By Angela Fairhurst
Antigua is one of the two major islands that make up the Caribbean nation of Antigua and Barbuda. Ringed with coral reefs, the island is known for its many sandy beaches.
Carlisle Bay is one of two five-star luxury hotels offering VIP Airport Service. We saved about an hour by being greeted by a tourism rep at the terminal, escorted directly through customs, handed off to a hotel escort to collect baggage, and from there to your car for the 30-minute ride to the resort.
The Carlisle Bay entrance is beautifully landscaped and groomed, with a big open veranda area and coy pond. Met with a cool towel and welcome beverages, an attendant escorts us, like all guests, to one of the 87 Caribbean style suites, already to find our bags placed in our quarters. By the door of each suite is a foot bowl that guests can dip their feet into to clean off any sand from the beach. Inside is a foot towel to dry off and a conch shell that guests leave outside the door for complete privacy. The comfortable spacious suites are all ocean facing, with private balconies or terraces.
The five restaurants serve up a variety of delicious offerings to handle all taste levels and flavors from around the world.
The Jetty Grill, a beachfront adults-only restaurant, dishes up local Antiguan fare. The Jetty Bar is a barefoot sand beach bar serving Caribbean cocktails and beer. Indigo on the Beach is an open-air dining pavilion at the center of the resort open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, offering both Caribbean and International cuisines. Coconut Grove sits under palm trees next to Indigo for lunch, afternoon tea or cocktails at sunset. East is open for dinner only and serves Japanese, Chinese, Thai and Korean cuisine choices. The poolside Pizza Bar Ottimo! makes classic Italian dishes, with pizza from an outdoor oven and is open for lunch and dinner.
With all these choices, there is no need to leave the resort, but if you choose to dine elsewhere, a list of offsite restaurants is provided on the desk in each room.
The Blue Spa is the newly renovated relaxation haven in which to switch off and unwind. The garden retreat has 6 treatment rooms including a romantic massage room for couples, sauna, plunge pools, hair salon, juice bar with chill-out zone and treatments with organic seaweed from the Irish skincare line Voya.
Complimentary activities include group Yoga classes and Sunrise Pilates sessions at the jetty, a Tennis clinic and a Beginners Sailing course, or Windsurfing Clinic. A variety of water sports and boating and fishing excursions are available for purchase.
On-land excursions can let visitors explore the town of St. John and visit Antigua’s UNESCO site, the English Harbour’s restored Nelson’s Dockyard. Admiral Horatio Nelson made his base there in the 1780s, and the area includes a marina and the Dockyard Museum. Trails lead up to Shirley Heights, a former military lookout with panoramic views.
Antiguans are a friendly and beautiful people and the island is officially zika-free. To top it off Carlisle Bay has a new GM that is making the resort even better, where every little detail is fine tuned. The resort trains and hires as many locals as possible. The Carlisle Bay staff remember you and attend to your every need. That’s a top reason to return.