When you imagine paradise, what does your vision include? Perhaps it’s palm trees and blue seas, or white sandy beaches and pina coladas; maybe it’s tropical fish swimming amongst the coral, or steel bands playing as the sun sets. Thankfully the remote island of Antigua offers all that and more, making it the ultimate destination for anyone wanting to spend a week relaxing in some of the most breathtaking surroundings. Our trip started with an eight hour flight from Gatwick, followed by a thirty minute drive to the South-Easterly tip of the island where St James’s Club resort is tucked away; located on a secluded 100-acre peninsula, the all-inclusive destination exudes an exclusive (almost akin to a members club) ambience thanks to the personal touches and apartment-like rooms that instantly help you to feel at home. From the personal greeting and butler-style service, to the fabulous food and plethora of things to do, St James’s Club makes a week in paradise feel like an indefinite getaway that you’ll never want to return from.
With a multitude of different options to choose from, St James’s Club is set up to offer the perfect accommodation for every guest and their personal needs. From family villas and rooms that step right onto the beach, to the Royal Suites that provide an apartment-esque hideaway, every one is filled with local touches that make you feel like you’re staying on this tropical island rather than just holing up in a generic hotel room. Our suite included the biggest and most comfortable bed I’ve ever experienced (which allowed me to sleep better than I’ve done in years,) a living room area with a balcony that overlooked the sea, and even a double bathroom with ‘his and hers’ basins and showers. Although some of the decor looked a little ‘retro’, I can’t help but feel it just reflects the tastes of the locals and is an authentic representation of the Antiguan island. I loved the high ceilings, the little touches that made it feel like we were special guests and especially the giant bath that was just calling to be soaked in.
How can I describe the tropical utopia that greeted us as we looked out of our balcony and into the distance? The trees were green and the sky blue, but there was so much other colour to absorb from all around us; everything just looks a little brighter in Antigua, even on a cloudy or drizzly day. (During the hurricane season, which runs April-November, at least one dodgy day is inevitable.) St James’s Club have ensured that their whole resort is awash with foliage, so everywhere you step it feels like you’re going on a tropical expedition. It was an Instagram paradise, thanks to the little hideaway huts and endless rows of palm trees that greeted us in every direction. The winding roads and decking gives the resort so much character and so much charm; I couldn’t get enough.
One of the main things I really enjoyed about St James’s Club was the number of restaurants and bars available for guests. Unlike many other all inclusive resorts where every meal is served in the same location (which gets incredibly boring after a few days,) there were four standalone restaurants from which to eat your evening meal and endless bars to choose from. My personal favourite was the Dockside bar which overlooks the ocean, as well as Coco’s Restaurant which serves up more ‘American’ style food (including burgers, pizzas and sandwiches.) The Reef Bar is the perfect place to hang out during the day, sipping on a cocktail while sitting next to the pool, while the Rainbow Restaurant buffet at breakfast and lunch has too many options to maintain healthy portion control. The menus mostly change daily, but in the Dockside a different dinner theme is offered nightly to keep your tastebuds refreshed and your tummy full; even if you can’t find what you’re looking for, the staff are incredibly accommodating and will undoubtedly find a way to meet your needs.
Although I love being whisked away to spend a week or two doing next to nothing, I also love getting to grips with the destination and experiencing new things. Not only does St James’s Club offer complimentary water sports (including peddle boating, sailing, kayaking and surfing) on their private beach, but day trips around the island to go scuba-diving amongst the natural habitat. Their owned catamaran ventures out five times a week to offer intimate discovery experiences (drinks and lunch included – a blog post to follow on our trip to Green Island!) you can learn or enhance your diving skills with the on-site private diving school, or jump in the jeep for a day to see all that the island has to offer by land. If you prefer to stay within the resort, many of the bars have live music and entertainment during and after dinner (including singers, musicians, DJs, steel bands, karaoke, quizzes and dance lessons,) so there’s never a dull moment.
With two private beaches only accessible via the resort entrance on offer, St James’s Club keeps sunbathing an intimate experience – rather than feeling like you’re hustling with ten thousand other tourists for the limited sunloungers. Every day we visited the beach it felt like we were on a private island, not being around more than twenty or thirty other people at any one time. Not only are the beaches clean, beautiful and covered in more parasols and seats than you could ever want, but Alfred the beach bartender zips around on his golf buggy bringing you ice cold beverages straight from his boot into your hand! My favourite thing was the sea-hammocks which allowed you to float in the ocean, cocktail in hand; although they’re tricky to get in and out of, it’s the perfect way to cool off and take a dip without having to worry about drifting out to sea.
I’ve never been one for lounging for too long by the pool, preferring to get out and about or dabble my toes in the sea. However, the pools around this resort made me temporarily change my mind. With so many to choose from, including private pools for the Royal Suites and villas, each offered a moment of escape while being a stone’s throw from the bar. I loved the little waterfall features in the Royal Suites pool which made it feel like a water park rather than a private place for a dip, as well as the location of the main pool that overlooked and almost blended into the ocean behind. If you love poolside reading, you’ll never get bored of the view – and you’ll never get bored of having a barman less than ten feet from you at any one time.
One of my biggest dreams has always been to experience a massage outside while overlooking an exotic location; when I discovered St James’s Club offered this very thing with a view over the resort that almost looked like a postcard, I couldn’t wait to get my kit off and onto the bed. Although the massage wasn’t the best I’ve ever had, the relaxing atmosphere more than made up for it; however, I was surprised that it wasn’t curtained off from view and found my boyfriend having to conceal my modesty as I got re-dressed! If massages aren’t your thing, then the spa menu includes a plethora of treatments including facials, mani/pedis and invigorating body experiences – the perfect way to spend a rainy day when the beach is a little *too* wet to enjoy. Just make sure you book in advance.
Normally, when it comes to the last day or two of my holiday, I’m ready to pack up and go home. For the first time in forever, I wanted to absorb every last moment and had to practically pull myself away from the beach and jump into a cab back to the airport. I thoroughly enjoyed our stay at St James’s Club and would return in a heartbeat – especially as the staff are so welcoming, helpful and enthusiastic about making it a trip to remember. Antigua is a beautiful island, but this all inclusive resort makes it seem all the more special. A worthy destination for anyone looking for a break in paradise, where you don’t even have to leave the compound borders if you don’t want to. I’d book a flight back without a second thought.
I was a guest on behalf of St James Club Antigua and Virgin Atlantic. Find out more about the resort via their website, or book via Virgin Holidays; seven nights all inclusive (flying from London Gatwick in May 2017) starts from around £1181 per person, based on two sharing.
We also used Purple Parking at Gatwick, a concierge service that allows you to drive straight to the airport and have your car delivered back again exactly when you need it; no need to remember where you’ve parked or worry about jumping on those annoying transfer buses!
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