Working has never felt so easy than when you’re on a sun lounger in the Caribbean with strong WIFI, a fruit punch and a plate of Mahi-mahi...
The sun is shining, the pandemic is no longer confining us to our homes and travel restrictions are finally being lifted.
With Antigua expected to be added to the green country travel list any day now, it could be time to start using up that annual leave. But what if you didn’t even have to do that?
Introducing Business on the Beach - an inspired campaign by the Antigua and Barbuda tourist board, welcoming Brits to relocate when the air corridor opens and work from one of the island’s palm fringed beaches.
Yes, this is not a drill. Doing your 9 to 5 from a sun lounger in the Caribbean could genuinely be the future of work, with the luxe trend seeing people ditch their dingy home offices for white sand and crystal blue waters.
They say sunshine is good for the mind and soul, and I was interested to see how it would affect my productivity. So, putting the trend to the test, I jetted off to Antigua to experience Business on the Beach first hand.
After a nine hour flight I was there, writing emails under palm trees, taking Zoom meetings from rope hammocks (the WIFI was better than in Clapham FYI) and going for refreshing ocean swims between deadlines. And did I mention the ice-cold fruit punches brought to my sun lounger all day long? Well, until 5pm when they became Spicy Margaritas.
Does ‘Business on the Beach’ work? I say yes.
It was pure heaven, and I was just as productive as I was relaxed. So much so in fact that I’m genuinely considering it as a long-term solution when borders reopen.
It was my first time in Antigua, and despite being there just one week, the island felt like home. Mahi-mahi and Red Snapper on the regular (nearly always catch of the day), temperatures hovering in the high 20 degrees and 365 white and pink sand beaches to frequent - one for every day of the year. I was in paradise.
Keen to see as much of the island as possible, I divided my time between two gorgeous hotels – The Inn at English Harbour, based in the historic Nelson’s Dockyard, and Curtain Bluff, an all-inclusive offering the idyllic beach paradise experience.
The Inn at English Harbour was the perfect place to start my Antiguan getaway, with the plantation-style hilltop hotel being one of the island’s most prestigious.
Owned by an Italian family, everything from the decor to the cuisine is a fusion of traditional colonial style and Italian elegance, tied together with true Caribbean hospitality. Its surroundings however are what really sets it apart - secluded white sandy beaches with emerald blue waters and lush green organic gardens where you can pick your own morning smoothie ingredients.
I was staying in one of the Deluxe suites, decked out with a huge veranda and colonial-style interiors. I’m talking dark mahogany floors, large decorative pots and a stunning four-poster bed with billowing white curtains tied with tassles. It took every ounce of will power not to stay there in my plush towel robe and slippers all morning, instead forcing myself outside to the private beach just a few metres away.
What awaited me there was even better. Sun loungers scattered across the soft sand, rope hammocks tied between leafy palm trees, platters of fresh fruit galore and hardly any other people - you would be forgiven for mistaking the scene for an Anthropologie catalogue shoot. But it was real, and other than the soothing sound of the Caribbean Sea, it was practically silent.
Despite my low expectations for productivity, the serene set-up actually fuelled my work flow and the warm sun boosted my mood immeasurably, allowing me to approach my job in a much more level-headed way. Disclaimer - I’m usually a very stressed and anxious person when it comes to work. But from taking sun lounger Zoom calls to doing spreadsheets from my hammock, it has never felt like less of a grind and the sandy stroll of a commute beats the tube any day. Business on the beach was off to a great start.
While I was in the Caribbean to work, there was of course still downtime and in Antigua it’s nearly always alfresco. The Inn’s hillside Terrace restaurant and millennial-favourite bar Sheer Rocks are both essential visits for sunset cocktails - expect breathtaking pink panoramic views after a long day’s work (or play). A tour of cultural heritage site Nelson’s Dockyard is definitely worth the short drive and while you’re in the historic area, try and grab lunch at Island Fusion Café. It’s famed for its traditional Antiguan goat curry, but my recommendation goes to the Lobster Thermidor - it’s out of this world.
You really shouldn’t leave without exploring the Island’s surroundings by sea, making a boat trip perhaps the most essential Antiguan tourist activity. I went with Adventure Antigua, sailing past Prickly Pear island and onto Bird Island and Hell’s Gate for cave strolls and snorkelling in crystal waters - all chased with rum punch and the most delicious banana bread I have ever tasted back on our boat.
