Antigua: The Island Less-Traveled
I had the pleasure of spending six days and five nights in Antigua in June, exploring 10 luxurious all-inclusive resorts and investigating all corners of the Caribbean island, which is a part of the Lesser Antilles in the West Indies.
Antigua, unlike its sister island Barbuda, escaped a direct hit from last year’s hurricanes. Barbuda is still under repair today. Antigua is strategically located where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Caribbean sea. If you are looking for a true Caribbean escape, with a choice of gorgeous boutique resorts, this is the place.
Antigua is a great destination for couples and families. Antigua is a quick, four-hour non-stop plane ride from New York or three-and-a-half hours from Miami. Once there, the farthest resort from the airport is about 40 minutes away. Most resorts are much closer, about 15-20 minutes.
Antigua’s luxury resorts are primed for destination weddings and honeymoons. They are fully equipped with upscale services to match their picture-perfect views for a romantic event. Full-service spas and gourmet dining are standard. Many offer special touches, like organizing a private dinner on the beach. Family-friendly resorts are here too, with flexible lodging designed for larger families, and children’s activities on site. Should you work for a company who dapples in conferences and events, many resorts offer comfortable space for corporate retreats.
With 365 beaches --yes, one for every day of the year--this is a beach lover’s paradise. Antigua is also an “eco-conscious” island. Many resorts have done away with plastic straws and are reducing other plastic materials. As the island seeks to build its tourism dollars, it is as dedicated to the wildlife and natural resources that make the island so beautiful. Your senses really come alive when you visit new places. That was true here in Antigua. The vibrant colors of the tropical flowers on the island popped like confetti, and their lush fragrance floated in the air along garden paths.
The largest properties we toured were Sandals Grande Antigua Resort & Spa, at 373 rooms, and St. James Club at 240 rooms. All of the resorts do an excellent job of working within the natural landscape to maintain the lushness of the environment. Another perk of the smaller resorts is that you may never have to jockey for a place to put your towel on the beach. There is enough room for everyone. The other travel agents and I stayed at the family-friendly Verandah Resort & Spa, which has two beaches, a large pool, and a laid-back vibe. The Verandah is spread out but quiet and private. Depending on where your room is, you may need to take a golf cart to get from one end of the resort to the other, but this all-inclusive resort may be a very good value for some families.
For a couple’s escape, consider Hermitage Bay or Galley Bay resorts. The stunning views from the Bali-inspired Hermitage Bay hillside suite, with its gauzy, fabric-draped four-poster bed and plunge pool is a honeymooner’s dream. Galley Bay is rustic chic. With a bird sanctuary on site and bikes to borrow, its tropical jungle-rich foliage and dream-like beaches transport you to a paradise hideaway.
Blue Waters Resort & Spa combines the best of both worlds for families and couples. Place an order for your favorite drink at Carolyn’s, the pool and beach bar, and Carolyn, the bar’s namesake will remember your drink when you come back on vacation two years later! That’s hospitality. Blue Waters has a breathtaking wedding pavilion, and the boutique property offers private villas to host your extended family and friends. Curtain Bluff, is another elegant choice for families as well as corporate retreats. Curtain Bluff boasts an impressive wine cellar, with wine-appreciation classes.
Antigua offers plenty of adventure. This is good to note if you have teenagers who think they will be bored without their phones and video games 24/7. Our island jeep safari took us through Antigua’s rugged interior, on our way to Stingray city, for a speedboat ride and a swim with the rays!
Take a barbecue lunch under the shade of the trees at Betty’s Hope, the site of the 1651 sugar plantation and restored sugar mill towers. Then, visit one of Antigua’s natural wonders: Devil’s Bridge. The rugged limestone bridge is millions of years in the making from waves crashing upon the rock. For a different kind of beat, you can’t miss Shirley Heights, a restored military lookout, on Sunday evenings from 4 pm to 10 pm. The sunset party is the place to be for live music, food, and the best views.
Are you ready to go? Palms & Peaks Travel is planning on returning next June to the brand-new Royalton Antigua, a 5-star resort, which opens in early 2019. This all-inclusive, family-friendly resort is great for multi-generational families or couples. If you would like to go too, contact me for information on packages. Read my full review on my trip to Antigua on my blog at www.palmsandpeaks.com/blog