But a few hour’s flight from Miami, the small Caribbean nation of Antigua and Barbuda offers a magnificent property called Blue Waters Resort and Spa. There are less than 100,000 people on the island of Antigua; everyone seemingly knows everyone else. It’s that level of familiarity that contributes to the world-class level of hospitality at this charming and luxurious five-star resort in the heart of paradise.

Blue Waters Resort

One of Blue Waters’ advantages is being so close to the airport in Saint John’s. Direct flights from the U.S. mainland to Saint John’s are possible from New York, Charlotte, Miami, and Atlanta, offering a relatively quick sojourn to paradise. In addition to people coming here from afar, staff members also hail from all over the region thanks to an agreement among the islands that allows workers to move between the various nations of the Caribbean easily.

In addition to traditional rooms, guests can also rent cottages of anywhere from three to six bedrooms — making for an even more luxurious group experience. Childcare and nannying services are available for those traveling with families, allowing parents to unwind in paradise while the little ones play supervised. There’s a meal plan for every conceivable desire. The options for opulent, personalized dining are multifaceted indeed, and even more suites for group vacations are due in the years to come. 

Blue waters suite

You are greeted warmly at the main entrance and, because it is so warm, are handed over a refreshing glass of passion fruit served with a splash of club soda. While sipping the cold glass, you turn toward the sea and take in the view of the private harbor abutting the property, where visitors laze in easy chairs with drinks of their own.

Guest rooms come with fully stocked refrigerators of Carib — a beer from Trinidad and Tobago that is easy-drinking — and a welcome addition to this paradisiacal home away from home. If that’s not quite to your fancy, rum and other hard liquors are also on offer. A private porch out back is only feet from the heated pool, which is shared with other guests at the villa. 

Rum has been distilled in Antigua for hundreds of years, and Blue Waters specializes in on-site rum tours, which are equal parts history lessons and taste tours of one of the Caribbean’s most delectable products. Staff will explain how sugarcane juice is turned into molasses and later distilled into white rum. From there it can be aged in barrels to give it that distinct brown color — the French style is three years, the English five. VIP sampling runs the gamut from smooth all the way up to that good burn on such offerings as the Guyana El Dorado distilled from molasses in the English style.

The angel’s share — the liquor that evaporates inside the barrel house —is greater in the tropics. The good news is that, unlike in, say, Scotland, the booze needs less aging thanks to all that heat and humidity. The distilleries also shut down for six to eight weeks per year to clean out the tanks. (And, in case it’s ever on “Final Jeopardy”, molasses, which isn’t native to the island, is actually imported from Panama. Also, for more trivia, at one time there were 109 sugar mills in Antigua.) 

Dining at Blue Waters is an experience to be savored. At The Cove, an eatery with the sounds of splashing waves and chirping crickets providing a delightful sonic backdrop, a craft cocktail program is much in evidence. There’s the El Niño, a concoction of jalapeno-infused tequila, pineapple, lime juice, and coriander, and the Sun Kissed Spritz, featuring Aperol, cucumber vodka, watermelon, fresh lemon juice, elderflower and cucumber tonic. Appetizers to choose from include such treasures as the Asian tuna tartare and the fried lobster tail. For entrees, you could do worse than the seafood medley and the sirloin steak, which pair exquisitely with a Mâcon-Lugny “Les Genièvres” and a 2020 Louis Latour Valmoissine. An amuse bouche of honey, melon, and prosciutto with honey tomatoes provides a fine palate cleanser before dessert of chocolate mousse and carrot ice cream with Antiguan black pineapple. 

Island time is indeed a phenomenon — if not one proven by science, then certainly to be studied. But that’s not true when it comes to breakfast at The Palm where, thanks to the many English visitors to this island, is busy even at 8 am. A cold station is amply filled with fruit, waffles, and pancakes with all manner of topics from strawberries to chocolate. You can also try the Antiguan breakfast, entailing saltfish, fried dumplings, and fried plantain. Other full-plated breakfast options include the smoked salmon and eggs, the breakfast burrito, and the blueberry/strawberry smoothie. 

