by Lisa Milbrand
You may need to bring your map along with you the first few times you wander through the sprawling St. James’s Resort & Spa — the 100-acre, 254-room, all-inclusive resort packs a lot on its curving paths, and it’s easy to get a little lost. But in this beautifully landscaped paradise, you’ll certainly enjoy the detour amongst swaying palms and bougainvillea.
This is a great location for an active family who loves the water, with six pools and two beaches to choose from, and plenty of boats and kayaks to borrow to get you out on the water, if you don’t want to be in it. The hotel’s onsite dive shop organizes daily excursions to tour local reefs and wrecks for snorkelers and scuba fans. And you’re a very short cab ride from historic Nelsons Dockyards and the grand views and Antigua’s legendary Sunday barbecue at Shirley Heights, so there’s plenty to entertain you off-property as well.
You’ll find a variety of accommodations, from spacious rooms just steps from the beach, to grand villas, perched high above the resort, where you can choose to take part in the all-inclusive dining or self-cater with the full kitchen and living room.
But despite all the hustle and bustle, there are plenty of places to chill out on a lounger and adjust to island time. If you’re looking for R&R, you may have come to the right place.
Our Editor Loves
- Loads of water fun
- Variety of family-friendly accommodations
- Close to top Antigua attractions
- All Inclusive Rates
- Water Sports
- Children Programs
- Connecting Rooms
- Family Room 5+
- Free Wi-Fi
- Game Room
- Kids' Pool
- Kids' Theme Meals
- Meal Plan
- Onsite Dining
Find the Best Price for Your Stay
Families have the option of staying in a guestroom or spacious villa. Royal suites are also available at the resort but they are located in the adults-only section of the resort. All of the rooms have cable TV and furnished terraces or balconies for enjoying the outdoors. In most of the guestrooms, you can ask for a rollaway bed for a nightly fee, or borrow a crib at no charge.
The guestrooms, decorated in shades of sand and blue, feature terra-cotta flooring, individually controlled air conditioning, a mini-fridge and a shower/tub combination. The rooms overlook either the hotel's gardens or are set along the beach. The rooms offer either a king bed or two double beds.
There are 40 two- and three-bedroom villas set into the hillside, which provide spacious options for larger families. The two-bedroom villas can accommodate up to five adults and two children, while the three-bedroom villas can hold up to five or six adults and two children. The villa features terra-cotta tile throughout, and a bright Caribbean color scheme. Downstairs you'll find a pair of big bedrooms -- one with a king-sized bed and one with a pair of twin beds. The master bathroom has a full bath and shower combo, and the kid's room has a shower, and both have sliding doors that head out onto tiled patios. Upstairs, you'll find a full kitchen and living room with a dining table -- and two sets of sliding glass doors, out to a verandah where you can enjoy the gorgeous bay view.
If you're traveling without the kids, the Royal Suites, tucked into a corner of the resort, offer cozy, couples-only accommodations overlooking Mamora Bay. They feature king-sized beds, his-and-hers showers and a deep soaking tub -- along with lovely balconies to take in the view.
by Wander L
This was meant to be a dream holiday paid for by my late Mother. Sadly it was anything but. The accommodation was sub-standard , it took all of our first day to get moved. The put-up bed was delapidated and not fit to sleep on. The nicest restaurant was occasionally closed due to low occupancy and meals were served in the breakfast area which was canteen-like. The service overall was very slow,. It wasn't unusual to wait an hour for food. One waitress tutted when I asked to be seated saying "alright alright I'm coming.." She had a row with another guest who objected to her manner. This was not an isolated incident. The bars serve anyone who looks old enough with no procedures in place of checking to see if they are of legal age. My daughter was slapped in the face by a 16 year old boy she'd never met before who who was clearly drunk and not supervised by an adult. we witnessed teenagers being given drinks despite being underage. . The night club was supposed to be adults only but allowed children in, albeit with parents. The coffee shop closes at 11 and this became the hang out for a group of rowdy, unsupervised kids of an evening. Sadly this was one of the few places to get half decent wifi. I am taking all this up with Virgin. I'm sure this will get a very polite response assuring readers that these matters are isolated incidents and have been observed and improved on but we all know that's a standard way of trying to protect their hotel's reputation.
