Antigua is a country of contrasts. There are mountains — some hundreds of feet high — and rugged cliffs that give way to pristine beaches. On the western side of the island, the turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea sparkle like diamonds beneath a bluebird sky. On its eastern side, the Caribbean meets the choppy indigo-blue waters of the Atlantic Ocean.
One thing, though, ties the country together — the friendliness and overwhelming hospitality of its people. And that’s what you’ll find at Galley Bay Resort and Spa (galleybayresort.com) as soon as you step out of your taxi and are greeted with a welcoming smile and a rum drink or celebratory glass of bubbly.
Galley Bay Resort opened in the 1990s with just one restaurant, Sea Grape, and a handful of guest rooms. Since then, it’s grown into a world-class luxury resort spread over 64 acres with 94 guest suites, three oceanfront restaurants, four bars and a nice mix of activities. This expansion, though, has evolved without deviating from the resort’s mission: to offer a private, adults-only escape that combines romance with top-notch service, ambiance and amenities.
The Rooms at Galley Bay
Every room at Galley Bay offers views of the water, whether it be the ocean or lagoon. It all depends on what you’re looking for in a vacation.
Paved pathways snake through lush landscape throughout the property making guests feel as if they’re walking through a Gauguin masterpiece, thus the name of a string of cottages, the Gauguin Suites, that are ultra-private and feature their own plunge pools. The suites are perfect for couples needing to spend some time alone — honeymooners or those needing to reconnect with some romance.
Beachfront suites are housed in a number of multi-story units with a number of superior deluxe suites that open directly onto the beach with living areas, private balconies, wet bar, two-person tubs and large showers. Suites on upper levels offer the same amenities and stunning ocean views, but without direct beach access since they are on the second floor.
All rooms have luxury linens and premium toiletries. The resort offers daily maid service, and the mini bar is restocked daily.
Dining Choices at Galley Bay
Think of this all-inclusive as a cruise ship on land. There’s the main open-air dining room, Sea Grape Restaurant and Bar, open for breakfast, lunch and dinner with amazing views of the sea. The dinner menu rotates every two weeks, so unless you’re stay is more than 14 days, you won’t be seeing the same menu twice. Galley Bay also boasts a small coffee shop with pastries for breakfast and a lunch menu with several sandwiches and ice cream. Barefoot Grill is another lunch option with burgers and sandwiches made to order. These three restaurants, plus drinks in the four bars — Tee Pee Bar, Rum Shack, Gauguin Bar and Sea Grape Bar — are included in the price of your stay.
There are two specialty restaurants, though, that up the ante on dining at Galley Bay — Ismay’s and Gauguin, both offering dining directly on the beach. Gauguin is perhaps the most-romantic restaurant on the island with tables situated in their own small open tiki huts on the beach. Ismay’s offers more-traditional dining in a large timber-framed restaurant near Shell Beach. Both feature steaks and seafood, such as a recent menu with fresh swordfish served with a delicate lobster sauce at Gauguin.
Reservations are necessary at each specialty restaurant and may be made through Guest Services. Ismay’s is an additional $45 per person; dinner at Gauguin is included in your stay.
All eateries offer contemporary cuisines featuring farm- and ocean-to-table fare overseen by executive Chef Jeremiah Nathaniel, a native of Antigua who knew from a young age that he wanted to pursue a career in the culinary arts.
“My mother was a cook at Mill Reef Club and Half Moon Bay in Freetown. I’d see all the chefs working at those places and admired them,” he recalls as he talks about fungee and pepperpot, two native dishes that he makes at home. Fungee, though, a gelatinous cornmeal dish with minced okra, may appear on from time to time on menus at Galley Bay.
A large percentage of vegetables and fruits are grown in the resort’s 13-acre garden, an expanse of land that will soon feature a hydroponic garden.
Activities Around Galley Bay
Guests with limitless energy can choose from complimentary activities such as billiards, tennis, sailing, snorkeling, yoga, sea kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding.
Check out the calendar located near Guests Services to see what activities are on tap for the week. Maybe a garden tour of the all the colorful flowers and other greenery led by grounds manager John Bowen? Bowen is a Jamaican transplant whose love of the land comes alive when talking about his gardens. Or take a walk through his vegetable garden to see what may appear on your dinner plate. Each Wednesday, there’s a manager’s cocktail party at the Rum Shack.
There’s a well-stocked fitness center to work off some of the delicious calories you’ll consume during your stay, enjoy a massage or other body indulgence at Indulge Spa, or just sit back and relax on the beach beneath the palms with a cold pina colada, a book in your hand and your toes in the sand.
Visit Guest Services to arrange for off-property tours of the island by car or catamaran, or take a walk into Five Islands Village or over to Hawksbill Bay with its palm-fringed beaches. Or get your game on at Antigua’s newest casino, Casino Royale, sporting table games and more than 80 slot machines. It’s a quick taxi ride from Galley Bay.
During high season November through April, several carriers offer nonstop flights into St. John’s, Antigua, from Atlanta, New York and other major hubs. Year-round, American Airlines services V.C. Bird International Airport with daily direct service out of Miami.
Once landed, hail a taxi or, for more personalized service, contact Eagle Discovery and Tours (eaglediscoverytours.com) and a representative will be waiting for you as you exit customs.