Antigua for Families
Antigua’s reputation has long been associated with the ultra-rich,
home to estates owned by super-celebrities like Eric Clapton and Oprah Winfrey and the island getaway for British royalty, once Princess Diana’s favorite holiday destination. Because of this, many people envision Antigua as an exclusive, sedate island, and it is often overlooked by vacationers, especially families. It is true that Antigua and its sister-island Barbuda are not jam-packed with crowded resorts like many of its Caribbean neighbors, but this is not for a lack of excellent all-inclusives and things to do. Despite its fame, or perhaps as a result of it, Antigua is the best-kept secret in the Caribbean as a family destination where parents can enjoy time together while the kids have a blast, too.
FAMILY FAVORITE STAYS
These resorts all have their own program of supervised day activities for kids, usually for ages 2 to 12, and most also offer babysitting services for the younger ones and evenings. Some also have great facilities for teens, helping keep them occupied and happy so mom and dad can relax. Most resorts have a wide range of room options as well, from standard hotel-style family suites to fully-equipped seaside cottages, accommodating even the biggest families. Options also include some high-quality all-inclusive resorts, an increasingly rare find in the Caribbean.
The truly all-inclusive Starfish Jolly Beach Resort (www.starfishresorts.com) has family programs that are reminiscent of the old-style grand hotels and resorts of the northeastern U.S., just with a backdrop of reef-protected beaches and palm trees instead of mountains and lakes. Although parents can certainly catch a break while the younger ones are safely occupied in the Kidz Club, the bulk of activities here are designed to let families enjoy their time together. For the more active, there are daily sailing and kayak lessons and races as well as tennis lessons to complement the twice-weekly tournaments. Once a week, the Family Olympics fills the beach with friendly competition in a variety of sports from sack races to traditional Antiguan games. Other activities include arts and crafts lessons, a well-equipped game room and sports facilities, and live music every night. Our favorite however is a unique kids-only dining experience called Kidz Soiree which teaches them fine dining etiquette, including every step, from making their own reservation to using the right dessert fork.
A top choice among high-end options is Carlisle Bay (www.carlisle-bay.com) in St. Mary’s, where outward appearances might give you the impression that it is a posh adults-only resort, but its atmosphere is thoroughly family-focused. The free Kid’s Club welcomes babies as young as six months, and has morning and afternoon sessions in its indoor/outdoor facility which features its own pool, play spaces, and even kid-sized tennis courts. The whole family can take advantage of complimentary water-sports lessons including snorkeling, windsurfing, and sailing, and there are plenty of other options available for an extra charge. This resort offers meal plan or all-inclusive options, as well as a full range of luxury suites, some of which are equipped with kitchens.
Located on Mamora Bay in St. John’s, St. James’s Club & Villas (www.stjamesclubantigua.com) is an all-inclusive which has six pools in addition to its two beaches, one of which has exceptionally calm water that is perfect for younger kids. This is the ideal spot for watersports enthusiasts, where guests are welcome to use the resort’s snorkeling gear, Hobie sailboats, kayaks, pedal boats, and other equipment to get the most out of their stay. The free Kidz Club is another major bonus for parents with kids ages 2-12, open from 9 am until 11pm daily during peak season to allow for plenty of grown-up time in the evenings. This resort also has a good variety of activities for teens, as well as a dedicated teens-only beach area. Family activities include cooking classes, dance and fitness classes, craft projects, and matinees in the onsite theater. The location in St John’s also makes this an easy starting point for visiting the island’s most popular attractions.
While on the island, those with younger kids will want to be sure to make time for a visit to the Donkey Sanctuary in Bethesda where you can pet, feed, and even “adopt” one of these sweet animals. Marine-lovers will likewise want to check out Stingray City in Seatons Village, where you can spend time petting and feeding stingrays in their native habitat. No matter where your clients end up staying, the island is small enough that they can easily reach any of its attractions, from natural wonders like the Pillars of Hercules and Devil’s Bridge to historic spots like Betty’s Hope plantation and Nelson’s Dockyard.