This Caribbean Island You've Never Heard Of Has White-sand Beaches, Epic Scuba Diving, and a Stunning Luxury Resort

Hike, kayak, snorkel, and sail your way around Scrub Island.

The Caribbean is a tourism gold mine with many popular destinations. It’s also home to some lesser-known locales that don’t have the same name recognition as highly advertised hot spots like the Dominican Republic, St. Thomas, and Anguilla. Tortola is another frequented favorite with mainstream appeal. The largest and most populated island in the British Virgin Islands acts as a springboard for exploring the many treasures of the Lesser Antilles chain. One of those hidden gems, Scrub Island, is a 230-acre retreat that falls outside the purview of cruise ships and well-trodden tourist routes. Its low-key status allows overnight guests and island hoppers to enjoy this little slice of tropical paradise away from the crowds.

Marina with boats on Scrub Island

Wendy Gunderson/Getty Images

Why is it called Scrub Island? 

Legend has it, Scrub Island got its moniker from a group of pirates. The swashbucklers were said to have dropped anchor nearby to scrub barnacles off their boats. The name stuck and it’s been called that ever since. 

Aerial view of Scrub Island

Courtesy of Scrub Island Resort, Spa & Marina

How do you get to Scrub Island from the U.S.?

Scrub Island sits just 1.5 miles off the coast of Tortola. Most travelers fly into Terrance B. Lettsome International Airport (EIS) and then take the free ferry from the Trellis Bay dock, which departs every 45 minutes. 

What is the best time to visit Scrub Island?

Scrub Island enjoys a tropical climate with sunny skies and warm temperatures. Like much of the Caribbean, hurricane season runs from June to November (the island was pummeled by Hurricane Irma in 2017), so that’s worth keeping in mind. Many travelers still choose to visit in the fall, despite the risk of storms and higher levels of precipitation to avoid the busy holiday season — and the peak prices that come along with it. While the ocean is warm enough to swim all year round, underwater visibility tends to be best for scuba diving in the winter and spring. Avid sailors favor the month of late March for the BVI Spring Regatta & Sailing Festival

What are the best things to do on Scrub Island?

Beach chair looking out over ocean on Scrub Island

Wendy Gunderson/Getty Images

What’s so wonderful about Scrub Island is the mix of stunning natural scenery and first-rate amenities courtesy of the AAA Four Diamond-rated resort. There are three beautiful white-sand beaches, and depending on the length of your holiday, it’s entirely possible that soaking up the sun and splashing in the turquoise waters will take up a big chunk of that time. To break up the hours of blissful lounging, strike out on the scenic hiking trails, go sea kayaking, or hop on a paddleboard. 

Folks keen on seeing a bit more of the area can book sailing lessons — it’s the BVIs, after all — or boat trips to dive historic shipwrecks, snorkel around colorful reefs, visit famous local attractions like The Baths (a series of photogenic grottos and pools formed by huge granite boulders at the southwestern tip of Virgin Gorda), or sip the original Painkiller cocktail at the Soggy Dollar Bar. And while Scrub Island remains under the radar for the masses, anglers know it as the closest destination to the North Drop, a.k.a. the “honey spot” for world-class blue marlin fishing. Even if you’ve never cast a line before, the fact that the charters include equipment and an experienced guide makes them beginner-friendly. The marina features 55 deep-water slips, including five designated for megayachts, and serves as the main departure point for most water-based excursions. It’s also where you’ll find shops and most of the restaurants. 

Ixora Spa offers ayurvedic wellness treatments, acupuncture, massages, facials, body scrubs, and yoga on the outdoor deck. Sunset cruises ooze romance, though circumnavigating Scrub Island on a deluxe catamaran would also be a fun activity with a group of pals or even older kids. Held on Wednesday nights, the North Beach Festival invites overnight visitors to partake in after-dark excitement with delicious food, live music, and entertainment. And stargazing at Sunset Point is the perfect way to end a memorable yet low-key evening. To keep the fun going, head to a Full Moon Party in Trellis Bay. 

Where are the best places to stay on Scrub Island?

Ocean View Guest Room on Scrub Island

Courtesy of Scrub Island Resort, Spa & Marina

Scrub Island Resort, Spa & Marina, the first member of Marriott’s Autograph Collection in the Caribbean, stands out with its breezy, tropical sensibility and offers travelers a variety of choices for activities, dining, and accommodations. Rooms feature king-size beds and balconies with sweeping ocean vistas. Planning a longer trip or just prefer to have access to all the comforts of home? Suites provide separate sleeping and living areas, gourmet kitchens, and covered verandas. Luxurious and private hillside villas ranging from two to six bedrooms comfortably fit families and larger groups in style. Plus, the exclusive online provisioning service means the fridge will be stocked upon arrival. The property also boasts a lagoon-style pool with waterfalls and a swim-up bar, a spa, multiple restaurants, three private beaches, and a 55-slip marina.

If you’d rather do Scrub Island as a day trip from Tortola, that widens the playing field to include the beloved Long Bay Beach Resort and Sugar Mill Hotel. Rather go the vacation rental route? The recently remodeled Mood Indigo villa on Great Camanoe (near the East End of Tortola) shows off plenty of indoor/outdoor living space, a private slip, and a Caribe DL15 to explore more of the British Virgin Islands.

Where are the best places to eat and drink on Scrub Island?

Breakfast at Donovan's Reef, overlooking the marina on Scrub Island

Courtesy of Scrub Island Resort, Spa & Marina

Donovan’s Reef is a lovely open-air spot to start the day with a fresh, healthy breakfast while watching the morning activities in the marina. Guests often return in the evening for the Anegada lobster dinner. One Shoe Beach Bar & Grill pairs easygoing eats and cocktails with picture-perfect vantage points. The organic resort garden supplies herbs, fruits, and vegetables to Cardamom & Co., the fine-dining restaurant with delicious dishes that tell the story of Caribbean cooking and the spice trade complemented by wine pairings. The deli arm of Scrub Island Outpost does made-to-order sandwiches, and the adjacent market stocks gourmet meats, cheeses, snacks, pizza, wine, and spirits — basically all the essentials for a seaside picnic or an in-villa happy hour.

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