It’s the year of travel, or so I hope! 2018 is off to a good start with a January long weekend in Antigua.
The Caribbean ranks high on my list of must-visit destinations, particularly during the dead of winter when below zero wind chill temps make the simple act of walking the dog around the block a daunting task.
For the past few years, we’ve opted to fly south during the winter months, spending our time in Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica (again), the Dominican (again), Barbados, St. Barths, and the Cayman Islands. We’re lucky that we’ve had the chance to travel so much and build up some serious Caribbean island chops, believe me, I don’t take this for granted. Plus, it puts us in a good position to share our experience at an island previously unexplored: Antigua.
I confess that prior to our trip, I wasn’t well-versed in all things Antiguan (and will even admit to having hopped on Jet Blue flight 743, due south, without having checked to find out exactly where in the emerald green Caribbean archipelago we’d be landing).
For the geography buffs out there, Antigua lies just east of St. Kitts, south of the US Virgin Islands, and north of Guadaloupe and St. Lucia. It’s one of the top islands in a chain that looks like an elongated spine that meanders from Puerto Rico in the north to Venezuela in the south.
Antigua’s location means several things: 1. Ever-present trade winds (which apparently die down briefly in September) which give way to warm days that are never cloyingly hot. This is uncharacteristic of many Caribbean islands where you’ve sweat through your new bathing suit and coordinating cover up within the first hour on the beach, insert square toothy-smile emoji 2. Minimal mosquitos and other pesky bugs (hallelujah), and 3. Low humidity, which means very little rain to interfere on your Caribbean island adventures (hallelujah once more).
Noticeably absent on our trip were our three kids who were genuinely disappointed to find out that Mom and Dad would be taking an adults-only trip. We’d been invited to stay at a fabulous resort – Jumby Bay Island – as guests of the hotel, and take advantage of everything that this private Antiguan island has to offer, from an exciting food and dining program (including a Bachelor-esque romantic beach dinner, minus the rose) to golf carts, private beaches and watersports.
We even went on a tour of some of the island’s stunning estate homes and I have my eye on one of them for a return visit. With kids, plus friends, plus their kids, plus whoever else wants to link up with us because good lawd that house was spacious. Tennis-court-and-its-own-beach-and-pool-bar spacious. Although if we’ve preempted you and booked this house, rest assured, there are plenty of other homes to choose from. Each one staffed with a private chef, butler and housekeeper. It’s Jumby Bay Island’s mission to make sure that you don’t lift a finger on your vacation.
One of our favorite features of the island is its proximity to home. Unlike some of our past Caribbean island destinations which can take a full day of travel from Point A to B, traveling to Jumby Bay Island was a breeze. We boarded our flight from New York at 9:30am ET and by 2:30PM Island time we were sipping one of the complimentary bottles of Sancerre left for us in our kitchen. (Not to mention, doing so while kicked back in two cliff-side beach chairs, overlooking the ocean, perched above one of the dozen or so private beaches that are scattered around the island’s 300 acres.)
The hotel arranges for a greeter to escort you through customs (a 15-minute exercise), then whisks you off a waiting car whose driver delivers you to the resort’s own boat ferry (a 5-minute exercise), which then sails you through a small bay of turquoise waters to your final private island destination (a 10-minute exercise). It’s quite possible that in the same amount of time (30 mins total) we managed to shuffle our entire family 15 feet forward in a customs line in other Caribbean island airports. It’s the dirty little secret of traveling south, those airport lines can be a beast.
Aside from its easy access, Jumby Bay Island has a rich history, discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1493. I’m not sure what Columbus’s thoughts were when he beached the Santa Maria on its white sand shores, but it might have been something along the lines of “damn straight this place would look fine with a few infinity pools and a beach club”.
The island’s beauty is unparalleled, with groves of palm trees lining the beach, and a fully functional organic farm (to be discussed more next week in part 2 of this 2-part series on Antigua). Beach cruiser bicycles are offered to guests which makes traveling around the island great fun. And if bicycling isn’t your thing, each house comes with a golf cart for riding to and from the island’s three restaurants or exploring hidden coves and beaches.
If sustainability is important to you, you’ll be pleased to learn that Jumby Bay Island is mostly self-sufficient, using its own island-based utilities to generate electricity and create safe drinking water. And given its position just offshore from mainland Antigua, the island is safe, offering the kind of 1950s neighborhood feel that’s tough to find these days. Doors can be left unlocked (to be even more candid, I don’t believe that I even laid my eyes on a set of keys during our entire stay). And kids of all ages ride their bikes along the golf cart paths, happy to be independent.
After a too-short 4 days, it was time to pack up and leave this treasured island. Time to say goodbye to the bananaquits, whistling ducks, egrets, and humming birds. Time to tip our hats to the 40-or-so odd turtles who populate the undergrowth of a banana tree patch just north of the organic farm. And time to say arrivederci to our villa with the infinity pool, the ever-flowing wine, and the immense views of the Antiguan sunset beyond.
But we got what we needed: a quick infusion of Vitamin D, some R&R, and some sweet memories of beautiful island.
This post was sponsored by Jumby Bay Island resort. All opinions are my own.