Beaches for every day of the year
Schedule a picnic lunch on a nearby deserted island for a mere $15 per person. After about a fifteen-minute private boat ride, a Hermitage staffer will set up an umbrella, blanket, and picnic basket before jetting off and leaving you alone on the sandy, coral-strewn beach. So alone that you won’t see a person, airplane, or boat…for hours.
When Antiguans brag that they have 365 beaches, one for every day of the year, they're not joking. Antigua's (pronounced an-TEE-ga) beaches are bone white and silky soft, some private, others packed with activity. But not all is white and sandy -- Antigua's topography includes mountainous terrain and tropical flora jutting up against the beaches and aquamarine water. Which also means that Antigua is not entirely an island simply for basking pool or beach side -- the hilly slopes offer visitors and locals alike the opportunity to hike to the top of dormant volcanoes or stroll through the foliage just after a late afternoon rain.
To truly appreciate the beaches, view the island via helicopter. At Hermitage Bay, a small, twenty-six-villa luxury boutique resort tucked away from, well, everything, a concierge arranges tours for guests through Caribbean Helicopters. Opt for the full island tour -- a thirty-minute ride over 100 miles of Antigua.
But you'll find that leaving Hermitage, even if for a half-hour-long helicopter ride over the largest of the Leeward Islands (which include nearby Montserrat and Guadaloupe, Nevis, St. Kitts, St. Barts, and St. Martin), is tough to do. Nestled into the cliffs overlooking the bay are elegantly appointed villas -- the hillside suites boast private plunge pools, covered verandas, and outdoor garden showers -- all of which offer panoramic views of the bay and nearby Soufriere Hills volcano.
The staff, mainly Antiguans, are one of Hermitage Bay's best assets -- kind, attentive, and at times really funny, they make everything from your couples' massage to your afternoon English tea to your gourmet dinner feel not only luxurious, but comfortable and ultimately relaxing. And if it seems like this is mostly a couples' retreat, it is. While there is no adults-only policy, it's best to keep the kiddies at home.
GET THERE: US Airways offers a direct flight on Saturdays from Charlotte to St. Johns, Antigua, starting at about $600. If you leave on any other day, expect several connections.