Antigua: Let the Good Times Roll
01 June 2022
You simply can’t beat that Caribbean vibe, and Antigua is no exception. It starts from the very moment you step off the plane, when the heat hits you in the face, a distinct buzz fills the air of lively voices against a backing track of calypso music (usually playing out loud on somebody’s phone; something that grates on me in England but gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling here), and life just gets a lot more colourful. Welcome to Antigua. I had a feeling I was going to love it here.
We jumped into our transfer vehicle to be driven along the bumpy roads to Carlisle Bay. Our host Joel told us his mum had watched the plane coming into land from her home in Five Islands village. Strangely, this stuck with me as one of my first memories of the island, and something which I came to love about Antigua over the next week. To me, it epitomized the island’s small size, with a close-knit community who all know one another, and a friendly, welcoming and above all else, incredibly safe atmosphere. We were told there was nowhere on the island that was deemed ‘off-limits’, whether you’re a local or a tourist, a man or a woman, young or old, you could explore freely without ever feeling compromised. Over the course of the next six days, we really did discover almost every inch of the island, leaving no Antiguan stone unturned.
With the beautiful Carlisle Bay as our base, we headed out on a number of adventures by boat and on land. We embarked on snorkelling excursions, kayaking trips and sunset boat cruises. We hiked through Wallings Nature Reserve to the top of Signal Hill. We took a Jeep tour all over the island, learning about Antigua’s history at key places such as Nelson’s Dockyard, the Blockhouse, Betty’s Hope sugar plantation and Devil’s Bridge. All of these carried with them sobering stories of the slave trade, and acted as an important reminder not only of how far Antigua has come, but also of the incredible resilience of the islanders, who have transformed Antigua into such a welcoming and upbeat destination.
You can’t write about a trip to Antigua without mentioning the food. We dined like kings and queens, both at the resort and while out and about. At Carlisle Bay, incredibly fresh seafood is served up in all shapes and styles. Whether that’s the exceptional sushi on offer at East Restaurant, the zingy fish tacos at the Jetty Bar & Grill, or a Caribbean classic of mahi mahi at Indigo on the Beach. There is no expense spared when it comes to Carlisle Bay’s gourmet offerings; even a humble ‘picnic’ while out on a boat trip involves three courses, exquisite presentation and – of course – a tumbler of rum punch, a cold Carib beer or even a glass of champagne to wash it down with. Hard to beat as you sit watching turtles swim past your boat.
Carlisle Bay is such a truly relaxed and stunning property that it would be easy to stay for a week (or more!) and never leave the resort at all. But I would urge guests to get out and take in a little more of the island, it certainly gave me an even greater appreciation for the country as a whole. You’ll come for the beaches, but I guarantee you’ll want to stay for the people. Antigua, I’ll certainly be back.