Shh, can you hear that? The swish and sway of waves gently ruffled by trade winds, the crackle of ice cubes in a glass of rum punch, perhaps the rustle of palm leaves, and very little else… Tortola is lousy with ridiculously beautiful coastal enclaves, but Long Bay Beach Resort has bagged itself a spot by the white sands and curaçao waters of dreamy Caribbean cliché. But, this is no cookie-cutter stay, it knows exactly what sun-dazed work escapees want: a rum shack that only takes itself seriously when it comes to high(-end) spirits; staff who’ll gently care for and cajole you – and remember your drink and dinner preferences; and rooms that owe more style-wise to Malibu or Tulum in their chic minimalism.
12 noon, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 2pm.
Double rooms from £459.57 ($583), including tax at 20 per cent.
Rates don’t usually include a breakfast of homemade granola, omelettes, parfait, pastries, a full English, or griddled pancakes and French toast (from US$16). There’s a minimum stay of five nights during the festive season (21 December to 15 January).
There are some steps on the property, but the ground-floor suites are wheelchair accessible and staff are on hand to help if needed.
The hotel closes during hurricane season – dates vary, but usually throughout September.
At the hotel
Public beach; tennis and pickleball courts; kitchen garden; beach cabanas, day-beds, parasols, towels and chairs; paddle and surf boards to borrow; laundry service; free WiFi. In rooms: TV, minibar, French press and Guatemalan coffee, kettle and a selection of teas, free WiFi, air-conditioning, workspace, BYREDO Bald'Afrique bath products.
Our favourite rooms
Ah, this takes us back: to Cali, Tulum, Baja… Style has been imported from several coasts here and to great – if simple – effect; gleaming white with wood and wicker make these restful havens, where the windows are a screensaver of sea and sand (even the one in the bathroom). Each has a furnished terrace, but the only differences are the size (ground-floor suites have an additional 10sq m living room) and the position (first-floor suites have a more panoramic view of the coastline). Beachside Villas and Beach Houses boast both benefits – they sit on a private sandy stretch and even have their own pool.
There’s no spa onsite, but the hotel has partnered with Driftwood Spa, a 10-minute drive away on the south coast. Here you can get a range of soothing massages, wraps and scrubs by the sea; beautifying from coiffure to cuticle; and some more niche therapies: acupuncture, ear candling, and even special dedicated pampering for your posterior.
You’ll spend a lot of time in the water, so bring any aquatic accoutrements: waterproof GoPro, personal wetsuit or snorkel mask (although you can easily find them on island), sailing hat and gloves, boat shoes, no-run mascara (hey, you never know).
Even if you’re travel-worn, you’ll perk up on arrival – all guests are offered a welcome rum punch (or a similar soft drink). And if you’re feeling a little glum at the thought of checking out, pick up one of the hotel’s custom ocean scent candles.
Children are welcome and babysitting can be arranged on request, but this is more of a honeymooners’ haven.
The hotel makes an effort to keep this paradise isle pristine, using reusable containers for bath products, reef-safe sunscreen, and products such as umbrellas made from recycled materials. They desalinate water onsite and food in the restaurant is made using fresh organic ingredients sourced from island farms and fisheries and the hotel’s own garden.
The bar swings – and several fingers of rum – will bring out your playful side – just don’t fall off.
Go Cali-bbean with elegant wafty neutrals.
Doffing its (tri-cornered) hat to the Caribbean’s finest export is 1748 Restaurant, which is indeed as old as its name suggests, formerly used as a rum distillery; and as a romantic dining room with stone walls, vaulted white-beamed ceilings and many plants it still has an intoxicating effect. Meals are made using catches from local fishermen, produce from island farms and whatever can be harvested from the hotel’s own organic kitchen garden. And, proving their environmental mettle, kitchen staff have given plants top billing on the menu, with sharing plates of truffled-cauliflower tacos and smashed avo nachos, and small plates of heirloom beets with blue cheese, compressed watermelon and halloumi and a ‘sprouting’ Caesar salad. And don’t worry carnivores, there’s also wagyu steak, red snapper with pancetta and saffron and other tastily prepared proteins. In between courses, head up the stairs to see the bridge to a little garden where donkeys used to trample the sugar cane. For pastries, tropical smoothies and rich locally ground coffee head to the 1748 Coffee Shop.
They don’t just roll out the barrel at laidback drinkery Johnny’s Beach Bar, they ship them in from fellow islands and fly them in from all over the world – and this precious cargo contains the finest rums they can find. With its thatched palapa, cheering live music and breezy sesa backdrop, it might seem humble but it’s serious about its spirits and generous with their pours. Sway back and forth on a swing or settle on a sofa on the terrace and keep putting rum punches on the tab till sundown. There’s also a small bar with a sizeable terrace (and a nest chair) at the top of 1748 restaurant.
Breakfast is served from 8am to 10.30am, lunch from 12 noon to 3pm, and dinner from 6pm to 9pm. On Sundays, brunch runs from 8am to 12 noon.
You can order food for dining on your private deck during restaurant hours.
Long Bay Beach Resort sits smack bang on the sand on the northern coast of Tortola in the British Virgin Isles, with vivid blue sea ahead and a windbreaker of green hills behind.
