June in the Caribbean : it’s something we often recommend at Indagare, but the truth is that when it comes time for making summer plans, most of our members (and most of our staff, too) cast their eyes to Europe. What everyone’s usually looking for, though, has proved more elusive than you might expect: a solid five-star hotel on a big, gorgeous beach. Of course there are lots of fabulous hotels in Europe that have knock out views of the water, like Hotel du Cap-Eden Roc, Le Sirenuse, J.K. Place Capri, and Hotel Caruso. But walk out your door and onto the sand? That’s the tricky part. (We’ve spent so long puzzling out this conundrum that we’ve decided to do a list of the best options; coming soon to Indagare.) So when I decided to visit Antigua for a week in early June to check out four properties—the newly renovated Jumby Bay, Carlisle Bay, Curtain Bluff and Hermitage Bay —I was expecting the resorts to be close to empty. Instead, they were thriving, and one was completely full. Ironically, the majority of my fellow guests were European; they’d already figured out that if they wanted a great beach, it wasn’t going to be a train ride or short flight away. After a few days, I was hooked and I realized that it made perfect sense. Many people assume that so far south the weather will be unbearably hot, but in fact the weather is quite consistent year round, varying by only about 7 degrees. The important difference is that the trade winds calm down, so it feels hotter, but not unpleasantly so, and the water is divine for swimming.
Antigua is known for its beaches and they are indeed stunning: soft white sand, turquoise water. But the island is also blessed with abundant birds, fresh fruits, and lush rainforest. Some images that linger in my mind: At breakfast one morning, a tiny yellow bananaquit bird hopping onto the rim of my glass, then leaning over to sip my passion fruit juice. Driving along near Old Road village and braking for an old man riding a mule, straddling a load of enormous bundles of grass for his livestock. Biking around the island of Jumby Bay, feeling like a kid (when was the last time I rode a one-speed?), then eating parrot fish ceviche in their colonial-style Estate House, which was lit almost entirely by flickering candles. And yes, lying in a hammock listening to the wind in the palm trees and the lapping of the ocean.
Of the four resorts I visited on my trip, all were right on the beach and each was wonderful and distinct. Carlisle Bay and Curtain Bluff are both on the southern side of the island near the rainforest, and one of the unexpected delights of staying at them is the constant sound of birdsongs. I loved the kid program at Carlisle Bay, and I was moved by the amazing story of how Curtain Bluff has been involved with the local community in the best possible way. At Jumby Bay, which has just emerged from a multi-million-dollar renovation, I was impressed to find such a high standard of luxury, from the gorgeous new Estate Suites to the delicious food. And it was fun to discover Hermitage Bay, a romantic hideaway on a lovely cove.
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