luxurious two-, three- and four-bedroom seaside villas, all of which offer visitors an ideal escape from daily life in a heavenly Caribbean setting. Just ask A-listers Taraji P. Henson, Wendy Williams and more who have been known to check in, to check out from the Hollywood spotlight.

After months of pressing deadlines, decompressing for four days in the land of sand and sun seems to be just what the doctor ordered. Getting to Scrub is a bit of a Planes, Trains & Automobiles venture but it is more than worth it. I start my journey from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport on a 3 ½-hour flight to San Juan, Puerto Rico, where I connect on a nine-seater cessna powered by Cape Air to Tortola, home of the BVI’s capital Road Town. After a quick cab ride and less than 10-minute ferry cruise, I arrive at Scrub and am warmly greeted dockside with a colorful rum punch, the resort’s most popular sipper. (Rum is the poison of choice for the islands, mon!) Quickly, I’m whisked away on a walk through the humid sea salt-filled air to my one-bedroom oceanfront suite. Outfitted in accents of bamboo, tropical floral patterns and seashell decor galore, my 960-square-foot room evokes a West Indies-inspired design and includes a private balcony, granite counter-clad kitchen, spacious marble bathroom filled with L’Occitane amenities and a massive king-sized bed that will provide a much-needed nap on Fili D’oro Egyptian cotton sheets come sundown.

But the night is young and the evening’s agenda calls for a dinner en blanc (white attire encouraged)—dockside in a private cabana—led by a team of chefs from the resort’s fine-dining restaurant, Caravela. Steak is the name of the game here as Scrub is prepping to convert the current restaurant into a steakhouse (which will be dubbed Caravela Chop House), a unique concept for the pulled-meat lovers of the BVI. The developing menu is still under wraps, but our tour guide gives us a sneak peek of the November revamp, which is slated to include cuts of 14-oz. cowboy rib eye, 10-oz. filet mignon angus steak, 6-oz. kobe beef petite tenderloin and a whopping 24-oz. Black Angus porterhouse. Our three-course meal begins with lamb lollipops and delicate seared tuna appetizers, followed by a petite filet steak (grilled to perfection) paired with double-whipped mashed potatoes and broccolini, before ending on a sweet note with dishes of creme brulee. Scrub’s staff is all about customizing your stay and private candlelit dinners (pick North Beach for a more intimate dining experience or Pavilion Beach to take in sights of the lit up color-changing pool and marina) can be arranged through the hospitable concierge for those wanting to amp up the romance. For the party set, head to Tierra! Tierra! (open for lunch and dinner), the resort’s open-air resto where live music, flowing cocktails (order the off-the-menu Wanna Be Ya Sangria or the new Bloody Moody Mary) and Caribbean cuisine such as Virgin Island-style roti curried chicken, guava BBQ baby back ribs and coconut rum punch grouper fillet make for a deliciously fun experience. Tierra! Tierra! also serves lunch poolside (order via the swim-up bar to never miss a moment of R&R) and North Beach’s One Shoe Beach Bar & Grill does the same. An array of paninis and burgers help to soak up the endless supply of rum punches delivered straight to your chaise lounge overlooking the Caribbean.

The next day brings a chance to indulge in Scrub’s Ixora Spa, which recently underwent a menu revamp with the introduction of Elemis products. Set above Scrub’s guest rooms on a hillside, the spa is like a miniresort in itself with a cliffside outdoor terrace and tranquil infinity pool. Caribbean waters are in sight from every view and a cool breeze blows continuously through the spa’s open-air rooms, meaning AC isn’t necessary to enjoy a day of pampering. Named a top 10 spa by Caribbean Travel & Life, Ixora prides itself on offering sensational facials, body wraps (try an exotic coconut rub and milk wrap), massages (the outdoor cabana massage is the ultimate vacay experience), manicures and pedicures (featuring Essie polishes) and even hair braiding, acupuncture, yoga and an evening of wellness and cuisine hosted by spa director Denis Gordon-Morrison and Chef Juan Morrison ($25 per person with reservation). I opted for an hour-long deep tissue massage featuring Elemis oils, the perfect chance to unwind before an afternoon of exploring Tortola with bar visits and partying on the agenda.

