My husband and I were looking to spend our wedding anniversary at a tranquil resort in a sunny, warm destination. We found exactly what we wanted at the Hawksbill. Over the years, I have had the pleasure of vacationing at some 30+ resorts, and I must say that the Hawksbill sits right at the top of my favourites list. It is one of the very few resorts that we are planning to return to.
The Hawksbill is located on the quiet western coast of the island. The closest neighbouring resort is the upscale adults only Galley Bay, a few minutes away by car. I love the Hawksbill’s location; nestled among 37 acres of beautiful land encompassing 4 sublime beaches, but still within a short drive to St. John’s.
The Resort and Guests:
As I mentioned, the resort is spread out over several acres and beaches. This gives the resort a very un-crowded and private feel. There are several room type choices. The standard (no A/C) rooms are housed on the main floor of the main building, and the second row of the beach bungalows. The superior seaview rooms (no A/C) are housed on the second floor of the main building, and the sea facing rooms of the beach bungalows. There are also the beach club rooms located on Royal Palm beach; furthest from the main facilities, and the honeymoon cottages, the newest rooms, located near Honeymoon Cove. Both of these types of rooms have A/C. During our stay, the hotel was approximately half full; guests were mostly from Britain, followed by Americans and a smattering of Canadians. The only other language I overheard during our week was a bit of French. This resort, while it welcomes children and families, does not particularly cater to young ones (ie: there is no organized kids club, nor children’s pool, etc.). Unless your kids are happy to simply paddle around in the sea and construct sandcastles, I would hesitate bringing them to this hotel. Check out the Jolly Beach instead. I would also not bring teenagers here, I would think they would be quite bored. For couples young and old, and others who simply want to re-connect with nature and enjoy being pampered, the Hawksbill does not disappoint.
We booked a Superior Sea-view room (2nd storey of main building) and we were very happy with it. The lack of A/C was definitely not a problem for us. The cross breeze from the louvers coupled with the ceiling fan kept the room very comfortable, even at night. The simple West Indian décor was comfortable and attractive. Our room had a king-sized bed with lots of pillows, a very spacious closet with plenty of hangers, a fridge (not stocked), a kettle (tea, instant coffee and sugar provided), rattan chairs and a dresser/desk with more than sufficient drawers for the two of us. The safe is located in the closet, and you must purchase the key from the front desk. The balcony faces the beach and sea, and was our favourite place to sit with our coffee in the morning and watch as the various types of birds came to visit us looking for bread crumbs or other birdie goodies, and in the in the evenings, it was our spot for tea whilst watching the glorious sunsets and swooping bats. The bathroom has a separate sink area from the toilet and shower, and is well lit and ventilated by the louvered window. Water from the taps is filtered and was quite safe to use for brushing teeth; we used it to make our coffee/tea with no ill effects. Water pressure was a hit/miss affair on some days. We mentioned this to the front desk, and maintenance took care of the problem in a very efficient manner. Light sleepers should pack earplugs, the goats, roosters and assorted birds can be quite noisy in the early mornings! Please note that the rooms do not have telephones, radios nor TV’s to interfere with the tranquil ambiance.
