Charter Advisors Special Feature
Villa Grandeur - The Windward House At Scrub Island
by Captain Kev
There's something especially wonderful about a private island. The thought brings to mind tropical escapes of the rich and famous. Exclusive getaways out of reach of mortal man. And for the most part, you'd be right. But that isn't quite the full story. It can't be, how else do you account for Scrub Island Resort? Scrub Island, nestled in the turquoise waters of the British Virgin Islands welcomes all. It's everything you dream about but utterly accessible. Every time I set foot on the island, I know I'm in a place that's a flight of fantasy, where time has no meaning and there aren't enough superlatives in the universe to describe the beauty. Charter Advisors has reviewed Scrub Island Resort and Marina previously, the fondness I have (and review crew) is not based some one time "wow" factor or special allegiance to the owners. It's because I'm truly wow'd every time I visit. If anything the Island and Resort keep getting better, more refined, and more accommodating, constantly growing their resort services and offerings. And it's those expanded offerings we sampled at the end of our summer charter yacht review season in the form of the Windward House Villa.
By the time the crew and I wrapped up our summer yacht review season we've been at sea for some time. Granted usually in largish well-appointed sailing and motor yachts. But the sea is still the sea. She's going to keep you on your toes. Especially if your in charge of the helm. There comes a time when a Captain like me needs to be able to switch off for a bit. Some do this nightly, I'll give you that, but it's not my style. I prefer to do it all at once. So at the end of a yacht review marathon I like to find a nice spot ashore and do just that. Turn off my brain and re-adjust to life ashore. And the best way to do that is with help, help in the form of the staff at Scrub Island Resort. In the old days we used to wrap up our trips at Bitter End Yacht Club or Saba Rock. Great little spots these. But I find myself drawn back to Scrub Island again and again. This time to do a little work, reviewing and the Windward House Villa whilst the crew and I got our collective land-legs back.
The Windward House Villa is the latest addition to the villa offerings at Scrub Island, and by extension one of the newest villas in the BVI's. Perched cliff-side, this soaring four-bedroom villa is pure Caribbean design at it's best. It's made up of a large main house with two bedrooms and two adjoined guest suites. Each suite with it's own keycard and private entrance. A wonderful layout especially for groups vacationing together.
The villas being built on Scrub Island are privately owned, each unique to the owners while carrying consistent design theme from villa to villa. The architectural theme is interpreted differently by each villa owner. For example, the Beach House villa has cascading decks leading down to a private beach or the Passage House villa taking advantage of its surroundings and amazing view of the Camino Island passage or the Windward House named as such due to it's location on the windward side of the island, always in the trade breezes. But it could have been called the Window House because of the wall of windows overlooking a cliff-side view of the Sir Francis Drake Channel. Scrub Island also happens to be one of the only places in the British Virgin Islands where "non-belongers" can own land. Something I duly noted. Being able to own the land in the BVI is a pretty big deal. A streamlined construction process is even more elusive. This helped to explain why the crews were so busy building the next villas, some even bigger than any so far.
Arrival to Scrub Island is wonderfully consistent. By that I mean every time I've visited, arrival is the same. And that's no bad thing when the folks at Scrub Island are in-charge. Be it from the airport or in our case, from a Roadtown marina. A taxi was dispatched to pick us up and take us to the Scrub Island ferry dock at Trellis Bay. I've written before that the vacation really starts when the customer service kicks in. In this case it was the moment the taxi-man picked up our bags and loaded them into the back of the van. From that point on we were in the care of Scrub Island Resort. We were driven to the ferry dock; our bags unloaded awaiting the ferry to Scrub Island. The Scrub Island ferry arrives quarter to the hour every hour during the day. The trip from dock to Scrub Island takes about 10 minuets but somehow transports you a million miles away in that time.
At the Marina dock we're greeted with tropical drinks and ushered to the main resort building and into its artful and spacious lobby where we're checked in without delay. Paperwork sorted we headed outside to find a small all-terrain island taxi already loaded with our baggage waiting to take us up to the Windward House villa.
