With palms swaying softly over pink sand beaches, aquarium-like waters ripe for lazy exploration and a checklist of different rum cocktails to sip your way through, it's no surprise that Antigua is often touted as the Caribbean's ultimate beach destination - after all, it claims to have a different one for every day of the year.
For complete serenity and a total escape from the British winter, we look at some of the island's best options for restful views, relaxing spaces and getting away from it all in style...
We may be in the Caribbean, but it's the Asian-inspired simplicity of the luxury wooden cottages of Hermitage Bay which perfectly frames the postcard views of lush hillside and white sand beach below. All rooms come with the same understated interior elegance but the Hillside Cottage Suites, furthest up the slope, have the best views and private plunge pools. Perfect for honeymooners, loners and Zen Buddhists.
Plush colonial-style rooms full of pale linens, dark woods and muslin drapes lead out onto large verandas with day beds and dazzling views. Sugar Ridge's design and landscaping ensures complete privacy, but the buzz of the Caribbean is there if you want it - the sleek Sugar Club Lounge bar attracts a decent local following, while Carmichael's sea-facing restaurant perched high on a ridge is perfect for those making a toast to... well, anything really. A retreat for lovers, sunset-seekers and part-time barflies.
Cove Suites, Blue Waters
If your idea of luxurious isolation is a do-not-disturb sign and a wifi connection, Blue Water Resort's enormous Cove Suites will keep you wowed and wired at the same time. With ample space for elegant slumming (including vast bathrooms and spacious balconies) you'll barely need to leave your room, but the four freshwater infinity pools and a Water Lily Body Wrap in the Blue Waters spa might entice you away from your sanctuary. Ideal for pamper freaks, water babies and the shamelessly indulgent.
Galley Bay Resort & Spa
With more than 40 acres of tropical gardens, there's space for everyone at Galley Bay, so if being lulled to sleep by the waves is important to you, pick a beachfront suite with oversized beds, sunken living rooms and windows that open right out onto the beach. For a morning awakening by native birds or private plunge pool dips in the privacy of a lush lagoon, opt for a thatched Gauguin cottage for total solitude amongst the greenery. For fans of pared-down luxury, nature lovers and the eco-conscious.
Surrounded by rainforest, Carlisle Bay is something of an unexpected treat for fans of contemporary hotel interiors; much of the property feels very different to the standard Caribbean aesthetic. The subtly cool and classy rooms lack any hint of garishness in their design - not a palm-print curtain in sight - and the furnishings are simple, symmetrical and bold. Although the resort sits on a perfectly curved beach, this is the sort of place where you don't even mind if it rains all day. Just hunker down in the private movie screening room or eclectically-stocked library, or chill out in the Blue Spa with a freshly-squeezed thirst quencher from the juice bar. Perfect for minimalists, literature-lovers and bon vivants.
Virgin Atlantic operates twice-weekly flights to Antigua from London Gatwick - check the website for the latest fares. Hop on over to Virgin Holidays to book a complete winter sun holiday at Galley Bay Resort & Spa or Cove Suites, or Virgin Holidays+Hip Hotels for Carlisle Bay.
Header shot: Carlisle Bay © 2011 Leading Hotels
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About the author: MaxineMaxine Sheppard
Maxine is the editor of the Virgin Atlantic blog. Travel and music are her joint first loves, and despite having written for Virgin for more years than she cares to remember she still loves nothing more than jumping on a plane in search of new sights and new sounds.