"Back can wait, but not belly" is a well-known Antiguan saying. Whether this refers to a massage before lunch I never found out but luxury is very much on offer in the following four Leeward Islands hotels.
Barbuda North Beach
I flew first to Barbuda and to Barbuda North Beach. Sometimes it's worth going the extra mile. It's the ultimate in remoteness in a simple weathered guesthouse. Utterly relaxing and deserted. Close to long unspoilt strands of pink beach. Perfect for honeymooners, naturists, twitchers, hermits and watercolourists. This guesthouse is set on the Northern shores of the island and is a 15 minute boat trip from the quay or airport at Codrington.
It is in full view of the breaking reefs where the Caribbean Sea joins the Atlantic Ocean. Opposite is the Caribbean's longest beach of 17 miles of pink sand and transparent water which the locals call "The River".
The rooms of this guesthouse are charmingly honest and have a seafaring weathered feel, decorated with seashells and driftwood. Schools of stingrays and mullet flit in the translucent shallows. The excellent food is confidently served rather than off a menu. You can hire the whole place. It only sleeps twelve. There's no one for miles apart from Douglas the donkey so there's no need even for room keys. Utterly liberating!
Next I came back to Antigua and Carlisle Bay. It's a high-class resort in a beautiful sheltered bay set amongst forested hills. Ideal for honeymooners or families. Luxurious beach fronted or garden rooms as well as a choice of four restaurants. Open now for twelve years with 82 suites, the clientele comprises of 65% Brits and 30% Americans.
It is designed as a country club with nine tennis courts, a spa, a library and a specialist kids' area. The foyer is discreet and welcoming. The wicker, wood, cotton and pebbles help blend the interiors in with their environment. It has a half-colonial, half-nautical feel. The Indigo is the pick of the restaurants.
The menu caters for the health conscious offering amazing "catch of the day" lunches. The trees virtually cover the architecture showing only the white umbrellas picking up the white waves. In the beach rooms the lapping water and sand is a few feet away. It's all about luxury amongst whispering waves and swooshing coconut trees.
Then onto Keyonna Beach. Set on Turners Beach close to the amazing blue waters of Valley Church Bay. Ideal for a youngish crowd with simple unrefined cabins. Honest fayre to enjoy under the shade of an old grape tree. This set of beach houses is ideal for sun lovers happy to chill in its weathered environment and honest decor.
There's a special ambience of "inside-outside" in which to relax out of the sun but still be close to the sea breeze. At the end of a little floral path are the rustic rooms. The darkwood and white theme of the reception continues into the flooring, bathroom and outdoor shower of the rooms. The French doors and patios open onto a lawn and the sea beyond. The food includes the local Butterfish and Banga Mary fish. But despite a regular "fogging" beware of the mosquitos!
Nosuch Bay Resort
And finally to Nonsuch Bay Resort. It's a hillside resort offering self-accommodation. Ideal for families or seafarers. Great for sailing and kite-surfers. Communal parts have a Mediterranean feel with a view over the bay. This resort is pleasantly unobtrusive. Set in forty acres, the hotel's precipice focuses on the secluded bay. It is made up of beach cottages, apartments and villas. The rooms are all self-accommodation with a recent additional all-inclusive offer of the restaurant.
The decor has a blend of natural wood and wicker. The resort feels very Mediterranean perched upon a steep rock face. It has an aspect of dark blue sea and an approach of palmed avenues. On the cliff top by the restaurant is an infinity pool looking directly out to sea and Small Bird Island.
The menu is confidently small boasting seafood crepe as well as lightly blackened swordfish. To compensate for an average beach there's Green Island, with her picture-perfect white-sand only a short boat ride away. Belly up time indeed!
Ready to belly up? Head to Antigua!
Antigua and Barbuda are some of the most idyllic islands in the Caribbean and it is well worth spending time on both. Antigua is alive with beaches, one for every day of the year in fact, with vestiges of the former British colony dotted around. Barbuda is a rare gem and remains positively deserted and under developed. If you're looking for a peaceful getaway with oodles of charm this could very well be the holiday for you.