How often is a guest invited to inspect a hotel's sewage plant? Contrary to the belief that travel writers spend much of their time supine staring at the sun, this was one of my first tasks on visiting The Verandah, the latest resort to open on the Caribbean island of Antigua.
I tell you this not just because it was an unusual chore but because it is key to the hotel's ethos. The Verandah calls itself an "eco-friendly" resort, with efforts including turning sewage into greywater for use on the grounds, harnessing the sun's power, and desalinating seawater for guests to drink.
It makes sense for a 200-room hotel to recycle, but it is also a saleable feature for the parent group, Elite Island Resorts, in these green-sensitive days, especially following some bad press about the resort's location, which some claim the government should have protected, and the alleged destruction of mangrove swamps.
There have also been grumbles on travel blogs about the "cramped" layout of the resort across the 30-acre bluff overlooking Dian Bay on the island's east coast. Yet, for a complex of its kind, the intrusion of the structures on the landscape is minimal. Guests stay in elegant one-storey wooden cottages that have been painted pale green and white to meld with the vegetation, and set on piers to prevenet water erosion. It's only once inside the resort, travelling by electric buggy from the remote reception to the hotel proper, that the density of the buildings has an impact. For most guests – mainly families – that just means easy access to its restaurants, bars, pools, spa, gym, kids' club and two beaches.
Waterfront cottages overlook the bay; "waterview" cottages are set further back. Each is divided into two apartments, but you'll meet your neighbours only on the signature verandah (though you may hear them: soundproofing needs to be attended to).
All rooms have the same footprint – an open-plan space with separate bathroom – and sleep up to four, making this a good choice of resort for families. The double bed and built-in wardrobe define the sleeping area and a sofa bed and kitchenette provide a retreat from the heat during the day and a handy place to rustle up snacks. Patio doors open on to a terrace, which can connect with the next apartment for large parties. Bathrooms are spacious, with huge bathtubs.
The food and drink
Buccaneers serves good bistro food, SeaBreeze, the main restaurant, offers buffets with a Caribbean twist, and Nicole's is the fine-dining choice. There are also four bars.
Most of the resort is wheelchair accessible, though one beach is reached by stairs and the cottages have two steps.
BA Holidays (0844 493 0758; ba.com/holidays) offers seven nights all-inclusive from £1,208 per person, based on two sharing, in May, including return flights and transfers
The Verandah Resort and Spa, Dian Bay, Antigua (0870 160 9645; eliteislandresorts.com).