It’s a warm Wednesday afternoon in late March, and the 25-degree Antigua sun is a welcomed embrace on my Canadian skin. Driving through the winding resort entrance toward the lobby, lush greenery and colourful flowers greet us on both sides. As I step out of the airport shuttle and into the open-air lobby, I can smell and feel the ocean breeze blowing through the foyer.
In terms of sheer luxury, views and overall convenience, it’s pretty easy to understand why Blue Waters Resort & Spa has built up such a stable of regulars that make it an annual family getaway for many. It also draws celebrities seeking some peace and quiet, including the likes of Prince Harry.
The resort sits in Soldiers Bay in St. John’s, right on the Northwest tip of Antigua, staring right into the Caribbean Sea. It spreads out generously on 17 acres of stunning tropical gardens. It’s an easy 15-20 minute drive from the airport, so your feet are in the sand in fairly short order after the wheels touch down.
During my stay in April (a quieter time at the resort), I noticed many families with young children and retirees making their umpteenth return visit. Blue Waters seems to appeal to all demographics, including singles, couples and families with kids. They even boast an impressive kids club program. Many travellers, I’m told, tend to come back.
“So many times we have seen three generations of families stay with us,” General Manager Kevin Phillips says proudly.
The standard accommodation package includes daily breakfast, while the all-inclusive version includes all meals and beverages. If you’ve got a larger group, you can opt for one of the sprawling villas or penthouses.
DON’T MISS: Go Remote: Escape to a Private Island Retreat
Indulge at the Blue Waters Spa
It almost goes without saying: you need to indulge at the spa. It’s located at one extreme end of the resort, which feels intentionally isolated so as to preserve the tranquility. Stepping inside, lavender and silence take over your senses and I immediately adapt to my new surroundings, quickly removing my earbuds and stuffing them into my pocket.
I’m early. A kind attendant greets me and offers me an assortment of tea and nuts. I change into my plush robe, throw my items in a locker and sip tea as I await my treatment.
I opted for 50 minutes of an energizing and detoxifying renewal scrub. Though I’m told you can’t really make a bad choice. The all-aluminum body wrap was a new experience for me. Make sure you reserve some extra time post-massage to bask in the dipping pool section of the open-air spa. Don’t forget your camera as there are some incredible Instagram-worthy moments with pink flowers and the sprawling Atlantic Ocean as your backdrop.
While it would be easy to spend all your time in the lush grounds of Blue Waters Resort and Spa, I do suggest you take some time to explore as well.
Food with astonishing views
A must-do for a lavish meal and insta-worthy views is Sheer Rocks, a 40-minute drive south to the west coast of the island. I’m not sure what’s more impressive here: the food or the views.
Sheer Rocks is located at Cocobay Resort in St Mary’s, but is run independently. That means you don’t need to be a guest at the resort to dine here. It’s situated astonishingly on the edge of a sunset-facing bluff, jutting out beautifully over Ffryes Bay.
A charming young British couple, Alex and his partner Kate, took over Sheer Rocks in 2010 and redefined exceptional dining in Antigua.
“There were few options for good food in such an impressive location in Antigua around that time and we wanted to make a restaurant that we wanted to go to ourselves,” explains Alex. “We transformed what was a dinner-only venue… to a place that celebrated the panoramic daytime views. Lunch is fun, relaxed and informal. Dinner is a more romantic, fine-dining experience with relaxed yet attentive service,” says Alex.
It’s often booked or partially booked out for movie and TV shoots. It’s also popular for weddings and private parties. So make time for Sheer Rocks. This unforgettable spot unequivocally falls on the ‘compulsory’ side of the Antigua ledger.
The waterfront tables are the most popular, obviously, so book ahead to avoid disappointment. They recommend reservations at least 48 hours in advance, though walk-ins are also common. Their new Rock Pool and lounging area are especially popular and are typically booked months in advance. You get the idea.
INSIDER TIP: Table 30 is a personal favourite of the owners, so check first if that one is available.
They served our lunch tapas style. Every dish tastes of quality and authenticity. Alex explains that their menu stays very adaptable to ring true to the local ingredients and agriculture that happen to be in season.
“What we do is write dishes that can be adapted in the instance of a shift of seasonal ingredients. Our philosophy is different and our rule is simple. Don’t change the menu for the sake of it. Only change a dish if it can be made better. That way regulars will not miss a favourite but instead find a new one.”
Hard to argue with that.
The destination wedding is becoming an increasingly popular choice for couples tying the knot. If you’re considering Antigua or anywhere in the Caribbean, Blue Waters Spa and Resort seems to be the place to seal your fate. They host 50-60 weddings every year. In other words, four or five every month, on average.
Not to worry, they make it a point not to take on more than one wedding a day, even during peak season, so as to keep all the focus on the couple du jour. Their wedding gazebo is spectacular atop a bluff that witnesses dramatic sunsets. Nestled perfectly between palms, it features a natural aisle for the couple to take their final walk as singles. I found myself snapping pictures there for a while against the picturesque backdrop.
Want to avoid getting bogged down in the wedding minutiae? Not a problem. “We also offer a dedicated wedding planner and various reception venues, elegant privatized restaurants, villas, or,” says Kevin, with a smile, “you can go barefoot on the beach. We do that too.”
The evolution of Blue Waters Resort & Spa
The lush resort now features 116 rooms and four luxury villas, which is quite something given its fairly modest inception in the 1960s.
“We’ve upgraded our main lobby and public areas. We added new pool loungers and day beds, and improved our Deluxe Beach front rooms and Cove Suites. We’ve also brought in all new cardiovascular gym equipment,” says Kevin. And they’re not stopping there. “We will continue improvements this year (2019) with updates planned for our leading category rooms, junior suites and penthouses.”
A historic piece of paradise
Blue Waters Spa and Resort is the longest-running resort on the island. 2020 will mark its 60th anniversary. Locals and the travel community consider it amongst the finest the Caribbean has to offer. The resort has won the World Travel Award for Leading Hotel in Antigua and Barbuda six years running.
“Our vision is to be the premier boutique resort of choice in the Carribean,” Kevin adds.
Englishman Ronald Randall bought the property from the original owner in 1984. His son, Gary, now runs the resort, and takes pride in maintaining the family ambiance and welcoming homely vibe.
I finish up my trip with a little workout on my private pool deck; a futile effort to undo some of the culinary liberties of the past three days. I need an excuse to come back here one day. Maybe if I get married. Failing that, there are many more spa treatments and restaurants that need exploring.
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