Carving Out a Slice of Paradise in the British Virgin Islands

Rosewood Little Dix Bay has turned its speck of the British Virgin Islands into a surprising farm-to-table paradise.

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After arriving at the American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts property Rosewood Little Dix Bay in the British Virgin Islands by private ferry and being ushered to my suite by a personal butler, I walked onto the beach, settled down on a lounger, and tucked into a fish wrap. The sandwich, electrified by a burst of bright purple coleslaw, was served in butcher paper and accompanied by a Weck jar holding perfectly crisp french fries. My drink, a zippy mixture of pineapple and soda and lime, came with a reusable metal straw but without the usual umbrella. The meal was as eco-friendly as it was delicious.

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In 1993, Rosewood took over management of the property, which Laurance Rockefeller had established as one of the world’s first eco-resorts in 1964. In 2016, Rosewood began a soft renovation, but then Hurricane Irma arrived and decimated the property.

And so Rosewood began anew, rebuilding guest suites from the foundations that the hurricane spared. It also started clearing land for a garden that would supply its restaurants and free it from the dependency, shared by so many Caribbean resorts, on the cavalcade of planes and ships that bring in things like avocados and rum and foie gras. A tweezers’ worth of microgreens can make any plate of ceviche look elevated, but getting those delicate greens to a remote island often means that they’re wilted by the time they arrive.


From left: Chef Francisco Sanabria on the hotel’s farm; Beef tenderloin in mole at Reef House. Ken Hayden

In a region where food is sometimes an afterthought, Little Dix Bay has become as much a culinary destination as a luxury hideaway. Here, sourcing locally is an ethical choice—a way to both support its community and care for the island—and a flavor-boosting one.

Now the garden has matured into a full-on farm under the eye of Spanish-born chef Francisco Sanabria. Spiky pineapple plants erupt from the ground, and a ring of banana, coconut, and avocado trees forms a hopeful perimeter toward which the farm is slowly expanding. The kitchen’s scraps and used coffee grounds feed the compost pile hiding in a thicket of trees. Within earshot is a chicken coop full of hens, whose eggs appear on the breakfast table.

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Sanabria and his team also work closely with farmers on the island, many of whom began growing vegetables after losing their jobs because of Irma’s devastation. On a hill looking out toward Prickly Pear and Necker Islands, cousins Arringdell and Triston Creque have built a microgreens farm, called Agri-Paradise VG, relying on mail-order seeds, instructional books, and YouTube tutorials. The cousins, each of whom has a day job, spend mornings and nights in their greenhouses tending to the basil and tangly pea shoots that they supply to restaurants on Virgin Gorda and beyond.

These greens show up throughout Little Dix Bay, most thrillingly in a salad at the Sugar Mill, a restaurant that focuses on Caribbean food. They serve as a background for a simple lump of fresh-caught fish, delivered by one of the fishermen Sanabria works with. Every day, he walks to the resort’s pier to inspect the catch: I saw one fisherman hang a tuna the size of a flat-screen TV from a hook, then point to another the size of, say, a laptop and ask Sanabria whether it was too small. The chef took them all.

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All of this stocks the resort’s three restaurants. Sugar Mill is the most casual. Next door is Pavilion, where Indian and West Indian food merge. Reef House, the white-tablecloth spot, showcases modern Caribbean dishes.
After dinner, I ordered from the list of more than 100 rums at the Rum Room, which has the vibe of a swinging mid-century lounge, and took the drink to the firepit on the beach. Most nights, the sky is clear save for a few dramatic clouds, and the stars illuminate the bay in front of you. Feet up, rum in hand, I had nothing left to do but think about what it would all look like in the morning.  

From $850; rosewoodhotels.com.