The closest transport hub is Terrance B. Lettsome International Airport on Beef Island at the eastern tip of Tortola – it’s around a 50-minute drive away. It has direct connections to many Caribbean islands, from Dominica to Haiti, but if you live further afield you’ll be looking at at least one stopover, with the final leg from Sint Maarten, St Thomas or Puerto Rico; dazzling views as you cross the Caribbean will up the anticipation. The hotel can arrange transfers on request and the price varies by season.
This is the largest of the British Virgin Islands, and there are soft sandy beaches and iridescent cays from end to end; having a car will let you hop between them. Brits will be pleased to know that you drive on the left here and you needn’t apply for a temporary licence if you’re staying for less than 30 days. Plus there’s plentiful free parking onsite.
A public ferry runs from Red Hook in St Thomas to Road Town in Tortola, or the hotel can arrange a private water taxi for a more swashbuckling entrance if you’d like to arrive by sea. The latter’s from US$630 for up to six people and US$105 for each extra person, plus a US$60 customs and immigration fee and an extra US$90 for a taxi from Cyril E. King International Airport to Red Hook if you require a lift. The journey takes around an hour.
Worth getting out of bed for
Long Bay is one of those pinch-me places that you can’t quite believe you’ve woken up in. The nodding palms, the cacophony of blues between sea and sky, the gleaming lash of sand. A stay here feels like a hazy flashback, but there are plenty of ways to live in the moment here too: discovering madcap coral gardens on a scuba dive, hauling in a huge mahi-mahi on a fishing expedition, pulling your best ‘king of the World’ on a private-hire yacht… The hotel has surfboards, paddleboards and boogie boards to rent for free, and the best breaks are at Cane Garden Bay just further east up the coast. It’s no contest, but Smuggler’s Cove may be a smidge prettier than Long Bay, offering the same winning formula of pearly-white sands, luminous water and a leafy backdrop – the hotel can give you a lift in their ATV or car. Kayaking can be arranged too, and Tortola is world famous for its sailing opportunities, so now’s the time to play skipper. If you want to shake up the colour palette, Mount Sage National Park is as deeply green – and hilly – as its name suggests, and it's criss-crossed with lush hiking trails. Much of Tortola’s pirate heritage has been lost to history, even though Blackbeard and Captain Kidd resided on the island for a while, but if you hop over to St Thomas, you can see Blackbeard’s Tower. And sail out to ritzy Virgin Gorda to plunge into the magical underwater realm called the Baths, a cave system with crystal-clear waters to snorkel through. Back on Tortola, return to that happy hazy feeling with a tour and tasting at the Callwood Distillery, then carry on in the hotel’s beachside bar.
The British Virgin Islands’ cuisine is a curious culture clash, where pubs serving fish and chips sit alongside purveyors of richly spiced Caribbean fare. You only need look at the brightly hued mural on the side of D’Coalpot to know that you’re about to eat a meal firmly in the local camp, with plenty of personality; it’s a humble homey place where you’ll have stacks of stickily glazed ribs, a pile of conch fritters or a bowl of mango-zested slaw put in front of you. And, if you visit come October, be sure to dive in at their annual fish fry, a heaving feast of lobster and all manner of under-the-sea creatures thrown on the barbecue. And, if you’re on a day jaunt to the other side of the island, fine-diner Brandywine Estate, which overlooks the Sir Francis Drake Channel, deals in delicious Mediterranean fare, with a few English quirks (Scotch egg or pigs in blankets, anyone?).
We never thought we’d be recommending a place called Nigel’s Boom Boom Beach Bar and Grill, but life comes at you fast and Nigel’s rum punch comes at you hard. A well-known and loved spot on Smuggler’s Cove, the ‘bar’ is more of a shack of hammered together yellow and blue planks, where none of the seats match; but none of that matters – go, drink, chat with Nige and be merry.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this Cali comes to the Caribbean resort on Tortola and unpacked their bottles of highly proofed rum and hung up their captain’s hat, a full account of their absolutely-do-not-disturb island break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, let’s hoist the jib and set sail for Long Bay Beach Resort in the British Virgin Islands…
Pirates, smugglers, hurricanes, the British: Tortola’s history doesn’t exactly signpost it as a place of immense serenity, but there are few places where we’d feel calmer than at Long Bay Beach Resort’s bar terrace, sitting on a swing, sipping a knock-out rum punch and gazing out over a fluoro sea. It’s deep-sigh central. And, like any good work of art, that view follows you as you wander along the so-good-looking-it’s-almost-cliché white-sand beach: it’s there as you sit on your room’s terrace – after all, suites all sit on the sand; it’s there as you snooze on a cabana; it’s even there when you shower (although there’s a blush-sparing switch for those not willing to bare all to the beach). And, other peacekeeping qualities include rooms with a Malibu aesthetic of white walls, platform beds and plenty of wood and wicker; healthy yet decadent cuisine with island flavours; and lashings more rum, of course. The hotel aims to be one of the best bars in the Caribbean for fine variations of the spirit and they’re well on the way to achieving that. Amid all this contentedness, it’s easy to forget that the hotel was rebuilt after being hit by a hurricane a few years ago, but now – beautifully dressed and set in a true paradise – it’s centred and calm (and closed during hurricane season FYI) and has found its happy place. And, on our swing by the sea, so have we.