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Sandals Grande Antigua Resort & Spa 5.0

St. John's, Saint John Parish, Antigua

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Review Summary

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Pros

  • Upscale, all-inclusive, couples-only resort on a beautiful property
  • Some suites and villas include private pools and butlers
  • Modern buildings, nice finishes, marble bathrooms, and elegant decor
  • Romantic details, like hidden gazebos and fire pits
  • Six pools including a huge main pool with fountains and a swim-up bar
  • Eleven restaurants and seven bars to choose from
  • Water sports available, including unlimited dives for certified scuba divers
  • The excellent Red Lane Spa has special couples treatments
  • Large, well-equipped fitness center
  • Free Wi-Fi throughout

Cons

  • Restaurants and pools are crowded at busy times
  • Many vendors along the busy beach, which is shared by other resorts
  • The vast, sprawling property can be overwhelming
  • Less personal atmosphere that can feel inauthentic or staged

Bottom Line

Sandals is the epitome of a couples-only Caribbean mega-resort. With 11 restaurants, 373 luxurious rooms, and six pools, it's expansive, if not a bit overwhelming. You could easily get lost in the 27 acres of meticulously groomed gardens and along the pathways winding between buildings. The Sandals brand is evident at every turn, and the experience can feel generic, pre-packaged, and lacking in authenticity. However, this popular upscale all-inclusive with elegant rooms is definitely dedicated to creating memorable, romantic getaways. (Just be prepared to share yours with a few hundred other couples.)

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Scene

A sprawling property with lush gardens and two distinct sides, the polished Mediterranean Village and the breezy Caribbean Grove

Sprawling beachfront property with two distinct sides

This Sandals resort has a split personality. The newer side, built in 2007, is called the Mediterranean Village and features distinct Southern-European influence, evident in the marble columns, ironwork and tiled roofs. The decor and architectural style is reminiscent of the south of Italy (or a really nice Olive Garden.) The older side of the resort, called the Caribbean Grove, has a more locally inspired setting with colonial-style buildings painted in cool pinks and oranges, as well as rooms with a light color palette and contemporary beachy style.

There are two lobbies for check in, depending on what side of the resort you are staying on. The Mediterranean lobby features marble, dark wood, and painted frescos. The Caribbean lobby is less formal, with a more relaxed, mellow vibe featuring light colors, breezy high ceilings, and contemporary decor in blues and yellows. Guests are greeted at the entrance with a cool towel and both lobbies offer a self-serve coffee bar featuring Jamaican roasts, as well as a special welcome drink of rum punch or champagne.

The grounds of the resort are perfectly manicured and dotted with carved fountains and hidden gazebos, all set in lush, green gardens with many flowers in bloom. Other romantic touches include a set of fire pits with lounge chairs, lit up at night, and double hammocks along the beachfront area. Couples of all ages will be seen exploring the property and enjoying the nightlife. There is scheduled entertainment every night that includes live music, dancers, karaoke, and events such as wine tastings and cocktail parties.

Sandals is one of the best-known brands for all-inclusive honeymoons and couples vacations in the Caribbean, and while everything is perfectly planned out and well executed, it can end up feeling generic, staged and inauthentic -- sort of like going to an upscale chain restaurant. It’s the Caribbean resort version of a Cheesecake Factory. Some love it and keep going back, but it's not everyone’s cup of tea.

Location

Set in Dickenson Bay on the northwestern corner of the island, with other resorts close by

Map of Sandals Grande Antigua Resort & Spa

Sandals Grande Antigua is situated on a 27-acre property on Dickenson Bay, on the northwest corner of the island, an area with calm clear Caribbean waters. It’s on a long white-sand beach that is shared by a few other resorts, so the beach is not very private or quiet. All of Antigua’s 365 beaches are public by law, but the beach at Sandals is especially populated by vendors, who will walk up and down the sand at all hours trying to sell tours or souvenirs.

Sandals is conveniently close to the capital city of St. Johns, which is about 10 minutes away by car, and it’s only a 20-minute ride to the airport. However, as this side of the island is busier and more populated, you don’t get the quiet, secluded atmosphere that is enjoyed by some resorts in more remote locations, like Nonsuch Bay or St. James’s Club.

