by Lisa Milbrand
The eco-friendly Verandah Resort and Spa sprawls over a hillside in a primo location near two of Antigua’s gems: Devil’s Bridge and the stellar Long Bay Beach. Built in 2007, it’s an idyllic cottage colony, with 180 rooms in white- and mint-hued villas, sprinkled amidst hibiscus and palm trees.
The Verandah was designed using indigenous materials to build the property and harnessing the tropical sun to heat the water and power most of the resort. That’s earned the Verandah several key environmental awards — and made it a less-guilty pleasure for eco-minded tourists.
You probably don’t want to come to the Verandah (or Antigua, for that matter) if you don’t love the water, because Verandah offers plenty of it: There’s two cozy powder-soft beaches on calm coves, and a choice of four fabulous pools to lounge around. The resort is small enough that you feel like the staff and fellow guests get to know you pretty quickly, but large enough to be able to offer four eateries and an array of activities to keep even the most active families entertained. And active you’ll need to be if you want to traverse the 30-acre property, which ranges over some pretty steep hills. Golf carts can zoom you around, but it’s often faster to just hoof it.
It’s the perfect getaway for families looking for a combination of R&R and action, as there’s plenty of both to be had at this resort.
Our Editor Loves
- Charming, laid-back vibe
- Variety of water activities
- Located near top Antigua attractions
- All Inclusive Rates
- Water Sports
- Children Programs
- Connecting Rooms
- Family Room 5+
- Game Room
- Kids' Pool
- Kids' Theme Meals
- Meal Plan
- Onsite Dining
Rooms & Rates
The suites and villas at the Verandah are housed in charming little white and pale-green cottages, scattered along the hillside.
Most of the resort's 180 rooms fall into the suite category, a generously sized, airy 700-square-foot room, with tiled floors and bamboo furniture. The rooms feature a king sized bed and a comfortable pullout queen sized bed where the kids can sleep. There's no door between the two areas though, so don't expect a lot of privacy. The bathrooms offer a full shower and bathtub, great for scrubbing the sand off of your kids. Keep in mind that the solar-heated water seems to run low pretty quickly, so lukewarm showers are the general rule. The suites have a small kitchenette with a refrigerator and microwave, but the best part is the small verandah outside the sliding glass doors, which offers great views of either the hillside and gardens or the bright aqua cove. Consider requesting one of the waterfront suites, which are nicely located close to the pool and restaurants and the main beach.
The six two-bedroom villas offer two separate bedrooms, each with their own bathroom. The room with the king-sized bed has an en-suite bathroom with a shower stall, while the room with a pair of twin beds has a shower and tub combo. The villas also include a spacious living area with a full kitchen, dining room table and queen sleeper sofa. You can fit six people per villa. And the villas have their own pool right outside their doors.
In both room categories, if the queen sleeper doesn't work for your kids, you can ask for a rollaway bed for $20 a night, or borrow a crib at no charge.
Like many, many others who visit this and other 'Elite Islands Resorts' we purchased this vacation via a charity auction winning. We generally enjoy taking vacations through charity auction events and although the auction information highlighted that there would be a daily resort fee, we had never experienced the type of exorbitant expense post-auction for acquiring a room as we had at the Verandah. At auction, we happily bid the value of the package presented in the information, but we ended up spending 3 times what we bid at auction in order to bring our family to this resort!!! We learned by speaking with a number of other guests at the Verandah that they, too, outspent their auction 'winning' by several fold in order to claim their auction prize. Clearly this resort uses 'charitable auctions' as a marketing strategy for filling their rooms at what would appear to be little expense to them. I don't know the regulations concerning charitable deductions but this seems to be ethically questionable and unlike other all-inclusive resorts who donate actual vacations to non-profit organizations.
About the room: We brought our family of 5 over Thanksgiving to the verandah and stayed in a family villa. The 2 bedroom, 2 bath villa was very spacious and we were comfortable. The toiletry amenities were pleasant. The air conditioning worked well. The key-based room safe was frustrating to use (difficult to open and then minding the key while out was annoying - the front desk will not check your key when you go out for the day.) The surfaces of the villa were clean, but the floor was filthy and remained dirty during our entire stay (your feet will turn black if you walk barefoot in the villa). The beds were comfortable, the pillows were not. Our villa frequently did not have hot water. When the hot water went out, we would tell the front the desk and they would send someone to repair it, but all told, in the course of a week, I had 3 hot showers and the rest were cold. The TVs in the villa did not work but they did send someone to repair them when requested. The doors to the patio were difficult to open. The furniture was old and the knobs on the night stands broken so drawers were difficult to open - so a bit run down over all.
