Author: William Judson Date of Trip: December 2011
The Biras Creek Resort is an intimate luxury resort on Virgin Gorda, cited by both Conde Nast and Travel & Leisure as among the best resorts in the Caribbean. With 140 acres and only 31 villas, the resort is spacious and private. Located on a peninsula, the resort actually abuts three separate bodies of water. The swimming beach, snorkeling area and the sailboats, windsurfers and other craft are on the North Sound lagoon, protected by a reef. The waves are gentle and fine for even a novice swimmer. The villas are on the open Atlantic, offering beautiful vistas and considerable surf. The Marina is on an open Caribbean bay. Access to the resort is limited to boat and helicopter.
Biras Creek is not an inexpensive place to stay, running near $1000.00 per day per couple if you select the full American Dining Plan. Because it is easy to lose an entire day travelling to the islands in the BVI, we had flown into St. Thomas the previous day, spent the night and chartered our own flight to the Virgin Gorda Airport. Seeing as the commercial airlines serving the BVI, Cape Air and Air Sunshine, are not presently allowed to land at Virgin Gorda Airport due to some zoning restriction, the charter flight was a stroke of genius. Had we flown Cape Air to Tortola and taken the Ferry to Biras, we would have arrived in time for Dinner. The private charter allowed us to arrive at the resort nearly four hours before check-in, but as we had informed Biras of our travel arrangements, our villas were ready upon arrival and we were able to enjoy the entire first day. A few bucks extra, but money well spent.
Arriving at the resort from the Gun Creek Ferry, we were immediately transported to our villas. I fell in love with the setting immediately. Our terrace was right on the beach, on the Atlantic Ocean side. The waves were surfing caliber, although I never saw anyone out there on a board. Perhaps there were reefs too close to the surface. The strong breeze was constant and invigorating. My first thoughts were how wonderful it was going to be in the evenings, shutting off the AC, opening up the screens all the way, and falling asleep to the sounds of the wind and crashing surf. That is my ultimate sleep experience. The villas were done in a teal and white color scheme with unframed island art which seemed just right. There was a comfortable living room with all the necessities and a bedroom with ample closet space. My favorite part of the villa was the outdoor shower. The girls were a little leery of the shower since if someone really had wanted to spy it was possible. I considered it a non-issue and loved showering looking up at the blue sky. When I say our terrace was right on the beach, I mean you could take a path about twenty feet to where the waves were washing ashore. I have always loved pelicans and to my delight, their preferred feeding area was right in front of our villa. If I can come back in another Life, I’d like to try my luck as a pelican. They are so unlikely looking you have to love them. Wi-Fi access is available throughout the resort, which enabled us to use our iPad. Very convenient seeing as there were no televisions or radios in the villas. They would have detracted from the ambiance. Biras Creek is, more than anything, a getaway.
The centerpiece of the resort is what I called “the Castle”, situated on the highest point on the property. As you approach the “castle’, you pass the Arawak Lounge, site of the afternoon tea. There is also a small but functional gym which I made a point of walking past at least twice daily. This brings you to the staircase leading to the Reception Desk, and another flight up to the bar and dining room. There is a pre-dinner cocktail hour nightly before Dinner.
So far, all of the attributes I’ve mentioned are available at many luxury Caribbean resorts. It was the food that set Biras Creek apart from most of its competitors. The cuisine at Biras Creek was absolutely phenomenal. Executive Chef Jermaine George made every Dinner a culinary celebration. The soups changed daily and were all inspired by local flavors. Appetizers included Seared Tuna over Wilted Romaine with Black Olive and Shallot dressing. Or maybe Coconut Shrimp Tempura with a Grilled Apple and Mango Salsa sounds good. But then you’d miss out on the Smoked Bacon Caesar Salad with Croutons and Parmesan Crisps. The Main Courses were equally hard choices. One night, it was Pan Seared Red Snapper with Thai-Inspired Sushi Rice and Spicy Ratatouille. The next night offered a Spiced Rub Lollipop Pork Chop with Bacon Mashed Potato and Island Rum Sauce. Then, Pink Peppercorn Crusted Halibut with Sautéed Leek and French Beans in Truffle Oil. Of course, steaks and other entrees were available every night. When the main course had been cleared away, you were truly entering dangerous territory. While I usually am able to exercise some discipline in terms of dessert, Pastry Chef Brian Luke made willpower virtually impossible. The choices included a Hot Chocolate Fondant with Vanilla Ice Cream, Apple and Cinnamon Crisp with Vanilla Ice Cream and Caramel Sauce, Paris Brest filled with Crème Chantilly, Fresh Fruits and Raspberry Coulis and a Coconut Panna Cotta with Chocolate Sauce and Pistachio Ice Cream. Of course, there was a Cheese Table serving Continental and English Cheeses with Complimentary Port Wine and a Cracker assortment. All of this served by a friendly and efficient staff who were proud of their resort and seemed genuinely happy to have us there. All in all, it was as fine a dining experience as I have had in the Caribbean. Our sincere thanks to Fernella, Ellery, Janice, Kathy Ann, Cheryl, Dominique, Maggie, Oma, the two Jens and many others too numerous to mention for making our stay at Biras Creek a wonderful one.
