Set on a 300-acre private island two miles off the coast of Antigua, Jumby Bay is an exclusive resort renowned for its palm trees and superb, white sandy beaches. This secluded hideaway, part of the US-owned Rosewood Hotels and Resorts group, is only accessible by boat – guests touching down in Antigua are whisked away on a short private cruise to an empty wooden dock, complete with gazebo, extending over crystal blue waters. The arrival is so beautiful that, quite frankly, it’s gob-smacking. Stepping off the boat, I felt properly relaxed within minutes – it’s easy to see why people quickly start referring to ‘island time.’
Although the island is officially known as Long Island, the resort is named ‘Jumby’ (a spirit of Caribbean folklore) after the ghost that allegedly haunts the island – a fact we learnt on Halloween night! A haven for nature-lovers, the island plays host to a variety of wildlife including rare Spanish sheep, beautiful birds such as the white egret and blue pelican, nurse sharks, eagle rays and brilliantly coloured reef fish. Pasture Beach, on the island’s windward side, is a protected nesting site of the endangered hawksbill sea turtle. All guests have access to resort bicycles, which are a great way to travel from place to place and see the island.
Jumby Bay’s secluded position is not an excuse to skimp on service; it is known for providing world-class service. The resort’s 40 ultra-luxurious rooms and suites (28 newly built and 12 completely refurbished) are all mere steps from the sea, ensuring you can hear the waves while sitting on your terrace. From my own Rosewood Estate suite all I could see was palm trees and an expanse of turquoise blue sea – I didn’t see a soul walk by my room in the four days I was there. The sitting room had floor-to-ceiling windows through which to enjoy the view; outside, the wraparound terrace had huge sun loungers each big enough for two, an outdoor table seating six and – this, the jewel in the crown – a private swimming pool. (Not a plunge pool, mind, but a proper lap pool.)
It’s clear they take their luxury and comfort seriously at Jumby Bay. The glorious four-poster bed ensured an excellent night’s sleep, while the outdoor shower and vast bath meant I could enjoy the ultimate al fresco experience – I ended up spending a good hour-and-a-half getting ready under the stars each evening! What a treat. The fact that there were a couple of knock-on rain showers from Hurricane Tomas (hurricane season in the Caribbean is traditionally from July to the end of October) was honestly no bad thing, as I was happy to spend an afternoon enjoying my suite’s luxuries. I also made good use of the resort spa, which offers a list of treatments inspired by the island’s local traditions and abundant natural resources, and administered in suites with tranquil views of the sea.
Room rates at Jumby Bay include breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner daily, and although I left each meal with every intention of missing the next (purely as a result of my own overindulgence!) I was invariably tempted back. Moreover, the unlimited open bar gave us the opportunity to indulge when it came to cocktails – lime daiquiris, the island rum punch and passion fruit margaritas are recommended! For lunch, we enjoyed The Pool Grille’s light and healthy fare and its array of refreshing cocktails and fruit juices. At dinnertime we alternated between two equally enticing options: the open-air Verandah restaurant, just steps from the beach, serving unpretentious, modern food featuring plenty of delicious, fresh fish (the ‘Chef’s Table Dinner’ in the Verandah Display Kitchen is really quite something); and The Estate House, Jumby Bay’s signature fine-dining restaurant, located in a 230-year-old manor and dressed with tablecloths, candlelight and a post-Colonial mood.
Staff members at Jumby Bay are exceptional, introducing themselves at the start of each meal and making us feel at home within moments of arrival. The whole island gets together every week for the ‘White Night’ barbecue on Sundays and the Manager’s cocktail reception on Tuesdays. These are relaxed occasions at which to meet other guests.
Sun-kissed days are spent basking on Jumby Bay Beach, surely one of the most beautiful in the world. Sun loungers are well-spaced apart under thatched palapas, and the Beach Bar’s efficient waiting staff is constantly on hand to deliver water, frozen cocktails and fruit whenever desired. Bathers can even walk out along a sand bank and into the sea – to those back on the beach, it looks as if they are walking on water! If there’s such a thing as paradise, then I certainly felt as though I had found it at Jumby Bay.
For those looking for a more active break, there are three tennis courts, a 25-metre lap pool (in addition to oceanfront infinity pool) and a fitness centre. Other activities on offer include snorkeling, Sunfish sail-boating, sail-boarding, croquet and use of the putting green. Staff members are happy to arrange snorkel trips to the nearby Bird Island, sunset cruises or day-long sailing excursions with Ondeck, run by Antigua’s only female boat captain. Representatives of the Jumby Bay Hawksbill Project are also on hand to explain their research, and guests can even be placed on 24-hour ‘turtle watch’, whereby they can expect phone calls at any hour of day or night to see the hawksbills in action.
And if a short stay leaves you craving more, then Jumby Bay has a collection of private luxury villas and estates available for rent or sale. With stunning views of the Caribbean Sea, these homes provide a retreat for bigger parties and those looking for more privacy, and feature large pools, private beaches and tennis courts. Renters and homeowners – and their guests – enjoy full access to resort services (including housekeeping) and amenities.
With direct airline connections to the world, it’s rare to find somewhere so secluded yet accessible. Jumby Bay seems to hold the secret to proper relaxation: I found myself sleeping nine hours a night and taking two naps a day. It’s not difficult to see why guests of the resort often turn into Jumby Bay homeowners.