ROSIE UNDERWOOD enjoys a dose of laid-back Caribbean charm in the British Virgin Islands...
Forget the bling and WAGS of Barbados and the French sophistication and A-listers in St Barths.
If you’re searching for the real Caribbean then the British Virgin Islands should top your list because this enticing archipelago is a tropical gem.
The BVIs may share the same Caribbean ingredients as their neighbours (think sparkling blue seas and palm-shaded white-sand beaches), but this British Overseas Territory offers unspoiled beauty and a low-key, laid-back vibe.
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Plus you get plenty of islands for your money!
The BVIs comprise more than 50 isles, some are volcanic islands with towering rugged peaks, others are minuscule islets.
The BVIs also offer some of the world’s best sailing, with yachties being drawn to the island’s sheltered bays and coves, many only accessible from the water.
Only 15 of the islands are inhabited, with most of the population living on Tortola, the largest island.
Which stars might I see?
The BVIs are popular with A-listers such as Oprah Winfrey, Scarlett Johansson and Janet Jackson, as well as royalty – Princes William and Harry are fans.
Sir Richard Branson owns his own island here, Necker, where his daughter Holly married last year.
Kate Winslet has stayed on his island paradise and Nick Lachey married long-term girlfriend Vanessa Minnillo there too, while footballer Rio Ferdinand took over Peter Island for his nuptials in 2009.
A good place to celeb spot is at the New Year’s Eve party at Foxy’s Bar on the island of Jost Van Dyke.
Where should I stay?
Despite Virgin Gorda being the third largest island in the BVIs, it measures less than ten miles long and two miles wide, with fewer than 2,000 residents.
But what it lacks in size, it makes up for with dramatic scenery – craggy volcanic peaks, lush tropical rainforest, mango and banana groves and secluded coves. The enchanting Rosewood Little Dix Bay is located on the island’s west coast.
Normally the trip from the airport to your hotel is the most tedious part of your holiday, not so if you’re staying at Little Dix. We were whisked by catamaran under a beautiful starlit sky from Tortola airport to the Little Dix jetty in about 30 minutes.
The resort’s 100 suites, villas and cottages are nestled amid lush foliage and mature gardens, brimming with palms, sea grape and hibiscus, across the 500-acre resort. Fronted by a spectacular crescent-shaped beach, the larger beach houses are favourites with families, while honeymooners prefer to hide away in the tree house cottages.
OK! opted for one of the new junior suites, where we loved sitting on our large terrace to watch the sun set.
Other room highlights were the al fresco shower and the refreshing lemongrass and grapefruit-scented Lady Primrose bathroom potions.
Where can I spa?
Little Dix is rightly proud of its Sense spa. Its cliff-top location offers stunning sea views, whether you’re relaxing by the spa’s infinity pool or holding a downward dog pose on the outdoor yoga platform.
In one of the nine treatment rooms, OK!’s lovely therapist Marisha gave us a rejuvenating seaside sedation massage that she said would ‘bring us down to seaside level’.
It did! In between treatments we’d take a dip in pool and admire the bay views.
Many of the treatments use local ingredients such as honey, mango and goat’s milk and Little Dix has recently added yoga weeks and fitness retreats to its wellness programmes.Where can I eat?
Housed in a stunning 370-year-old sugar mill, OK! enjoyed a gourmet feast – freshly caught snapper and mahi mahi – in a magical setting surrounded by trees decorated with hanging lanterns at the hotel’s Sugar Mill fine dining restaurant.
A private dinner on the beach, under the glow of flaming torches, is a must for loved-up couples.
OK! adored our coriander and black pepper-crusted tuna with sweet potato mash while listening to the gently lapping waters. A fabulous way to try out a myriad of dishes is at the Asian-inspired buffet held every Thursday at Pavilion.
Under a thatched roof, the open-air restaurant offers a sushi bar as well as the chance to create your own stir fry.
The local Anegada lobsters are big news at Little Dix – there’s even a lobster meal plan, where you can enjoy one at every meal! From November to July Little Dix hosts its monthly Lobster Fest to celebrate lobster season.
The local fishermen bring their catches to the beach where guests tag the lobster they want to eat for dinner.
What can I do?
For many guests, holidaying at Little Dix is all about sitting on a sun-kissed beach or snorkelling in the sheltered coral-ringed bay.
Don’t worry if you have kids in tow, the resort offers an excellent kids’ club to keep them amused.
For the adventurous, there are sailing and kayaking tours, island-hopping expeditions and, in November, Little Dix is running an underwater photography course.
One of our favourite pastimes was paddleboarding. Standing on our board we were able to spy stingrays and sea turtles.
Some even swam underneath the board which was slightly unnerving!
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If you want to spend an idyllic day on a deserted beach, sign up for one of Little Dix’s beach drop-offs.
OK! was dropped at a dreamy beach on Spring Bay where a hotel chef cooked fresh fish on the barbecue while we sipped rum punch and took part in a limbo competition!
A wonderful way to explore the coastline is onboard a sunset cruise. Sipping a Rum & Ting cocktail, OK! admired the rocky outcrops, hidden bays and pelicans diving for prey and felt like life just couldn’t get much better.
Elsewhere, pay a visit to The Baths – monolithic granite boulders and grottoes created by volcanic action, interspersed with natural salt water bathing pools, on Virgin Gorda.
Eco-lovers should visit the Gorda Peak National Park and trek to the summit of the highest peak at 1,369ft.
Or enjoy a leisurely lunch on the island of Anegada and explore some of the 500-odd shipwrecks just off the island’s coast at Horseshoe Reef.
How do I get there?
British Airways (www.ba.com; 0844 493 0787) flies to San Juan in Puerto Rico from London Gatwick.
Fares start from £503 return including taxes. American Airlines (www.aa.com) flies from San Juan to Tortola’s Beef Island airport in the British Virgin Islands from £145 return.
Rooms at Rosewood Little Dix Bay (www.littledixbay.com) cost from £275 per room per night based on two people sharing on a room-only basis.
Round-trip catamaran airport transfers cost £65 per adult and £30 per child (five-11 years old).
Children under five travel free.