It only takes a few seconds at Carlisle Bay in Antigua to feel like you’re in complete vacation mode. From the moment you step foot into the entry pavilion at the hotel, you’re whisked into a dreamy state of relaxation—even the check-in process in seamless, as guests are seated by the bar with a welcome drink in hand while waiting for the room key.
Carlisle Bay opened in 2003, receiving membership into Leading Hotels of the World in its first year. The hotel is low-key and luxurious; it’s perfect for those who want to spend their Caribbean getaway embracing a true leisure retreat. “The visitors who come here work so hard, and they want to laze by the beach,” Michael Eutrope, the hotel’s director of guest services, told me on a recent visit to Carlisle Bay. “It’s barefoot luxury. You don’t need to do much, just go with the flow.” Here’s everything you need to know about the LHW Antigua retreat.
The VIP treatment starts the second you land.
There’s no need to take part in the dreaded scramble off the plane to avoid long arrival lines. Every guest staying at Carlisle Bay is greeted by someone from the hotel upon arrival at the airport for a VIP fast track experience through customs and immigration. “It’s for all the guests here, so no one has to wait,” Eutrope explained. “You land, and 35 minutes later you’re at the resort.”
The hotel gets a yearly renovation.
After Carlisle Bay closes for the season in late August, the hotel embarks on a bit of a refresher. This year, the team debuted a new look with a change in color palette from grey to bright white and wood, with a more modern aesthetic. There are also new beach day beds, which you should try out the moment you arrive.
The 87 bright and airy hotel suites all have ocean views, terraces and rose petal baths before you even walk inside.
A standard garden suite starts at $525 a night, with its own private outdoor space and the hotel’s now-signature seafoam and white color scheme. The ocean suites are a step above, with a picture-perfect view of the water, a huge terrace with lounging chairs and a table (though from firsthand experience, many a bird will attempt to hang out with you while indulging in breakfast out there) and a truly serene bathroom with a soaking tub and walk-in shower. One of our favorite details is the bowl filled with warm water and rose petals outside the rooms, so you can rinse your feet and keep all the sand away.
If you’re looking for a romantic splurge, go for the Bay Suite, which comes with butler service and a personal vodka and rum bar. Definitely try to book through Leading Hotels, because you’ll get at least $100 of hotel credit that you can spend during your stay (think spa, dining, boats and more).
Go for a lavender seaweed scrub while looking out at the rainforest in the 17,000-square-foot Blue Spa.
Part of Antigua is made up of rainforest, and in the Blue Spa, you’ll get views of the lush greenery while being pampered. The Blue Spa is composed of six treatment rooms, plus saunas and plunge pools, and they only use Voya products, which are made using natural, organic Irish seaweed. There are classic hot stone, Swedish and West Indian massages, as well as treatments like lavender seaweed scrubs and seaweed leaf body lifts (it’s an anti-aging experience where you are fully wrapped in seaweed). We recommend going for a locally-inspired option like the herbal infuse massage ritual, in which oils and seaweed are used in the massage.
You can go to a different restaurant or bar every night.
There are no less than four restaurants on the property, ranging from a casual family-friendly Italian meal at Ottimo to the adults-only dining at Jetty Bar, which has “a Caribbean flair,” Eutrope told us over a meal that included jerk chicken and mahi mahi with live music in the background. There’s also East, which has Asian influenced cuisine, and the waterfront Indigo.
Catch a film in the private screening room.
Carlisle Bay gave its 45-person private cinema (which is the only one of its kind in the Caribbean, FYI) a little refresh earlier this year—it’s filled with navy blue leather Italian seats and all the popcorn you could ever dream about. There are movies playing throughout the day, but you can also reserve it for an exclusive viewing.
Or charter a private yacht to see Antigua’s 365 beaches—one for every day of the year.
Okay, seeing all 365 beaches (yes, there are that many) on the island is pushing it, but we very much suggest having Carlisle Bay organize a boating day—they’ll even put you aboard the hotel’s private yacht. You can curate the excursion, with options for snorkeling, a dockyard tour (where you’ll see a specific “royal palm” planted by Queen Elizabeth II and also a museum with many a Prince Charles portrait), picnics and water sports. But you don’t have to leave the resort to see the most pristine beaches in Antigua—just step outside your hotel room door at Carlisle Bay…and make sure to order a passion fruit sangria for ocean-side sipping.