A private crescent moon of pristine sandy beach stretches along calm blue waters. To my left and right, the view is bookended by lush green hillsides, whilst behind me sits backdrop of dramatic rainforest-covered mountains cascading down to colourful Caribbean villages. We’ve arrived at Carlisle Bay, a luxurious oasis on the south coast of Antigua. With towering palm trees and a floral scent on the sea breeze, the 5-star resort is every inch the idyllic Caribbean getaway.
Zipping through customs and passport control with a Carlisle Bay escort (their VIP Fast Track service comes as standard for all guests) after a long flight into Antigua is a dream come true. After this speedy entrance and a scenic 30-minute coastal drive from the airport, there’s nothing like stepping into the beautiful entryway of Carlisle Bay. The grand, colonial-style hotel oozes sophistication, class and serenity. Warm, smiling faces will welcome you, take your bags, and sweep you into the impressive lobby for a refreshing beverage and cool towel. It’s the first hint at the impeccable service that you’ll receive throughout your stay. From the VIP fast track service at the airport to the wonderful restaurants, the service here is second to none and within your first day at the resort, you already feel like part of the family.
The resort accommodation is loosely split into family-friendly and adults-only, although everyone has full access to the whole beach and all facilities, save for one restaurant. There are a number of family suite and room options and all face the gardens or the sea. Ocean Suites face the sea with one large bedroom where they can add a bed for children aged 12 and above, whilst Beach Balcony and Beach Terrace Suites – direct beach access or a sea-facing balcony – have a master bedroom with king-size bed and a second bedroom with twin beds designed for children up to 15. The most impressive and spacious are the Carlisle Bay Suites which have three bedrooms sleeping up to six with private decks or terraces overlooking the sea.
With a laid back, understated elegance, great pool, child-friendly dining options and a complimentary kids club, Carlisle Bay a great choice for families with kids of all ages but the standout feature is the array of activities available for families. Challenge yourself to a rainforest walk, zen-out at sunrise yoga or take advantage of the free non-motorised watersports on offer for guests. Head out on a hobie cat for amazing views from the water, grab a couple of snorkels and investigate the underwater world or test your balance on a stand-up paddleboard. For a truly exclusive experience, hire a boat for a tour around the south coast of the island with stop-offs for snorkelling the reef and swimming, and a picnic lunch, all with the expert guidance of the warm Carlisle Bay watersports team.
When it comes to playtime, there’s something for toddlers to teens. There’s a small playground of slides, ladders and swings close to the tennis courts and children have their own paddling pool, sandpit and jungle gym in the Kids Club. Every afternoon children’s films are shown in the cosy indoor cinema and children are welcome in the air-conditioned library complete with squishy sofas, shelved stock full of books and computers for a digital fix and a cool down.
Children receive a welcome pack on arrival and have three Kids Clubs to choose between depending on their age. Under sevens can attend either Cool Crèche for babies from six months up to three years and the Cool Kids Club takes children from four to six which both have qualified childcare staff. The daily programme includes indoor and outdoor activities, singing, painting, musical games and nature strolls for the under fours and ten pin bowling, pool fun, football camps and mini spa treats for older children. They can attend daily from 8.30am to 4.15pm apart from a one hour lunch break at 12.30 and it’s complimentary for over twos (under twos pay a daily fee). Complimentary Kids High Tea is served each day at Indigo on the Beach from 5 to 6pm with pureed baby food available on request.
For teens there’s Crew Club, for travellers seven to 13. During all main school holidays, there are activities held from 9.30-12.30 and 2 to 4pm each day, although kids can dip in and out as they wish. Kayaking, raft building, sports games and leaving the resort to go zip wiring or visit Stingray City are among the choices.
When it comes to wellbeing, you’ve got plenty of options. There’s a decently equipped gym, tennis courts, free Pilates and yoga classes, and the decadent Blue Bpa to choose from. It’s absolutely worth booking in for a pampering treatment if you can, with a huge menu of options from massages to facials, and a beauty bar to get your hair and nails looked after. There’s also a heated pool, sauna, relaxation room and loungers to chill out pre- or post-treatment and it’s open to anyone 16 and above, although there are options for kids 13 to 16 years old, including specially designed facials, massages, pedicures and manicures at the Blue Spa.
There’s plenty to love when it comes to eating and drinking at Carlisle Bay, with four distinct restaurants, plus four bars, ranging from casual ‘beer-and-a-sunset-on-the-beach’ to champagne cocktails. The main restaurants is Indigo on the Beach, where you’ll have breakfast each morning. This open-air, beachfront dining room promises excellent views with your dinner and the kids can jump right onto the beach once they’re done dining. Come dressed to the nines or in barefoot chic; whatever your vibe, the food is excellent and the drinks selection is phenomenal. For a more formal affair, there’s East, a pan-Asian restaurant with outstanding sushi and dimsum, alongside a main plates. If you’re after casual, you can’t go wrong with Ottimo! Serving delicious wood-fired pizzas and pasta, it’s perfect for a poolside bite. If you’ve taken advantage of the babysitting service or managed to wangle a date night, adults-only Jetty Grill at the far end of the beach is a great spot for Caribbean grub and cocktails.
To add a cherry onto an already perfect Caribbean rum cake, each day the resort serves a complimentary afternoon tea on the beach which you can order from one of the attentive staff who are always on hand to bring you anything you need directly to your lounger (although there’s always a stocked cooler of water under your beach umbrella each day which will get regularly refilled). Nothing is ever too much for the staff at Carlisle Bay, so all you have to focus on is enjoying yourself.
Luxury Worldwide Collection offers a 7-night stay at Carlisle Bay from £2,150 per adult and from £1,850 per child, based on two adults and two children sharing a Beach Balcony Suite, travelling between March and August 2019. Cost includes return flights with BA from London, return transfers, daily breakfast and afternoon tea.