We're driven up the steep cliff-side and along a ridge-top road* pausing to pick up a services menu from their award winning Ixora spa along the way (when in Rome), but there really was no need to make that extra stop. It turned out the Windward House was just the next drive up the road. Hopping out of the taxi and standing on that ridge I had a wide-open panoramic view of the Sir Francis Drake Channel, Marina Cay, Tortola, Camino, Virgin Gorda, and the Scrub Island Marina down below.
We were driven down a long driveway down the cliff-side (with a stunning view) to the Windward House. The grounds around the Windward house have been kept natural, enhanced by the grounds-keepers with hibiscus, turks-cap cactus, and castor (among other fragrant flowers and succulents). Land around newly constructed spaces can often look artificial or temporarily sparse, not so in this case. It looks as if the Windward House was carefully set in among the natural surroundings with minimal disturbance. I look for these things. The beauty of the island is already there; it can be featured without recreation. I was happy to see the natural beauty of Scrub Island all around, enhanced and carefully maintained.
The Windward House has a Spanish-Caribbean look, its two-story terracotta color contrasting against a stunning blue Caribbean backdrop. I'm trying to find the words to describe what I see standing there that first time, but words fail me sometimes when I'm faced with something a bit fantastic. Anyway I describe it is either not going to do it justice or sound like I've fallen in love, so I'll let the pictures do the talking for me on this one.
Thinking (as I usually do) Captains know best I headed to the first door I saw with keycard in hand. As I approached the door a friendly voice came from over my shoulder saying, "excuse me sir, the front door is over here". Turns out what I had found was one of the Windward House Villa's two suites, which we'll get to later. After being shown the actual front door I slipped the keycard in and.... Wow! I was entering a front hall facing an impossibly big great room with an entire wall of floor to celling windows looking out over the Sir Francis Drake Channel, Marina Cay and beyond. Stunning, simply stunning. Again, words are useless. What a view!
Inside white Italian marble tile throughout, cavernous vaulted ceilings, and tastefully decorated up-scale Caribbean style make the entire villa feel special. And that's really where the magic is. Something as grand as the Windward House Villa could come off opulent or overly grandiose but there's more to it than that. It's been imbued with a sense that this is a special place. Think about it. We have a beautiful villa sitting on a cliff on a private tropical island, within my favorite Caribbean island chain, the British Virgin Islands. To a sailor like me it's like the spinnaker has another spinnaker with it's own spinnaker! It's almost too much to take in. It all adds up to make not just the villa feel special, but the entire experience too.
The great room is an apt name. It really is a great big room. This was the space that took my breath away when the front door was opened the first time. A celling vaulted far overhead covering the living room and dining room with an entire wall made of floor-to-ceiling windows and sliding glass doors. The view... There aren't words. But I'll try. Imagine pulling the curtain back and seeing every color of blue you've ever seen all at once. A stunning panorama looking over the channel bobbing with sailing yachts of all sizes and shapes. It's like that.
The living room area is open, airy and beautifully furnished with the kind of comforts you'd expect; couch, comfy chairs, flat-screen, coffee table, etc. These along with the sea themed decor all are incorporated into the interior design, each piece helping to reinforce a happy Caribbean luxury theme. All the while those giant windows providing a constant view overlooking paradise.
Each bedroom is essentially its own suite. Large oversized rooms, airy with the lofty ceilings, wicker ceiling fans, teak wood bedposts contrasting with the gleaming white marble. Every bedroom has the kind of amenities you'd expect in a suite; their own flat-screen, hanging closets, wet-bars, sitting areas, and large private bathrooms. But more importantly they all have porch-sized balconies with giant windows and chase lounges. The rooms are furnished in the same grand fashion as the great room, dark wood contrasting with bright and expansive room, with floor to celling drapery complementing those oversized windows. All of this comes together for two purposes as far as I can tell. Comfort and beauty. Beds that form around your body, coddling you in softness while providing a lofty perch over a Caribbean view that defies description.