Beach(es) and Water:
The shining star of this resort is its postcard perfect beaches and incredibly clear, calm Caribbean waters. The very first beach upon entering the resort is Royal Palm Beach. This beach is where the Beach Club bungalows are located. This beach can get busy on weekends when many of the locals come here to picnic. The next beach is Seagrapes beach and is the resort’s main beach where the beach restaurant, bar and water sports centre are located. This is the ‘busiest’ beach due mostly to its close proximity to the facilities, but it was never crowded during our stay. The best swimming spot there is close to the jetty, the bottom is very sandy there. You do have to be careful around the roped area as this is where the reef and rocks are located. On a particularly wavy day, I came very close to being slapped by a wave right into the rocks. Not that the waves were large in any way, but even small waves can propel you into the rocks and the cuts can be painful (been there, done that). The next beach is the Honeymoon cove. This was a very quiet spot during our stay; I don’t think I ever counted more than 2 or 3 people there. It has lots of natural shade from the palm trees, as well as a couple of palapas. This beach is also very good for snorkelling. It is also the closest to the honeymoon cottages. The last (but not least!) beach is Eden beach, and it is the clothing optional one. It is visually stunning with its palm trees and vegetation, sandy beach, gorgeous turquoise sea and few people. I enjoyed this beach best; not just because my bathing suit didn’t get wet ; – )) but because of its incredible tranquility. The swimming was also excellent there. I didn’t come across any jellyfish, black urchins, nor any other sea hazards. During our stay, the flag was green most of the week, with two yellow flag days. The snorkelling right off the beach was also quite good. It would have been much better had Skyservice Airlines actually delivered our sports bags to us. Our bags never made it to Antigua. We received all sorts of excuses, but I am still waiting for an apology and some sort of compensation since we had to do without our gear all week. This was the only snag in an otherwise perfect holiday. I am very un-impressed at how Skyservice has handled this whole affair. Emails to this company go un-answered, and phone numbers are simply answering machines. Obviously, customer service is not a priority for this organization!
The hotel has one very small, but deep pool around the bar/restaurant area. It can be used to cool off, but that’s about it. We knew this was the case before booking, but since we are beach lovers, this did not detract from our stay at all. There are quite a number of beach chairs (which appear to be quite new and in great shape) around the pool area, but not all have shade. This area did not get very busy during our stay, so this was not a major issue.
This being our very first trip to this island, we had no idea what to expect from its cuisine. We found Antiguan gastronomy to be similar to what we experienced in Jamaica and St. Vincent. Lunches were served at the beachside/poolside, Seagrapes grill. Daily offerings would consist of BBQ’d chicken, fish (mahi mahi, kingfish, or marlin), and other daily concoctions such as spaghetti, pizza, hot dogs and burgers, as well as daily soup and salad bar. The roti was excellent. Hubby enjoyed the rum n’ raisin ice cream. Suppers were at the main restaurant (the Tamarind). Most evenings the suppers were a la carte, except on West Indian nights (buffet) and beach bbq nite (also buffet). The suppers were always excellent. We never had a bad meal. I could not believe food this good coming from a 3.5 star resort! Some of the 5 star resorts we have visited in Mexico simply pale in comparison. If you are able, splurge on the lobster. At 25 dollars US, it is more than worth it. We didn’t normally eat breakfast, but hubby enjoyed the coconut pancakes one morning. The wine served was usually very good. We didn’t try the red, but the white was from South America and it was decent. The rose during supper was usually either French or South American, and excellent. For some reason, at lunch the rose was usually awful California Zinfandel (so we stuck with the white!) The beer served was the local Wadadli beer and hubby had no problems with it. The hotel offers several specialty mixed drinks; some of which are pictured on the wall at the beach grill. I only sampled two; having found one I really enjoyed (the Lime cocktail) I stuck with that. Do try the drinks with tamarind juice when available. Tamarinds grow on the property and are tart and delicious!
Next to its drop dead gorgeous beaches, the second best thing going for this resort is its incredible staff; and this includes the front desk; usually the lowest common denominator in many resorts. While checking in, we mentioned that it was our wedding anniversary. The manager taking care of our check-in seemed surprised that they weren’t aware of this. We dropped our bags off in our room to grab the last few minutes of lunch. When we returned to our room, much to our surprise, we were greeted by a fruit basket, a bottle of sparkly wine and a lovely card. I think that was the precise moment I fell madly in love with this resort! Thanks to the resort’s small size, guests can easily get to know all the staff and management and feel right at home. Any problems or issues were resolved quickly and without the need for constant reminders. Our shower was not draining very well and we were afraid of flooding the room. We reported the problem to the front desk late one evening. Front desk staff apologized for not being able to attend to the problem right away. The very next morning, bright and early, Troy from maintenance knocked on our door to fix the problem. We were treated with the up-most care and respect during our entire stay. The staff really do go the extra mile for the guests here, and I am sure this is one of the leading reasons behind the high return rate this hotel enjoys.