Most of my downtime was unsurprisingly spent on the beach, substituting my laptop and work phone for a good book and a cocktail once the working day was done. And while I tried to venture out as much as possible, it was hard leaving my room, with both hotel suites being among the most luxurious I’ve stayed in.
For the second half of my stay, I moved to the dreamy Curtain Bluff, a stunning plantation-style all inclusive hotel, nestled between Surf and Bay beach on Antigua’s south side. Peach-coloured architecture, tropical trees and pristine sandy beaches scattered with pink-tinted conch shells - it was an Instagrammer’s dream.
My open plan suite was set on Surf Beach, just a few metres from the sand - and despite its name, it was actually more like a private villa. Spread over two floors, the large airy sitting room and bottom floor balcony led upstairs to a huge en-suite with turquoise ocean views and a sheltered breakfast area. My favourite spot however was the influencer-ready corner nook, decked out with a large day bed covered with cushions. There were endless spaces to work in my stunning suite alone and an Eggs Benedict and Cappuccino delivered to my reading nook or roll-top bath were just a phone call away.
While room service in my private paradise was hard to compete with, the hotel’s Tamarind restaurant managed it, serving up locally sourced fish (more Mahi-mahi for me) and traditional Antiguan recipes - I still dream about their Jack’s chicken balls starter. And with a wine cellar stocking 4,000 varieties (top tip - there’s a whole section for Whispering Angel), the meals often stretch into the night, with live music and moonlight star-gazing on the terrace.
After an evening of rum (cocktail-making at the Sugar Mill Bar is a must), a dreamy full body massage and lazy spa morning is unmissable. Bring your laptop or book to make the most of the gorgeous terrace - complete with plump sun loungers, more Anthropologie-esque decor, pink Bignonia flowers and a private plunge pool.
It was pure luxury, but yet again I couldn’t wait to get back to the beach, an experience that Antigua appears to have perfected whether you’re there for work or play.
I of course was there for the former but it’s never been more enjoyable, reclining on a sun lounger with my laptop, sheltered by Instagrammable parasols and leafy palm trees as I wrote my morning emails.
Lovely staff were on hand to deliver endless ice-cold fruit punches topped with maraschino cherries - my favourite drink that I had in Antigua. And for lunch, The Sea Grape is the destination - an open-air establishment at the far end of the bay beach serving up yellowtail tuna carpaccio and fresh-caught pan-seared wahoo filet. Or alternatively if you’re having a busy work day and want to eat as you go, have a bento box of salad, tuna steak or tacos delivered to your lounger or cabana. There’s a weekly beach barbecue accompanied by a steel-drum band (so don’t schedule your Zoom meetings that evening), but even then it’s still more tranquil than a London office. Utter bliss.
‘Antigua offers sun, sea, sand and space, and an ideal backdrop for the ultimate remote working experience,’ says Colin James, CEO of the Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority. ‘A swim between meetings, a spectacular Zoom backdrop, and finishing each working day with freshly caught fish and local produce – working remotely in Antigua might just be the perfect remedy following a tumultuous 2020. We know this third lockdown is tough for the UK, but we will be waiting to welcome you once travel can resume’.
Count me in.
If I’m being honest, I initially had my reservations about being able to work successfully from the Caribbean shore - business on the beach sounded fun but impractical and as a highly productive person, I was unconvinced at what I would actually get done. But after my week in Antigua, I was sold.
The tranquil setting, personal space, warm sun, fresh air and excellent wifi connection all combined to give me the best remote office set-up I could dream of. And as a result, I was not only more productive but more positive too, with the Caribbean sunshine doing a world of good for my mental health as well as my work performance.
Peaceful, luxurious, relaxing, productive and restorative. If this is the future of the 9-5, sign me up now.
Find out more about Antigua and Barbuda’s Business on the Beach campaign on visitantiguabarbuda.com
Freemans Bay, no.1 71800 English Harour, St. Paul's Antigua, AG + 1 (268) 460-1014
Morris Bay St. Mary's Parish Old Road, Antigua & Barbuda +1 268-462-8400
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Jenny Proudfoot is an award-winning journalist, specialising in lifestyle, culture, entertainment, international development and politics. She has worked at Marie Claire UK for seven years, rising from intern to Features Editor and is now the most published Marie Claire writer of all time. She was made a 30 under 30 award-winner last year and named a rising star in journalism by the Professional Publishers Association.
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