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British Virgin Islands Reborn

Brooke Slezak The spa pool at Little Dix Bay

Photo: Brooke Slezak

Virgin Gorda

Back in the 1960's, Laurance Rockefeller's Little Dix Bay put long and skinny Virgin Gorda on the map. Today, the isle remains the destination of choice for luxury resorts in the British Virgin Islands. You won't find much in the way of diversions—and that's the point.

SLEEP Rosewood won't say exactly how much it spent to overhaul Little Dix Bay (The Valley; 888/767-3966 or 284/495-5555; www.littledixbay.com; doubles from $525), but the resort's new Asia-meets-the-tropics style was worth every million. Add to that the spiffed- up public spaces and a spa with an infinity-pool relaxation area, and it's no wonder this lavish spot attracts so many boldfaced names. • A few miles away, the sporty Bitter End Yacht Club (North Sound; 800/872-2392 or 284/494-2745; www.beyc.com; doubles from $640, including meals) is attempting its own (painstakingly slow) room redo. Barbara Hulanicki, of Biba and Island Outpost fame, has created a fresh look: batik bedspreads, teak floors, nautically inspired sconces. At press time, only eight of 87 rooms had been completed. • Just around the bay is Biras Creek Resort (North Sound; 800/223-1108 or 284/494-3555; www.biras.com; doubles from $615), perfect for solitude seekers. The hotel has added a small spa and promises a much-needed update. Rumor has it that another big-name BVI hotel company might buy the property. • Villa rentals are giving local resorts heavy competition these days. The most extravagant development is the German-owned, 7,760-square-foot Katitche Point Greathouse (Plum Bay Rd.; 49-761/556-2004; www.katitchepoint.com; seven nights from $15,330), where up to 10 guests share panoramic views and a jaw-dropping infinity pool.

SHOP Virgin Gorda's main strip, Spanish Town, may be a who-cares-if-you-miss-it blip on the radar, but Margo's Jewellery Boutique (Spanish Town; 284/495-5237) is an enchanting discovery filled with baubles from India and Turkey. • Saturdays at daybreak, a renegade outdoor market called Grandma's Kitchen (The Valley; 284/495-5253) appears in Spanish Town. Jewelry and sarong designers join forces with DJ's for a lively morning that stretches into the evening (care of more than a few rum punches).


Home to the islands' main airport, Tortola used to be nothing more than a way station for travelers en route to other islands. Now it's worthy of a day trip (or more), thanks to the emerging shopping and food scenes.

SLEEP The Cottage, with its four-poster bed and outdoor shower, is a welcome addition to the Sugar Mill Hotel (Apple Bay; 800/462-8834 or 284/495-4355; www.sugarmillhotel.com; doubles from $260; cottage from $300), an isolated boutique property on the west side of Tortola; it's also one of the BVI's best values.

EAT Scott Hart and Paloma Helm are doing their part to spiff up the scruffy little capital of Road Town with Dove Restaurant & Wine Bar (67 Main St.; 284/494-0313; dinner for two $75). Housed in a 1912 gingerbread-trimmed cottage, the restaurant and jazz bar is filled with antiques. The menu—Thai green curry with prawns, spanakopita with a red-pepper concassé—provides a refreshing departure from other island restaurants'. • The Dove's newest competition is the whimsically named Fat Cat Thai Restaurant (Hotel Castle Maria; 284/494-2615; dinner for two $50), which serves up Thai cuisine with a Chinese twist on a steep hill over-looking Road Town and the Sir Francis Drake Channel. • Fort Burt Restaurant (Fort Burt Marina; 284/495-2587; dinner for two $96) has been converted into a training ground for New England Culinary Institute students, who strut their stuff at dinner (think: lobster with avocado salsa and passion-fruit coulis). Lunchtime brings West Indies-inspired dishes: salt-fish cakes, jerk chicken. • For a quick snack, visit the students downtown at their Road Town Bakery (123 Main St.; 284/494-0222; lunch for two $17). • It's a bit out of the way on the East End, but the open-air waterfront Eclipse (Fat Hog's Bay; 284/495-1646; dinner for two $80) is worth the detour for a tapas-style grazing menu of sesame-tuna carpaccio and coconut shrimp.


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