MINIX 3 can use SATA hard drives in native mode, which is also called AHCI mode. This option is supported from MINIX 3.2.1 pre-releases onward.
To enable SATA, set the BIOS to use native/AHCI mode for the hard drive.
Then, choose this boot option during installation:
Regular MINIX 3 (with AHCI)
To enable this for an installed system, add ahci=yes to a menu entry in /boot.conf.
When using SATA in VirtualBox, consecutive restarts might not find the installer CD. To fix this, shutdown MINIX 3 and close the VirtualBox VM. This will erase any temporary data that may be causing the problem.