The Caribbean island of Antigua, only a brisk, 4-hour flight from New York City, might as well be another world away, especially in the winter. Stepping out of the dry plane cabin, the humid air and strong island sun immediately greet you, and its hard to resist uttering an ah of satisfaction (sure beats an East Coast snowstorm!).
In my opinion, the most perfect place to stay in Antigua is The Inn at English Harbour a lush oasis located on the southern side of the island and just a 30 minute taxi ride from the airport. "The Inn," as the locals call it, is what I like to call a smart luxury, neocolonial-style property with a relaxed, boutique feel. It's also a very smart value, offering all-inclusive rates (including breakfast and dinner) and being less expensive than other high-glamour hotels like Jumby Bay or Carlisle Bay. Jumby Bay is ultra-luxe, but quite excluded (a bit remote from island activities), while Carlisle is a good pick if you have young children or if you like a larger and more formal complex.
Perched high above the sea is the Inns main house and check-in, where friendly staff members welcome you upon arrival. A shuttle takes you down a hill to the spacious and well-appointed rooms. While I preferred one of the main suites near the pool, others may opt for the light, airy beachside rooms, which are a bit simpler and located just steps from the water. Theres no wrong choice!
After setting down my bags, I immediately headed to the beach café, The Reef, for a late lunch and rum punch -- an island tradition (theres no better way to smooth out post-flight stress!). Noticing a photo shoot taking place on the sun-kissed shore, I chatted with a couple of the British models who were taking advantage of the late afternoon sun for their best shots, and gained some useful tips about places to explore nearby (stay tuned for these in my next post!).
That night, my companion and I rode the small shuttle up to the main house for drinks and dinner at the Stone Bar and Terrace restaurant. The Stone Bar reminded me of an old, elegant English bar cozy and refined. We met a few women, also from the U.K., one of whom has been coming to the Inn for over 40 years (the staff calls them the Golden Ladies). Antigua, I learned, has many regulars (always a good sign!).
The Terrace restaurant, meanwhile, serves excellent food in a refined, romantic atmosphere overlooking English Harbour one of the most unique settings in the Caribbean. Wesley, the maitre de, is, like all the staff, incredibly friendly. Try the top-notch spaghetti appetizer and the succulent local lobster (many dishes are flavored with delicious Creole sauces made from local recipes).