Jo and Mark recently visited Antigua as part of an island hopping trip where they also stayed on Barbuda and Barbados. rediscovering old favourites and experiencing new options. Click here to read more about their trip.
Below Karen tells us about her recent trip to Antigua with the Antigua & Barbuda Tourism Authority.
After a relaxed and comfortable flight with Virgin Atlantic, I arrived in sunny Antigua early afternoon...My first impressions were that it was extremely green with more hills than I had expected. Of course the coastline looked amazing, as one would expect from an island with a different beach for every day of the year!
Following a 40 minute drive south east along windy roads, we arrived at Nonsuch Bay Resort where I would be staying for the next two nights.
On arrival I was impressed by the great views from reception, which looks out over the bay from its hillside setting. I was then shown to my Premium Beach Cottage, a spacious Two Bedroom villa set just back from the small beach with lovely views from the verandah. I visited a selection of other rooms at the resort and found them all to be of an excellent standard with high quality furnishings. We ended our first day in Antigua with an a la carte dinner in the open air restaurant, where options included seafood and traditional Caribbean flavours, accompanied by exotic cocktails.
After a buffet breakfast, I started the next day with a visit to the nearby Green Island, an excursion that guests can enjoy free of charge during their stay. We were taken to the uninhabited island by RIB and dropped off, left alone with just our snorkels – the secluded sandy beaches were completely deserted at that time of the morning so I would highly recommend this trip for a Robinson Crusoe experience.
Another highlight of a stay at Nonsuch Bay would be the impressive selection of water sports that are available – guests can go windsurfing, kitesurfing and sailing. Staff are always on hand to give lessons - I was disappointed that I didn’t have time to try my hand! For those who prefer to relax, there are three swimming pools plus a beach service where a waiter will bring drinks from the bar to your lounger.
After lunch here, we departed for The Verandah Resort & Spa which is located on a bay just north of Nonsuch Bay. I loved this village-like resort because of its relaxed atmosphere, lovely beaches and safe environment that makes it perfect for families. Rooms are simple but very clean and cater well for families, with all options accommodating at least four people. With two beaches, four swimming pools, a kids club and other facilities including an excellent miniature golf course and tennis courts, I could see that there is certainly plenty to occupy guests of all ages. The main swimming pool is at the heart of the resort, where you will also find a number of restaurants including buffet and fine dining venues all cater for families –early dinners are available plus there is nightly entertainment.
That evening we dined at a local restaurant before returning to Nonsuch Bay Resort.
The next morning we left Nonsuch Bay and travelled across Antigua to the west coast, where our first stop was at Cocobay Resort. This is a romantic resort which I think would be perfect for honeymooners, thanks to the pretty surroundings and picture-perfect views – as we wandered around the property, I was constantly in awe of the breathtaking views over the white sand beaches and turquoise sea. The all-inclusive resort’s main restaurant is set on the clifftop, while Sheer Rocks restaurant is another option that is located below the resort’s main infinity pool – this dining venue is not included in the all-inclusive package but worth visiting for the setting alone, with tables positioned on a wooden terrace overlooking the rocks below.
The hotel also has lovely bars, a small spa, beach service and pretty gardens. For romantic getaways, I would suggest staying in a Premium Waterfront Suite where guests can relax on their private balcony with a plunge pool, outdoor bath tub and hammock.
Just a short distance from Cocobay Resort is Cocos, located at the other end of a white sand beach. This is another clifftop property which is peaceful and private, with lovely views over the beautiful beach.
From here we travelled further north to Galley Bay Resort & Spa, which is cut off from the outside world by a large lagoon. After crossing the bridge in a golf cart, the stunning beach was one of the first things I saw through the lovely, tropical gardens. One of the best things about the resort is that all the rooms except from the Gauguin Cottages are on the beach, allowing guests to step straight out onto the sand. There are some lovely dining options at Galley Bay, with Gauguin Restaurant allowing couples to sit in their own private cabana and a new coffee shop serving cake and hot drinks throughout the day. I thought the Rum Shack was a lovely touch, with a wide selection of Caribbean rums and cocktails on offer.
While here, I heard about the range of regular events and activities that are organised at Galley Bay, from cocktail parties and cooking demonstrations to garden tours and hikes. There is also a weekly dinner for repeat guests where they are asked to give feedback in order to help the resort develop – the Barefoot Grill is actually a recent addition which was introduced due to comments from previous visitors. Guests can also borrow bicycles free of charge to explore the surrounding area, while other eco-friendly touches include bottles in all rooms which guests can refill throughout the resort.
