by Amanda Orr
If you’re looking for a posh Caribbean resort where you would feel equally comfortable on a romantic getaway as you would on a family vacation, or more likely, you’re looking for both wrapped up into one vacation, Carlisle Bay is your spot. Located on the Southern side of Antigua in the British West Indies, Carlisle Bay, a sister resort to One Aldwych Hotel in London, is truly a unique gem among high-end Caribbean hotels. Its contemporary design sets it apart from any other resort on the island and its attention to detail and customer service set it apart from hotels everywhere.
If you are envisioning a typical “family resort,” you may think you have booked the wrong hotel when you enter the property. Entering the open-air reception, having just crossed over a lily pond framed in flaming torches, you’re met by a cool, chic design that mixes high-end contemporary design with classic colonial touches. This is not your typical Caribbean family resort. But never fear.
From reception you spy an outdoor bar area that leads to a series of pools, the ocean straight ahead and a line of children parading to and fro activities. The cool neutral colors, paired with dark wood furniture, set against the turquoise sea in the background certainly adds to a feeling of tranquility, but there’s a secret ingredient in Carlisle Bay as well. They’ve mastered a difficult balance: an upscale resort where families and honeymooners feel utterly comfortable with each other and completely accommodated by the resort.
The 82-luxury, ocean-facing suites range in size from a junior suite to a three-bedroom suite. Rooms are outfitted with Frette bed linens, Bespoke furniture and ocean views from every suite.
Our Editor Loves
- Spectacular scenery
- Complimentary sailing, kayaking and windsurfing
- Free children's program
- All Inclusive Rates
- Water Sports
- Children Programs
- Family Room 5+
- Free Wi-Fi
- Kids' Pool
- Meal Plan
- Onsite Dining
Find the Best Price for Your Stay
In addition to luxurious accommodations, rooms feature a fully-stocked mini bar that includes bottled water, daily fresh fruit delivery, DVD and CD players, satellite television and free Wi-Fi in every room. Complimentary cribs are provided and loaner strollers are available. Carlisle Bay provides all-inclusive packages for families.
The Carlisle Suites, while more expensive, have extra bedrooms so they are really the best option for families if you can swing it.
The Ocean Suite and the Beach Balcony Suites include a bedroom with king-sized bed and sitting area plus a separate study or second bedroom with twin beds. They sleep up to three adults or two adults and two children.
The Beach Terrace Suites include a king bed and a study or second bedroom.
Rooms spotless, staff always helpful and friendly. The beach with its palm trees and comfy beach chairs, endless supply of Wadadli (beer), any cocktail you may want, afternoon tea makes it sooooo relaxing. We stayed for a week and I felt 10 years younger. You’ll find the best music at the Jetty Grill. Shame they insist on playing elevator music in the other restaurants at the resort. I’m in the Caribbean and expect the local music. It would make all the difference. Tried all the restaurants during our stay; enjoyed the food although towards the end I was just concentrating on lobsters. Nice small size with firm flesh. Could eat them all/every day.
I would like to praise the staff that made this stay really perfect.
I was told that they spray for sand-flies, mosquitoes and other bugs and must say I was hardly bitten (usually I’m feasted on). I think that dawn and dusk is the time you should be careful with these little buggers. Otherwise, I can only highly recommend this establishment.
So this would have been a perfect stay and 5 star rating except for one issue which was patently absurd and put a bad taste in our mouth about management. I'll get to that in a second. First, THE GOOD. The service we got was outstanding, very attentive staff, and very nice amenities, especially at the beach where we got a cooler of water every day. The beach was gorgeous and well-maintained. The rooms were very well maintained, modern, and the bed was very comfy contrary to some reviews I have seen. We stayed in the oceanfront rooms and they were excellent. Breakfast was top notch and included in our room price, lunch was excellent, and most dinners were 5 star. Yes, they could get pricey but its the tropics. Expect to pay about 25-35 US per entree. The Jetty Dinner was worth the price. I'd like to call out two very specific employees, Michel, one of the assistant managers was welcoming, kind, and made our stay so pleasant. My wife loved speaking to him in French and he was amazing. The other employee was Dwight, he was spectacular, always making our stay that much better. It seemed that he was everywhere at once, taking care of all of the things that guests needed so they would not have to lift a finger. I took to calling him the swiss army knife because he could do anything. Both employees deserve a hearty raise.
