Want to escape the UK’s grey weather? The Caribbean is one of your best bets for guaranteed sunshine, and Antigua is particularly appealing. It’s a 7+ hour flight away and close enough to the equator to give you a reliable dose of warmth anytime of the year. Compare that to Dubai, which has similar flight times, but not the exotic Caribbean lure.
St James’s Club, where we stayed for our review, is an excellent choice for families. It’s just a 25-minute hotel transfer from the airport, which means you can leave Gatwick at 10 and be paddboarding in Caribbean sunshine by the afternoon.
The good thing about St James’s Club is that you can do as much as you want, or just relax. They say there are two speeds for guests at the resort – slow and rewind! Whatever you choose to do (I’ve made several suggestions below) the energising Caribbean sunshine, friendly locals and food will leave you feeling like you’ve had a complete break.
24 fun things to do with families at St James’s Club and Villas, Antigua
1. Go out on a Stand Up Paddleboard. St. James’s Club features 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! As a family, we love paddleboaridng. It’s easy to pick up the sport, and very good exercise for your core muscles. You can book a lesson, or just ask for a few tips from staff. You may fall in a few times a first, but Mamora Bay is calm and a great place to SUP.
2. Try sea kayaking. Kayaking is another good form of exercise, and a relaxing way to explore Mamora Bay. To take a boat, just sign up, put on your life jacket and paddle away.
3. Get the family on a pedal boat. Petal boats are always fun, especially if you have younger children. You don’t go very fast – and the great thing is everyone can participate together.
4. Learn to sail on a Hobie Cat. Our instructor Sean taught us the basics and then set us out on our own. We learned about going against the wind, steering and how to do “tuck” and “jibe” turns. After some time out in Mamora Bay (and admiring Timothy Dalton’s house), we made it back and only had to push the boat ever so slightly to shore.
5. Learn to windsurf. This is probably the most difficult of the water sports – but so liberating and fun once you learn. It’s a bit like sailing, but on a board, so balance and coordination are key. The girls really took to it and are now pros!
Kid’s view: Watersports
At St James’s Club in Antigua there’s a huge selection of watersports that we could do any time we wanted! I learnt how to sail a Hobie Cat, windsurf and lots more. We went paddleboarding and watched the sailing races. All of the instructors are very nice, and they even taught us a bit of the local dialect. Wa Guan! (that means what’s going on).
6. Try snorkeling. You can go right out on in Mamora Bay but even better is to book a trip on the resort’s Catamaran, the Verandah, which takes you out a bit. You can borrow the resort’s equipment, and the boat trips have guides. A real highlight.
7. Play Tennis. St James’s Club has 4 newly astro-turfed tennis courts. Sign up for a court and borrow a racket and balls from reception. You can even book tennis lessons.
8. Take the resort’s catamaran out to Green Island. The 4-hour sail takes you east out into the Atlantic and over to Green Island for lunch and a bit of snorkelling. If you are lucky you may see sea turtles. They warned me it might be a bit choppy out in the Atlantic, but I bought Dramamine in the hotel shop and was fine.
9. Go swimming. The big question is …. where? You are spoilt for choice. Should you go to the main pool, or the one overlooking the Atlantic? Or how about the one devoted just to kids? Or opt for a swim in the calm Caribbean in Mamora Bay or do you go to Coco’s Beach and swim in the Atlantic? It’s a tough decision! We often started at the main pool and then headed over to Mamora Bay where you can swim and do watersports.
10. Check out Kids Club. There’s a packed agenda each day, from sports, arts & crafts, activities. You can even try tie-dye.
11. Hang out in the teen area. The ping-pong table near the main pool became the favourite meet up place for teens and tweens.
12. Try every smoothie! Banana, mango, strawberry, pina colada, ice cream. Flavours change daily and if you are on all-inclusive you can order as many as you like! Adults can try the alcoholic versions.
Kid’s view: Swimming pools & smoothies
There are 6 swimming pools at St James’s Club! We mainly went to the main pool, which is by reception. There is a bar right next to the pool, which has the BEST smoothies EVER! My 2 favourites were the Strawberry Crush and Banana Milkshake. We also went to the children’s pool, which was right next to our villa. It was great to cool off when we were walking back from the beach.
13. Learn the local dialect. If you ask nicely you may get the very professional staff to teach you a bit of Antiguan English. Each Caribbean country has its own dialect. Antiguan English shortens and combines syllables, so “What’s going on?” becomes “Wa Guan” (to which you would reply “Mi Kool” or the Rastafarian “Mi Irie). Ya man.
14. Sample a new food. There are lots you will be familiar with, but why not try jerk chicken, coconut rice or curried goat (our favourite).
15. Get your nails done! 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).
16. Try a hair wrap. If for no other reasons than to show all your friends when you get back to school. There are several stalls on Mamora Beach and many offer braiding and hair wraps. It took about 45 minutes to do each girl’s hair, and they have vowed to leave it in as long as they can.
17. Count the coconut trees. Or pick up a tamarind seed. Admire the Aloe Vera (it can also be very useful if you get sunburned). There’s a vast array of exotic flora and fauna, including sea grapes, bougainvillea and hibiscus. Take pics!
18. Check out the local animals. There are Indian mongoose, donkeys, geckos, lizards, tree frogs and more. Bring your camera!
19. Buy local crafts and souvenirs. Souvenir stalls selling local crafts and trinkets are everywhere – it’s one of the ways locals make money and a fun way to take home a little memento from Antigua.
20. Make new friends. There are loads of other kids at the resort, and most likely someone with which you can make friends. Ours met a whole gaggle of girls to hangout with.
21. Watch a film. St. James’s Club has a cinema night each week. Make a date with some of your new friends you met on the beach and hangout while mum and dad enjoy a cocktail in the Caribbean moonlight.
22. Learn to cook Caribbean food. The daily schedule of activities often includes a cooking demonstration, where you can learn the secrets of Caribbean cooking. The secret is in the sauce!
23. Read! There are several (hundred) spots around the resort that are perfect for curling up with a good book. And if you forgot yours (or finished it!) there’s a lending library. If it’s current events you crave, there’s a printout of the New York Times summary at reception.
24. Relax! It’s said there are two speeds for guests at St James’s Club – slow and rewind. The beauty of Antigua and St James’s Club is that you can do a lot … or do nothing at all. Both strategies will give you a complete unwind from everyday life.
Watch the video!
The girls made this video of their favourite things to do at St James’s Club, Antigua:
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.