Welcome Travelingpanties: Best Luxury Hotel Carlisle Bay Review: Where to Stay in Antigua
I was invited on a press trip to check out Carlisle Bay Hotel in Antigua. This was my first time ever visiting Antigua (pronounced An-tee-gah) and I was so excited for what awaited me. Antigua is a stunning island filled with friendly people and of course gorgeous scenery. If you haven’t been to the blog before, Welcome Mrs. Travelingpanties is my column where I review a property and judge it based on my luxury expertise.
You’re greeted at the entry way (where your bags are collected) and walked over the gorgeous bridge to the main lobby where you are offered a cool towel and a refreshing welcome (non-alcoholic) cocktail of watermelon and ginger juice–two of my favorite things in the world–so things were off to a great start! Before you’re shown to your room you’re taken on a quick tour of the property just to point out where everything is.
The open-air lobby is gorgeous and quite sophisticated (and has some of the coolest furniture I’ve ever seen in any hotel). The shuttered windows and high ceilings give it a plantation feel and a breezy interior. There is plenty of seating plus a laid-back lobby bar so you can come here just to have a cocktail or just read a book on one of the plush lounge chairs or couches.
All rooms are situated just steps away from the beach and all have ocean views except four (these usually go for about 10-20% less than other rooms but I would rather pay extra for the view. Waking up to see the ocean is priceless). When I walked in, the first thing that came to mind was how enormous the suite was. Lately I’ve found that even when something is labeled as a suite that it likely means a small couch or sitting area. But that wasn’t the case at Carlisle Bay. The first level had a sizable couch, a large chair and ottoman, a desk and a flatscreen TV (which pivoted so it could be seen from bed as well as a day bed outside). That’s right, through floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors is a spacious verandah with a table and chairs as well as a day bed where guests can enjoy ocean views from the comfort of the shade and in close proximity of their belongings. There are also screens so you can keep the bugs out but let the ocean breeze and sounds of the waves permeate your room.
One step up in the rooms is the bedroom (although it’s really just one large room). There is a queen-size bed with white linens. The furniture was all dark wood and was in good shape, scratch free and didn’t show much wear.
White Glove Inspection
I couldn’t find one speck of anything suspect throughout my entire stay. And I’m not quite sure how they managed this because entry is from outdoors, but I didn’t have one single bug in my suite the entire time I was there. The white linens were perfect–I couldn’t even spot a pull in the fabric. And y’all know I looked!
The bathroom was quite large as well. At its center is an enormous soaking tub that could easily fit two people comfortably inside (wink, wink). To its left was a very spacious shower. Good pressure and no water temperature issues.
The bathroom offered Ren Bath Products–and they were jumbo-sized! These products are sold in luxe stores like Barney’s and Bergdorf’s. I loved these products–far better than L’Occitane toiletries, which never do much for my hair. This was uber luxurious to me.
The toilet was located in a separate small water-closet with a door for extra privacy–y’all know I love this. Keeps the romance alive in a marriage!
Towel quality? Amazing, thick and absorbent.
Robes? Yes, they were cotton and thin, which suits the destination well since it’s quite warm here you wouldn’t want to be wearing a heavy terry robe. They didn’t offer slippers though.
The Beach is one of the best on the island. It’s very calm and although all 365 Antiguan beaches are public, because of its location, it’s rather secluded and 99.9% (if not 100%) of people here are hotel guests only. There are lounge chairs and towels set up for guest use. The sea is very calm here and there aren’t many waves. It’s heavenly. Staff circulates taking drink orders and will even serve food right on the beach. I was dying to try the Bento box but never had a chance. It looked delicious. I also loved the hammocks that dot the beach.
One of my favorite things about this hotel is that they separate families with kids from couples. Couples are to the left and children are to the right at Carlisle Bay. Other than in the restaurants and by the pool, you’ll rarely see (or more importantly, hear) a child. I don’t mean to sound like a total monster but when I’m on vacation, the last thing I want when I’m frolicking on the beach is to have to listen to a whining child. And soon there is going be an adults-only full restaurant opening right on the beach (on the adults side of course). And then by next October there will be an adults-only pool as well! (spoiler alert–it’s going to be infinity-edged).
But even couples with kids are in luck because the famous kids club will take them off your hands for you for the day for no additional cost! (Unless they are so young that they need to be held still, then there is a charge of $15/hr). You can also hire babysitters (also extra) after hours so you can enjoy a romantic evening alone. Couples with children are also asked to dine with their kids before 8:30 so as not to ruin the magic for romantic dinners.
If you want to indulge, guilt-free, you’ll have to hit up the fitness center, which boasts views of the 9 tennis courts! There are several machines and all equipment is new and in good shape. And speaking of tennis you’re welcome to take a clinic with the resident tennis pro while you’re in town!
There are yoga classes available at either the yoga studio or on the jetty (my personal fave). Water sports are also available through the hotel. Yoga on the Jetty was a true highlight! Karen was an amazing instructor! I’m not a yoga person and still found this to be incredible. Her voice was the most soothing thing I’ve ever heard. I think I need to get a recording to fall asleep to!
They also have this hip little library where you can come to read one of their many books or use a computer at one of the workstations. I just loved how hip-looking it was!
