Stay the night: Jumby Bay, Antigua
New suites and a beachfront spa now welcome visitors to Jumby Bay. Katy Guest reports
Sunday 28 March 2010
The woman who greets guests off the jetty with a cold towel and a fresh rum punch has a relaxed approach to the check-in procedure. "We don't provide room keys," she says, with a smile. "There are no keys in paradise."
This hippie-ish take on all-out Caribbean opulence seems to encapsulate the 300-acre private island. Jumby Island is about half an hour by limo and catamaran from Antigua's international airport, but it is a world apart. Bicycles and golf buggies are the mode of transport here; the only sound comes from the bold little yellow finches. It's a friendly place; but it's not hard to spend an idyllic day without seeing a soul.
Relaunched in December with 28 new suites, a beachfront spa and an innovative menu designed by head chef Pablo Loza, the resort spreads out sympathetically along the island's west side. Jump on the bicycles that are left helpfully outside your room, and an exhilarating whiz along the coast takes you to Pasture Bay.
From June to November, the resort's conservation programme looks after the hawksbill turtles as they shuffle up the beach here to lay their eggs. In March, however, my only company was a lone crab, three flying fish, and the occasional blue pelican plunging into the shallows.
Having experienced the outdoor bathrooms that are a blissful hallmark of Jumby's unique, chilled-out decadence, the hotel's managing director had three installed in his own Antiguan home. And al fresco bathing is a neat solution to the only problem you're likely to face here: how to be simultaneously outdoors in the sun and enjoying your vast, colonial-style suite. With a shower and bath out back, and a private plunge pool (complete with waterfall) on the terrace, overlooking the brochure-perfect beach, you could spend much of your time here under water. All the rooms are elegantly designed, with air conditioning (and/or fan), WiFi and a huge widescreen television – not that you're likely to use them much.
The food and drink
As well as the Estate House restaurant, which offers extravagant fare (truffle ice cream, anyone?), in plush, 1830s, Spanish-colonial surroundings, December's relaunch has added beach-side dining (a real sand-in-the-toes luxury) at the Verandah restaurant. You can also enjoy bistro food beside the infinity pool at the more casual Pool Grille. Casual, yes, but it's also pretty special eating grilled Mahi Mahi on a citrus salad when all that's between you and the blue ocean are a friendly gecko and a hummingbird sipping at the flowers.
If you can tear yourself away from your private waterfall, all manner of activities can be laid on. Use of Hobie Cat sailing boats and snorkels are provided free of charge, as is the croquet set, the fitness centre, a 25-metre swimming pool and sunset cocktail cruises. Staff will even wake you to watch the turtles come ashore, in the egg-laying season. Treatments at the spa cost extra, but let's face it, who on Jumby really needs a stress-relieving massage? Golf, scuba diving, Pilates and professional tennis coaching can also be provided, at a cost.
Children are welcome, though obviously well-enough entertained as to be almost invisible among the dunes, the waterfowl sanctuaries, and the three miles of hiking trails that wind around the island. All the rooms, as well as the tracks, are wheelchair accessible, and staff are on hand to help guests on to the boat that runs to and from the island. Pets are not invited – although, to be fair, they probably wouldn't want to brave the pelicans.
For those travelling between 1 May and 31 October 2010, ITC Classics (01244 355 527; itcclassics.co.uk) offers seven nights for the price of six, from £3,380 per person based on two sharing a Rondavel Room on an all-inclusive basis, along with return flights with British Airways from London Gatwick and private transfers – a saving of up to £635 per person on the usual price.
Jumby Bay, A Rosewood Resort, PO Box 243, St John's, Antigua (00 1 268 462 6000; rosewoodhotels.com).
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