Things to Do: We chose this resort, as well as this island, primarily to relax and enjoy the sea, the beaches and the sunny weather. Since we only had one week, we weren’t going out of our way to keep busy with other pursuits. We decided to limit our outside resort activities to: a visit to St. John’s, primarily for shopping and a bit of sightseeing, a trip to Nelson’s Dockyard for its historical interest, and the circumnavigation tour of the island by catamaran. Cabs to take you to town, or to any other points of interest, are available through the front desk. Tours of the entire island are also available. Cost of the cab is agreed upon beforehand, so there are no hassles nor misunderstandings. We booked the catamaran trip through our tour operator rep. A nice bonus about staying at the Hawksbill is that the boat picks you up right at the hotel so there is no need to drive to the marina or to any other hotel.
The hotel does offer a limited selection of activities, which are posted in the lobby on a daily basis. If you enjoy learning about local flowers and plants, do not miss Sylvia’s nature walk which is usually offered twice a week, in the mornings. It’s a lovely walk of the hotel grounds, and Sylvia is very knowledgeable about the many plants and their folk medicinal properties (or their dangers!)
Shopping: Antigua imports most of its consumer goods, so you won’t find a whole lot of ‘home grown’ products here; local rum, some handicrafts and the wonderfully tasty Susie’s Hot Sauce are about the extent of locally made fare. You can however find some great deals in fine jewellery. In St. John’s, at Heritage Quay you will find a shopping concourse with higher end duty free goods such as jewellery, leather goods, art and fine liquor. The craft market area has lots of stores that sell typical souvenir ‘trinkets’ such as pens, magnets, keychains, T-shirts, caps etc.
Try to avoid going to St. John’s when the cruise ships are in port because the streets just swell as hoards of tourists descend upon the town all at once. This may be difficult depending on the time of year as St. John’s is a very popular port of call for many cruise lines.
I chose Antigua for its reliable warm climate and we were not disappointed. We had sun every day save for two days of intermittent cloud and some showers. The sun was hot and a high SPF sunblock was an absolute necessity for us. Once again, we witnessed too many raw skinned tourists who seem to think that an SPF of 8 will do the job when they are sitting out on the beach all day. The cooling sea breeze can fool you into thinking your skin isn’t burning when in fact you are being ‘cooked’!
Insects: From the various reviews I have read when researching this resort, and Antigua in general, I was led to believe that there would be a serious mosquito problem. During our stay, I spotted very few mozzies. I believe that because the weather had been quite dry for some time prior, the mosquitos were not as prolific as they can be. The hotel does fog for mosquitos if warranted. And I suppose the resident corps of bats, birds, and lizards help keep the insect population in check.
I did receive a few small bites around my ankles and feet, and I am not sure from what. I certainly did not feel any biting or stinging, until after the bite was visible. Sand fleas? Ants? I am not sure. I saw a few other people, mostly women, with these bites also, but some of these women obviously had nasty reactions as the bites were quite large, swollen and red. Do bring some sort of anti itch cream such as cortisone, aloe or ‘After Bite’, just in case.
In Conclusion: The Hawksbill is the right resort for you if you: – Enjoy nature; different species of birds and flowers set in a verdant, lush landscape – Prefer smaller, more intimate resorts – Enjoy a peaceful retreat – Love swimming and snorkelling in ”un-roped off” warm tranquil waters – Enjoy unhurried, quiet dining – Enjoy getting to know the staff and other guests – Enjoy quiet beaches without the noise and smell of motorized watercraft – Enjoy clothes optional beaches – Don’t care about the size of the swimming pool The Hawksbill may not be your cup of tea if you: – Are looking for a busy, active holiday – Prefer big meandering swimming pools to the beach – Prefer very long, walking beaches (such as Punta Cana, Varadero, Cayo Largo, etc.) – Are looking for lots of scheduled activities for your kids – Must have motorized water-sports – Enjoy Jacuzzis – Prefer an active nightlife (shows, disco, etc.) – Are mobility impaired
If you still have questions, email me at: Ivona_Lancaster@hotmail.com