Post-meal constitutionals are never a bad idea on the island. Staff provide walks through the well-maintained grounds, pointing out local coconuts, which are actually not native to the region and are treated with antibiotics to help them fight off the invasive Florida beetle.

blue waters food

The Palm also hosts the occasional cooking demonstration with Chef Michael of Barbados and Assistant Chef Alexis from Guyana, who specialize in from-scratch specialties such as Roti Caribbean curry and Caribbean wraps. Chef Michael, who has cooked at Blue Waters for over three years, studied under Michel Roux at La Gavroche in London, and describes learning under Roux as a “great experience and training.” You can watch as, using local ingredients, he and Alexis fashion octopus carpaccio, slow-cooked for four hours with garlic, ginger, and lemon, frozen overnight and then sliced thinly, and chicken curry paired with a sauce of lemongrass, ginger, cumin, and vegetables, with coconut and stock added at the end and served over fresh rice. This type of personalized taste sensation can only be fully appreciated in person at The Palm’s bar, with the smell of the ocean emanating not far behind you. 

And it’s best not to ignore that call to the beach. Chairs set up at Blue Waters’ gentle waterfront beckon, and as this resort attracts a large English clientele, it’s best to get the jump on them early in the day. From the shore, depending on your comfort level of swimming, you can breaststroke out to anchored pontoons. For landlubbers, there are also relaxing pools from which to sip and enjoy the views of the seemingly limitless oceanic horizons. 

Other dining options at Blue Waters include the “poolside casual” restaurant The Reef, where you can kick off your culinary journey with homemade focaccia bread. Succulent appetizers include seafood and apple guacamole served with micro greens, with a delectable yellowfin tuna entree served with fat fries (or, for all the visiting Brits, “chips”). The Reef’s mixologist offers up such cocktails as a frozen dark and stormy as a counterpoint to the humidity. For even greater indulgence, the dessert buffet offers a sumptuous selection of cheeses, chocolates, cookies, lemon mousse, and more. 

Caribbean Dining Waterfront

If the goal for your trip is to burn as well as ingest calories, Blue Waters also offers kayaking tours to nearby quiet coves. As with any nature excursion, wildlife makes itself evident if you are observant and patient. The waters of Antigua are typically placid, but it is nonetheless a good workout paddling to the cove and back to the resort. Sunscreen and fresh water are a must. 

If even more adrenaline is your desire, Blue Waters offers speedboat trips to Monterey Bird Island to observe aviary life and anchor next to a coral reef. Get your flippers and goggles ready for a leisurely swim to gaze down at the magnificent reefs below where all manner of aquatic creatures make their home. Guides can also take you around to view select beachfront properties around the island and peek at where the well-heeled make their nests. 

For some truly impressive house envy, you can go off-campus to Shirley Heights, where you can gaze down at a mountaintop villa where rocker Eric Clapton unwinds when not on the road. Sunset views from Shirley Heights are inspiring, though far from private as tourists flock here to enjoy the steel drum band playing next to the abandoned English fort, as cocktails and vistas of the sun bid the world good evening for another day. 

If you have time for one more meal before heading back to “real” life, The Palm is open until a “reasonable” island time (reservations strongly recommended). Other potential meals include the kale and prosciutto salad with pickled fennel. You can’t go wrong with the grilled sirloin steak and seared duck breast entrees complemented by freshly mixed reef and citrus martinis. Live music featuring yet more steel drum action at a gazebo near the front entrance completes the island’s unique sense of joy. 

Luxury. Cuisine. Adventure. Blue Waters Resort and Spa offers all of this and more, whether you are seeking to unwind or to get your heart rate up with watersports. Antigua is closer than you think, and even after you leave, the warmth of its people will remain in your heart.

 Images courtesy of Hue & Cry. For more information, visit bluewaters.net.