Lucky you! Hopefully if you’re reading this you’ve decided to go to my favourite Caribbean island, Antigua! It’s perfect for families who want to minimise travel time – it’s the closest Caribbean Island to the UK and takes roughly 8 hours via plane. Plus many of the resorts are with 30 minutes – 1 hour from the airport. Compare this to St Lucia, where the main airport is in the north and the resorts can be a 2 hour transfer!
Elite Island Resorts owns several properties on Antigua, including the 4 and 1/2-star Galley Bay and The Pineapple Beach Club, but if you have kids your choice is between St James’s Club or the The Verandah. I’ve stayed at both as guests of Elite Island Resorts and here’s my assessment.
St James’s Club and Villas
- St James’s Club and Villas is a larger resort (240+ rooms and villas) on 100 acres that hugs the southern Antiguan coast. It’s a gated resort – there’s only one way in and you won’t walk off (there’s nothing to walk to) but you can take a taxi to historic sites like Shirley Heights and English Harbor which are only 10-15 minutes away.
- It can get quite busy and the accommodation is closer together than The Verandah (apart from the Villas, which are spread-out). More people means more kids for your offspring to make friends with – which can be a big benefit.
- The Reception area at St James’s has more a wow/upscale factor than The Verandah, which overall is a bit more laid back in style.
- The main pool at St James’s is smaller than The Verandah, but has sweeping views over the Caribbean. The resort has 4, with a multi-level adult pool, a family pool by the villas and smaller adult pool and one by Coco’s Beach.
- There are 2 white sand beaches. Cocos Beach on the Atlantic side – which has a nice breeze lots of tall lanky coconut trees and the water sports beach on the Caribbean side, which gets less of a breeze and can get quite hot (but isn’t that why you came?).
- There are more eating choices at St James’s. We really enjoyed Docksider which was on the water by the pier. The Rainbow Garden Restaurant, the main dining area and where you have breakfast, is open air and has views over the main pool to the sea. I liked that you could also order something cooked just for you – like their signature banana pancakes and Eggs Benedict. Their fine dining option, Piccolo Mondo, is open air and sometimes the breeze comes through.
- There are 4 new tennis courts (opposed to Verandah’s 2).
- Overall, my impression is that St James’s Club is a bit busier and has more going on. So it depends on what you prefer.
The Verandah Resort and Spa
- The Verandah Resort and Spa is a newer resort that is smaller and more spread out. The plantation-style white-washed suites are scattered throughout the property and many have views of the water. There’s a lot of walking from the reception area down to the main pool. You can meander along the many paths and explore the resort at your leisure. We stayed in the family suites which are about halfway down so easy to reach mini golf/tennis and Rasta Beach and Long Bay. Once we figured out the shortest route it was only about 5 minutes to the main pool.
- Verandah has 3 pools (compared to St James’s 4). The main pool is freeform and the largest on Antigua. There aren’t any views to the Sea from the pool and it could use a few more shaded areas. There’s also a small family pool (conveniently located right by the family suites) and a secluded adult pool with a waterfall.
- A huge plus is you can walk right off the resort to Devil’s Slide National Park – it’s a short 10-minute hike at the end of the watersports beach.
- The beaches at Verandah are more secluded and it’s just a 3-minute walk off the resort to Long Bay, which is one of the most beautiful beaches on Antigua. This is a huge plus. Back on the resort, the watersports beach has loads of shaded areas under trees, awnings and palm umbrellas which is nice. It’s a sheltered bay which has just enough wind for sailing, but calm waters for swimming.
- Families will also love the 18-hole mini golf and games pavilion.
- Most of the restaurants (Sea Breeze, Buccaneers and Nicole’s) are located in one building. It’s air-conditioned – a huge plus in tropical heat – and you are high up enough to enjoy views of the Caribbean. The Beach Bar and Grill is above the watersports beach and has fantastic views to the sea. Wadaili Snack Shack serves hot dog, burgers and paninis and is right on Rasta Beach.
So if we went again where we would stay? That’s a tough one. You won’t go wrong with either resort. If you like larger resorts and all the choice that brings go with St James’s. I prefer their pools too. If you like a bit more space and access to one of the most gorgeous beaches in Antigua – Verandah is your lady. Or have the best of both worlds and spend one week at St James’s and one at The Verandah!
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.
Our stay at The Verandah Resort and Spa was provided for purposes of this review. As always, my opinions, and those of my stroppy preteens and teen, are our own.