I really liked Galley Bay as it had a lovely feel and excellent staff – I can imagine people returning to the resort year after year!
Following our visit to Galley Bay, we set off for Blue Waters Resort where we were spending the next two nights. We were greeted by a lovely welcome drink (a Mango Passion Martini which I will certainly be recreating at home!) which we sipped while listening to the steel band which played on the bandstand just outside the reception building. To me this really was the essence of the Caribbean – a fruity drink, calypso music, a cheerful atmosphere and the sea visible in the distance.
We headed off straight away to check out the varied accommodation options on offer at the resort. The Deluxe Beachfront rooms are set on the hillside and have all been refurbished in the last year to an extremely high standard. The majority of these rooms are located overlooking the main beach, offering a high level of privacy and fantastic views from the comfy banquette on the balcony. Set on a promontory at the eastern end of the resort is Rock Cottage, a truly stunning villa which would be the ultimate setting for a luxurious family holiday.
Back in the centre of the resort is Pelican House, a beautiful villa that is split into two units sharing a private infinity pool, with the beach just a few steps away. Each unit has three bedrooms as well as a kitchen, living room and dining area – highly recommended for families as special offers make it excellent value.
Finally we headed over to the beautiful Cove Suites which are divided into blocks of six suites plus a three-bedroom penthouse. All suites have a private terrace overlooking the infinity pool which is shared by guests staying in that block, with the ground floor suite offering easy access to the pool area. I loved these elegant suites as they are set in a quiet, peaceful area of the resort with lovely sea views from their slightly elevated position.
After settling into the Cove Suite which would be my home for the next two nights, I wandered back along to the Palm Restaurant which is under ten minutes’ walk away. After a light lunch in the relaxed, open air restaurant I had the afternoon at leisure to relax and explore the resort.
Blue Waters feels spacious and elegant with pretty gardens throughout. As there are three separate beaches and a selection of swimming pools, guests can always find a quiet spot in which to relax. The main swimming pools each have their own bar, ensuring that guests don’t have to venture too far to order their next cocktail.
I couldn’t resist going for a dip in the sea, so swam out around the headland from one beach to the other past pelicans diving off the rocks by the wedding gazebo – a truly memorable sight.
As well as being perfect for couples in search of relaxation, I also think Blue Waters is a great destination for families – many of the Superior Hillside and Deluxe Beachfront rooms interconnect, the water sports facilities are excellent and I was impressed by the range of activities that the kids club offers. Staff are professional yet warm and friendly, always on hand to assist.
That evening we ventured out of the resort and travelled to Shirley Heights on the south coast, a viewpoint with beautiful views over English Harbour, Nelson’s Dockyard and Falmouth Harbour. As we were visiting on a Sunday evening we were able to enjoy one of the infamous weekly ‘Barbecue and Lime’ parties where we ate grilled meats and salads as the sun set, washed down with a rum punch or two. There was a lively, typically Caribbean atmosphere with a mixture of locals and tourists being entertained by local bands. I would definitely recommend this experience as it really is the place to be on a Sunday night – I even bumped into some Tropic Breeze clients!
The following morning we set off on an island excursion in an open-sided jeep, a great way of exploring Antigua. We learnt about the history of St John’s, went off-roading through the scenic countryside, wandered around English Harbour and enjoyed lunch at the historic Betty’s Hope sugarcane plantation. In the afternoon we went kayaking through mangroves – harder than it sounds as I wasn’t very good at steering and got stuck in the mangroves a few times– with a guide who showed us sea cucumbers and starfish. We were then taken by boat to the nearby Bird Island, where we had time to snorkel in the clear, turquoise waters with tropical fish. I thought this was an excellent day trip that really showcased the best of Antigua – highly recommended!
That evening we headed back to Blue Waters for dinner at the Cove Restaurant, where we enjoyed exceptional a la carte dining in a breath-taking setting. On the whole I was very impressed by the dining options at the resort and think the all-inclusive package offers good value for money, with at least 2 restaurants open every evening.
The next morning I spent my final few hours in Antigua in the spa, where I was treated to a relaxing facial before we made the short journey to the airport to catch our flight home... My time on this beautiful island definitely went too fast and I can’t wait to return!