We visited the Caribbean island of Antigua in the first week of November 2007. We stayed at two all inclusive resorts on the island: the Grand Pineapple Beach Resort and the St James Club
. Antigua is a small island a bit east of the Virgin Islands. It is about 14 miles long and 10 miles wide. St Johns, at the western end of the island, is the island’s major town. The island boasts 365 beaches – a different one for every day of the year. The Grand Pineapple Beach Resort is situated on one of the nicest beaches.
The Grand Pineapple Beach Resort is a small, intimate resort. Your first experience is at reception, which is situated in a small building with couches and lounge chairs if you need to wait. When we arrived there was no else waiting to check in, so we sat at one of the two check-in desks and had a very pleasant experience including a rum punch made with the island’s rum – it’s dark and strong. We met our neighbors, Kevin (pictured) and Sue (standing next to me, so not in the picture). They are from Leicester, England and we spent three very pleasant days getting to know them. There are non-stop flights from England to Antigua, which until 1981 was a British colony. As a consequence, there are a lot of British visitors to Antigua, as well as Europeans.
The Grand Pineapple Beach Resort is a family resort.
There are two pools at the Grand Pineapple Beach Resort. Children are restricted to the main pool. The pool is built into the side of the hill and has several levels. There is plenty of sun with palapas and trees for shade. The main pool is just steps away from the beach. There is a bar and a grill located right in the pool area. Towels and games are also readily available. There is an “adults only” pool. It is generally quiet and has some shady areas near the buildings. The adult pool is also located just steps away from the beach.
Pineapple Beach is one of the nicest beaches in Antigua. The Grand Pineapple Beach Resort occupies about half of the beach. The other half has a few souvenir vendors and a small public beach. There are a couple of small restaurants located near the public beach. The beach is somewhat remote, so there are not large numbers of people on the public beach. At the resort there’s a beach volley ball court and palapas are available for shade.
The Grand Pineapple Beach Resort includes among its all inclusive activities Hobie Cats for sailing enthusiasts and kayaks. Instruction in sailing and kayaking is provided for those who might need it. There’s also a ping pong table available.
The Grand Pineapple Beach Resort has nicely maintained grounds. There is a gazebo on the grounds. The first night we stayed at the resort, there was a cocktail party in the early evening hosted by the resort management. A topic of conversation was Sandals purchase of the resort. There is a Sandals resort on the island - Sandals Antigua Caribbean Village and Spa
. When we arrived back in the states and contacted our Sandals representative, she told us that Grand Pineapple Beach would become a Beaches resort – the family resorts in the Sandals lineup. Since then we've learned that Sandals has started a new product line of Grand Pineapple family resorts. The former Negril Gardens resort has become Sandals Grand Pineapple Negril.
One of the staff setting up the party set up a ladder on a palm tree, climbed up – shinnying the last 10 feet, and knocked down half a dozen coconuts. He gave one to me and told me ask the cook at dinner to prepare it for me. We had the milk used for a cocktail.
The staff was extremely friendly and helpful. Our first night we stayed in one of the rooms behind the gazebo. Mosquitoes were getting in and we couldn’t figure out where. The next day the reservation staff provided us another room and helped us move. Antigua is a tropical island and mosquitoes are a fact of life, so don’t forget the insect repellant.
Near the reception building there’s a display of red footed tortoises. These tortoises are native to the tropics of the Americas. There are three or four adult tortoises and a number of juveniles in the display.
Part of the intimacy of the Grand Pineapple Beach Resort is the friendly and helpful staff. Another part is the mixture of older and newer buildings. The older buildings have porches on the fronts of the buildings, facing the beach and garden, where guests meet and chat with one another. That’s how we met our neighbors, Kevin and Sue.
The newer buildings at the Grand Pineapple Beach Resort have the best views. They face the ocean and are generally up the hillside where the porches look out over the ocean and beach.
Breakfast and lunch at the Grand Pineapple Beach Resort are a seaside buffet. Waiters bring drinks and clean up dirty plates when you go back for seconds and thirds. Two of the three dinner restaurants occupy this same space – it’s outdoors, so don’t forget the bug spray. The third dinner restaurant – the Pineapple Grill - is indoors. Mostly, dinner requires reservations except when the outdoor restaurants are buffet. There’s also a poolside grill which is open during the afternoon and late at night, but not during the dinner period.
The main bar at the Grand Pineapple Beach Resort is located just off the beach. It also serves the main pool. The area near the main bar is used for evening entertainment. One night we were entertained by a steel drum band and another night by a jazz band and a fire eater.
The Outhouse is an absolute must for lunch or two, depending on the length of your stay at the Grand Pineapple Beach Resort. The Outhouse is a rustic shack on the top of a bluff looking north. The view is spectacular. The rustic shack provides self-serve barbecued ribs and chicken, bottled beer in a huge ice chest, and salad fixings. You serve and clean up after yourself. It’s paper plates and more like a picnic in a lean-to.