Selling Sandals Grande Antigua

Written by  Melanie Reffes

Sprawling on twenty-seven acres, Sandals Grande Antigua Resort and Spa is all-inclusive at its finest fronting Dickenson Bay Beach on the northwest coast. On the island that lays claim to 365 beaches, this long stretch is the favored one with legions of devotees who come for the white sand and gentle surf. Fifteen minutes from the cruise pier and the V.C Bird International Airport and ten minutes from St. John’s; the island’s capital city, the adults-only resort is a two-for-one experience with 180 suites in the upscale Mediterranean Village and another 193 in the adjacent Caribbean Grove with splashes of red bougainvillea and the islands only ‘Rondoval’ cottages that get a sunny thumbs-up from privacy-seeking honeymooners.

Twenty-five room categories (with long names) run the gamut from Honeymoon Beachside Grande Deluxe with a four poster king bed and rain shower, Poolside Walk-out Suite with a patio that opens to, yes, a pool and Mediterranean One Bedroom Butler Villa Suite with Private Pool Sanctuary that comes with, yes, a butler, pool and a patio for breakfast or a nightcap or both. And then there’s the butlers - David Hodge and Charmaine Bakker get our rave reviews - who excel at organizing, planning and arranging vacation whims like 24-hour room service, bubble baths in the giant soaking tub, towel hearts and red petals on the bed, massages in the Red Lane Spa and even extension cords in the suite should you pack an array of chargeable gizmos. Those staying in Club Sandals Suites take five with a cuppa Blue Mountain coffee, enjoy afternoon tea and the New York Times or play on a Kindle.
Plenty of splashing around in six pools including the largest freshwater pool on the island coming in at 15,000 square feet, Caribbean pool with a lively swim-up bar and six whirlpools. Watersports galore are for those who like (or want to try) snorkeling, sailing on the Sandals boat, kayaking, windsurfing and aqua cycling. Fun stuff on land works up an appetite like croquet, volleyball and variety of Island Routes tours bookable at their desk. Relaxing is made simple on hammocks, at fire pits and under cabanas on the beach.
Seven bars and lounges pour top-shelf liquors and fruity cocktails loaded with Appleton Rum as a nod to the owner of Sandals who is Jamaican. Suites are stocked (and restocked) with big bottles should you host your own party. Foodies and everyone else with an appetite have a choice of eleven restaurants with menus as big as the bountiful buffets. Soy and Kimonos tempt those with a yen for Japanese fare while Mario’s is for fans of pasta, all-you-can-munch antipasto buffet, decadent molten chocolate for dessert and for breakfast; the banana bread is so good you’ll pack a few slices for the beach. For a taste of the tropics, try pumpkin and ginger soup at Eleanor’s and smokin’ good jerk chicken at Barefoot by the Sea where you can comfortably dine barefoot by the sea. For a big city-style nosh, New York hotdog cart is open for lunch and Bella Napoli slices a mean pizza from 11 am to 6pm. For early risers, espresso yourself at Café des Paris in St. Mark’s Square designed to be like the other one in Venice and for those who crave a late night pile of fiery wings and a game of pool, British pub food at Drunken Duck’s is the go-to-spot. Every Friday night at 10 pm in Mario’s Courtyard, you’ll walk away slowly from the chocolate buffet after tucking a few marzipan bonbons in your pocket for a midnight snack.
After dinner, there are reggae concerts on the Sandals stage, martini evenings and wine tastings and during the day, pose with Samson and Delilah; the talking pair of Scarlet Macaw birds or take a garden tour through the impeccably manicured resort. If you hear a Bob Marley tune as you turn a corner, there’s a good chance it is coming from a speaker that looks like a rock discreetly placed along the pathway and for the eco-minded, old trees get new life as a brightly painted sculptures. For those staying elsewhere on the island, a day pass - $100 per person- buys unlimited food, drink, beach time and all the water and land sports you can play from 10am to 6pm. A night pass from 6 pm to 2 am also goes for $100.

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