Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Sailed off to Antigua, it took her 3 days on the boat...
Ok, so we actually went via plane, and it took more like 4 hours than 3 days, but I could not resist this line from one of my very favorite Jimmy Buffett songs! For our 7th wedding anniversary this April, my husband and I spent a week on the Caribbean island of Antigua, a sandy paradise dusted with more than a touch of British influence.
We spent 3 nights at Cocobay Resort and 4 at Galley Bay, two fairly different properties, but each of which has its own special qualities. We enjoyed our time at both resorts, though Galley Bay is far and away more luxurious overall and the only one of the two I would recommend to almost anyone without hesitation.
Check-in at Cocobay was a bit slow, but the front desk service was very friendly, and when we mentioned that it was out anniversary, they arranged for a complimentary bottle of champagne on ice to be sent to our room. We stayed in Loblolly Cay, one of the resort's Seafront Cottages. Most of the cottages are detached units, but Loblolly does share a high bamboo fence with another unit. However, we still thought it was the best location on property, and would have been our first choice if we'd had every cottage to choose from!
The interiors of the cottages are pretty simple, but comfortable and clean and certainly adequate considering how little time most people actually spend inside the room. Because why would you spend a minute more than necessary indoors when you can be outside enjoying this!?
Each morning and afternoon we were visited by dozens of these tiny birds - the more audacious one would fly into our room and try to steal sugar packets from the coffee service. Cute lizards were also frequent guests on our porch.
The resort grounds are also gorgeous, perfectly tropical, charming, and well maintained without being overly polished. The main resort pool is lovely and was never super-crowded, likely because so many guests do have their own plunge pools. (Note: we were there during low season, so it may be a bit more difficult to find space during high season.)
Service was pretty iffy, though as we found to be the case throughout Antigua, the Antiguan men seem to be more friendly and welcoming to tourists than are the Antiguan women. Breakfast at Cocobay is a buffet, with a made-or-order egg station, cereals, fruit, yogurt, meats and cheeses, and lots of fresh breads and pastries. I was very excited to see that unlike just about anywhere in the world outside the US, the bacon on offer was actually super crispy (is there anything more vile than undercooked bacon?). The blueberry muffins and banana bread are super yummy as well.
Unfortunately, lunch was...not exactly good. In fairness, it was not awful either, but I found the options to be way too limited and somewhat odd for a tropical resort. There was heavily sauced fish, some kind of mystery meat, mashed potatoes, rice, salad, and pasta with a tuna sauce. Maybe it's just me, but I prefer lighter, more local fare after a morning on the beach! We only ate lunch there one day, as we got in too late the first afternoon and were off property our last day, but I don't believe the menu varies much from day to day.
Dinner was ok. Again, not awful, but not great. This is definitely not a resort you go to for the food! The first night Bob and I both paid the surcharge (I believe it was $15-$20 per person) for the whole grilled lobster. Worth it? Yes, but only because I'm a lobster fiend! They are great about keeping guests' wineglasses refilled, which is always a plus!
The other drinks at the resort were uniformly bad. One beer choice, lukewarm from a tap, and I think I had two tasty mixed drinks the whole three days. The pina coladas were pretty good (made from a mix, and usually not available until early afternoon), and I had a good rum punch one day, but overall was a little surprised at the consistency of poor bartending (and let's be honest, I am not super-picky about alcoholic beverages). One tip - we brought insulated tumblers, and were so glad we did, as the cups at the bar are about half the size of a solo cup (yes, I do realize that I just complained that not only were the drinks bad,
they give you so little of them at a time. Still, beggars can't be choosers)!The resort did send over a bottle of champagne on ice in honor of our anniversary, which was a nice touch.
The resort is flanked by two beaches, both gorgeous. To the left of the resort is the main beach, where you'll find most of the beach chairs and the majority of beachgoers. All beaches in Antigua are public, and this is a popular island beach for both Cocobay guests and local Antiguans, but it never felt crowded. The long stretch of white sand is perfect for beach walks, and I loved the number and variety of shells here!
On the other side of the resort is Ffreyes beach, which is just as beautiful and generally almost deserted. You do have to navigate over some rocks and around some overhanging foliage to get here, but it's very worth it (I do recommend walking over and back during low tide, though)!
Overall, I'd recommend Cocobay for a short stay for those who don't mind things being a little rustic and for whom a beautiful view and private plunge pool (I would not stay here if that room category was not available)are much more important than food and service quality. For the price (much lower than most other all-inclusives in Antigua), I think it was a reasonable value, but not a great deal, even during low season. Three nights was perfect - I would not have minded one more full day swinging in my hammock and splashing in the plunge pool with that to-die-for view, but by the time we left we were certainly looking forward to an upgrade in food, drink, and service quality!