For many adults their memories of sleep-away summer camp were a true excursion from home, school and their neighborhoods. For anywhere from 2-6 weeks alum of this summer tradition have fond memories of fun, exploration, new experiences and lifelong friends.
Upon arrival at the eco-oriented Verandah Resort and Spa (managed by Elite Island Resorts) on the Caribbean Island of Antigua, my wife and I came to the same conclusion; the resort offers their guests the best attributes of “summer camp” year round. Yet this is a deluxe “summer camp” with an emphasis on service and carefree days giving way to relaxed Caribbean nights. With upscale food and bar service, two beaches, tennis courts coupled with spacious luxury appointed central air-conditioned private bungalows with available high-speed Internet, this is not the summer camp of your youth.
To begin it may be best to advise what The Verandah Resort and Spa is not. It is not a high-rise multiunit structure; all bungalows (most built as side-by-side units) are one-level based on traditional Caribbean design, not an elevator in-sight. Verandah is not party-central, if evenings oriented around better dining options and cocktails enveloped within the balmy evenings coupled with a local singer for entertainment is to sedate for your tastes; well, best to look elsewhere.
Concerning the beach and pool atmosphere (even the adults only pool) is serene and relaxed, if desiring a DJ blasting Top 40 and guests testing the fine line between bathing attire and full nudity, again, not the best option for you. If still interested in this most unique deluxe resort on Antigua, read on….
The luxury “summer camp” orientation truly begins upon arrival. The reception building is open air and except for a few pieces of Caribbean inspired wicker furniture is more function oriented versus the typical busy and opulent entry we have come to expect from luxury resorts. The tone set upon arrival is luxury of generations past when exemplary service and attention to detail trumped physical grandiosity.
Upon arrival guests are greeted with genuine warmth that is evident throughout the staff and from experience all resorts managed by Elite Island Resorts. Check-in is quick and efficient. The reception building does house a sundry retail operation, the second level a multipurpose gathering space mostly used for movie nights, similar to summer camp except the celluloid film reels have been replaced by DVD’s.
The reception area is literally a screen as beyond the building one is visually introduced to the caliber of the resort by an intimate beach area and The Rasta Bar a beachfront snack bar, the design consisting of weathered wood and sand covered flooring advising that location and amenities versus physical attributes connote luxury within a laid-back setting (of note, if looking for the self-serve margarita machine, again look elsewhere)
The resort sprawls from the reception area in a linear fashion hugging the gorgeous and mostly undisturbed 30 acres of coastline. It is by necessity for staff to use golf carts to ferry guests and their luggage to the bungalows due to the land area of the resort. Of note by the reception area are tennis courts and miniature golf as well.
The resort lays out along hillsides overlooking the tranquil bays and inlets. No matter the bungalow location, all have beautiful views. The water-view and waterfront room categories are of course the most premium options providing their inhabitants direct views, however as far as accommodations i.e. interior appointments and design, except for view categories all the bungalows and even the two-bedroom villas are similar.
The Villas and Bungalows: Designed as duplexes i.e. semi-attached side-by-side the bungalows could easily be considered a vacation rental based on size and amenities. Each unit is spacious, with a large designated sleeping area, an intimate living room with direct access to a private deck, expansive bathrooms with dual vanities and soaker tubs. This is not your standard hotel/resort room. The front of the units have traditional porches with a chair, true Caribbean quaint and a great way to meet other guests when sitting outside with a rum cocktail in hand. Of note there are a few 2-bedroom Villas available, perfect for families and friends traveling together.
Central Focal Point: While the 30 acres is by land-size is expansive and the resort does offer on-demand shuttle service, the vast majority of the bungalows are within an easy walk to the main central point of the resort with the Main Pool as a central feature and the surrounding buildings.
The Main Pool is expansive and is a great destination or gathering point. While there is a separate adult pool a short walk away, the main pool is surprisingly quiet and with its water feature and lack of DJ’s or related, quite inviting. Even when the resort is at high-occupancy, finding an available lounger was never a challenge as Verandah guests spread out between the Main Pool, the Adult Pool, the Main Beach and Rasta Beach.
