Hermitage Bay is well named; a dirt-track tumble to a hidden Antigua bay takes you to this peaceful Caribbean boutique resort, where there’s no danger of urban distraction – there’s nothing for miles around. A scattering of wooden cottages blends seamlessly with the lush green gardens of the hillside, offering sweet seclusion, understated luxury and a deserted white-sand beach.
Double rooms from £1422.87 ($1,798), including tax at 24 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional government tax of $5.00 per person per night on check-out.
Rates include all meals, snacks and most drinks. Guests staying three night or more get free airport transfers.
Guided tours of the hotel's organic kitchen garden are free, and fascinating for both green-fingered types and unintentional plant murderers.
31 August to 10 October.
At the hotel
Spa and gym, DVD library, free WiFi throughout. In rooms: flatscreen TV, DVD player, sound system with iPod dock, minibar, outdoor rain shower, Aromatherapy Associates toiletries.
Our favourite rooms
The Hillside Pool Suites may be a short trek up the hill, but it's worth the climb as the higher you go, the more stunning the bay view – and there’s always a golf buggy to ferry you around if you’re not feeling up to the ascent. These Asian-inspired wooden cottages have private infinity plunge pools beside white-curtained day-bed terraces – ideal for lounging in front of the inimitable Caribbean sunset. Down by the seafront, the Beachfront Suites may lack pools, but the fact the sea is but a hop, skip and dive away more than makes up for it.
The hotel’s main freshwater pool is an invitingly curved, infinity-edged, broad-bean-shaped delight, overlooking the sea and set beside the lounge bar. Waiters are always on hand to bring refreshment your way.
The Garden Spa offers Dorissima treatments that use colour rituals based on the body’s Chakra systems – full spiritual enlightenment guaranteed. Ensure your body's as high functioning as your spirit with a spin on the TechnoGym equipment in the fitness centre.
Insect repellent is a must, given the critters that come out at night; any classics you’ve never got around to reading – this is the perfect place to do it.
The hotel welcomes children aged 14 to 16 for $400 a night, if sharing with two adults in either a Seaview Garden Suite or Beachfront Suite.
There are sea views from every table, but the corner table on the lower tier is the most romantic spot.
Bonny, beachy and fabulously floaty.
With tables spreading from the decking onto the beach, Hermitage Bay’s three-tier restaurant shares the Balinese/Asian feel of the suites, but serves a fusion of Caribbean and Modern European flavours, created, where possible, from local ingredients.
The sheltered poolside bar is a sleek and spacious lounge filled with low coffee tables, white fabrics and dark rattan armchairs. The old-style wide wooden bar counter is ideal for supping a cold beer or tropical cocktail. Most drinks are included in your room rate, whether you're pining for a fruity cocktail or a glass of house wine; from 21 December–31 March champagne flows freely, and from 1 April–20 December prosecco takes its place.
9.30pm at the restaurant; the bar closes at 11.45pm.
Breakfast can be brought to you between 7.30am and 10.30am. Afterwards, from 12.30pm to 9.30pm, there's a snack menu on offer. Restaurant dishes are available in-rooms 7pm–9.30pm. A $15 tray charge applies.
V C Bird International Airport in the north east of the island is the main entry point. Fly there from London Gatwick with British Airways and Virgin Atlantic. Island-hoppers should note that the airport is also served by a number of air shuttles originating in other Caribbean destinations. A taxi from the airport to the hotel takes 35 minutes and should cost around US$21. If you’re staying for three nights or more, the hotel will arrange free transfers.
Having a set of wheels can be useful for exploring Antigua and you’ll find an Avis (www.avis.com) rental desk at the airport. The drive to St John’s, the capital, will take around 30 minutes, following Valley Road to the town of Jennings.
If you’re arriving on the island via the seas, you’ll find private yacht moorings at St James’ Club and English Harbour in the south of the island or at Crabbs Marina in the north.
Worth getting out of bed for
An array of watersports are free to try on site; from the well-loved (snorkelling, kayaking, windsurfing), to the more exotic (hobie cat and sunfish sailing). Tuition is included. For something a bit more chakra-aligning, attend one of the free yoga, pilates or meditation sessions, held on alternate days. There's live entertainment each night (five nights a week in low season): steel bands, guitarists, cover bands and other musical treats. Informal cooking courses and demonstrations – how to make local dishes such as pepperpot stew or cockle soup – with the hotel's highly accomplished chef are held around the pool on Wednesday afternoons, followed by an informative tour of the gardens.
As we rumbled along that long dirt track leading to Hermitage Bay, it wasn’t an artfully made mojito we pictured awaiting us at the end. Let alone a small, secluded boutique resort. We spilled out after that filling-loosening cab ride into Hermitage Bay’s cool, open reception area where everyone greeted us by name, as though we were part of their extended family. I don’t even recall my own flesh and blood mustering up such a warm welcome.
