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Stretching out on a sun lounger on the white sand beach at Sandals Grande Antigua, with the sound of soft waves rolling in and the smell of jerk chicken wafting through the air, I realised why everyone raves so badly about holidaying in the Caribbean. Antigua often comes top when you ask both Britons and locals where to visit – Barbados and Jamaica, also up there. For any Caribbean holiday an all-inclusive resort is a popular choice, and for those wanting to try the all-inclusive concept for the first time, Sandals Grande Antigua may be the ideal getaway.
Voted the ‘World’s Most Romantic Resort’ year after year and located on one of Antigua’s most famous beaches, Dickenson Bay, Sandals Grande Antigua has everything on offer for loved up couples looking to escape reality.
First things first is where to stay at the resort. There are two sides to the hotel – the Caribbean Beachfront Village which, as the name suggests, is located on the beachfront, and the Mediterranean Oceanview Village, set a little further back, overlooking the main pool and views of the sea. Guests are free to explore both sides. And there’s a wide range of accommodation to choose from; from suites with private balconies showcasing stunning views of Dickenson Bay to secluded villas with their own pool and butler service.
So what is there to do at Sandals Grande Antigua?
There are 11 restaurants dotted around the resort – name your favourite cuisine, they probably have it. Mario’s offers classic Italian food prepared by native Italian chefs. The chocolate lava cake for dessert comes highly recommended.
Soy offers couples the chance to hang out in intimate booths to enjoy delectable sushi classics, as well as more varying flavours of the Far East. For those in search of Caribbean recipes, Eleanor’s offers up the likes of peppered reef shrimp and coconut cream pie.
A personal favourite is Kimonos where you can expect lively chefs cooking up meat, fish, rice and veg on a hot plate in front of you, teppanyaki style. Each restaurant has an impressive cocktail selection – top tip, ask for the ‘signature cocktail’ at each place.
For those feeling thirsty there are seven bars around the resort, with the Drunken Duck – a rustic British pub-style bar – being a popular destination to end the night.
Sun worshippers can relax by six different pools. The main pool offers a more lively vibe, with a swim-up bar, private cabanas available to hire, music and games. Those looking for a bit more quiet can escape to the other pools nestled between the different accommodations.
There are also land activities such as beach volleyball and tennis for the sporty types, and a gym if you’re looking to keep your fitness levels up while on holiday.
At an additional cost the Red Lane Spa offers treatments for the ultimate relaxation experience, and for the adrenaline seekers there’s a range of free water sports to try out, including paddle boarding, snorkelling, scuba diving (two dives a day for those who are PADI certified) and wind surfing.
There’s little reason to leave the resort if that’s the holiday you’re after. But if you want to experience Antigua as a whole, here are a couple of recommendations.
Shirley Heights Lookout
Shirley Heights is a restored military lookout and gun battery with a breathtaking view of English and Falmouth Harbours – arguably one of the best view points in Antigua. Every Sunday, locals and tourists gather to watch the sunset while enjoying live music, a rum punch and jerk chicken straight off the BBQ. Everyone I know who’s visited Antigua has always recommended an evening at Shirley Heights.
Shirley Heights entry is USD$10 (£8.75). For more information and to book, visit https://shirleyheightslookout.com/.
A kayak and snorkelling tour is another way to explore the island. You don’t have to be an experienced kayaker or snorkeler to head on Antigua Nature Tours’ trip. You’ll take a speedboat ride out to its kayak dock for a paddle around the mangrove inlets of North Sound Marine Park, home to sea cucumbers – you can even have a stroke if you dare. After kayaking you’ll be taken to one of the best reefs in Antigua, Great Bird Island for a chance to snorkel and see brain coral and blue tang. The tour ends on the beach at Great Bird Island where you can lay back on the sand, soak up some rays and sip some more rum punch.
The kayak and adventure tour is USD$60 (£52.50). For more information and to book, visit http://antiguanaturetours.com/.
To explore the island by foot, it’s worth booking onto The Pillars of Hercules Hiking Adventure provided by Island Routes. The route begins with an uphill walk along the Shirley Heights Lookout Trail. You’ll then journey to Mermaid Basin, by the water’s edge, where you’ll spot schools of fish, before approaching the main attraction.
The hike can be booked at www.islandroutes.com. Prices start from US USD$118 (£104.15) per person. You can also book at the Island Routes desk at Sandals Grande Antigua.
Other trips that can be booked via the Island Routes Tour Desk include:
Discover Antigua Safari – USD$143 (£126.11) per person USD$286 (£252.22) per couple
Explore Antigua in a 4×4 Jeep on a personalised guided experience.
Antigua Rainforest Zip line Adventure – USD$125 (£110.24) per person USD$250 (£220.48) per couple
Sunset Cruise – USD$95 per person USD$190 (£167.56) per couple
To book a stay at Sandals, book through Sandals Resorts’ UK tour operator, Unique Caribbean Holidays Ltd. (UCHL), visit www.sandals.co.uk or call 0800 597 0002.
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