by Keith V
One of my favourite hotels in the Elite Islands resort group. A really good 4* hotel with very friendly staff. We have been there many times and eventually bought a timeshare as many do because it just feels like home. Watersports and fishing are good if you like that kind of thing which I do. Lots to join in with during the day if you like that kind of thing but no pressure of you don't. Mainly British American and Canadian visitors as one would expect.
The St. James's Club probably isn't your ideal getaway if you don't like the water, as most of the activities revolve around the beach or the pool.
The hotel has two beaches: Mamora Bay and Coco's Beach. You'll probably find yourself spending your time at Mamora Bay, the calmer bay side of the property, which offers a roped-off area for swimming and renting kayaks, paddle boards, pedal boats, Hobie sailboats and snorkel gear. Unfortunately, there isn't much to see snorkeling-wise in the somewhat cloudy waters right off the resort -- but you'll find small shells on the beach for your little ones. You'll find plenty of lounge chairs and thatched-roof umbrellas, too.
Coco's Beach is on the blustery Atlantic side, so the water's much choppier and windswept, but strong swimmers could check out the reefs several yards off of the beach. Fewer people frequent this beach, so it's perfect if you want to get away from it all and lounge. Each beach has at least one bar and a grill where you can get burgers, snacks and other casual eats. You'll also find a small range of vendor booths on the bay side, where you can buy souvenirs and kids can get their hair braided -- though that can encourage some whining.
If that's not enough water for you, you can take your pick of six pools. The massive main pool is just off the hotel lobby, and is large enough for laps (if it isn't too crowded). There's a pair of adult pools -- one near the Royal Suites, the couples'-only room category, and another near the two-bedroom villas at the top of the resort. The Coco's Beach pool, located near the restaurant and the beach, is one of the more underutilized pools, and the perfect place to have a little time to yourself. The hotel's kid's pool is a secluded spot near the top of the property -- there's a small, hot tub-sized baby pool that's only 1.5 feet deep, and a larger 3-foot pool in this area. But beach towels aren't stocked at all the pools. You'll have to head to Mamora Bay beach, the main pool, or the Coco's Beach restaurant to pick them up -- though a cart comes around at regular intervals to bring drinks. None of the pools have a lifeguard.
The resort's onsite Kidz Club offers free fun for kids ages 2 to 12. But keep in mind, your kids have to be potty trained if you want to leave them with the caretakers. It's open from 9:15 a.m. to 11 p.m. every day during peak season, and 9:30 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. during the off-season. The toys at the club skew toward the younger end of the age range, but the caretakers arrange activities and classes that can suit the older set. Parents can also choose a kids' meal for lunch or dinner each day that your child can enjoy while at the Kids' Club. Teenagers can get together at their own beachside hangout, a covered tent equipped with pool tables, karaoke and other activities.
Recreation and Activities
If your family's feeling waterlogged, there are other activities to try on the resort. You'll find four hard tennis courts that are lit for nighttime play, and a small movie theater that shows kid-movie matinees and other family-friendly options, such as the Harry Potter movies and Disney animated flicks. There's a ton of daily activities, including an array of fitness classes, cooking classes and crafts. It's a nice alternative if you're looking to get out of the sun for a bit.
The St. James's Club has four eateries and four bars spread throughout the resort, so you're never too far from a meal or a cold drink. You can eat when and where you wish for breakfast and lunch, but you'll need to make arrangements for dinner a day in advance if you want to try one of the a la carte options. Call or stop by the concierge early in the day if you want to get a primo reservation.
