Keen to fly away in the colder months for a blast of hot air? Get inspired by the tropical paradise of Antigua
Words: Damien Gabet
Where to stay
Adults only, all-inclusive Cocos Hotel was our choice. It comprises a collection of charming rustic buildings dotted over a palm-covered bluff that sits between two white-sand beaches.
Front and centre are the dark-wood decks that house the property’s newly refurbished, attractive reception and chill-out area, and its sizeable restaurant. All of them have knockout views across Lignum Vitae Bay to the verdant hills behind.
We were greeted at the former with an obligatory rum punch before taking to our simple – no TV, outdoor shower only – but elegant villa. It took all of 30 seconds to don holiday garb and slouch into the balcony’s hammock for an island-favourite Wadadli beer or two.
The simplicity of the place is one of its principal charms, allowing newlyweds to relax into lazy days on the beach: Cocos lays claim to a small corner of the attached Jolly Beach, creating a natural enclave for guests to quietly work through the beach bar’s cocktail list.
Pilates and yoga classes are offered once a week, but we favoured the less strenuous complimentary 30-minute couples massage. The spa, in fact, is being enlarged (as part of a resort-wide extension and refurbishment) to accommodate mani-pedis and the other pampering favourites.
What to do
We spent a day in a 4x4 touring the island with Pelican Safaris (booked through the hotel). It begins in capital St John’s, where you can spend time taking in the bustling Market Street.
The highlight of the tour, though, was English Harbour, where you’ll find Nelson’s Dockyard. It’s the only working Georgian dockyard in the world and so merits its Unesco World Heritage Site status. We were there for the 50th edition of Antigua Sailing Week and thus had the chance to ogle a serious array of beautiful vintage yachts.
A short ride away is the unmissable Shirley Heights. Once a fortified lookout for ships intent on invading Nelson’s Dockyard below, it’s now a place to take in the island’s best views. Every Sunday afternoon, the Look Out restaurant hosts a party with traditional beach-barbie food and a steel band playing well past sunset.
Where to eat
Among the island’s most romantic dining destinations, multi-decked Sheer Rocks sits on top of a low-lying cliff overlooking Ffryes Bay. It’s cleverly laid out to offer privacy and spectacular views from every table.
We’d had plenty of the local cuisine at Cocos so didn’t feel too guilty about heading to the other end of Valley Church beach to sample the Mediterranean menu of Simon Christey-French (ex-The Square). His seared king scallops and sticky pork belly was a highlight.
Those looking for a more authentic island experience should go to Dennis Cocktail Bar and Restaurant, where guests can choose the likes of saltfish, curried goat and johnny cakes (savoury cornmeal dumplings). We made it down after Sheer Rocks for drinks and some live Caribbean music.
When to go
Peak season is December to April when highs average 27°C. Prices drop and crowds thin from May until November. September is peak hurricane season.
Cocos Hotel has rooms from £412 a night (double occupancy), on a full-board basis, including alcohol. British Airways flies daily from London Gatwick and prices start from £518pp.
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