Last spring we had a fun and relaxing vacation to the Caribbean island of Antigua in the West Indies.
While we have vacationed on other islands in the Caribbean, we had not visited Antigua. It was a very pleasant experience on many count including the fact we could get direct flights from Newark, NJ.
We didn’t chose Antigua as a destination so much as it choose us. We have a timeshare and used the week we “banked” last year for a “vacation exchange.” This is timeshare talk meaning for a low fee we could use our week to go someplace other than to our timeshare. For the exchange to work, we put our name on a list of Caribbean resorts that might be available. We then waited for the exchange company to call us with an offer from a resort available at the time we wanted to go.
A word about timeshares: if you decide to buy one, it is best to buy it in a place you like to visit regularly. Alternatively, if you like to travel and know when and where you want to go, you can play the exchange game. Research timeshares carefully before you go to the “one-hour” presentation. If all these things don’t line up, think twice before buying. Here’s the catch: once you buy, it is yours forever, there is no getting rid of it.
We went to Antigua in April when it is less crowded than the middle of winter and easier to do an exchange. The resort was more efficiency apartments than resort, but it was clean and comfortable. By going in April, the water is warmer and in the afternoon, the air and the water are the same temperature — a lovely 80 degrees. We loved splashing in the turquoise blue water and having a mile of beautiful white sand beach. Antigua boosts 365 sand beaches, but we were happy with Jolly Beach on the island’s leeward side with its calm protected water.
The Jolly Harbor area, where we stayed, has several resorts, many privately-owned condos, marinas, a golf course and restaurants ranging from beach shacks and pizza parlors to high end eateries with water views. There is a gourmet grocery with bakery, banks, ATMs, pharmacy, shopping area, art gallery, car and motorbike rental agencies. To get around, we were advised to rent a golf cart – good advice.
Among our activities while visiting was a catamaran trip with about 50 other guests in which we circumnavigated the island. It was an all-day excursion with lunch, snorkeling, swimming and sightseeing to places only the rich and famous live. As with so many places we have visited, the contrast between rich and poor was evident throughout the island whether seeing it by boat or driving in a car.
To see more of Antigua, we decided to rent a car – no small feat as the island has kept to its “English” roots with driving on the left-hand side of the road. Since 1981 Antigua has been fully independent, but it is still a constitutional monarchy with Queen Elizabeth II as Queen of Antigua. That might account for the number of Canadians who were visiting.
In addition to its many beautiful beaches, Antigua has something else in common with other places we have visited – friendly, helpful people. The first day we were there, we met Bobalicious, a grandmother who sells curios, jewelry and island clothing at her stand on Jolly Beach. She makes beautiful island jewelry using shells and semiprecious stones. She even altered a shirt for my partner and went out of her way to get me some special island souvenirs: a muscle tee shirt with skull and crossbones for my oldest grandson and a frog beach towel for my younger guy.
Another person we met on Jolly Beach was Archer, a talented fellow plying his craft using palm fronds to weave hats and bowls. It was excited to see his handiwork which I first saw long ago on Waikiki Beach while visiting Hawaii. I didn’t meet Archer until the day we were leaving. By then I’d spent my discretionary cash, but he saw my enthusiasm and made me a bowl as I watched. He trusted I’d get him his money. His comment when I did, “I knew you’d be back.”
We were at the resort for our “exchange week,” but had decided before we went we would stay for a second week in a condo on Jolly Harbor. Of the two, we enjoyed the condo most. We rented the condo from a British Columbian couple who consider Antigua their second home. The condos all have boat docks off the back patios where owners moor their boats which range from sailfish to yachts.
If you enjoy beautiful white sand beaches, gorgeous flora, warm turquoise water and food for every taste with resorts ranging from family-friendly to romantic getaways, add Antigua to your vacation list.
Oh, and did I mention the glorious sunsets. Adieu or as they say in Antigua, “lay-taa.”
*Photos by Marcia Seifert
The Takeaway: Some take vacations to relieve stress or get away from the grind of everyday life. One is fortunate when a vacation is strictly for pleasure, especially when you find yourself in an idyllic place with sun, sea, surf, beautiful vistas and warm, gracious people. Have you been privileged to have such a travel experience? Share it and let’s start a conversation. Please include your name and email address or phone number so I may contact you if I have a question. I will not publish your name. Contact me at [email protected]