The restaurants at Carlisle Bay are certainly some of the finest on the entire island. And they have whatever it is you’re looking for–from dining beachside with your toes in the sand, poolside, with ocean views or at a fancy air-conditioned restaurant–they have it all. Indigo on the Beach restaurant is inspired by healthy fresh seafood. Although I opted for the unhealthy route, there are plenty of easy ways to stay healthy during your stay–from grilled fish for dinner to a design-your-own salad for lunch, if you want to–you can stay healthy. There are even green juices you can have for breakfast! The views here are to die for! Ottimo is the hotel’s Italian restaurant located poolside. Coming from New York, I couldn’t believe how impressive their wood-fired thin-crust pizzas were. They looked like works of art–perfectly crisp crust! The Tuna Crudo here was delightful as well. East is open for dinner only and serves incredible Asian cuisine. Enter through some of the most gorgeous Indonesian carved doors and feast on Japanese, Thai and Balinese specialties. I must warn you though–they also serve the WORLD’S BEST chocolate cake I have ever tasted–and I’m rarely a fan oozy chocolate cakes like this. A woman I was with also used to write about the world’s best chocolate desserts and she said it was one of the best she has ever tasted–and she’s a professional! You can also organize a very special and romantic dinner on the jetty.
I must start off by saying, Oprah comes here occasionally when she’s on the island. So, need I say more? Blue Spa has six treatment rooms, including one for couples. Book your treatment early because the therapists do book up rather quickly, especiallyfor late afternoon hours. They offer massages, scrubs, facials and scrubs. There is also a beauty salon. My West Indian massage was incredible, I must say. Everything was spot on. From the cool refreshing oil to the lovely bowl of crystals placed under the face hole in the massage table. Definitely a signature treatment!
The Little Things
Makeup Mirror? Yes, but not a light up. However, it wasn’t mounted to the wall so you could bring it throughout the room, even to the front!
Hairdryer Power? Amazing! It was a super salono! These hairdryers run for about $100 and are salon quality.
Bottled Water? Yes complimentary and you can always call and order more.
Coffee maker? Yes a Gaggio espresso machine. Plus they had designer cups to serve it in.
Wi-Fi? Yes, free throughout the property. Although occasionally it was spotty I would say overall it was quite good–and it worked at the beach. Now that could be a bummer if you’re traveling with a workaholic but for a blogger who must share everything in real-time it was quite perfect!
Cocktail Quality? Y’all know I love a good drink and nothing frustrates me more than when I’m on vacation and the bar ingredients aren’t fresh. When I want a pina colada on an island I don’t want it made from a mix–are you with me? Well, if you’re a spirits connoisseur like me then you’ll be most impressed with Carlisle Bay’s cocktails. Their Pina Coladas are made with all fresh ingredients–as in they grab a coconut off a tree, split it, blend the meat, fresh, local pineapple and rum and serve it up quickly.
Any other quirky things? I love that you can feel the English roots throughout the hotel–they even serve afternoon tea each afternoon throughout the property (including the beach). They also serve up a mean (and delightfully snappy) Ginger martini. Also–be sure to try the old-fashioned Rum Punch, which even to someone who doesn’t particularly like Rum or sugary drinks was quite delicious.I also was obsessed with the ‘Do Not Disturb’ shell that you left on your front step instead of hanging a card.
Turn-Down Service: Yes–they came automatically and restocked towels and minibar and cleaned up the mess I made from getting ready to go out at night. They also made sure the sliding door to outside was locked, which I liked.
Flowers: There were so many various orchids throughout the property. In the lobby there were enormous vases just filled with them.
Special Treats: Yes, fresh fruit was delivered daily to guestrooms–grapes, kiwi, plums. Also–if you’re prone to mosquitos like me, ask the front desk for their concentrated citronella balm, made by a local on the island to help ward off these little pests.
Resort Activities: There are so many that they organize from yoga, snorkeling, water-skiing, you name it! They will get everything squared away for you! They eve have a daily digest out each day to let you know what’s going on and how to book it.
Room for Improvement
The keys demagnetized quite easily, which wasn’t a problem for me but was for the other ladies in my party. One woman had a few issues getting into her room because the battery in the door died and they couldn’t quite figure out the problem. However, the staff could not have been more accommodating during this little mishap.
Sometimes it was difficult to find a chair on the beach, or at least just figure out which chairs were open. It would be helpful if staff was a bit more aggressive in making sure guests were able to find a spot. Service could be a bit quicker on the beach but I suspect that that’s just my New York impatience. No one else seemed bothered by the pace.
Something also worth noting is the noise in the evening. While there is no noise from guests, it’s quite noisy from birds and frogs at night. I happened to enjoy these natural sounds but you may wish to bring some earplugs if you’re a light sleeper.
The Bottom Line
This is the place to stay on Antigua if you’re looking for laid-back luxury. Although Jumby Bay is a more over-the-top luxury destination I would choose Carlisle Bay for two reasons. First of all, Jumby Bay is on a private island and is a bit less convenient if you’re hoping to explore the island. Second, I think that Carlisle Bay captures the Antiguan spirit, which I really was hoping to take in while on the island–success! The staff here also makes it so special. 82% of their guests return–many of them on a yearly basis. If you come at Christmas, the kids club buys gifts for all the children–and not just some uniform present–staffers choose gifts based on what they know about them–like Suzie likes pink, so let’s get this doll wearing that. I mean, if that’s not personalized treatment worth coming back for, I don’t know what is!
Old Road St. John’s, Carlisle Bay, Antigua and Barbuda
This sounds like the perfect resort–kiddies are contained, fresh fruit delivered to the room, full sized-beauty products, fresh-fruit cocktails, a spa Oprah has visited…I’m long overdue for a Caribbean vacation, and this is where I’m going to go next!- December 3, 2013
I just came back from the Carlisle Bay! What a lovely hotel, thanks for the recommendation!- March 19, 2018
So happy you had a great stay!!- March 20, 2018