Thursday, December 20, 2012

Antigua: The Island of 365 Beaches

The beautiful blue waters of Antigua
In November, I returned from my first experience of the island of Antigua.  All I can say is that this is a beach lovers paradise!  There are so many beaches on the island (365), that you are bound to find yourself on a secluded white sand beach that goes on for miles without anyone in sight. (Sounds like paradise, doesn't it?) But it gets better, most of the beaches, especially on the Caribbean side have the most vibrant blue waters I have ever seen. And the friendly locals serve up the best rum-punch I have ever had! If you are looking for a getaway that's different than your typical all-inclusive in Cuba, Dominican or Mexico, then Antigua may be the next on your list of winter getaways.

I was sent on this trip by my agency with a group of travel agents, and I was hosted by the wonderful Antiguan tourist board for the duration.  Four days was not long enough for me!  (I know, 'boo hoo' right?)  Well, as much as this was a work trip, I definitely got a good taste of the Antiguan sun, sand and sea (and rum)!  The tourist board showed us all of the most popular resorts on the island, and welcomed us onto an amazing day-long catamaran tour around the whole island.  Our 'home' hotel was the Jolly Beach Resort which is located on the west (Caribbean) side of the island. This (in my opinion) was the hotel with the best beach on the whole island! However, there were lots of beautiful secluded beaches as well. Let me give you some details on the resorts that we visited...

Jolly Beach Resort (3 Star)

My immediate thoughts are that this property needs an update! It is a very old property which has plans to renovate most of their rooms.  Definitely request a renovated room– It’s the best value you’ll get for being the most beautiful beach on the island!  It is fairly quiet, and suited for people who are insistent on going to Antigua but don’t have much of a budget.  It is ideal for a family vacation.

See more details in my review here.

Tranquility Bay (3 Star)

This property is most ideal for families or long-stays as all rooms are suite-style and many are multi-bedroom with kitchens.  It is a 10 minute walk to most of the facilities at Jolly Beach Resort, but still only a 1 minute walk to the beach.This resort is very quiet, clean, and close to a grocery store for long-stays and non-all- inclusive. 

See more details in my review here.

Sugar Ridge (4 Star)

This property would be 5 Star Plus if it was beachfront.  (3 minute shuttle to Jolly Beach), but have the most spectacular view as it is cliff side. It's a secluded boutique luxury hotel ideal for couples, honeymoons, small weddings. Gorgeous rooms! The staff seem excellent, very friendly and have a high standard of service.

See more details in my review here.


The Verandah (4 Star)

My initial thoughts are that this is ideal for families and long-stays as the suites are spacious have kitchens and living rooms. This is a very large property which is made of several villas than run up a cliff, some are at ground level, and some have a spectacular view on the cliffside. The resort is partially ocean view, because it is so large, only some villas are close to the beach. While this resort is on the Atlantic side, the beach isn’t too wavy because it’s in a bay. The beach has beautiful white sand and vibrant blue waters with lots of water sports available. 

See more details in my review here.

Grand Pineapple Beach Resort (3.5 Star)

This is a medium sized property that is a solid 3.5 star. It is one of the more affordable options in Antigua, and although the beach isn’t AS nice as Jolly Beach, the rooms are a lot nicer, cleaner.  Much better value for a 3.5 Star vs. the Jolly Beach.
Overall I’d say it’s a well-rounded property, well suited for families, couples and singles – a big variety. It’s a bit more of a social atmosphere than other resorts we saw. 

See more details in my review here.

 St. James Club (4 Star)

My initial thoughts are that this is ideal for 50+ adults, who want a beautiful quiet property, with high service standards, but don’t quite want to do a romantic couples resort like Sandals. This is medium sized property which is made of several 2-3 storey buildings on a peninsula, and on the opposite side of the bay are private villas that cannot be booked than run up a cliff. There are 2 beaches surrounding this property, and though the beaches in bays the water still seemed somewhat rough since it’s on the Atlantic side. 

See more details in my review here.

Grande Royal Antigua (3 Star)

Overall this resort is VERY quiet;  It seems like there are not enough guests for them to open all the restaurants or have entertainment. And therefore don’t have many staff on to maintain the place. We went here around 9:30 am and the resort was desolate. The breakfast buffet/café only had one guest in it, and that was the only guest we saw in the whole hotel. There were maybe 8 people out on the beach and that was it! There were only 5 tables set up in the restaurant. It’s one big plus is that it is very close to St. John’s, but it really just needs to get some guests for it to pick up.

See more details in my review here.

Sandals Grande Antigua (4 Star)

My overall impression is that like most Sandals, this is perfect for couples.  The restaurants, rooms, pools, music, and everything is catered for romance. Lots of music, entertainment, so it’s always lively. There are endless room types, so it’s perfect for those who are very specific about what they want their room to be like, but it’s also difficult to choose a room type. The beach is beautiful with white sand and blue waters – one of the best on the island.

See more details in my review here.


Blue Waters (4.5 Star)

This is a beautiful luxury cliff-side resort that is laid back, and ideal for couples or even families and almost has the vibe of a coastal European village. What stands out the most is the tropical gardens, and cascading villas along the cliffs.  You can book individual rooms, or family suites with private pools.  I think the only thing that stops this resort from being a 5 Star is the beach. It is very small and can’t fit too many people. They do, however have several pools throughout the resort.

See more details in my review here.


Excursion:  Excellence’s Circumnavigation Tour of Antigua

I highly recommend this catamaran which really lets you see the whole island, and see just how many beaches there are.  It’s worth the price of the ticket because of its’ length, and what is included.  The hosts are very entertaining. It includes lunch grilled right on the boat, open bar, servers, information about the island, and a trip around the whole island.

See more details of my experience here.