It was hot when we landed in Antigua. A friend had warned me to wear layers on the plane, and I reminded myself to thank her as I stripped off my cashmere cardigan to reveal a white cotton short-sleeved T-shirt. Then I rolled up my jeans and looked for a taxi.
St James’s Club & Villas is a popular resort and a group of us were immediately put into a white van, which had all the windows down. As we made the 25-minute trip to the southeastern tip of the island, welcoming the warm breezes whipping through our hair, I learned a bit more about the resort.
“You’ll love it there, it’s like an island within an island” said a silver-haired woman from Guilford. She was wearing a pink and orange kaftan and big Jackie O sunglasses. Her husband was wearing Bermuda shorts, and I wondered if he had changed on the plane.
“There it is, it’s that peninsula!” We all craned our necks to catch our first glimpse of St James’s Club & Villas. From high upon the narrow road overlooking the 100-acre peninsula, I could see two white sand beaches, contrasting against the translucent Caribbean and Pacific Ocean. Guests were sailing and paddle boarding. As we entered the resort gates, the rooftops of the country club style villas glistened. My girls squealed with excitement.
“Those are new!” my sunglass wearing friend said, pointing to the bright blue tennis courts. I looked at my tennis-mad daughter, her eyes wide.
St James’s Club has 2 beaches, one for watersports (part of all-inclusive) and the other more relaxed with cool Pacific ocean breezes. There are 6 swimming pools, 4 floodlit tennis courts, gym, and daily activities for both children, teens and adults. You can try anything from outdoor yoga to Caribbean cooking lessons!
You can do as much as you want on the resort, or just relax. There are two speeds at the resort – slow and reverse! Whatever you choose to do (make sure to ready my 24 fun things to do at St James’s Club Antigua post) the energizing Caribbean sunshine, friendly locals and food will leave you feeling like you’ve had a complete break.
We stayed in a 3-bedroom villa, which is a good choice for families because you can spread out and enjoy a sense of space and comforts of a private vacation home. The large bedrooms are located on the ground level, with an open kitchen/dining/living area upstairs. There’s an expansive deck with comfortable sun loungers and outdoor dining. Tile floors are cooling and good for cleaning sand and the villas are decorated in warm Caribbean tones with comfortable beachy wicker furniture.
Our villa had views of Mamora Bay through the numerous coconut trees, but many are located right on the beach. Air conditioning is excellent (and necessary). WiFi is available in lobby and most rooms. In reality, we had better connectivity from our villa than our trip to Scotland the following week!
Kid’s view: Our villa
I loved our villa at St James Club in Antigua. It was so big and spacious. Downstairs there were 3 bedrooms, each with a bathroom and shower and AIR CON. Antigua is hot! Upstairs there was a big living room and kitchen. We were so close to everything! There was a kids pool nearby and tennis courts too. The beach was just a few steps away.
#eliteislandfamilies Here’s a little tour of our villa at St James’s Club in Antigua. The living area is all on the top floor and has a kitchen, dining area, living room and expansive deck overlooking Mamora Bay. Wish I was there now! @stjamesclub @eliteisland #familytravel #video #travel #Caribbean
There’s a wide variety of dining options at St James’s Club, from buffets to beach grills to fancy dining, with menus changing daily. All-inclusive is a really good way to do it for families: Kids get some familiar foods, plus they can experiment without having to order a whole dish. Mine found they loved jerk chicken with coconut rice with pineapple and coconut ice cream.
I ran into a local celebrity chef from my home town (I know, small world) and he praised the buffets, looking to them for inspiration for his own restaurant and said was especially impressed with the curried goat on offer at Caribbean night in Docksider. All my girls tried it too! That’s a huge tick in the adventurous eating box.
The choices include:
- Rainbow Garden: Main restaurant. Breakfast/lunch/dinner. Buffet and ala carte in ambience of open air tropical garden inside or outside on terrace. Reservations required.
- Cocos: Informal nautical-themed restaurant overlooking Atlantic Ocean. Lunch/dinner. salads, soups, burgers, pasta and special like piri piri chicken. No reservations.
- Docksider: Docksiders will be the kids favourite. Open-air restaurant under palm trees overlooking Mamora Bay. Buffet: Caribbean night, kebab night, Tex Mex night.
- Picolo Mondo. Hillside fine dining overlooking pool and Mamora Bay. $35 supplement per person. Creative ala carte inspired by Caribbean and Mediterranean. Reservations required.
It’s worth noting there’s a dress code in some restaurants, though it did;t seem to be enforced. Summer casual. Cuts off, flip-flops, and T-shirts are not considered summer casual. Collared shirts for boys. Also, the resort has it’s own desalination plant in Coco Bay, so it’s safe to drink from tap.
Kid’s view: Dining
The food at St James Club is very good. There are 4 restaurants – Coco’s, Docksider, Rainbow Garden and Piccolo Mondo, plus you can get burgers at the grill. I particularly liked the buffets because I could pick what I wanted and try new things. For breakfast my favourites were doughnuts, waffles (the lady made them for us and they had cinnamon), melon and hash browns. My favourite place to eat was Docksider, because the buffets were REALLY good. I love coconut and there were lots of desserts with it, including chocolate coconut balls, coconut mouse and coconut ice cream. Yum!
Activities at the resort
You can do as much or as little as you want. Upon checkin you get an activity planner which is really useful for mapping out your time and keeping track of activities. Choose from all-inclusive water sports, which means you don’t have to worry about hourly charges. You can try everything and then come back to the ones you love best – over and over! The boys down at watersports are adorably sweet, and very knowledgeable. Take out a paddle board, or book in and learn to windsurf or sail on a Hobie Cat. Or pick one of the 6 swimming pools to cool off. Two of the smaller pools are adult only, leaving 4 for families including a children’s pool that was just steps from our villa. You won’t be bored … there’s tennis, snorkelling, diving, group activities for kids, teen and adults,
The Tranquillity Spa offers a full range of treatments, from massages to body wraps and facials. Our girls opted for a luxury manicure and enjoyed being looked after and picking out their favourite nail colours (bright blue, of course).
Make sure to read my post 24 fun things for families at St James’s Club Antigua and watch the video below.
Kid’s view: The Spa
While mum had a massage we went to the spa to get our nails done! First she cut and shaped our nails, and rubbed on lotion that smelled really good! Then she put on a sugar scrub and painted our nails. There were a LOT of different colours, but I chose lilac because it looks so good.
Antigua is a 7+ hour flight from the UK. Virgin operates 3 flights a week. The resort is about 30 minute transfer from the airport.
Kid’s view: Virgin Holidays
The Virgin flight went really quickly. They gave me a rucksack with some socks, eye covers and an activity book with crayons. It seemed really roomy. The food was actually very good and I enjoyed it. I choose a pasta bake with mozzarella cheese. Dessert was mango and passion fruit! Later we got a mini strawberry ice lolly. The coolest part was we each had our own TV with all kinds of new films and shows and a kids menu. I watched Inside Out, the new Cinderella and Frozen Fever. The flight attendant was really friendly and talked to us. He said he liked my handwriting.
IF YOU GO:
Elite Island Resorts Their impressive collection of Caribbean resorts includes St James’s Club and Verandah, both family resorts in Antigua.
Virgin Holidays Three flights a week from Gatwick.
Antigua and Barbuda Tourist Board The beach is just the beginning! Check out this site for suggestions for activities.
We were guests of Elite Islands Resorts, Virgin Holidays and Antigua and Barbuda. As always, my opinions, and those of my stroppy preteens and teen, are our own.