Monday, December 6, 2010

Winter Break Fantasy: Carlisle Bay Antigua

We've been lucky to make it to Carlisle Bay in Antigua twice. I think it's one of our favorite hotels in the Caribbean. And llthough it's not cheap, they frequently have packages that make it not astronomically expensive, although still in the expensive category. When the package is offered, it's something like $850 per night for a family room and that includes all meals, and $50 per night in drinks. If you consider that most hotels would charge around $500 for a family room (meaning a separate room for the parents), and this is one that is smack on the beach, and includes all your meals, plus afternoon tea (it's British!), and that the food is primarily organic and local, not some crappy buffet, you'll start thinking it's a deal. While it isn't as easy to get to as the islands that are nonstop flights (Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Barbados, St. Lucia), it is so worth it. (And depending on the day you fly, there are sometimes nonstop flights here on Continental--I think on Saturdays.)  Here's why we love it so much:
1. The food is so good. And that is not something you can say for most resorts in the Caribbean. They pride themselves on having great relationships with local farmers, and having local and organic food on vacation is a huge plus.  They also have two restaurants--one is on the beach, more casual and has more standard fare, and the other, East, is only open for dinner, and is Asian influenced. Just the kind of food that goes perfectly with being at the beach--I've always wondered why there are resorts serving big steaks and potatoes on their menus and not doing little skewers and pad thai. If you have a really little one and don't want to go out in the evening, they will do room service, and you can eat on your patio which butts up to the sand, looking out over the sea, and feel like you are out to dinner.  For kids, they have a fantastic early dinner that is served buffet-style around 5:30-7. with everything from the usual suspects of pasta and chicken to local fruits and well cooked vegetables. This hour functions like a cocktail mixer, as the parents all meet each other while their kids eat and run around. I love this about Carlisle Bay--there are lots of opportunities to meet other nice parents, in a non-forced way.
2. The pool is fantastic, even for toddlers. It has a ledge around most of it, which is about 10 inches below the water, where you can sit with your baby, or have your toddler resting on it while you stand in deeper water. There are pool toys for the kids, and lots of chaise lounges in the shade, should someone need a nap. The staff come by all the time with little fruit snacks or drinks and towels, all complimentary.
3. The kids club is perfect. It has a nice playground, and a little completely shaded pool, and great staff.
4. There's plenty to do if your kid is in the club--morning yoga/pilates, a fantastic spa, a library with books you actually want to look at, and great hikes just out the door of the hotel.
5. The beach is lovely. Water is calm, and there are no jet skis zooming about.
6. The room is well-designed for families. The beachfront suites, which is what is offered to families, are on the ground level, and they have a huge front bedroom with living room area, and a sliding glass door out to the private patio which is one the beach. The front room has the closet, and is where the children sleep. They can put a crib in, or make it up with a twin bed, or whatever you need. I don't know that it could accommodate more than two kids, but you can call and check. Then there's a huge bathroom and a hall between that room and yours, so you aren't on top of each other, but you're also not having them in an adjoining room, where you can't hear them if the door shuts. The suite also has an espresso machine, which is a lovely thing to behold when you wake up and don't want to walk to the restaurant to get your coffee, or to wait for one to be delivered.
 local jams and honey
 local yogurt and fresh juices every morning
 kids club


  1. What a lovely post. Brought me back.

    I worked at domino for over two years, and enjoyed your work in Cookie mag. Glad I found your blog.

    My wife and I traveled to Carlisle Bay bay before our little girl was born...over three years ago, and we have been dying to go back. Sitting on the beach and reading all day with just the sound of the water lapping up on the beach and the breeze in the palm trees...

    I couldn't agree more that the food is really very good for the Caribbean. The breakfasts (fruit smoothies and muesli) and afternoon tea were truly amazing. Thanks for the reminder.

    My wife took a picture of me reading the Times in a white Lacoste at breakfast. Too funny.

    Great design books in the library too!


  2. Beautiful pictures. I'm glad that you had a very nice experience at Carlilse Bay Hotel. I plan to take a holiday in there too.