The resort facilities: When we attended over Thanksgiving, there were so few other guests that we felt as though we had the resort to ourselves. There was no wait for tables at the main restaurant and almost no lines at the buffets. We were able to find choice seating at the pools and beaches at all times and had prompt service at all the bars. Even with the deserted atmosphere, towels at the beach and pool were occasionally difficult to get. As others mentioned, there was no chair-side service at the pool or beaches. Even with bussing tables - you're on your own to clean up the used glassware. The beaches are absolutely lovely: Shaded, treed, quiet, peaceful. We participated in few of the planned beach/pool activities. We did take a dance lesson at the main pool - just the 2 of us - it lasted 15 minutes. We did enjoy the miniature golf and the table tennis near the miniature golf. But the games in the activity center were unusable because of a lack of balls/paddles/equipment. We took a few Tennis lessons during our stay. The tennis pro was not always willing to give a lesson, so we were at his whim (example, if we took the 7:30 am lesson, he refused to then give us a 9:30 lesson even though we were the only ones who showed up.) We are an active family and did not mind the walking throughout the resort. In fact, we appreciated the layout and beautiful grounds. It was easy to catch a ride when needed. The twice daily spraying of the grounds kept the mosquitoes down to essentially nothing - but we were mindful to try to stay indoors during the spray times (just before dawn and dusk.) The company is building a new, adults-only resort on the other side of the main beach. The work was not disruptive of our enjoyment at the beach, but we were left wondering if once the new resort was finished, if it would drive crowds up during peak times and affect overall enjoyment of the peaceful feeling at the Verandah. The kids weren't crazy about the kids club. The staff was friendly but they were generally the only ones there so they found it a little bit boring. It was a nice feature to have for the adults. We did get some very nice massages at the spa - due to the low numbers at the resort, they offered a 50% sale, which made for a good value.
The food: The food at the main restaurant was generally palatable and offered enough variety that we were satisfied throughout our stay. We did not care for the the 'Asian' food theme night fare (we are used to different flavors of 'Asian' style food.) But the managers pool BBQ was fun and tasty. We sampled all the restaurants. The service at the restaurants was painfully slow (we were the first ones seated at 6:30 and 2 hours later, we were still waiting for our entree - very hard on the kids.) We went on a date night to Nicoles and felt the extra fee was worth the money as we thought the food and service were appreciably better. We are not big drinkers but we did enjoy an occasional cocktail by the pool/beach and found them to be enjoyable. The coffees/espresso drinks were very good.
The staff/excursions: There are a number of other postings regarding the resort staff. I can say unequivocally that the staff at this resort is one of the best features of this place. They are very friendly and super eager to make the guests happy. We took advantage of 2 excursions: the calypso cat 1/2 day snorkel (pretty sad reef but we the crew was awesome and we had fun anyway) and the 2 hour swim with the sting rays (creepy but fun - also really friendly staff). Definitely worth it to go take a look at Devils bridge, which is right near the resort. Also, we took a short taxi ride to the donkey sanctuary/animal shelter and enjoyed spending an hour with the animals there and learning about their work.
The final verdict: While we enjoyed many things about this resort, we are not sure that we would return. We were left with a bit of a sour feeling regarding the expense of our winning from the charity auction and we were perplexed that rather than investing in the facilities and enjoyment of their existing resort, the management chose to build an entirely new resort right next door while letting the Veranda crumble a bit. If we were to go back, we would probably choose Thanksgiving week again as the space/privacy of the underpopulated resort was especially pleasant.
Just back from our second stay at the Veranda and it was even better than our first trip almost 3 years ago. Love the location, food, hospitality, water sports, and the natural beauty. The spacious, clean, well appointed suites have gorgeous views and comfortable beds.
Most of the Verandah's activities offerings revolve around the water. The resort's two tiny beaches have powder-soft sand and plenty of thatched-roof umbrellas for shade, and shallow, gentle waters that are perfect for even the smallest children.
The water sports beach, where you can borrow kayaks, paddle boards, pedal boats, Hobie sailboats and snorkel gear, is the more popular spot. It is down a pretty steep stone staircase, making it a little trickier to navigate with small kids, and the resort is fighting a losing battle with red seaweed, which keeps clumping in the shallows. It's harmless, but some kids were freaked out by it during our stay. Up the stairs from the beach is a charming, shaded grill and bar, where you can get great burgers, salads and plenty of cold drinks and enjoy the view. Even during the busiest season, there was never a shortage of lounge chairs or equipment.
The other beach offers beach volleyball games and a smaller bar. It tends to be more popular with the teen and adult contingent, though kids still play in the (seaweed-free!) shallows.
But for a picture-perfect crystalline Caribbean beach, you need to head just a three-minute walk off the property to nearby Long Bay Beach, which offers excellent snorkeling along the right side, just steps off the white powder beach. Swipe a roll from the resort's breakfast buffet and let your kids toss crumbs to some of the pretty fish near the rocks.
