Several years ago, I went on a trip of a lifetime thanks to my family. We set off to a little known Caribbean island called Antigua. It’s one of the two major islands that make up the country of Antigua & Barbuda. Surrounded by coral reefs, the Caribbean sea spans its coastline. Antigua boasts 365 beaches – one for each day of the year, many with pink and white sandy beaches. As well as beautiful waters and plenty to do, the islands are known for their friendly people and delicious food.
Arriving at St James’s Club, Antigua
We checked in at the luxurious, all-inclusive St James’s Club for the week ahead. It’s on a beautiful peninsula in Antigua, with a beach club vibe. There are two sandy beaches and a whole plethora of activities, from kayaking and paddle boarding to sailing. Even better: everything’s included in the price. There are a generous six swimming pools, a spa, tennis courts, a gym, and also a kids’ club. More importantly, there are a whopping five unique restaurants within the resort serving both casual and formal dinners.
Our room came fully dressed in tropical decor to match the Caribbean vibes of the island. The room view was beautiful also, looking out across Coco Beach on the aquamarine Atlantic Ocean.
Just a casual reminder of home, or indeed, Antigua’s commonwealth history and it’s status as the largest of the British Leeward Islands. In 1784, Admiral Nelson sailed to Antigua and marked the island as the UK’s most important Caribbean base.
Antigua Beach Days
Keen to see a little sun, we made sure to have plenty of beach days over the week of our stay. This was made a little easier thanks to the bounty of sun chairs, parasols, and amenities nearby. You can pick up a cocktail from the beach cart, or a beach burger if you get peckish. The Mamora Beach Bar & Grill is swimsuit friendly and serves grill dishes from fish sandwiches to light bites. Don’t forget to grab a cold beer or rum punch while you’re there. There are also plenty of water sports if you need something a little more active.
We started off at Mamora Bay Beach, which offers pretty views and tranquil waters. Here, you can sunbathe and watch the catamarans bob up and down on the Caribbean water, or do something a little more active. We did a little bit of both – sunbathing, kayaking, and using the pedalos for a better view of the harbour area.
The ocean’s a beautiful colour no matter which beach you visit, and is perfect for snorkelling. We spotted an array of fancy boats out on the water, and got some great views back across the hotel’s villas.
One of the best things about the hotel is that a wide choice of water sports is fully included in your stay in Mamora Bay. Whether you want to try your hand at windsurfing, or sailing on a Hobie Cat sailboat, there are staff to help instruct you. Or for something a little more relaxed, simply hire snorkelling gear and see what you can spot out in the water.
Exploring St James’s Club
On the other side of the sand and closer to our rooms, you’ll find the magnificent Coco Beach. It’s one of my favourite beaches, and has more waves than Mamora Bay Beach thanks to its Atlantic coast. Relax under the palm trees, boogie board, or spot tropical fish while snorkelling in the Caribbean waters.
Throughout the week, we wandered around the resort, taking in the gorgeous views across the ocean. It would also make a wonderful wedding destination, thanks to the dedicated areas decorated with beautiful fuchsia pink bougainvillea.
Dining at St. James’s Club
There’s a whole host of delicious restaurants at the resort, all of which are included in your all-inclusive stay. It’s an impressive range, with traditional Caribbean food to international options. In my opinion, the food was fantastic and authentic, and much superior to my recent all-inclusive stay at Secrets The Vine, Cancun.
On one of our first nights, we enjoyed dinner at The Docksider, a beautiful waterfront restaurant overlooking Mamora Bay. Dishes include a Caribbean barbecue with whole suckling pigs, freshly caught seafood, and a wide variety of tropical dishes. You’ll also be joined by a steel band each evening, and let’s not forget those impressive sea views.
The Facilities of St James’s Club, Antigua
St James’s Club has a generous six pools, each with its own character. There’s a primary pool near the Rainbow Garden Restaurant, which has a Reef Deck Bar for all the rum punch you could wish for. There’s also a kids pool, and Coco’s Pool, with a beautiful view across the beach.
As well as two new pools set in the exclusive Royal Suite with waterfalls and landscaping, you’ll find the adults only tiered pool. It’s a little more remote, tranquil, and has beautiful views. There’s plenty of choice no matter what you fancy on your vacation.
Exploring Antigua, Caribbean
My family and I always believe in going out to explore, without being too tied to a resort. For that very reason, we got a ride into Saint John’s, Antigua’s capital city. With a population of a little over 20,000, it’s pretty tiny, but I always love to get out and about. It’s also a very popular stop for cruise ships. The city centre itself is colourful and not hugely diverse with or with too much to see, but we’re glad we went out to explore.
After a walk around the city and time spent chatting to locals, we headed back through rustic towns to the resort. We relaxed at Mamora Bay, enjoying the views and sunbathing after another awesome day.
We wandered around other areas of the hotel’s grounds, along the jetty for the scenery across the water.
That evening, we dined at the Rainbow Garden Restaurant. As the resort’s main restaurant, it’s ornately decorated with tropical plants, with both buffet style dinners and a la carte. The food was delicious, with each dish presented beautifully and with local ingredients. Even the desserts are lovely to look at – check out these cream swans, for example.
Sailing Around Antigua, Caribbean
The next day, we got ready for an exciting trip sailing around Antigua. We booked a catamaran trip to see more of the island and its coast. The trip included a delicious buffet lunch and a stop to snorkel with tropical fish.
The views were spectacular, thanks to the bluest blue of the Caribbean Sea. We spotted incredible houses along the way, pointing out which of them we’d love to own one day in the future.
Below is Oprah Winfrey’s Caribbean hideaway. I can only imagine how beautiful the views from the infinity pool must be.
Right near this tropical island, the boat docked for a while. We all put on snorkelling gear and spotted the most incredible tropical fish in the water. It was an amazing experience to be swimming in the middle of almost nowhere in paradise.
Following our snorkel, we got back on the catamaran to feast on Caribbean barbecue. It was delicious, and an unforgettable day trip. We sailed back through slightly choppy waters, and needed to rest a little when we were back to settle our tummies. An icy cold drink and a sunbathe on Mamora Bay Beach was all it took to fix us.
Nelson’s Dockyard, Antigua
On our last full day, we visited Nelson’s Dockyard. Nelson’s Dockyard is an important heritage site in Antigua’s English Harbour. The Dockyard takes its name after Admiral Nelson, who lived there in the Royal Navy from 1784 to 1787. It’s also home to Antigua’s annual Sailing Week and close to Antigua’s peak of Shirley Heights, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with incredible views across the island.
There’s a naval museum which outlines the history of the dockyard and its importance in the history of both Britain and Antigua. You can explore around the Officers’ Quarters, with lodges and various other amenities in the Dockyard.
We explored the area before enjoying a final lunch in the patio of the beautiful Rainbow Garden Restaurant.
It was a wonderful holiday, and one I was very lucky to be able to go on. I won’t forget Antigua, and hopefully I’ll make it back to the Caribbean island one day again in the future.
Where are your favourite places to visit in the Caribbean? Have you visited Antigua? What did you get up to on the island?