The trip’s first leg of barhopping begins at the famous Bomba Shack, an eclectic bar positioned on the shore of Capoons Bay on Tortola that has been drawing visitors from around the world since 1976. We’re lucky enough to spend time with the bar’s eccentric owner, Bomba, who lives up to his party-animal reputation with a slew of young ladies on his arm, even in his 70s. The Hugh Hefner of the BVI? According to the locals, who smile coyly whenever we bring him up, it’s a fair assumption. Bomba welcomes us with Bomba Punch (a creamy concoction of coconut, rum and pineapple sprinkled with nutmeg) and we take in the license plates, undergarments and graffiti (SEC-college shoutouts galore!) that adorn the driftwood walls. Sand serves as the bar’s floor, and while we visited at sunset, this place is known for its famous Full Moon Party, which began in 1989 and has become a tradition throughout the BVI with iterations at hot spots in the area. Revelers dance to reggae music till the wee hours of the night sipping on Bomba’s special Midnight Tea. That night, we head to the east end of Tortola and opt for the less rowdy but equally popular Trellis Bay Full Moon Party, which draws a crowd with its whimsical metal, local-artist-created FireBalls (set ablaze in the water and on the sand). Reggae bands, DJs, a Caribbean buffet, and, you guessed it, rum punch, bring the party to life. Fire twirlers and stilt-walking Mocko Jumbies (traditional Caribbean performers) dressed in brightly embellished costumes make it a bash to remember. Luckily, water taxis, including Scrub’s private, complimentary vessels, are available about every 15 minutes to take partygoers back to their resorts. The nearby Beef Island Airport also has a dock in the bay.

The next morning, we make a pit stop at Caravela for breakfast (the guava juice and to-die-for crunchy French Toast coated in coconut and almond flakes are my go-to throughout our stay) before hopping on a chartered boat to visit nearby islands. The BVI is made up of more than 50 islands in total (roughly 15 are inhabited) so spending a day cruising the turquoise waters is a must. Raymond, our fun-loving captain for the day, is a native of the BVI who has been working on boats since he was young (a common trade for locals). Our first stop is the beautiful Baths at Virgin Gorda (or as Raymond calls them, “the eighth wonder of the world”). To preserve the pristine shores of Virgin Gorda, boats are not allowed to dock, meaning swimming 30 to 40 yards to shore is necessary but made easier by floating buoys and ropes in the water (use caution when the swells are strong). Established in 1990, the seven-acre area is made up of granite boulders stacked on top and against one another that visitors are able to swim and climb through to reach Devil’s Bay, a private expanse of tranquil shoreline ideal for snorkel enthusiasts. Ladders, ropes and stairs make the venture easy and the sunlight and waves rolling through the caverns are wondrous. It’s a must-see to say the least. Next on the agenda, we head to the floating bar and restaurant known as Willy T, a two-story ship anchored in Pirates Bight at Norman Island. Visitors can attach their dinghys to the boat for easy access or drop anchor and swim up. Pre-swim, waiters serve Painkillers—the BVI’s famous cocktail—and pulled chicken sandwiches. Heading upstairs, we jump off the boat’s top floor into the water roughly 20 feet below, a tradition for visitors since the floating restaurant’s founding in 1989. Finally, we head to the island I’m most excited for—White Bay at Jost Van Dyke. This white sand-coated party spot is loved by country crooners like Kenny Chesney (who filmed his “No Shirt, No Shoes, No Problem” video on its shores) and Little Big Town (who filmed their “Painkiller” video there as well) and is home to the famous Soggy Dollar Bar that introduced the world to the Painkiller cocktail (premium dark rum, cream of coconut, pineapple and orange juice topped with fresh grated Grenadian nutmeg) in the 1970s. As the Soggy Dollar regulars say, it’s a “sunny drink for shady people.” We order the original concoction, but the sipper also comes in refreshing flavors of raspeberry, mango and more. Ideal sipping takes place with your feet in the sand on the shore or in a nearby hammock. Chartered boats dot the shoreline of Jost Van Dyke and the party rages on the decks with blaring music and on the shoreline with slews of visitors dancing and downing drink after drink. White Bay is home to One Love Bar & Grill, Gertrude’s and more. Great Harbour on the other side of the island is also a popular destination where Ivan’s Stress Free Bar, Corsair’s and the famous Foxy’s provide endless hours of good libations. Dive BVI, Scrub’s full-service dive shop featuring daily group snorkel tours, catamarans and more, is the way to go for an island hopper cruise. Pickups from Scrub occur daily at 9:30am and include stops from Tortola to Norman Island and Jost Van Dyke ($125 per person).

After four days of sunkissed revelry, relaxation and island-life indulgence, I recommend future guests soak up every magical minute and round up a crew of pals for adventure or head down with that special someone to take advantage of Scrub’s romantic setting. It truly is a place of serene seclusion. Blue crush, indeed.

From Atlanta, fly to Scrub through St. Thomas (with a ferry connection) or St. Maarten (with a connection on Winair to Tortola). However, JEZ recommends flying Delta Air Lines to San Juan, Puerto Rico (a 3½-hour trip) and connecting to Beef Island Airport in Tortola on Cape Air (for those who like a thrill via the 9-seater Cessna) or Seaborne Airlines (a 32-seat aircraft) for a 45-minute flight above the Caribbean’s turquoise waters. Complimentary airport taxis are available to escort you to Trellis Bay Dock where you’ll find Scrub Island’s private ferry.

Avoiding hurricane season is key when visiting this tropical locale. November through April is peak season as rainfall is at its lowest. Overnight rates from $659, @scrubislandbvi


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