The Verandah has four pools -- a mammoth main pool near the main restaurant complex, a kid's pool near the hotel's Kidz Club, a secluded adults-only pool near the beach volleyball beach and a smaller pool near the family suites. Most of the activity surrounds the main pool, which is between 3 and 4 feet deep, and has a nearby bar, shaded seating, and a pretty water fountain at the center. None of the pools are staffed by lifeguards.
The resort's onsite Kidz Club offers free fun for kids ages 2 to 12, though, keep in mind that your kids have to be potty trained to go here. It's open from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day during peak season, with shorter hours during the off-season. The toys at the club skew toward the younger end of the age spectrum, but the caretakers arrange activities and classes that can suit the older set. You can also arrange for your kids to have a kid-friendly meal delivered to the Club, if you're planning for a fancy dinner out at the hotel's swank eatery, Nicole's.
Recreation and Activities
If your family's feeling waterlogged, there are other activities to try at the resort. There's a pair of tennis courts, a cute 18-hole mini-golf course and a playground. The Pirate's Den, which is billed as the "teen hangout," offers billiards, foosball and Ping-Pong tables -- not just for teens only. And the hotel has a roster of daily activities, including fitness classes, hikes, games and entertainment like steel drum bands and fire-eaters to keep everyone occupied.
The Verandah has four eateries on property, along with two bars that offer plenty of frozen cocktails and mocktails. Three of the eateries are contained in the building adjacent to the main pool, while the remaining eatery is closer to the water sports beach.
The main eatery, Seabreeze, offers buffet-style dining for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The breakfast offers the usual -- a made-to-order omelet station, fresh fruit, yogurt, cereal, baked goods, breakfast meats, and waffles and pancakes. The food often has a bit of British flavor (Antigua is still part of the Commonwealth), so expect stewed tomatoes, beans and some other English breakfast fare amongst the offerings. The dinner buffets are usually themed -- everything from barbecue to Caribbean and Asian. While the menus don't exactly cater to kids, there's usually something on the buffet that kids will like, such as macaroni and cheese or barbecued chicken.
Buccaneer is the kid-friendlier a la carte restaurant, right next to the main eatery. The adult menu offers tasty Caribbean fusion cuisine, while the kid's menu features the typical chicken fingers, pizza, pasta and grilled cheese. You'll need to make reservations the day before in order to eat there. Call first thing in the morning or stop by the tour desk on your way to breakfast to ensure you get early seating. Afternoon tea is also served here from 3 to 5 p.m. each day.
The hotel's top-notch eatery is Nicole's, a cozy, romantic spot, where you can have high-end Caribbean fusion cuisine. You'll pay a $40 surcharge to eat there, but it's worth it for the top-notch service and amazing Antiguan lobster and steak. Dress is elegant, so long pants, dress shirts, skirts or dresses are encouraged. You can bring kids, but they don't offer a kid's menu, and eating here may be the perfect opportunity to take advantage of the Kidz Club.
Wadadli Snack Shack
The Wadadli Snack Shack, located above the water sports beach, offers casual snacks -- there are cookies and nachos out for the grabbing, or you can order burgers, sandwiches and salads.
Planning & Tips
All About the Extras
The Verandah welcomes you with lemonade and champagne, which you can enjoy while you're 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 Nicole's, guys need collared shirts and dress pants and shoes and women will want a dressy outfit with sandals.
If you want Wi-Fi, you'll need to pay $9.99 per day for in-room access, or hit the Internet for free at the main pool area or lobby.
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 front desk at least 24 hours in advance.
The hotel's fitness center has basic equipment -- treadmills and stationary bikes. But the resort also offers daily fitness classes, from power walks around the resort to yoga by the pool, so you may want to skip the gym and take your workout on the road.
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 -- 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 The Verandah. 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 resort is a bit sprawling, with lots of rolling hills. If you have little kids, consider packing along a stroller to make transporting them around the property a little easier. You can also hop on one of the golf carts that scoot around the resort to help you get from point A to point B.
For Mom and Dad
Thanks to the Verandah's free Kidz Club, it's pretty easy to sneak away without the kids. And there's plenty to do when it's just the two of you.
The Tranquility Salon and Spa, set in a quiet alcove a short walk from the main pool, allows you to indulge in the usual array of massages, facials, scrubs and wraps.
You can relax by the hotel's adults-only pool, a little hideaway with a waterfall that is usually delightfully empty, or sneak away and head to one of the hotel's three bars for a kid-free cocktail before (or after) dinner at Nicole's. You won't find too much nightlife here -- the party ends at midnight, when the main bar closes.