In the fast-paced world of Instragrammable travel, it’s sometimes difficult to uncover a place where quiet, barefoot luxury reigns.
Enter Antigua, an island which has no qualms about maintaining its off-the-grid appeal and commingling old-school Caribbean finesse with modernity. At Antigua’s top resorts, it’s all about embracing the charm, adopting a slower pace of life, relaxing in high style, and perfecting the art of doing nothing.
Here, two of our favorite iterations of Antiguan paradise:
Carlisle Bay Resort: A Mainland Getaway
On Antigua’s south coast, where the rainforest meets the Caribbean Sea, Carlisle Bay graces its namesake shoreline with 87 ocean-facing suites and an array of amenities exemplifying Caribbean cool. By way of an outward-facing design, each unit of this all-suite resort features a balcony or terrace, all with a partial or full ocean view and a double-sized daybed for lazing the afternoons away (not far from the complimentary, fully stocked minibar).
For a resort of its size, Carlisle Bay houses a massive spa — the 17,000-square-foot Blue Spa to be exact — which is comprised of a relaxation lounge, sauna, plunge pool, six garden-view treatment rooms, and a state-of-the-art fitness center and yoga pavilion, where complimentary group yoga and pilates sessions are held.
The resort’s restaurant personalities are equally large. In fact, Carlisle Bay houses five restaurants and four bars/lounges under the direction of Lisa Sellers, a British-born chef whose reputation precedes her throughout the Caribbean. Highlights include beachfront, adults-only The Jetty Grill, which specializes in local Antiguan fare (think: jerk chicken and day-caught fish with coconut rice) and the connecting, feet-in-the-sand Jetty Bar, where freshly cracked coconut and house-made rum punch headline the drink menu.
Once luxuriating in-room, poolside, or beachside reaches its intended relaxation effect, consider engaging in one — or several — of Carlisle Bay’s prolific adventure activities and nature excursions. Summit the proximate rainforest to get a bird’s eye view of Antigua’s southern coastline (this guided excursion is provided exclusively to Carlisle Bay guests). Take full advantage of the complimentary watersports offerings like sailing, kayaking, snorkeling, windsurfing, and paddleboarding. Or discover the Holy Grail of Caribbean sailing with a Royal Yachting Association course. After all, Antigua is home to the longest-running regatta in the Caribbean, and learning here merits major bragging rights.
Jumby Bay Island: An Offshore Escape
On a private island off mainland Antigua’s northeast reaches, accessed exclusively by boat, Jumby Bay Island merges natural beauty, timeless Caribbean elegance, and the latest trends in modern luxury thanks to a 2018 renovation by noted Brazilian interior designer Patricia Anastassiadis.
Two swoon-worthy beaches fringe the verdant 300-acre island: the more rugged Pasture Bay to the north, which serves as a sanctuary for nesting sea turtles, and sparkling Jumby Bay Beach to the south, which is the island nexus for all things luxe and leisure. In between and along the beaches lie 40 guestrooms and suites plus private villas, estate homes, and several miles of palm-tree-laced walking paths that connect the island (read: no roads or cars here). Add the likes of a sumptuous spa, a trio of swimming pools, a number of distinctive restaurants and bars, and a sleek watersports center, and you’ll want for nothing during your time on Jumby Bay Island.
Accommodations range from the island’s original Rondavel octagonal-shaped cottages to multi-story estate homes in Jumby’s rental program. However, most guests opt for our top picks, the pool or beachfront suites – both of which take shape as private residences, each with a separate entrance, a superbly appointed living area and master bedroom, an expansive terrace, and a lovely bathroom that transitions between the indoors and outdoors.
For the best island views, head to Jumby Bay Beach and settle under a full-service palapa, on a hammock, or on a teak deck chair at the oceanfront infinity pool. As staff help you settle, prepare for the ultimate “treat yourself” kind of day. Jumby Bay is all-inclusive, so there’s no excuse to pass on another glass of wine with lunch.
If you happen to be a repeat Jumby visitor and notice the stone-tiled, infinity pool area looks remarkably different, you’re right. As part of the transition from a Rosewood resort to a property of Oetker Collection caliber, Jumby Bay commissioned Anastassiadis to reimagine the Jumby Bay Pool, as well as the spa, the watersports center, and the principal Verandah building – now home to a new Italian trattoria, a refreshed Jumby Bay Bar & Lounge, and a new arrival area.
If it’s action you seek more than R & R, Jumby’s also got you covered. Hit the water on a guided snorkeling tour, go sailboarding, or take a sunset cocktail cruise. Visit the new watersports center, 22 Knots, and try your hand at paddleboarding, windsurfing, and kayaking. Nature lovers should also consider partaking in a hands-on island conservation initiative, the Hawksbill Turtle Project – most exciting during nesting season from June to November, when naturalists lead nighttime Turtle Watches.
Intoxicated by simplicity and relaxation, most guests never leave the island during their stay and keep the activities to a minimum. But whether seeking adrenaline-filled adventure or languid days, this private island is an idyllic setting to soak up everything Antigua.
Tradewind Aviation offers convenient connection to Antigua, with scheduled flights operating from San Juan (with one stop) and St. Barth! Private charters are available anytime from Puerto Rico, the USVI, Anguilla, and the US mainland. Scheduled flights operate six days per week from December 14 through May 15 and three days per week from May 16 through September 3.
Featured Photo: Carlisle Bay Resort