The travel world has taken note: Scrub was named one of the Top 30 Resorts in the Caribbean’ by Conde Nast magazine.
The 230-acre island, developed by Mainsail Lodging and Development and managed by Marriott, the first Caribbean resort in its Autograph Collection, opened in July 2010, and is a place that combines stunning sunsets, upscale lodging and world-class dining, the latter headed up by Chef Davide Pugliese, who has a palatial home on the island.
The resort was a long time in coming; I’d visited during construction several years ago and on several subsequent trips to the area would drift by on boats going somewhere else, and could see it coming along slowly, scraped earth and foundations giving away to green landscaping and finished rooms and villas. I finally made it back in late 2012 and checked out the final product.
It’s a beauty, with luxury rooms overlooking the ocean and nearby islands, a world-class spa and exquisite dining. As with any Caribbean resort, the beaches are the main thing here, at least to sun seekers like me, and there are three at Scrub, with North Beach the most popular. This 1,000-foot stretch of sand on the north side of the island is private and accessible by foot, over the hilly island, or you can snag a staffer to give you a lift by golf cart. It’s a beautiful location, with wooden decks and lounge chairs lined up far enough apart along the beach and amid vegetation to give you privacy.
Here is also the One Shoe Bar, so named during construction when workers would find just one shoe at a time washing ashore. They have a pool here as well, a great place to chill with a strong drink from the bar. They make stock items here, but you can rely on the mixologist on duty to whip you up something of your own liquor liking, or just ask him to improvise something.
Nearest the resort proper and its 52 guest rooms and one-, two-, and three-bedroom villas, all facing the water and 55-slip marina, is the pavilion beach, with swimming pools above, one set at a lower level, one above that, with waterfall and nearby Tierra! Tierra! Restaurant and bar. Pavilion beach is where you set off with kayaks or snorkels, and the third beach is dubbed “Honeymoon Beach,” accessible by kayak. They’ll drop you off if you’d rather, with food and beverage of your choice. Then give them a call when you want to return.
Not to be missed is the resort’s Ixora Spa, voted in the top 10 in the Caribbean by Caribbean Travel + Life, named for the native tropical shrub. The spa is perched on a hillside overlooking the Caribbean, and is a place true to its namesake, offering signature scrubs. The 3,000-square-foot spa has spectacular treatment rooms offering killer views and features antioxidant rich products crafted with natural botanicals and anti-aging formulations.
Granted, you don’t spend a lot of time in your room when at a luxury resort, preferring to avail yourself of other amenities, like the beach, activities, bars and restaurants. But the rooms at Scrub are beauties, and a great place to spend whatever time you can there.
The rooms are superb, gorgeously appointed, relaxing and with killer views of the water and burning sunsets. We had a one-bedroom suite, with granite countertops, Wolf gas-burner stove, SubZero refrigerator, Cuisinart coffee maker and a Nespresso machine (a caffeine addict’s double delight), kitchen counter separating the cooking area from huge living space, where we had a massive high-definition TV, and French doors opening to a wide balcony. The pocket doors in the living room open to a decent-sized master with king bed and 300-thread count Fili d’Oro sheets with soft down bedding, plasma TV, bamboo ceiling fan, and soaking tub, glass shower with rain head, frosted-glass door to the water closet and his-and-her vanities, and more French doors opening to the patio.
All that luxury inside is one thing, but for us, the balcony was the draw, facing the ocean and Tortola in the distance, Saba Rock Island in more immediate proximity, and those raging sunsets. It’s a perfect place to unwind, sip some wine and nibble some snacks from Scrub’s gourmet market and café and rest up for dinner.The chef overseeing it all, Pugliese, is a most interesting man. He is a low-key, soft-spoken gentleman from Firenze, Italy, who worked in many New York restaurants before coming to the Caribbean in 1984. The affable Italian most recently ran the locally famous Brandywine Restaurant on Tortola. He and his wife live in Wali Nikiti, an open-air house he designed on the far side of the island, which I visited a few years ago, an architectural wonder of open space, sun and constant breeze that is featured in February’s Coastal Living Magazine.
His culinary skills are well known, and in clear evidence at Scrub Island. The main restaurant is Caravela, and the food and location is divine. They do theme nights, and we took in Monday’s Caribbean night, offering possibly the best Caribbean buffet I’ve ever had, and the most genuine. We tried various things, including curry goat, smooth and spicy, loaded with thick goat meat falling off the bone; Jamaica jerk chicken, which proved to be forehead-sweating hot; rice and beans, a staple; silky tender conch stew; and sweet, soft fried plantains.
The service at Caravela is fast and friendly, but not over the top, they’re there when you need them and not bothersome when you don’t. It’s a pricey buffet, fetching $45 per person at the time, but worth it for its quality and quantity; I went back four times, much to my companion’s chagrin, but she knows my appetite and is used to it by now.
The atmosphere is fine dining, an open space in a wide arc, huge curved bar in front and glass walls fronting the ocean and blazing sunsets. Inside the space is the Candle Room for private dining, with plush leather chairs and glass walls holding wine bottles, with a lighted, locked glass case of very expensive Remy Martin Louis XII.
We also ate at Tierra! Tierra! one night, the other of the resort’s two restaurants, taking a prime table by the open-air restaurant’s railing, with the sun setting as we ate, the sky ever changing from scorching reds to glimmering gold and then deep blue, before giving away to a star-dotted black. The food was exquisite, with local, seafood abounding on the menu. I had the red snapper, perfectly cooked and spicy hot, as I’d requested extra kick on mine and they came through in fiery fashion.
Breakfast here is best taken outside on the Caravela deck. There’s standard American fare, like eggs and French toast, but do try the Caribbean breakfast, with salt fish, two Johnnycakes and a hard-boiled egg.
Meals simple or complex can be had at Scrub, guided by Pugliese’s experienced hand. And the views had with them just can’t be beat anywhere in the Caribbean.
Overall, Scrub, like most places in the Caribbean, is a place to just unwind, relax and forget about time. One night, when I asked a staffer for the time, he laughed and said, “Why do you need to know? When it’s light, it’s day. When it’s dark, it’s night.”
He couldn’t have been more right.
For reservations and information, visit www.scrubisland.com or call 870-890-7444.
Photos unless otherwise indicated are provided by Scrub Island Marketing