THE BAD (and very annoying) - I booked my trip through Expedia, so I knew I would need a hotel transfer from the airport. I called the hotel directly and the woman who took my transfer booking told me that the hotel would take care of it. When I arrived, they were great, and had someone there to greet us. Knowing that sometimes there are miscommunications on what "taking care of it" means in the Caribbean, I specifically asked the woman when I was there if I should pay the taxi. The woman at the airport confirmed that the transfer was complimentary, which I thought was a nice touch. So I went about my way. On the last day, when I got my hotel bill, they had charged me $58 each way for the transfer to and from the airport. I had to go to the desk on three separate occasions and they basically told me I must have been mistaken and would not remove the charge. Finally, after my third complaint, they removed the single $58 for the first transfer. However, they then tacked it on to another transfer I had taken to Jolly Harbor hoping I wouldn't notice. How do i know this? Jolly Harbor is about 12 minutes from the hotel. The airport is 40 minutes away. They charged me $80 for a one way transfer to Jolly Harbor. My return trip from Jolly Harbor with a local taxi, provided by the excursion I was on, was $22 with tip. This was so sneaky and nasty, I was appalled. However, I had to catch my car to the airport so I did not have the time or the patience to fight this and did not want to ruin my vacation or raise my blood pressure fighting with the manager who did not even have the decency to come out and speak with me. A top hotel would have just comped me the two rides and called it a day knowing that they had likely earned a repeat customer and especially considering I had spent a significant amount on the trip and not to toot my own horn but I regularly tipped over 25% because the service we got was so good and the staff was tremendous. I spent thousands of dollars on a 6 day stay during their very low season and they nickel-and-dimed me for less than $100. It was ridiculous. It may be the only thing that keeps me from coming back to Carlisle Bay for my next stay as there are many other fine hotels on the island. I'll have to think about it because save for this incident, I really did enjoy my stay.
The staff at Carlisle Bay seem to have all gone through some sort of training that makes them impervious to the fussiest of children, and general miracle workers for the hardest to please. From the wait staff at the main restaurant to the check-in desk clerks and of course, the children's program guides, they never miss a step to make children feel like they are in paradise having an adventure while putting adults at ease. Kids are made to feel comfortable throughout the entire property; but they are also kept busy and entertained to give adults some quiet space.
Carlisle Bay Kids Club is an indoor/outdoor, fully equipped, and air conditioned center that includes a shaded play terrace, jungle gym, pool and mini tennis courts for children ages six months to 12 years old. There is a younger age group and an older age group for kids club as well. A professional staff directs activities for all age levels from finger painting and treasure hunts, to song and dance activities and even tennis and hobie cat sailing lessons. The Kids Club is open all week from 8:30 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. and then again from 1:15 until 4:15 p.m. There is no charge for children over 2 years old. For children under 2 there is an hourly rate. Evening babysitter service is also available for a per hour fee.
The entertainment doesn't end in the Kids Club; there are children's movies shown daily in the screening room, a high-end deluxe Hollywood style movie screening room unique among Caribbean hotels. Mom and Dad are welcome to join in as well.
Complimentary sailing, kayaking, snorkelling, and windsurfing are included with your stay. Motorized water sports, like waterskiing and tubing take place at a nearby cove and require an additional fee. Scuba diving and deep sea fishing are available nearby.
Nine tennis courts, including one for children (which doubles as a basketball court) can be found no the property. Some of the courts even have lighting for night time matches.
Pool and Beach
Beautiful pools wind around the resort offering kids a great place to play and adults a nice place to relax on one of the many lounge chairs that surrounding the pools. The white sandy beach also beckons guests and offers plenty of lounge chairs and umbrellas, along with spectacular views.
