One of the Caribbean's Original Luxury Hotels Has Finally Reopened — and It's More Gorgeous Than Ever
Sometimes, even the best vacations require a bit of work. To reach Virgin Gorda, most travelers fly first to San Juan, then to Tortola, and finally, hop a ferry to the island. On a recent long-weekend trip, my family and I opted for a (slightly) easier route: a nonstop flight to St. Thomas, followed by a seaplane taxi to the tiny, time-stands-still Virgin Gorda airport.
Shorter, but still — no sane mother of a rambunctious four-year-old would bother with all this travel for a three-night getaway. But this wasn’t just any getaway: Rosewood Little Dix Bay, one of the Caribbean’s original grande dames, had just reopened after a four-year closure. It’s the kind of place where the stars help light the walk back to your room at night; pink honeysuckle grows in abundance; and staff members stay for 30, even 40 years. My last visit was a babymoon in 2015, and at five months pregnant, sitting by that tranquil beach and clearing my head was the ultimate escape. The pull to return, at a time when my life feels more harried, felt magnetic.
Little Dix Bay opened in 1964, the pet project of billionaire philanthropist Laurance Rockefeller, who first spotted this half-mile stretch of sand while sailing the British Virgin Islands. As billionaires do, Rockefeller bought the beach — and the surrounding 500 acres — turning the estate into one of his famously low-footprint, low-tech Rockresorts. No keys, no TVs. Back then, electricity on Virgin Gorda wasn’t even a given, but the island did have emerald forest and teeming coral reefs, all little known to the outside world.
The resort, managed by Rosewood since 1993, closed for a much-needed renovation in 2016. Then Hurricanes Irma and Maria tore through the British Virgin Islands, setting the reopening back further. Two hundred million dollars later, Little Dix has returned at last, its rustic-luxe balance intact. I was glad to see that the 80 rooms, which stretch across the beach and up a hillside, still retain some original elements, like their stone walls — a nod to Virgin Gorda’s otherworldly boulders. But now there are Danish modern–style bedside tables, driftwood sculptures, and framed vintage maps — an upscale beach house vibe that’s neither fussy nor precious. Years ago, we stayed in one of the treehouse suites: one-bedroom pavilions on stilts with huge tubs and outdoor showers. On this visit, as a family of three, we opted for a more spacious two-bedroom beach cottage. The genius of Little Dix is that no matter where you stay, it’s less than a five-minute walk to the water.
The food on my last visit was just fine. Now, it’s excellent. The talented young executive chef Francisco Sanabria brings elements of his Spanish heritage to the Sugar Mill restaurant, which focuses on shared plates (my husband and I fought over his crisp-fried manchego), and West Indian flavors to the redone Pavilion restaurant, a triangular, temple-like structure built by Rockefeller which somehow survived the storm. (“Almost as if in defiance,” managing director Andreas Pade told me.) Still, it too needed an upgrade: Gone are the dated, clunky chairs and tables. In are chic banquettes and a centerpiece stocked with Little Dix–label rosé from California, along with 107 different rums at the polished bar.
Other welcome additions: new pickleball courts, a spruced up kids club, and an activities hub for booking dive and snorkel excursions. A signature Little Dix excursion, something I did years ago and was happy to do again, is a picnic beach drop — a short boat ride to sandy bliss. Armed with fresh salmon and chicken sandwiches, tomato and mozzarella salad, and a bottle of champagne, we made for Spring Bay, a quiet spot close to the Baths, where we swam and ate our fill for an hour.
In a nod to sustainability, a brand-new organic garden, chock full of okra, red cabbage, basil, and mint, now supplies Sanabria’s kitchens, and a chicken coop is in the works. I saw nary a plastic straw or cutlery wrapper during our stay. Food at the beach now comes in washable glass jars; the beach attendants call up your order to the restaurant with one tap on their tablets. It’s one of the few concessions to technology you’ll see at this Little Dix 2.0, where most rooms still don’t have TVs. We never bothered to turn ours on, preferring to read books, watch yachts glide by in the distance, and play for the first time as a family on that magical, time-capsule of a beach.