The main eatery, Rainbow Garden, offers buffet-style dining for breakfast and lunch in an airy room that opens onto the main pool, with an a la carte menu at dinner. The breakfast offers a made-to-order omelet and waffle station (the waffles are especially divine), and the typical breakfast fare -- from fruit and yogurt to an array of breakfast meats. The later meals often have a bit of Caribbean flavor to them. Service can be a little slow at this restaurant -- even for breakfast beverages.
Docksider is the hotel's buffet restaurant, set along tranquil Mamora Bay, featuring a different theme and entertainment every night. The buffets offered a very limited array of dishes compared to other resort's buffets, but there is still something there to please everyone in your party.
Piccolo Mondo offers gorgeous views of Mamora Bay from its open-air setting on the hillside, and it's a beautiful, romantic eatery, where you can score high-end Mediterranean-Caribbean fare -- including amazing pasta and Antiguan lobster. You'll pay $35 per person over the all-inclusive rate to eat here, but it's a real standout, and well worth the price for the service, atmosphere and food. There is no kid's menu here, so you may want to make this an adults-only affair (though kids who go are definitely welcomed with open arms).
Coco's Restaurant and Bar
Coco's Restaurant and Bar is perched high above Coco's Beach, and serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. The restaurant's simple, yet tasty fare includes things like sandwiches, burgers and salads. It's relatively quiet and kid-friendly, and even offers ice cream cones, if you ask.
The hotel also offers room service if you'd rather relax in your room, featuring everything from sandwiches to fancier entrees. Keep in mind, however, that it's not included in the all-inclusive rate.
Planning & Tips
All About the Extras
The St. James's Club welcomes you with lemonade and champagne, which you can enjoy while completing your check-in. As Americans, you may find yourselves in the minority among the guests. Antigua definitely seems to be more popular with British and Canadian tourists than Americans.
Keep in mind that Antigua's a bit more formal -- don't expect to wear flip-flops, T-shirts or bathing suits to dinner. If you're planning to hit Piccolo Mondo, guys need collared shirts and dress pants and shoes, and women will want to wear a dressy outfit with nice sandals.
If you have babies or want to head out kid-free outside the Kidz Club hours, the hotel can arrange babysitting for an additional fee. You'll need to set up a sitter with the concierge at least 24 hours in advance.
The hotel's fitness center is small and has basic equipment -- treadmills, stationary bikes and weight equipment. But the resort also offers an array of daily fitness classes, so you may want to skip the gym and try a new class instead.
If you want Wi-Fi, you'll need to pay $10 per day for in-room access, or hit the Internet for free in the lobby.
The Art of Smart Timing
The hotel, like most of the Caribbean, hits its peak season when the weather's miserable in the northern regions of the world -- December through April -- which is when prices and popularity are on the rise -- you'll pay at least $100 more per night at peak times. Hurricane season -- May through November -- offers cheaper rates, but you will have to watch the weather forecasts, and perhaps take out some travel insurance, just in case.
Most guests get to Antigua via V.C. Bird Airport, which is about a half-hour drive away from St. James's Club. The resort doesn't offer a shuttle, so you'll need to pick up a taxi or rent a car to get there. The Antiguan government offers set rates for taxi rides.
The mammoth 100-acre resort is sprawled on a hillside, which can be a problem for families with young kids or other mobility issues. You can call for a golf cart to help get you around, but many of the eateries and some of the accommodations have stairs that are difficult to negotiate -- a stroller could be helpful.
For Mom and Dad
If you've dropped your kids off at the free Kidz Club -- or scored babysitting -- there's plenty to do without them.
A highlight would be a visit to the Tranquility Salon and Spa, a gorgeous spa, perched high above the resort, with one open-air, curtained room and spectacular bay views that are perfect for a couple's massage -- or another facial, massage or body treatment in one of the other rooms.
There are two gorgeous adults-only pools, one tucked away up near the villas, another over by the Royal Suites, where you can chill out with a book or take a quiet swim.
Sneak away to one of the hotel's bars for a kid-free cocktail. You can enjoy the outdoors with a cocktail at Piccolo Mondo or the Mamora Bay Bar, or head to the Jacaranda Lounge, the hotel's nightclub.