With winter in full force and in dire need of a burst of heat, this month I travelled to the Caribbean Island of Antigua for some rays, relaxation and let’s face it, rum.
Antigua is found in the Leeward Islands of the Caribbean. Meaning “ancient” in Spanish, the island was named by Christopher Columbus after an icon in Seville Cathedral, Santa Maria de la Antigua — St. Mary of the Old Cathedral.
The lush islet is also known by ‘Wadadli’ by Antiguans. The term, meaning “our own”, originates from its indigenous inhabitants and is also the name of the local bottled beer.
So having touched to the blazing sun, cold drink in hand, I was ready to discover my very own Antigua.
Where to stay
Avoiding the island’s larger resorts, such as Jolly Harbour and Sandals, I opted for a boutique sleep, booking a suite at the Villas at Sunset Lane in the North of the Island.
The boutique hotel is tucked away on a hillside overlooking one of Antigua’s most scenic beaches in the North of the Island – Dickenson Bay, a short walk away.
The hotel’s owner Jackie’s has put her own stamp on the place, with its brightly coloured hues and striking oil paintings. A flamingo pink palace, the hotel’s suites are decorated in cheerful tropical shades, with personal touches. For example each room has an array of novels, in case any guest wants some reading material. Guests experience a peaceful, intimate setting and nearly all balconies enjoy breath-taking views of the turquoise Caribbean Sea.
On arrival the other half and I sipped on a complimentary rum punch while watching the sun set – changing from a gleaming gold, to blazing blend of plum and crimson, soothed by the gentle sound of the cicada.
Our palatial premium suite offered a king-size bed, enormous bathroom with double sinks, Jacuzzi bath and separate shower, flat-screen TV, WiFi, a huge walk-in wardrobe, both ceiling fans and air conditioning and fresh local flowers.
The intimate Villas at Sunset Lane boasts a homely atmosphere, where guests often dine together on conjoined tables. Freshly prepared meals are served on the hotel’s veranda, which overlooks the ocean and bay.
We devoured fresh tropical fruits, pancakes and bacon, with a daily changing smoothie for breakfast. Lunch was a Caribbean speciality – a mix of Salt Fish, ackee, onion, black pepper, spring onion, plantain, tomato and peas, seasoned to perfection. Dinner was conch chowder, dressed spiny lobster and a cheesecake to finish. Delicioso.
What to do
The best way to see Antigua is by hiring a car, stopping at beaches for a quick swim or at a roadside seller for a piece of fresh pineapple.
One tip for lunch turned into an afternoon of cocktails lounging on day beds, gazing at an azure ocean at Sheer Rocks.
Stepping into this venue seems like one is entering a treehouse – the restaurant and bar are on different levels, with plunge pools on hand to keep guests cool, as they sip on pina coladas, daiquiris and margaritas. Listening to the Balearic background beat and watching yachts circle the bay, we felt like Kings and Queens of the West Indies, for at least a few hours.
After venturing out for the afternoon, stopping at several coves, we discovered another great Antiguan surprise – the Catamaran Hotel. Overlooking Green Bay, this relaxed, beachfront hotel is close to Pigeon Beach. A perfect pit stop for dinner before home, we dining on strip steak overlooking the ocean and the ginormous charter yachts of Nelson’s Dockyard in the South of the Island.
And thrill-seekers visiting the island should try out Antigua Rainforest Company. Located on Fig Tree Drive, Wallings, in the hills of the lush rainforest on the south-west coast of Antigua, this is an expertly-designed expansive zip line and rope challenge course. The adventure offers a total of thirteen zip lines, three aerial walk way bridges, two tree houses, two ‘Leap of Faith’ vertical descents, nine elements of challenge course and three unique combination tours.
Foodies also should book Nicole’s Table for hands-on Caribbean cooking classes in cook and teacher Nicole’s Antiguan home. Guests can sample a full lunch or dinner menu with recipes, Nicole’s Old Fashioned Rum Punch and the chance to appreciate the food they prepared.
And for all island excursions, contact Carib World Travel. This company can organise a full day tour of Antigua, or even an Eco-Tour of neighbouring Dominica or even a day trip to Montserrat to see a live volcano and modern-day Pompeii.
How to get there
Find the best flights to Antigua using award-winning travel search site momondo.
Room rates at the Villas at Sunset Lane start from around $408 per night in low season for double occupancy and include tax, service and three daily meals. For enquiries about room rates and reservations please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or call the resort on +1 268 562-7791.
Gatwick Express is the non-stop direct service between Gatwick Airport and London Victoria, running every 15 minutes. Travellers can get a 10% discount when they book online.