By { Angela Fairhurst

Located in the Leeward Islands, where the Caribbean meets the Atlantic, the sister-island nation of Antigua and Barbuda has a population of only 100,000, with tourism supplying the country’s biggest revenue stream.

Carlisle Bay, one of the few five-star luxury hotels on Antigua, prides itself on the superior level of service it provides guests, including VIP Airport Service. That means guests are greeted at the terminal, ushered through customs, assisted at baggage claim, and driven directly to the property. Arriving is easy and little time is wasted. It’s like having global entry in a foreign country, but better.   

The hotel is 30 minutes away. There are two routes—one along the coast and the other through the rain forest—giving very different perspectives of the small island.   

Carlisle Bay Antigua recently unveiled a fresh new look for 2019. Managing Director Thomas Orchard oversaw the refurbishment, which included updating the resort’s color scheme property-wide, from gray to fresh neutral and bright white tones. Even the uniforms have a chic, modern look.  

The resort’s entrance is beautifully landscaped and groomed, with a big open veranda area and koi pond. Met by an attendant bearing a cool towel and icy beverage, guests are promptly escorted to their quarters to find their bags have already been delivered. By the door of each suite, a foot bowl allows guests to dip their feet to clean off beach sand. Inside is a foot towel to dry off and a conch shell, which guests leave outside the door to indicate “do not disturb.” 

All 87 spacious, comfortable suites are ocean-facing, decorated in a relaxed contemporary style blending urban chic and Caribbean charm, and open onto freshly painted white private balconies or terraces with sweeping water views. Large bathrooms have double sinks, separate showers and soaking tubs. The resort’s Beach Balcony suites have new blue and green accents, as well as wood-finished ceilings for a natural look. But the white sand private beach beckons, with its new collection of stylish chaises and daybeds ideal for napping, sipping tropical cocktails or indulging in the resort’s signature daily Afternoon Tea as the tranquil breeze blows in from the ocean.

Dining venues at Carlisle Bay are also sporting a brand-new look. Four restaurants serve up a variety of delicious offerings catering to varied tastes with flavors from around the world. The adults-only beachfront Jetty Grill offers newly expanded seating and full bar; every Thursday at 6 p.m., guests are invited for a cocktail of rum punch, wine or prosecco. In a relaxed setting with wooden floors and bright white ceilings,  Antiguan fare includes jerk chicken, rotis, coconut rice and island-caught fish. Indigo on the Beach, an open-air dining pavilion at the center of the resort, was also updated and serves three meals a day focusing on fresh produce, grilled seafood and homemade pastas in both Caribbean and international culinary traditions. Casual poolside dining and classic Italian pastas, salads and pizzas (including a gluten-free option) cooked in a wood-burning oven are found at Pizza Bar Ottimo! Rounding out the culinary offerings, East serves up mouthwatering Asian fare. With all these choices, there is no need to leave the resort, but if you choose to dine elsewhere, a list of recommended off-site spots is found on the desk in each room.  

Also freshly renovated, the 17,000-square-foot Blue Spa is the place for health and wellness in idyllic surroundings, so you can switch off and unwind. Nestled in the heart of the resort’s lush gardens, the retreat has six treatment rooms, including a luxurious massage room for couples, plus a sauna, plunge pools, full-service hair salon, juice bar with chill-out zone and treatments from renowned Irish skincare line Voya, featuring organic products made from hand-harvested wild seaweed. Massage options include treatments from around the world, including specialty ritual massages that utilize seaweed and aromatic essential oils which stimulate the senses and encourage deep relaxation, detoxification and rejuvenation. An array of organic body treatments are designed to promote glowing and soft skin, while facials are customized and results-oriented.

Health Club facilities include a state-of-the-art gym with elliptical machines and treadmills, a team of personal trainers on request and a separate Yoga Pavilion in the tranquil tropical gardens. Group Yoga and Sunrise Pilates sessions are offered on a complimentary basis, along with sunset classes on the jetty.

Other complimentary activities include a tennis clinic on the property’s nine courts, beginners sailing course, snorkeling, biking, kayaking, paddle-boarding, sailing and a windsurfing clinic. An ultra-chic library outfitted with state-of-the-art fiber-optic lighting, a 42-seat screening room (the first in the Caribbean) and guided rain forest treks round out the experiences.  

Additional excursions for purchase include yachting and sailing, as well as fishing, Antigua’s main attractions. But if the weather doesn’t permit, no worries. Opt for on-land excursions. Private taxis will take you to explore some of Antigua’s beaches and famous harbors. A visit into the town of St. John provides local culture, and a journey to the stunning UNESCO sites of Shirley Heights, Antigua’s Naval Dockyard and the Blockhouse, supplies historic insight and glorious views. 

A major highlight of all the offerings at Carlisle Bay is, of course, the wonderful staff. Composed mainly of island residents, their warm hospitality will make you yearn for a return visit before you even leave for home.