Wendy Coumantaros visits the stylish bay, a choice destination in Antigua where hedgies and royals from around the world take in the tranquillity of the lush Caribbean setting
The Carlisle Bay resort sits on a curved bay fringed with coconut trees and has the clearest of bright blue water, where shoals of colourful fish dart about the swimmers. The sand is as white and soft as talcum powder. It is not easy to adequately describe the physical beauty of the bay and the setting in which the resort sits.
The hotel, a member of the Leading Small Hotels of the World, is a five star resort with 82 luxuriously appointed suites. All rooms look directly onto the beach and the curved bay – there are ‘no bad rooms'. All with their own large balconies have been designed by Mary Fox Linton and combine holiday comfort with stylish minimalism. The Gaggia coffee machine is a nice touch for early birds who like a cappuccino before their dawn morning swim. Each balcony has a double day bed – great to lounge on at sunset. The hotel suites do not have individual pools, but swimming is generously available by a large figure-of-eight pool, fringed by flowering bushes and is never crowded.
Garden lovers will be swamped by the mass of tropical trees, flowering plants and shrubs. All the resort’s internal paths are bordered by a dazzling array of colours. The beach and lawns are dotted with swaying coconut trees. The gardeners examine each coconut tree daily to trim or remove any coconut that might be about to fall. This is fun to watch as the gardeners use twenty feet long trimming sticks.
For those who enjoy crabs, the grass and shrubs of the entrance driveway borders on an internal lagoon and the area is home to hundreds of crabs, large and small emerging at night. They quickly scamper back down into their holes at the sound of approaching footsteps. I took a torch at night and was amazed by their oversized claws and frantic digging.
Delighted by the daily choice of cuisine and restaurants, what is particularly special and unique, is the a la carte breakfast with a wide-ranging menu – not the typical hotel breakfast buffet. Another special touch is that breakfast is included in the room rate. Carlisle Bay has four outstanding restaurants and the food is great in all! Most people stay at Carlisle Bay for a week to relax, like me, arriving directly from London. The menus in the four restaurants, which I thought were outstanding, changed several times a week. Young guests, however, ignored them all for poolside authentic Italian pizzas.
For exhausted souls who seek pampering, there is an Asian tranquility here in the turquoise Caribbean. After free yoga on the Pier, the day begins with the Pilates pavilion and then the spa with its airy spaces, plunge pools and dark room day beds. Also indoors is a private screening room for movies which guests select themselves. Outside at sunset are five clay Tennis Courts surrounded by gardens and swaying palms.
I was glad to be served cooling green drinks and chilled water by a beach butler whilst sitting on a chaise lounge shaded from the sun under my umbrella. Afternoon tea was served on the house as you dipped your toes in the incoming tide.
The resort is digitally linked to the outside world by computers which can be found in the charming library where comfortable chairs and a couple of sofas have an attractive view of the jungle-like exotic vegetation outside. On the beach, guests confront an unusual selection of water sports; Hobie Cats and Lasers, kayaking, paddle boarding and scuba diving on a nearby reef. I loved a guided hike in the nearby rainforest and learned the names of a thousand man eating and medicinal plants. The guides are all gardeners on the resort and have detailed knowledge of the forest’s flora and fauna.
Carlisle Bay is an incredible family-friendly resort with excellent and engaging facilities for children, including clubs suitable for all ages with an experienced team that has a comprehensive programme for wonderful indoor and outdoor spaces to explore. Children are welcomed and congregate in the main dining room. For the rest of the day, they inhabit organised play areas and clubs of their own with hotel programmes – a bus ride to see sting-rays two hours away for example.
The resort is most proud of the hospitable attitude that is so evident with all staff. They are always smiling, are content and feel like a family and could not be more helpful and obliging. Carlisle Bay is a charming resort in an exquisite location peopled with guests from most continents who range from royalty to hedgies, entrepreneurs to families with children. I for one shall return. My only regret is that I did not stay for two weeks.
Wendy Coumantaros is co-founder of Spear's