Caribbean Beach Vacation 2013

I am lucky to have incredibly generous parents. This year was our third beach vacation to the Caribbean courtesy of them, and our second visit to Antigua.  The first trip was to Barbados, I wrote about Harrison’s Cave on the island here. Both times we stayed at a resort that although owned by Sandals is not a Sandals resort; Grand Pineapple Beach has a quaintness and charm that you just couldn’t find in a modernised (and soulless IMO) Sandals. Last year we enjoyed our beach vacation so much that my parents booked whilst we were there to return the following year! I will post about our excursions this year a little later on (once I’ve selected and edited the photos!) but for now I’ll leave you with a few snapshots of last year’s main trip to Bird Island, and share with you the photos of our accommodation and surrounding area, Long Bay.

We stayed in the beach front rooms, in 2013 on the ground floor and in 2014 on the first floor. You can see in the background another building of the hotel and there are several of these, but the facilities and the beach are never overcrowded.


This is the restaurant and bar area, as viewed from our ground floor room. Towards the end of the beach are a parade of small huts, where local women sell beachwear and souvenirs. At the very end of the beach there is a bar and restaurant called La Tortuga. As the hotel is all inclusive we didn’t ever eat or drink at the restaurant, but the food looked great.


This is the view in the opposite direction.


There are always birds at breakfast time invading the dining area, mostly starlings and little tits, but for me this adds to the charm! When seated by the window we would put crumbs on the ledge to attract, and if I was eating alone I would put crumbs on the table opposite me to attract some company for breakfast. This year there were a nesting pair of doves, who had also built their nest in the rafters between the restaurant and bar area. On the beach you will often find doves and the brown birds below that look like a cross between a seabird and duck, and you will see a lot of pelicans and egrets flying over the water.


In the grounds of the hotel, there are several mangrove style trees, the one in the pic below being the most impressive.


There are also some giant tortoises, which were well behaved on our stay during 2014.


However during our visit in 2013 they were not as innocent as they looked and made rather a lot of noise!


Yep, it was mating season!

The meals are mostly buffet-style, however they are so extremely tasty! This is coming from someone with usually snobbish opinions of buffet food in restaurants! Every day for lunch there is Mary’s Caribbean barbecue at the Outhouse on top of the hill. Many momento plaques are left behind by previous guests. Come up here to feed mongoose and local cats. Whilst birds dominate the dining area by day, by night you will find felines-a-plenty. Again, this added to our experience, and our family would invariably feed the cats by night under the table.


None of Antigua’s 365 beaches are privately owned, so you will find locals selling on the beach. This is Leeroy the Aloe Vera guy. Others sell jewellery, massage and excursions. If you’re booking an excursion we highly recommend Marvellous Marv, who has sorted all trips for our stay and is always considerably cheaper than the hotel booker.


Here is a panoramic view of Long Bay from by La Tortuga. You can walk along the rocky headland to the furthest point, however past this point gets a bit dicey to walk around! We frequently saw little lizards in the bushes when walking along here.


During our 2013 stay we went on three excursions. One to Shirley Heights on a Sunday, a (too) popular tourist destination where they pack ’em in for a night of jerk chicken, rum punch and Caribbean music whilst watching the sun go down over Nelson’s Dockyard. The food was delicious, but the queues long and trying to find a seat was impossible. After that the music began, which was great but loud! I sound like an old person I know, but I don’t think any of us were expecting it to be that packed! This year we went there by day to find out more about the history, and we didn’t see another tourist in the highest point!

Another trip we went on was a catamaran cruise, which was brilliant! It was supposed to be a circumnavigation tour of the island stopping at Green Island, however due to bad weather we were unable to go round half of the island so went half way around and back again, and our stop was at Great Bird Island. Having not experienced Green Island I don’t know if we missed out, but this was a very special day.


All around the coast of Antigua you see the most amazing buildings. We spent a lot of the trip saying “that would do” and we have every intention of being the proud owners of a piece of paradise one day.


You can see where our catamaran laid anchor and those on the boat had a choice of either snorkelling to shore or taking a speed boat to land. The boat couldn’t come closer due to the reefs. We chose to snorkel, and although we saw a few fish the snorkelling sights are far superior in Long Bay. Sadly the reef around Great Bird Island was severely damaged by a hurricane a few years ago and apparently it will take years to repopulate. Having said that, the diversity and quantity of fish we saw in 2014 compared to 2013 whilst swimming in Long Bay was noticeably increased. We even saw two Hawksbill Turtles this year and followed one for about quarter of an hour. An incredibly special memory.


Whilst on the island we had some Caribbean chicken, rice and pea, washed down with rum punch. The guides took us on a tour of the island up to the topmost point. Whilst on our adventure we spotted this little fella –


We also found some stunning conches, and although I’m not sure on the policy of taking these away once we’d checked they were empty  we could hardly resist as a memento of our trip.

Our third trip was to Stingray City but I’ll save that for the 2014 post as we have some video footage to edit down, and I need to find the photos of us with rays! We’re looking for a new Caribbean island to visit next, have you been to any and what would your beach vacation recommendation be? Leave a comment below, please!