Seated in the tasteful, dark-wood reception, the manager comes over to us and introduces himself. 'Forget where you've been and forget where you're going,' he utters profoundly. Heavy lidded eyes and a grave intonation suggest that somehow he knows of the five tumultuous days leading up to our stay at this sanctuary. More of what happened prior to our arrival later – right now, we’re revelling in this new paradise. Hitching a ride on a golf buggy up into the hills, we begin the most magical part of our Antiguan adventure.
Craftily blended into the hillside, our villa is shrouded in vegetation that masquerades the building’s angles and allows 360 degrees of privacy. Confronted by a private pool (one of which adorns each of these palatial hillside abodes), Mrs Smith shucks her clothes and dives straight in. Resting her chin on crossed wrists, she gulps in a panoramic view – cerulean from sky to sea. Meanwhile, I poke my nose around our new hardwood home, which quickly betrays the same meticulous attention to detail that greeted us in reception. Wooden Balinese shutters allow us to fold away the fourth wall and flood the room with unadulterated shimmering Caribbean Sea – well, at least an eyeful of it. Naturally a yacht named 'Just Wonderful' is bobbing on the horizon.
Entranced as we are by this stylish establishment, it is easy to forget the first chapter of our Caribbean island trip. It’s not as though our last hotel was particularly bad, there had just been three little hiccups blighting the beginning of this much-needed vacation. Firstly, unseasonably heavy rain had coaxed a few extra mosquitoes out to feast on Mrs Smith. Secondly, because I had escaped their bites, I’d become the source of her very targeted resentment. Thirdly? Hello, Mr Horse Spider. Harmless as these bugs may actually be (as we later discovered), the crystal-shattering, blood-curdling scream I let out on spotting one on our first night inspired repeated replays from Mrs Smith. And, much to my chagrin, earned me the nickname ‘Scream Queen’ for the rest of our holiday.
Masculine pride needed to be won back. Mrs Smith wanted Daniel Craig in the Caribbean, not Alan Carr. So, when gazing at that view of the beach dotted with cream parasols sheltering dark wood sun loungers, I knew what had to be done. While 1,200ft of secluded powdered alabaster seashore hints at the pace guests might find it easy to slip into to here, this would-be adventurer was keen to sample some sailing, snorkelling, windsurfing or kayaking in those aquamarine waters. Can’t you just see this Mr Smith emerging from the surf in skin-tight powder blue trunks and rippling torso? No?
Limbering up for my swimwear cameo in our sun-drenched outdoor shower, I earmark the view-blessed free-standing two-person bath by an enormous arched window for later ablutions. Suddenly the air is filled with the roar of Isaac Hayes – Mrs Smith has finished her swim and has plugged in her iPod. The Bose sound system's acoustics seem only to amplify that ever-dazzling vista. I trot over to the daily-restored fridge and pull out a chilled bottle of bubbly, and unpop the cork. Any memories of my Edvard Munch moment will surely well and truly be gazumped by now.
The following morning, over a mighty breakfast of all the food groups, we plan the day’s itinerary. Mrs Smith wants to explore the coastline in one of the Hermitage Bay kayaks; I want to lie in the sunshine and ruminate over which cocktails would best kick-start the day. Decisions, decisions. Mrs Smith wins and we take to the high seas.
Paddling ferociously, I have a sneaky suspicion Mrs Smith, seated behind me, isn't pulling her weight. Still, we circumnavigate the southern coast and soon a deserted beach comes into view. Backing onto dense vegetation we notice smugly that this sandy stretch would be near impossible to access via land. A brief stop-off later and we carry on to find another isolated beach, this even more stunning than the last. We haul the kayak onto the shore long enough to let Mrs Smith teach me how to float in complete monastic calm on my back, suspended by the warm turquoise sea. Bliss.
Back at the resort, we’ve earned an indulgent evening meal. The staff – ever attentive – quickly dispatches a menu of dishes that blend modern European classics with traditional spicy Creole favourites. And the callaloo, okra, cucumbers, thyme and coriander are among the ingredients harvested from Hermitage Bay's own organic garden. Mrs Smith is quickly convinced that our calorie-burning exploration of neighbouring beaches means she can enjoy that chocolate dessert from the award-winning chef guilt-free.
One of the pleasures of Hermitage Bay is the solitude offered by its remote location. And the efforts it makes to work harmoniously with its verdant surroundings. Don't be fooled by the charming, laid-back staff, because there is a Germanic attention to detail that underpins this hip hideaway. Every element combines to facilitate a stress-free stay and for the duration of your time here, the usual emotional traffic of the real world – for me, frustration and impatience – simply dissolves away. For a time, you are the very best version of yourself. Without any screaming.