The best of the lot is the master bedroom. A huge king size bed flanked by comfortable sitting chairs framed on two sides with windows looking out over the sea and the villa's infinity pool. When the sky goes dark there's a wall mounted flat-screen for movie night in bed. The master bedroom also features its own private entrance to the pool for those midnight skinny-dips. The master bathroom amps things up another notch too. Full size free standing soaking tub, a separate oversized glass walled shower overlooking the channel (with a curtain for the shy), double vanity, and a walk-in closet bigger than some hotel rooms I've stayed in, literally (I'm looking at you San Juan Airport Hotel).
Like the bedrooms inside the main house the guest's suites are actual full-on suites not just another set of bedrooms with their own front doors. The two guest suites are part of the villa itself but not accessible from the main house. They offer true privacy for traveling guests, each with their own entrance and key-card. The first guest suite is on the main level; the same as the main house, the second on the second floor, above the first guest suite, each with the same look, space and amenities (no use fighting over who gets which, they are equally awesome).
I have to admit, though the villa is beautiful inside I found myself sitting out on the deck most often. Why not? With a view like the Windward House has, why spend all day inside? The patio or deck or balcony or whatever you want to call it runs nearly the length of the villa. It only stops so the private balcony on the lower guest suite can start. Anchoring the deck at one end sits a large table and chairs sat next to the mirror-like infinity pool. A repeating set of plush chase lounges leads down the length to the far end. The British Virgin Islands is one of the most beautiful places on earth, being connected to the natural outdoor beauty enhances everything. The designers of the Windward House Villa must have thought the same thing because every room has a view and it's own set of doors leading to the patio or a private balcony, even the dining room. Each morning I'd fill my coffee cup with a Nespresso cappuccino and take a seat on the deck watching this sun begin its journey up from the horizon. My quite time in the morning doesn't last long before the rest of the crew is out doing the same thing. No one speaking, each waking up to the Caribbean sunrise in their own yet similar way. And when the cappuccino had been drunk, eyes turn to a different part of the deck... The pool. Never too early for a dip!
I've reviewed Scrub Island Resorts villas before, and I can report that they all have a pool (some a plunge pool). The pool at the Windward House looks like something out of a brochure, an infinity edge pool jutting out right over the cliff-edge. It's a spectacular view and a nice and private spot to bear as much as you dare, splashing or sunbathing to your hearts desire. Standing on the deck, from some angles it almost looks like the pool and the sea below are one in the same, that infinity edge joining the two up visually.
Back inside, the kitchen is a chef's dream. A Six burner Viking gas cook-top, matching oven and sub-zero fridge and freezer laid out with dark wood with glass cabinets and polished dark-green marble countertops. Every kitchen item you'd expect is here along with a few you might not (like that Nespresso machine). Fully stocked with all the silver and glassware you could want or need. I actually found myself cooking, just because the kitchen is so nice I had to try it out. Like the rest of the Windward House, the kitchen is expansive. The largest I've sampled in the British Virgin Islands. Nothing commercially large mind you, rather in keeping with the scale of the rest of the villa. The Windward House also offers a chef, butler, and maid service for those looking for full service luxury. The maid and turn-down service were outstanding but I opted to do the cooking and butlery myself. The nice young lady who did our turn-down service became quite popular. Myself and a couple of the crew waited in anticipation of the chocolate rocks she brought us each night.
Years ago we reviewed a one bedroom Scrub Island Suite and got caught off-guard when I opened what I thought was a closet and found a washer and dryer. Coming from a couple weeks of reviewing charter yachts fresh clothes are at a premium. But suddenly I had all the options I had at the beginning of my trip. I could wash anything I wanted or all if it! This little amenity on vacation is a big deal. I like the original Caribbean concept of packing light. One bag on a shoulder strap, that sort of thing. Being able to do a wash mid-vacation means even lighter packing. In the Windward House you don't get a stacked washer / dryer in a closet. Rather there's a full washroom with folding and sorting tables, large washer and dryers along its own service entrance.
