Adventuring in Antigua
As a Caribbean specialist, I’ve always had a hard time wrapping my head around the island of Antigua. I’ve had clients visit and love it, but never could place what made it unique. I haven’t even met another travel professional who claimed it was their favorite island – a review given time after time to St. Lucia and Turks & Caicos and St. Barth’s, depending on people’s particular affinities. What is it that makes Antigua…Antigua?
In a nutshell, I think Antigua is to a great extent what people imagine when they imagine the Caribbean, all rolled up into one island. It’s safe and clean without feeling the impacts of commercialization. It’s warm and hospitable but not at all disingenuous. It’s naturally beautiful and, even with the number of hotels built on the shores, it manages to display that beauty in a way that almost feels untouched. The water is so crystal clear and ever-changing that I simply could not get over it.
Antigua is what the Caribbean is all about – but, how do you go about choosing the right hotel?
I was fortunate enough to visit the island with two of my travel besties – Laura and Cassie – to jump from property to property and determine which of our partners would be the best fit for clients. Along the way, we experienced the island firsthand in ways that we never thought possible.
We did this by taking a speedboat over the electric blue waters to Carlisle Bay, laughing as the waves sent us flying into the air.
We did this by taking in the unbelievable views from a hilltop suite at Hermitage Bay, stopping for lunch with our sweet friend who embodies the hospitable Antiguan lifestyle.
We did this by picnicking on an immaculate beach at Jumby Bay, feeding the lizards when no one was watching.
We did this by having a dance party until early morning hours at Curtain Bluff, a scene from a movie that maybe one day I’ll write about in a book as my favorite travel moment – being pulled up to dance by Cassie, pulling Laura in turn, taking over the entire dance floor, just the three of us. It was a night that ended in such joy and lightheartedness that we found Cassie’s shoes in the lobby on the way to breakfast the next morning – right where she left them.
What a girl’s trip. While I had never before heard a travel professional claim Antigua as their favorite island, you might have three agents who think otherwise because of the lasting memories we made.
Back to business: what’s the best property on Antigua for you? Well, you’re going to need to contact me to find that out specifically – we pride ourselves on destination & resort matching – but I’ll give you a nutshell version of each:
This charming beachfront property feels like stepping back in time into what the Caribbean must have been like years ago – they only just added locks to the doors last year! After over fifty years of existence, the property has become like a family to a multitude of repeat guests – and that family graciously welcomes newbies. If country club casual is your preferred style, Curtain Bluff is your answer – the great tennis scene is only overshadowed by the great beach location (the closest rooms I’ve ever seen in the Caribbean to the beach!). This is a true all inclusive experience and it prides itself on including even more than just meals and drinks – fitness classes, speedboat rides, waterskiing and scuba diving are all part of the rates – making it the best resort for value on the island.
Carlisle Bay, which is Curtain Bluff’s more modern neighbor, gives off the laid back Caribbean vibe – and even a similar architecture – as the Four Seasons Nevis. Small hotel blocks line the beach, nestled in a beautiful cove with trendy hammocks and day beds dotting the sands. The property’s large pool is appealing, but who needs a pool scene when you have that pretty white stretch of sand? Rooms are spacious and multi-bedroom options make this ideal for a family getaway. If you’re a honeymooner, splurge on the Bay Suite – it’s worth it.
It’s not true that a Sandals is a Sandals is a Sandals – certain properties in this chain are not recommended by us to meet our standards for guests’ expectations, but Sandals Grande Antiguan sits at the top of the list for a perfect couples and adults only getaway. The romantic resort is spread out over two sections – an older, Caribbean section, evoking a more simplistic style and a newer, Mediterranean section, boasting more modern touches and a European-style feel. Half the battle with Sandals properties is decoding the room types and figuring out which one is best for you – don’t stress over that, let us do it for you since we know where you need to be!
One of my eternal hotel fixations – I remember first finding out about this property – specifically the sexy hillside suites – and putting it at the top of my own personal bucket list. Hermitage Bay managed to live up to every expectation I had – and then some. Those hilltop suites are every bit as romantic in person as the pictures portray – nestled high above the rest of the resort with plunge pools spilling into the dramatic views. The property itself is perfectly poised for the Caribbean – a five star experience built in a way that compliments the surrounding nature. It’s another all inclusive option and the food is something to note here: menus change daily and many of the items are geared toward a healthier experience. It was delicious and the service outstanding!
The queen of the Caribbean. It’s hard to put into words the level of perfection that exists at Jumby Bay – there is not one determining factor that makes it one of the best properties in the world. It starts with the seclusion – this private island sits only 7 minutes away from the mainland, accessible via boat (and right by the airport – so easy to get here!).
Next, you’re impacted by the beauty: the translucent water ripples in softly onto miles and miles of white, sandy beaches. You don’t even have to take one of the included snorkeling trips to see incredible sea life – giant starfish line the shallow waters so picture-perfect, it seems as though the staff might drop them in one by one every morning. The warm smiles of the staff greet you and somehow manage to continue growing wider during your stay – as you get to know not only the stories they have of the infamous island, but their own passion for the resort. Never have I ever seen a staff regard their property so dearly. Of course the impeccable dining doesn’t hurt – it’s all inclusive but it is truly in a league of its own – the dining is indescribably good.
Finally, the accommodations make you feel like you’re at home, regardless of whether you’re staying in the entry level rooms, which are still spacious standalone rondavels, or the immaculate estate homes, sprawling multi-bedroom homes complete with a full staff and perfect for family or couples getaways. The atmosphere here forces you to turn off, relax, take things a little slower – a pace of life that gets into your soul and you find yourself wishing you were back at Jumby before you’ve even left. If you’re on the fence about whether the price is worth it – trust me, it is.