On Scrub Island, Rediscovering the British Virgin Islands

Journey to Scrub Island

By Sarah Greaves-Gabbadon
CJ Travel Editor

A hotel isn’t experienced in isolation. No matter how solicitous the service, plush the perks, or silky the sheets, we never really love a resort just for the resort itself. It’s location, the geographical context in which the hotel exists that, in my opinion, really makes the place. Which is why I think I’ll always have such fond memories of a weekend at Scrub Island, a private-island resort in the British Virgin Islands.

But it wasn’t love at first sight.

Stepping off the private launch that had ferried me seven minutes from Tortola’s Trellis Bay to the one-square mile island, my eyes were jarred by the three- and four-story buildings lining the shore. Cream-colored concrete blocks stood out against the organic undulating contours of the island, and my expectations for the weekend ahead fell.

They rose a little during dinner, a flavorful feast presented at a water’s-edge table by Chilean chef Juan, who arrived on the island from Jamaica a year ago.

He talked about the challenges of preparing menus on an island where almost everything is imported and the only staple is fish and seafood, but also of his plans to establish an island greenhouse to supply fresh herbs and produce to the kitchen. So there is regard for the environment here, I thought.

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Late evening, repairing to my suite (one of 52 at the five year-old resort, the newest in the BVI), I noted the marble walk-in shower, spacious kitchen and ample living space, but nothing impressed as much as the wide balcony that spanned the bedroom and living room.

Settled into one of a pair of upholstered armchairs, it provided the perfect outdoor perch to watch the full moon cast its silvery glow on the yachts at anchor in Scrub’s marina, the sloping silhouette of neighboring Great Camanoe looming in the distance. It was a quintessential Caribbean moment, just begging to be shared.

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Before sunrise I set off on my morning run, an exercise that turned out to be less of a workout (how far can you go on a one square-mile island before getting dizzy?) and more of a photo safari.

I whipped out my iPhone and captured a stunning sunrise from the ridge above my room, then the view from above the cascading infinity pool to Pavilion Beach and beyond. I simply had to snap a selfie on North Beach, where teak lounge chairs were so perfectly placed they looked like movie props. And finally a panorama of Cove Beach, its untamed beauty only enhanced by the necklace of seaweed clinging to white sand.

That morning I felt as if I had the entire island to myself, my own personal paradise with a beach for every mood. And isn’t that just how you should feel at a private-island resort?

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The next two days passed exactly as they should, discovering the islets that have made the BVI one of the Caribbean’s premier sailing destinations.

We boated back to Tortola and met Bomba, the inimitable owner of Bomba’s Shack, the iconic bar where the full moon parties are legendary and the nutmeg-laced rum punch is way more powerful than the “mushroom” tea. We were spirited away by catamaran to Virgin Gorda, to wander through a labyrinth of boulders as big as buses and sun ourselves on Devil’s Bay Beach.

We launched ourselves off the stern of the venerable bar boat the Willy T, and sampled the original (and best) Painkillers at Jost Van Dyke’s Soggy Dollar Bar.

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And when we returned to “our” island at the end of a full and fun day, we were grateful for a/c and plush robes to comfort our sun-scorched skin; lightning fast WI-FI so we could instantly upload an envy-inducing chronicle of our day to our timelines; and an 8-course cocktail-and-canape pairing at Caravela restaurant that was worth every calorie.

And to top it all off, beds so deliciously comfortable that, as one of our group exclaimed the first morning: “You wake up feeling like a celebrity.”

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Anyone who’d been there knows that being in the BVI is all about being on the water, hopping from one idyllic island and quirky beach bar to the next.

To spend all your time holed up in your hotel room or even lounging by the pool is to miss the point. So while Scrub Island may not be entirely perfect, it is perfect in a way that really counts.

As a jumping off point for exploring this charming corner of the Caribbean, and a retreat you’re thrilled to come home to at the end of the day, there are few places in these parts that can compare.

 

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