It took us no time at all to slip into an unhurried and wonderful daily routine. After a terrific breakfast featuring fabulous pastries, fresh fruit and the usual breakfast fare, my friend Ricky and I headed to the Marina. Each morning, we’d take out a Boston Whaler and explore. The first voyage had a few Laurel & Hardy moments, but after that, things went smoothly. It was fun to go out to Prickly Pear Island, where we had been many times for cruise ship barbecues. It was very different to have the whole island to yourself. Then, we would head over to Bitter End Yacht Club, another of my favorite resorts and the subject of a future review. After visiting with my friends on the Staff, we would head back to Biras and go to the beach to join our wives. With luck, we would each have time to take out a Hobie Cat for a pre-lunch sail. Lunch was served either in the Dining Room or at the Beach. The Beach barbecues were far more than hamburgers and hot dogs, although those were available. But I always try to eat things on vacation I don’t have ready access to at home. There were skewers of fresh shrimp, seafood paella and a wonderful Thai Teriyaki Beef, along with an assortment of cold salads. After lunch, we’d take a swim and another sail, and perhaps a nap in a hammock. At about 3:30 PM, we’d go to the beautiful oceanfront pool. The girls were not keen on swimming in the ocean, knowing of course, that we share it with other species. Anytime you enter the ocean, you are leaving the world you inhabit and becoming a guest in another world, a world with different rules and inhabitants. The pool was always slightly cooler than the sea and very refreshing.
Some days, I would arrange for a massage at the spa before returning to the villa to dress for Dinner. The Spa was adequate, but nothing more. The masseuses were pleasant and willing, but I guess I’m somewhat spoiled in that regard. If Biras wants to be known as a world-class spa, there is work to do, both in the appearance of the spa and the training of the masseuses.
The Biras Creek Resort is very spread out, so each villa is equipped with two bicycles. They come in very handy since it is about a fifteen minute walk from your villa to the beach, and longer still to the Marina. I had been looking forward to riding the bikes, although I had not ridden one in thirty years or so. But I recalled the old adage that you never forget how to ride a bike. That is true. What they don’t tell you is that although you may recall how, that is no guarantee that you will still be able. I have had several sports-related knee surgeries, and although I got up and riding with no problem, my left knee could not handle the hills. Only a small portion of the pathways are paved, the rest just dirt trails. After a rain shower, the dirt trails were particularly hard to navigate. I found out that the staff was always readily agreeable to driving you anyplace you wanted to go in one of the many staff golf carts. Everyone was very nice and amenable, but I found myself viewing my requests as an imposition. I felt old. I began to walk to the beach, and in the process, saw some things I’d passed without appreciating. I passed iguanas ranging in size from tiny to three feet long not counting the tail. The tennis courts were about halfway between the villa and the beach. Just before the beach were the stables, where the resort keeps horses that had been abused in Puerto Rico. I do not know the nature of the abuse, but the horses have a pretty good life now. They graze and nap and are leery of people. I had the impression that the long-term goal was to get the horses comfortable enough with people to let them ride them. Some part of me hopes that never happens. While I can understand the additional revenue to be derived from offering horseback riding on the beach, these horses have paid their dues. I hope they continue to keep their distance from people.
In closing, a few impressions I got from my time at Biras Creek. The only children I encountered had either hiked over from another resort or come ashore on a boat. Biras is really meant for couples. There is very little night life and that is how it should be. The Biras Creek Resort is a beautiful, luxurious place to spend time with your special someone. Replace the party scene with a beautiful sunrise and sunset. Use this tranquil place to slow down your life. I would like to see golf carts available for those who cannot handle the bicycles. You can adjust the speed the carts are able to go to make them safe, and I would wager there would be far fewer accidents with the carts than with the bicycles. Apart from that, the place is damn near perfect.