We know weekend break and Antigua aren’t words usually found in the same sentence, but trust us…
WHY GO Thanks to clever flight times and the time difference, you can leave London first thing on a Thursday and arrive in Antigua that afternoon. Then fly back on Sunday night, so that you land early on Monday morning and can go straight to the office. A Caribbean trip in exchange for only two days of annual leave - win!
One of Antigua’s most beloved luxury resorts and member of Leading Hotels of the World, Carlisle Bay, is just a 35-minute drive from the airport. The hotel offers VIP check in so you skip the custom queue and make your way straight to the resort to prioritise relaxing and soaking up the rays.
When I arrived the atmosphere set the tone for the next few days perfectly – think peaceful water pools, tropical plants and vibrant colourful flowers - and that was just on the walk from the car to the colonial style lobby, which is stunning with its French shutters and old plantation style. My mind and body instantly set themselves into relaxation mode.
I’m greeted by their friendly staff with the resorts signature welcome drink of pineapple juice, mint, ginger and sprite. It has since become my favourite alcohol-free concoction to order back in London. Suitably refreshed, I head through the beautiful gardens to my suite, where the check in happens - this is core to the hotels stress-free process and relaxed vibe which they’re understandably super proud of. When talking about returning guests, of which they have many, the hotels General Manager tells me “It’s like coming home, they know they’re going to be looked after well." Home is not a place but a feeling, and I totally got it too.
The resort has 87 suites and they’re all effortlessly stylish, with balconies or terraces looking out to the ocean. I can’t help but notice how tranquil it is and yes, the water really is that blue. The hotel has cleverly separated the rooms for adults and kids on opposing sides of the resort so I know I’m not going to be disturbed.
WHAT TO DO The best thing about the resort is that it perfectly balances pure relaxation with a myriad of activities and experiences, so there’s something for everyone (I always crave relaxation but at the same time I get serious FOMO).
Healthy hedonists can book sunrise yoga on the jetty - the hotel owners daughter is a yoga teacher and is launching a yoga retreat there in May 2020. Then, in the afternoon join the guided treetop hike to nearby Jade Mountain – Carlisle Bay is the only hotel on the island to offer this experience and the views from the top are worth the sweaty climb.
If you need to treat those DOMS to some TLC or you’re just after a pure relaxation hour then the Blue spa is exactly what you need – they offer a selection of massages, rituals, facials and head-to-toe treatments in their six treatment rooms and use organic VOYA products that are made from seaweed and leave skin feeling super smooth.
If you’re a plant fanatic like me, then I recommend the garden tour at 10am on Saturday morning - this nature tour, taken by one of the estates lovely gardeners, will explain the history behind the beautiful plants, trees and flowers that cover the resort. It was really interesting to learn about the medicinal purposes of so many tropical plants and I also got a behind-the-scenes tour of the greenhouse where they propagate their own plants for the resort and grow herbs to cook with in the restaurants.
Make sure you take advantage of the complimentary water sports – from windsurfing and snorkelling to kayaking, paddle-boarding and sailing, residents are completely spoilt for choice. But if you fancy something a bit more luxe, then book the private boat trip and you’ll instantly be living your best life. The trip will take you to remote beaches only accessible by boat, for guided snorkelling (I spotted more colourful tropical fish than I thought imaginable) and what’s better than lunch served with ice cold rose in the middle of the bluest of blue oceans?
If you’re there to simply rest, then you’ll find your happiness on a day bed on the beach, enjoying cocktails and afternoon tea whilst losing yourself in the most idyllic location. There's a collection of cute pop-up shops on the beach too - the hotel has collaborated with chic swimwear brand Heidi Klein and Rae Feather have sold their lust-worthy straw bags there too.
Carlisle Bay is a really unique and picturesque setting as it has perfect weather all year round. It’s not overlooked by any other resorts and I’m told it’s a favourite stop-off point for fancy yachts, as it’s sheltered from wind or bad weather.
If the pool is more your thing then you can retreat there and order straight to your lounger from Italian restaurant Ottimo which has a wood burning pizza oven and serves lighter options too.
If that’s not enough to keep you busy they even have nine private tennis courts, a 45-seater screening room (DVDs can be borrowed from reception), a library and you can also hire bikes if you want to explore outside of the resort.
WHAT TO EAT The hotel has four beautiful restaurant settings that specialise in sophisticated but low-key luxury catering, that all give off that that understated chic but Caribbean feel. Breakfast is served at Indigo on the Beach, where you can also dine for lunch and dinner. The table side view is dreamy – the restaurant is moments from the beach so the perfect sundowner situation. The menu is extensive with grilled meat, fresh salads and crispy sweet potato fries worth writing home about.
A little further down the beach, is the Jetty Grill which is open for dinner to adults only and it’s really special. Set overlooking the serene Caribbean Sea with the silhouette of the palm trees, this will be your ‘pinch me’ moment. The interiors are super relaxed, designed to match the resorts calm beach and cove. If it takes your fancy, you can even dine romantically under the stars on the jetty. Visit here for authentic Antiguan cuisine like fresh salads, island caught fish and savoury dishes slow-cooked over open flames.
You must book dinner at East too – it serves eclectic Asian cuisine and is one of the first restaurants on the island to have an a la carte restaurant with an Asian chef. The menu changes every three months and never disappoints, the sushi was sensational.
It’s impossible to pick a favourite restaurant, but luckily a weekend break is just enough time to visit them all. Before you travel home on the Sunday night, head to Shirley Heights for the island's traditional Caribbean party too and enjoy a BBQ buffet, the best sunset views and a steel drum band.
Classic Collection Holidays offers four nights at Carlisle Bay, Antigua from £1998 per person. Price based on two adults sharing an ocean suite on a half board basis, and includes return flights from London Gatwick to Antigua, private transfers, complimentary UK airport lounge passes and fast track through customs on arrival in Antigua. Departs 15 October. Visit classic-collection.co.uk or call 0800 008 7288.
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