“There are 365 beaches on Antigua, one for each day of the year and they are all the most beautiful in the world”. This is the first thing any local will tell you when you arrive in Antigua.
It takes you all of about 3 seconds to realise what they are talking about. Antigua is beautiful. Not just, quite nice for a winter break beautiful, but James Bond vacation beautiful, Jennifer Lopez music video beautiful, Cocktail starring Tom Cruise beautiful.
And this is absolutely evident at Hodges Bay Hotel.
On arrival, you can tell that the hotel is super new. It even smells new. Probably one of the most modern on the island, it is for the more stylish traveller that wants the Caribbean dream but with a little more refinement than some of the other more ornate hotels on the island.
So, what was my very first impression? The easiest way to convey it is to just show you to see for yourself. I took some simple pics of the very first 20 minutes of the hotel to capture my first views….
At the sunset, I was treated to one of the most magical skies I saw during my trip. It’s fair to say that almost every night brought a spectacular sunset, but seeing it from this angle, by the beach, with a chilled glass of rose and a fire pit? Unbeatable. But seriously, Look. At. It.
Hodges Bay has its very own private bay (…Hodges Bay) which is just for hotel guests and as it is indeed… in a bay, it means that the water is incredibly clear and calm and every bit as blue as your idyllic imagination would hope for…
They have a picture perfect pontoon which is incidentally a spectacular place to watch the sky change colour at Sunset and one of my favourite spots in the hotel.
Should you not like paradise views and find the beach a little too perfect, then they have a pretty beautiful swimming pool also with stylish cabanas that would make Palm Springs take notes.
It also comes complete with Ibiza style sun loungers in the pool. This really shows the modern style of this hotel with many of the other hotels on the island favouring rock pools or a more rustic feel. For me, this is EXACTLY the sort of pool I love.
The spa wasn’t quite finished when I visited, but it will offer an entire selection of treatments and a full massage menu.
In addition, one of the other perks to staying here is that it is a 4 minute direct boat ride to Prickly Pear Island. You may think you have seen an idyllic desert-island, but unless you’ve been here and stood on this 50m long island…(Yes, it is only 50m long) then you haven’t.
Go over there in the morning, have a couple of their cocktails or a light lunch and then head back before the 1pm sunburn central arrives. Because on 50 metres of 90% unshaded sandbank… you’ll probably arrive at that destination.
The difference between this and say Mauritius can be summed up in two words… “Island Life”. Now, this can mean many things. It can mean that your taxi may be 2 minutes or 15 minutes depending on whether the driver wants to stop for a snack en route… it can mean that the cocktails are at least 3x stronger than they would be anywhere else, but what it means to me, is that everything is relaxed, stress free and enjoyable.
This is most evident in the staff at Hodges Bay who I loved. They are not a barman or a beach-waitress… they are acquaintances who know your name, are so relaxed and personable that they give you a list of places that you should go out and come over to suggest that its “1pm… maybe we should get you that piña colada you liked yesterday”.
They laugh and interact and are familiar and easy-going without being unprofessional and that my friends… is no easy feat in a hotel.
For me, the food was the only aspect that could be improved.
Their lunches are light and perfect for beach-side dining. I know, pizzas and nachos aren’t exactly advised but if you’re going to adopt island life, you have to learn to chill out about carbs in a bikini.
I found myself a firm fan of their shrimp Caesar salad and hush puppies. An example of their familiarity was the fact that they always remembered that I like extra dressing and absolutely no croutons. A small thing, but shows attention to detail.
The fish dishes such as the local speciality Mahi-Mahi and fish tacos were very fresh.
However, there were issues such as the lack of hot plates to keep the breakfast buffet warm. I opted for omelettes (which were delicious) and Eggs Benedict, but if you wanted scrambled eggs, beans, bacon etc it was often not hot enough.
In addition, we had the West Indian buffet on one of the evenings and there just wasn’t enough option to qualify as a “buffet” with one main dish (chicken curry) and additional rice, vegetables and chicken wings, but they did have a pretty fantastic steel band who were super charming and entertaining.
That said, their upstairs restaurant which is more tapas style had some great dishes such as crab sushi, mini burger/sliders and some tempura prawns that were delicious.
I would love to see more tables upstairs for a tapas style actual dinner rather than light bites and they could probably turn it into an entirely separate Tapas restaurant. It would be a great place for dinner as the vibe was very lively.
They also have a fine dining restaurant; NaCL by Edward Lee which serves a great grilled beef selection and internationally inspired cuisine. Most uniquely they have a rum sommelier who will prepare samples each night.
There is one thing I am definitely a return fan of and that is a piña colada. It is probably about 17000 calories but theirs is absolutely delicious.
The thing that really surprised me was how good their wine and drinks selection was. It had 3 of my favourite wines but also, their spirits were absolutely premium. I always say, cheap drinks make cheap hangovers and so I appreciate a hotel that invests in very high end spirits and wines.
The rooms range from Beach side villas to pool-side rooms and are all very modern. Note: DEFINITELY go for the beach view as the sunsets/sunrises are beautiful.
The Luxury 4 bedroom beachfront penthouse villa (wow that is wordy) comes with not only what it says on the tin, but also… a private in-room chef is available to you. No big deal.
On checking out, one of the managers said… “we are a baby now… you should come back and stay to watch as we grow.” That was it! That is what I had been trying to articulate with my wordy analogy. You feel like part of it and more than just a customer.
This is the new Breed of Antigua hotels, for the younger, stylish traveller and one that values good cocktails. I have no doubt that soon, it will make a name for itself amongst the luxury travel set.
See you by the pool bar… Mine is a glass of AIX. xx
Hodges Bay: Sandy Lane , Hodges Bay St. John’s Antigua West Indies