Jumby Bay Hotel Review, Antigua: A luxury hideaway on a former sugar plantation
To fully unwind on holiday, according to experts in these matters, takes eight days. That means you barely have time to unclench before you’re steeling yourself for a return to the daily grind. Thankfully, there are no such problems at Jumby Bay Island Resort.
With a reputation for discreet relaxation, this luxury hideaway off Antigua’s mainland knows how to plunge you into a state of restfulness almost immediately on arrival.
Step out of the international airport in the capital St John’s and within 15 mins you are on a boat transferring to Jumby Island. The resort lies just 4km from the mainland – so close, in fact, you could call it the world’s most salubrious airport departure lounge. This former sugar plantation is popular with the rich and famous and has recently undergone a major refurbishment by renowned Brazilian interior designer, Patricia Anastassiadis.
On arrival, we were greeted with a generously ratioed fruit rum punch, sipped on a veranda overlooking the white sand beach. A buggy then transported us to our accommodation, Dragonfly, one of 51 villas scattered about the island. The interior design is a paean to understated elegance and relaxed tropical style, its fresh white walls adorned with contemporary paintings by local artists. The architecture transitions seamlessly from interior to exterior: a courtyard leads into a gorgeous veranda that stretches towards an infinity pool and the Caribbean Sea beyond, while herons occasionally stalk the landscaped garden.
Each home comes with staff who are attentive without being cloying. The resort’s keyless policy eliminates those draining anxieties over your valuables, while the no-fly zone above the island ensures total privacy. Discretion is everything, and staff are infuriatingly tight-lipped about the celebrities who frequent Jumby. However, newspaper reports suggest Lionel Messi, Paul McCartney and Usher have stayed here.
The biggest headache is choosing how to spend your time. Caribbean cooking classes or paddle boarding? Private tennis lessons or gym workout with a personal trainer? Yoga or rum tasting? I opted for a sensational hot stone massage in the world-class spa.
Cars are banned, so you’ll be driving a buggy or riding a bicycle through the island’s manicured fields, where native sheep graze near the tree groves (“They were here before us so we show them a lot of respect,” says Jumby’s manager). The island’s commitment to nature is expressed through careful management of watersports to preserve the coral, plus a programme for protecting endangered Hawksbill turtles. There’s even an organic farm, home to red-footed tortoises and chickens, whose eggs are used by the chefs.
Among Jumby’s two restaurants is the beachfront’s renovated Italian-style eatery, The Veranda. Its extensive menu caters for every diet, from the conscientious to the disgraceful: my breakfast comprised baby pain au chocolats, Belgian waffles and fried plantain, washed down with a peanut butter chocolate yoghurt smoothie.
Read more: Trek across the ice fields of Finland on a Northern Lights tour
In the afternoon we hired a yacht and explored Antigua’s West coast. From my deck bed I spotted a nudist beach, Giorgio Armani’s house, goats clinging to cliffs dotted with 18th-century cannon, and a towering sugar mill once worked by slaves. We snorkelled in the shark-free waters before tucking into a Caesar salad back onboard.
Our final evening was spent at White Night, a weekly beach barbecue where guests are expected to dress in white. With a cocktail to my left and red wine to my right, I scoffed pork belly and mango cheesecake before joining the boat bound for the mainland.
The dejection of having to leave this paradise raised my heart rate for the first time since arriving at Jumby Bay. For all its brevity, this three-day jaunt actually felt more like eight days of relaxation.
Destinology offers a seven-night stay at Jumby Bay Island from £4,629pp, based on two sharing a Rondavel room on an all-inclusive basis and including return Virgin flights from Gatwick and private boat and car transfers. Visit destinology.co.uk or call 01204 474801