Rooms

Many different room categories, including charming Rondovals, butler suites, and villas with private pools

Traditional decor is found in the Caribbean Honeymoon Grande Luxe Poolside Walkout Room

There are 25 different categories of rooms at this massive property, ranging from standard Caribbean Deluxe Rooms to Beachfront Butler Rondovals to Mediterranean Villa Suites with private pools. Room types offer different levels of service, so be sure to read the details carefully. Some of the most special rooms are the Rondovals -- small, round cottages with a cone-shaped roof that are a specialty of the Sandals brand. Rondovals include a private, fenced-in patio and many have a private pool. The Mediterranean Penthouse Suites each feature a spacious living room, whirlpool tub, a butler pantry, and large balcony with panoramic views of the property and the ocean ahead.

Following the split personality of the rest of the resort, rooms on the Mediterranean side will feature classic European-style decor with dark wood, marble columns, and mosaic tile work, while the Caribbean side has brightly colored colonial-style bungalows with light wood furnishings and beach-inspired decorations. Rooms in every category will include flat screen TVs, iPod docks, four-poster beds, coffee and tea facilities, and mini-fridges stocked with juice, soda, and water. Club Sandals Suites will also stock house liquors, while Butler Suites will get premium brands. All rooms have modern marble bathrooms and nice Red Lane Spa toiletries; many have a sitting area by the bathtub, and some feature a detachable rain showerhead or a jetted tub. There are private balconies or patios included in every category, some with ocean views.

Features

A variety of cuisines at 11 restaurants, plus seven bars, an elegant spa, modern fitness center, and lots of activities

Bayside restaurant serves all-inclusive fare from an al fresco space with water views

With 11 restaurants, guests won’t soon get bored of the food selection. There are options for a variety of tastes, from sushi to pizza, local seafood to Tex-Mex. Highlights include the beachfront fine-dining restaurant Eleanor’s, which serves upscale Caribbean cuisine, and requires reservations. Kimonos serves Japanese Teppanyaki, where chefs cook on a hot griddle at the table in separate private rooms, and also requires reservations. Barefoot by the Sea offers fresh seafood and shoes are optional -- the tables are situated right in the sand on the beach. Seven bars are scattered around the property, including a piano bar, swim-up bars at the two main pools, and a traditional English pub with large pool tables.

The excellent Red Lane spa features specials couples massage rooms that have private jetted tubs and showers, and are adorned with flowers and candles. The lovely, elegant spa features outdoor hot and cold pools. Next to the spa is a large, well-equipped fitness center with a variety of modern machines. Other activities include tennis, volleyball, fitness classes, and water sports such as sailing or kayaking. An extra bonus for divers: unlimited dives are included for certified scuba divers. Newbies can take an intro course for an extra fee.

Connecting the two sides of the resort, there is a lane with shops, including an art gallery and a jewelry boutique. There is no business center on the property, but Wi-Fi is free throughout. There are several meeting rooms and ballrooms available for events.

Pools

Six pools, including the enormous 15,000-square-foot Mediterranean Village pool with fountains and a swim-up bar

Several on-site pools, such as the Caribbean pool, with swim-up bars

The resort offers six pools and six whirlpools, including two large pools, and four smaller pools scattered around the property. The massive main pool, on the Mediterranean side of the property, is a sight to behold. It covers 15,000 square feet and carries the brand’s flagship logo in big letters. There are several dolphin-shaped statues and fountains spraying water, a shallow section that allows lounge chairs right in the water, and big white columns surrounding the perimeter of the pool. In the center is the swim-up bar, and rafts and floating devices are available to guests. Private cabanas with plush lounge chairs and butler service can be reserved for an extra fee. The main pool on the Caribbean side is set in a grove of palm trees and features a small lazy river along which guests can float on rafts.

Beach

Nice long, white-sand beach, though many vendors are hovering around

The gorgeous stretch of beach on-site has clear, calm Caribbean waters in picturesque turquoise blue

The beach at Dickenson Bay is one of the longest on the island, with powdery white sand stretching all the way around the bay. On the west side of Antigua, this beach sees lovely sunsets and clear, calm Caribbean waters in that picturesque turquoise blue. There are large, curved sunshades available that fit two lounge chairs inside. Butler-service guests can have these reserved and get a cooler of drinks brought to them.

As all beaches on Antigua are public, and there are neighboring resorts on either side of the property, this beach can be busy, with non-Sandals tourists and locals strolling around. It doesn't have the quiet, secluded atmosphere of more remote resorts on the island, like Nonsuch Bay. There are more vendors walking up and down the beach here touting their tours than at other resorts, and they certainly aren't afraid to approach you.

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Address

Dickenson Bay, St. John's, Caribbean

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