Winter Getaways 2012: The Carlisle Bay Resort in Antigua

Leaving dreary, black-and-white Westchester and flying into Antigua with its brilliant sunshine and riotous colors felt like Dorothy’s transition from Kansas to Oz. Instead of Glinda, we were greeted by a man in a billowy white shirt and pants who sang a welcome to each passenger on the way to customs. And for those who believe in signs, the first one we saw read: “Optimism is contagious—drink some.” Let the vacation begin!

Carlisle Bay, Antigua, a five-star-rated resort tucked away between a rainforest and the Caribbean Sea on Antigua’s pristine South Coast, is the next best thing to having your own private island. Everything you could want from a winter getaway is literally steps away. Each beautifully appointed suite looks out over the sea, where you can head off in a Hobie Cat or kayak, go windsurfing or snorkeling, or just settle on the beach and order up another glass of optimism. Mangroves are on the other side, fronting challenging hiking trails and zip-line rides through the rain forest.

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Carlisle Bay’s jetty is transformed into an intimate dining spot.

A day bed on the terrace at Antigua’s Carlisle Bay invites lingering

There are several dining options: Indigo on the Beach is an open-air restaurant that is, well, directly on the beach, and serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Get pizza from a wood-burning oven at Ottimo! a poolside venue; drinks and appetizers at Coconut Grove, where you can dig your toes into the sand; and Indonesian, Japanese, and Thai cuisine at the more formal East (“formal” meaning no bare feet). And, by request, private dinners can be served on the jetty, which undergoes a pretty magical transformation from a utilitarian dock to intimate candlelit dining room under a starlit night, the waves lapping gently underneath.

The only reason to leave the resort is to take a boat tour around the island, where you’ll see the posh estates of Eric Clapton and Giorgio Armani and gorgeous yachts at Nelson’s Dockyard. Make time to stop at Cades Reef for snorkeling, or to visit one of the 365 beaches (one for each day of the year!) that dot the coastline.

The Carlisle Bay Resort in Antigua is a little slice of heaven with luxe accomodations, terrific food, and stunning views.

This is a family-friendly resort—it’s Baby Central at breakfast, with adorable curly haired toddlers carrying oversized backpacks in anticipation of spending the day at the kids’ center (with free activities during the day for little ones over 2 years old). There are nine tennis courts, yoga and Pilates classes, guided nature walks, and a spa. There is also a 45-seat theater and a surprisingly well-stocked library for more cerebral activities.

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Weekend getaways are always too short. Before leaving for the airport, I stopped at Indigo for a final smoothie. When I mentioned to the waiter that it was my last day on Antigua, he smiled. “Oh no, ma’am, it’s not.” He paused a second, and then I understood: “Ah, because I’ll be back.”  I can’t wait.

Details There are 82 ocean-facing guest quarters, from garden suites to three-bedroom apartments. Winter rates through April, 2013, range from $920 to $3,150 per night (excluding tax and a 10-percent service charge) and include a full breakfast, afternoon tea, and fresh fruit delivery daily, as well as free Wi-Fi, bottled water, and Gaggia espresso machines in each room. Rates are lower in the spring and summer, ranging from $635 to $2,175 per night.

Getting There American Airlines flies direct from JFK; it’s a 30-minute drive to the resort.

Contact Carlisle Bay, Old Road, St Mary’s, Antigua West Indies
(268) 484-0000

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