I want to take a moment to talk about service and the folks working at Scrub Island Resort. It's like being among friends that want to spoil you. For example, one night I didn't feel like cooking, and no one else in the crew did either. We were beat from a hard day of playing in the sun. I know, queue the violins. What to do? I looked over the room service menu but wanted something more. Something from Caravela, the best restaurant on the island is what I was craving but no one wanted to get dressed for a sit down dinner. I called Caravela from the villa and described our situation in as few words as possible. It went something like this, "Hi, we're up in the Windward House villa and too tired and lazy to come down for a proper dinner, do you think we could order dinner from your menu and have someone bring it up?" The response was instant, "No Problem". That night we dined on the finest steaks and desert confections I've ever had in the Caribbean, all while sitting around my own dining room table. I mention this in particular because it's a good example of how things go when I'm staying on Scrub Island. It's that can-do, "no problem" attitude I love about Scrub Island and the BVIs. People here say "good morning" and "good afternoon" to you as they pass by, and the mean it. They remember you and come say hi. People like Savio working in the Scrub Island Marina who go the extra mile and then some. Friendly service, happy smiling faces, and a staff with a real dedication to service that bring the Caribbean fairytale vacation to life.
The Windward House villa is part of the Scrub Island Resort and Marina. The main resort and marina are a short walk down the road from the Windward House villa. The resort grounds remind me of a tropical village, but Scrub Island is a private island with lots to explore beyond the resort grounds. On the opposite side of the main resort building sits an entertainment area, where I spent quite a lot of time; two pools, one with the only water-slide in the British Virgin Islands and the necessary swim up pool bar along with a casual outdoor restaurant flanking the upstairs pool (service pool side too) along with Caravela serving amazing breakfasts and four-star dinners.
The Scrub Island Marina is one of the few true super-yacht marina's in the British Virgin Islands and the only one on the east end of the island chain. There's nearly always boat-spotting eye candy tied off with polished brightwork and crews to match. The marina is lined with shops including a dive shop, clothing boutique, and market. My favorite spot along the marina waterfront though is the deli. It's a small grocery store of sorts with a real honest to God deli with it's own stone pizza oven. I'll let you in on one of my secrets. The deli at Scrub Island has the best-sliced turkey sandwiches anywhere in the BVI. Nearly every day I found myself ordering lunch there and eating by the lower resort pool. It's simple and very, very good. Just like me.
Scrub Island features two beaches. One at the front of the resort with water toys and North Beach around the back of the island (actually there is one more, but you'll need to rent the Beach House Villa to have its private beach to yourself). North Beach has that true deserted island feeling, all be it with chase-lounges. But hidden behind a row of bushes and palm trees there's beach bar and pool. You're never far from convenience on Scrub Island even though you're a million miles away. They hold weekly pig roasts on the beach here the authentic way, a big beach fire and barbeque (or buccan, where the term buccaneer came from back in the pirate days, but that's a story for another time).
Scrub Island Resort has carved itself out as a special place in the British Virgin Islands, deservedly so. It's hard to stand out among such a beautiful backdrop. Some resorts rely on the natural beauty to carry the day. Scrub Island has found a way to amplify it and weave it into the guest's experience. I sure know that holds true for me. And not just this one time. The experience enhanced even further by the uniqueness, surroundings and amenities of the Windward House. Each visit keeps getting better. I just don't know how they are going to top this one.
* Scrub Island Road; I'm using the term "road" loosely here. Roads on Scrub Island are smoothly paved but only a little wider than a standard size car in most places. Two roads lead away from the main resort building, each taking a different direction up and around the hill-sides and cliffs along the island leading to the villas. Perfect for walking and exploring (and running if your sadistic). There's no traffic other than the Scrub Island Resort staff in their taxis or grounds keepers in their vehicles. Needless to say, you don't need to worry about traffic. Ok, thanks for letting me clear that up.
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