Disconnect at Rosewood Little Dix Bay in the British Virgin Islands

Rosewood Little Dix Bay offers guests luxe privacy and mid-century style away from modern distractions.

WORDS Jess Swanson
March / April 2020

The captain announces we have arrived at Rosewood Little Dix Bay, but when I peer out of the catamaran across the turquoise water I can’t make out any of the 80 suites, just four curious gray pyramids peeking out of the lush greenery. I learn later that they comprise the roof of the Pavilion, which was the only structure to survive the Category 5 Hurricane Irma that nearly flattened the storied, decades-old resort two years before. The rooms, I am assured, are there, hiding behind the rocky cliffs and grove of palm and sea-grape trees. “This is a resort that doesn’t require removing nature,” managing director Andreas Pade tells me, “but instead a resort created for a natural setting.”

In 1958, while sailing across the Caribbean, conservationist Laurance Rockefeller happened across the crescent-shaped beach on the western shore of Virgin Gorda, the third-largest of the 50 British Virgin Islands. He purchased 500 acres and six years later Little Dix Bay debuted as part of RockResorts, a group of environmentally focused hotels opened in the ’50s and ’60s. Back then, rooms didn’t have air conditioning or telephones, which appealed to guests such as Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, who were looking to immerse themselves in nature decades before the phrase “digital detox” was ever uttered. Rosewood Hotels acquired the property in 1993, but that didn’t change its star-studded reputation. 

“People who don’t think they can disconnect can disconnect here,” Pade says. “This feels like a private island with no noise except the sounds of waves crashing at the shore.”

Crescent-shaped beach and Pavilion

The resort shuttered in 2016 for a renovation and was set to reopen in 2017. Then Hurricane Irma’s 180-mile-an-hour winds pummeled the island, uprooting nearly every tree, reversing any progress made and pushing back the opening even further. With a hurricane-razed blank slate, Rosewood decided against reimagining the resort and hired architectural firm OBMI and design team Meyer Davis to not just prepare the property for future hurricanes but also invoke its original mid-century jet-set vibe. It reopened in January.

“It’s important to renovate for modern travelers but not make it completely different from something guests have loved for 50 years,” Pade says. “A lady called me saying she’d been coming here regularly since 1966.”

As the catamaran nears the dock, I meet my butler Sonjal, a woman dressed in a white top and coral pants eager to carry my bags and facilitate the in-room check-in. She hands me a black communication device reminiscent of an old Nokia. “Call me if you need anything,” she says, holding eye contact. “Really.”

The only thing I wish I had packed was a protractor, because the property is a jigsaw of curiously shaped and angled cottages, atriums and pathways. My one-bedroom suite is a hexagon, my plunge pool is a pentagon, the paved walkways intersect the grounds at sharp angles and the various suites and cottages fit together like a game of Tetris, maximizing privacy and the sweeping bay views.

Junior suite

Even if geometry makes you anxious, the cliffside spa boasts panoramic vistas, a two-tiered infinity pool and the natural soundtrack of waves breaking below. Treatments utilize the island’s rich resources, such as jumbie-tree leaves, tamarind-tree leaves and lemongrass. The rooms incorporate a soothing palette of whites and beiges. It’s not until evening that I realize that, even though there are three showers, one spacious tub, two plush robes and a teakettle, there’s no television. Since I usually fall asleep to a lullaby of political pundits, I find my room eerily quiet at first and decide to open all ten windows and watch the sheer curtains whirl with each gust of wind.

“Not having TVs in the room is a tradition,” Pade tells me. “Telephones were only added in the last ten years.”

What the resort lacks in hypnotizing screens, it makes up for in sumptuous menus, stiff drinks and a state-of-the-art pickleball court (the latter, I’m told, is a hit with the legacy guests). The Caribbean might be known for sugary rum drinks, but the resort’s food and beverage director, Maximilian Deickert, is proud of its stock of 107 aged and rare rums. “It’s not about having the biggest variety but the best variety,” he says.

The resort’s culinary offerings are all inspired by the local cuisine yet applied in four distinct dining concepts, including the intimate alfresco Reef House, which uses ingredients from the on-site garden, and the tapas-style Sugar Mill. However, my favorite meal comes on my last morning, when I order a heaping breakfast plate of local salt-fish stew with callaloo and johnnycake eggs Benedict. With a steaming cup of coffee I watch the bay, dreading the arrival of the catamaran that will shuttle me back to civilization.


Jess Swanson

Jess Swanson is the senior editor at American Way and Celebrated Living. She graduated from Columbia University School of Journalism. Her reporting has taken her from the python-infested Everglades swamps to a bubbling onsen in Tokyo to a lava-spouting volcano in Nicaragua.


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