Of note, within a 2 minute walk of the Main Pool is the Kidz Club that is a fully equipped indoor/outdoor play area including an additional Kidz Club pool, shallow depth with pool furnishings sized for younger children. As one of the employees at the Kidz Club advised, “parents need a vacation too”.
At the Main Pool the buildings surrounding are truly the focal point of the resort. Three of the resorts restaurants, Sea Breeze, The Buccaneer and the fine-dining option Nicole’s (details below) share a building adjacent to the Main Pool. There is also the Main Bar (open-air and an excellent option for tea-time and pre or post dinner cocktails), the fitness center, the Tranquility Body and Soul Spa and The Guest Services Office (so one does not have to travel back to the reception building).
Dining Scene: As mentioned prior there are three full-service restaurants. Depending on your desires, dining ranges from casual to relaxed elegant. Yet the one common thread and quite rare with an all-inclusive resort, the food is superior.
Sea Breeze is buffet oriented serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. The buffet options are truly upscale with expansive offerings. If you do not find your desired entrée within the buffet, staff is happy to provide options direct from the kitchen. There are culinary theme nights, thus be sure to discuss with guest services who will also assist with reservations if needed.
The Buccaneer is a wait-staff serviced casual dining option. Offering a diverse menu nightly; for those who desire a full-service dining experience with a casual orientation, the perfect option.
Nicole’s is the upscale dining option with has a slight supplement charge and is the best option for a romantic dinner or celebration, With an emphasis on a fine-dining atmosphere, the dress code is enforced i.e. casual evening attire. Your time within Nicole’s will be one remembered for true Caribbean elegance and attentive service.
Yet let me share a dining secret. I truly enjoy finer dining and upscale food, however when vacationing I sometimes just wish to enjoy an informal dinner in shorts and a t-shirt coupled with comfort food and local beer. The Beach Bar and Grill located above the Main Beach fits the bill. While most popular from 10AM to sunset, the open-air and informal outdoor seating coupled with the perfect location taking in the vistas from its above the Main Beach location. The Beach Bar and Grill became my go-to for a post formal dinner cocktail as the views while enchanting throughout the day, past dusk with the diffused light of the bungalows and cliffside mansions in the distance and the calm bay, truly magical and memorable.
With all the food coupled with relaxation I did partake in the use of the fitness center and at the times I visited, I was usually the only guest. The center has the usual collection of cardio-equipment as well as free-weights and areas for stretching, yoga and group classes. The fitness center is open 24 hours and well air-conditioned.
Beaches: The Main Beach is of course a focal point of the resort as well. Located down a few flights of stone steps, the beach is expansive with a full selection of complementary water sports equipment as well as beach toys for children from pails and shovels to flotation noodles. The selection of children’s toys for use on the beach literally exceeded the selection found at a Florida Wal-Mart.
While Main Beach is the most popular, if your beach desires include reading a good book under a palm tree, consider the Rasta Beach. Yes a bit of a trek from the majority of the bungalows, yet this beach is the ultimate destination for intimacy and seclusion. The Rasta Bar and snack shack insure casual dining is literally sand adjacent. Rasta Beach is my definition of luxury i.e. quiet, beautiful vistas, soft sand, natural shade with strong cocktails and comfort food available right on the beach. The scale and intimacy of Rasta Beach is rarely found within the all-inclusive resorts of the Caribbean. During our visit there was a small wedding at the beach with the vows taken at an adjacent overwater gazebo with a champagne reception at The Rasta Bar, truly casual.
While words can convey the slide show with this article tell the true story. From the Colorado market, accessing Antigua and The Verandah Resort and Spa can be a challenge when compared to Mexico and Latin America. However for the unique experiences, the small logistical challenges can reap very large and relaxing rewards.
Of note, my next review will be of The St. James Club on Antigua, a luxury all-inclusive resort and after visiting, one of my favorite destinations in the Caribbean.