Carlisle Bay has outstanding restaurants. There are plenty of options for child-friendly fare as well, including mac-n-cheese, hamburgers and hotdogs. Breakfast and lunch are included in room rates but dinner is extra. Afternoon tea is served daily between 4:30 and 5:30 p.m. and may be taken en suite, on the beach or poolside. The main dining area features a daily children's "high tea" which is an assortment of child-friendly fare. This treat for the kids enables them to eat at the same location as their parents do later on, but with a great kids' menu. This is ideal for nights when the parents want a night out alone and can leave kids with the babysitters.
East, which serves contemporary pan-Asian cuisine, features dramatic decor in an intimate indoor setting. East is open for dinner only and guests with children under 10 years old are asked to dine earlier in the evening.
Indigo offers tasty and healthy pastas, grilled meats and seafood, salads and a selection of local regional specialties like Caribbean Roti wraps.
This poolside restaurant serves Italian fare for lunch and dinner.
Bars and Adults Only
Carlisle Bay has great bars for late night chats and socializing with fellow travelers and an adults-only restaurant called The Jetty Grill.
Planning & Tips
All About the Extras
Kids at Carlisle Bay start getting pampered upon arrival with the gift of a complimentary robe.
Free Wi-Fi can be found within the guestrooms and suites.
Evening babysitter service is also available for a per hour fee.
Unexpectedly, one of the highlights of the resort has nothing to do with the beach. The Carlisle Bay library is a hit for young and old alike. Children flock to see the multicolored fiber optic lighting, and to use one of the three Internet stations, and adults love to take a break from the sun while sifting through the latest travel reading and a host of other art, history and pop culture tomes. It's been called "the funkiest library on earth" by the Financial Times.
A small onsite gift shop ensures that you don't need to stop at the touristy cruise ship dock stores in St. Johns. The gift shop has a small but fine assortment of clothing, swimwear and gift items from international designers.
The Art of Smart Timing
Carlisle Bay is closed between August 29 and mid-October. Antigua's weather is pretty stable year-round, so there really is no bad time to visit. May through August will offer you the best rates of the year, followed by a close second if you book October through December 10. Antigua, while not hurricane-proof, is fairly far south in the chain of Leeward Islands and has been able to avoid much hurricane damage.
It may only happen but once a year, but if you're really up for an adventure, Carlisle Bay is just a short ride to the English Harbour, the headquarters of Antigua Sailing Week, one of the most famous regattas in the Caribbean. Sailing week features some of the world's fastest and most beautiful yachts for racing but also ensures that English Harbour will be hopping with parties and restaurants packed with worldly sailors. If you miss sailing week in May, the Classic Yacht Regatta also attracts some of the worlds more beautiful boats.
The hotel is 30 minutes from the airport and the capital town of St. Johns, and 20 minutes from the must-see Nelson's Dockyard, a preserved colonial dockyard that was used by the Royal Navy in the 18th and 19th century, and English Harbour, one of the best spots in the Caribbean for yacht-spotting.
Carlisle Bay provides complimentary shuttle service from the hotel and cars are available for hire onsite. While Carlisle Bay's scenery is spectacular, if you want to see the rest of the island there's no better way to do it than by taking a day sail around the island on the Wadadli - or catamaran. Wadadli is the original name of the Antigua and the Wadadli company offers full island and half island sails.
For Mom and Dad
The Jetty Grill
For a ultimate romantic evening, book a private candlelit dinner on the jetty. Book early, there's a maximum of one table, so its utter privacy for a special night right on the ocean.
Carlisle Bay's spa is perhaps the best reason to consider taking advantage of private babysitting or kids' club services. The 17,000-square-foot spa includes a sauna, plunge pools, a hair salon, juice bar, a state of the art gym and personal trainers/private instructors available for yoga and pilates. If you've never tried yoga, you might want to take advantage of the outdoor yoga studio to try a private lesson.