Sandals Grande Antigua, St. John’s, is suggested as the best Sandals Resort for Honeymooners, by TripSavvy. I can attest to this as my husband and I spent our honeymoon at this couples resort location. It is certainly a beautiful, romantic spot perfect for the couple looking to celebrate their marriage or anniversary.
After reading my pros and cons of Sandals Grenada, one of my Shine with Jennifer Leigh followers asked that I write a similar review of Sandals Grande Antigua. Without further ado, here are my candid thoughts on the 10 pros and cons of Sandals Antigua. (They are not in any particular order nor are they weighted. Disclosure: Some of the product and location links in this post are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and/or purchase the item, I will receive a small affiliate commission. This helps keep my blog running!)
Location: Sandals Grande Antigua, St. John’s Dickenson Bay
Sandals Antigua opened in 1993, which makes it 27 years old. It has 373 rooms spread across 27 acres of tropical grounds. There are 11 restaurants and 7 bars serving food and beverages 24/7. 6 pools and 4 whirlpools are located across the property.
Pros of Sandals Antigua
1. 2 Resorts in 1
Since we have visited Sandals Grande Antigua twice, we have had the chance to stay in both the Caribbean Beachfront Village and the Mediterranean Oceanview Village. They are both completely different but each adds its unique design to the tropical, Caribbean landscape of the resort.
Caribbean Beachfront Village
We stayed for 10 nights on this side of the couples only resort for our honeymoon in 2011. The staff upgraded us to a Caribbean Honeymoon Grande Luxe Poolside Walkout Room. I would have categorized it as a garden view room with access to a pool, but you wouldn’t know that unless you were at the resort.
The Caribbean side of the property is quiet, romantic and you feel tucked away from it all. Most of the night life happens on the Mediterranean side. This helps if you are an early to bed kind of couple. ha ha. Most of the restaurants are on this side of the property, which means you won’t have to walk too far for your meals.
Mediterranean Oceanview Village
We decided to try something different on our second visit to Antigua and Barbuda. We stayed on the “party” side of the property in a Mediterranean Club Level Suite with balcony. While the building was set quite far back from the ocean, it did have a view.
The Mediterranean Village contains the large party pool where you can indulge yourself at the swim up bar, take part in the daily games or play a game of table tennis or croquet with your spouse. It’s close to the beach so if you want to take a walk or swim in the ocean, it’s right there.
We spent most of our time at the party pool and felt like our room was quite convenient. We could freshen up whenever we wanted to. Plus, there were a couple restaurants handy. Marios Restaurant for second breakfast, Bella Napoli for gluten free pizza at lunchtime and Cafe de Paris for an afternoon coffee.
2. Long Beautiful Beach
As of 2020, we have visited 5 Sandals Resorts. Sandals Grande Antigua has the best walkable beach we’ve seen so far. It is located on Antigua’s best beach, Dickenson Bay. If you like to walk, it’s a little under 2 miles of gorgeous white sand.
Tip: Make sure to catch a sunset. This beach had breathtaking sunsets almost every night. Pack a tripod for your smart phone or digital camera to take advantage of this occasion. Here is a great portable tripod with remote for your smart phone. It works wonders for your selfies too!
If you like water sports, this romantic, all-inclusive Sandals Resort location is great! The water is spectacular. It was always calm and perfect for swimming. We enjoyed lounging on the netted rafts. There are several water sports you can take part in. Sign up to use the canoes, kayaks, Hobie Cats, or paddle boards.
Our underwater/waterproof Olympus Tough camera worked great for this adventure. We swam out to the rafts with it, took selfies in the pool and had a blast posing under water.
4. Expansive Property
One of the distinguishing features of this all-inclusive resort is how large it is. With 27 acres of lush, landscaped terrain, everywhere you look is “Instagram-worthy”. We have walked the property many, many times and there are still romantic nooks and crannies we’ve missed!
5. Your Choice Of Pools
On our honeymoon, there were times we wanted to be social and others we wanted to be alone. With 6 pools located all over the resort, you are bound to find one that’s empty. Most visitors go to 1 of the 2 main pools. We found the rest to be unoccupied most of the time.
6. Amazing Weather
Both times we traveled to Sandals Grande Antigua were in March and April. We had fabulous weather each time. The island breeze was always blowing and the sun was out the majority of the time. If you are looking to visit, I highly recommend traveling during the spring season.
7. Loads of Entertainment
Sandals Grande Antigua has the most live entertainment offerings we’ve seen so far. Nightly dance lessons, live music from local bands, talent shows, chocolate parties, karaoke and more! Even our shy selves got out on the dance floor and learned a few moves to Reggae music. Often, there were multiple events happening across the resort at the same time.
8. Come Back Soon Event
If you are a returning Sandals Select Member, you are automatically invited to the weekly Come Back Soon Dinner. It’s a chance to get dressed up, eat a fantastic meal and get to know others that have traveled to Sandals Resort Locations. Tip: Make a list of questions for those sitting at your table. This event is the perfect way to get information on other Sandals Resorts when you are trying to decide on your next location.
The Come Back Soon Event was the most formal event at this Caribbean beach resort. The awards ceremony was held at the poolside piazza and dinner was served right beside the pool. It was a gorgeous evening to have dinner under the stars.
9. Best Breakfast Views
Sandals Antigua still has our favorite breakfast spot. Bayside Restaurant is located on the beach! It’s open-air seating, which means you do have the occasional bird or two that wants to drink your coffee. ha ha! Tip: Plan to arrive 10 to 15 minutes before the restaurant opens to nab a beach side table. There will be others doing the same thing. We actually made a few friends this way. We all had something in common: early risers who enjoy eating breakfast on the beach!
10. Beautiful Island Tours
During our honeymoon to Antigua and Barbuda we signed up for a half day island tour. The Jeep tour included two couples and brought us to Blockhouse ruins, Nelson’s Dockyard, Shirley’s Heights and Devil’s Bridge. Tip: Bring your camera is this tour will give you gorgeous landscape photography opportunities.
Cons of Sandals Grande Antigua
1. Beach Vendors
The beach is not private to Sandals Resort guests. Thankfully, there are Sandals guards at each entrance from the beach onto the all inclusive resort. While you are walking the beach or lounging on the beach, you will get harassed by local vendors selling their wares. For this reason, we did not relax on the beach. Unfortunately, even when we found lounge chairs behind the resort fence, vendors would lean on the fence and still try to get our attention.
2. Check-In Process
Unfortunately, this seems to be a problem at every Sandals Resort we’ve been to. We check-in online before we leave home and when we arrive at the couples resort, our information isn’t filled in on the electronic forms.
The iPads weren’t working correctly upon check-in. Every time we filled out the form, it would give us errors. Also, we arrived after check-in time and our suite wasn’t available. Even worse, we were a club level room and weren’t treated as such.
3. Hit or Miss Customer Service
Unfortunately, you never knew what you were going to get when approaching a Sandals Resort employee. We had some that were extremely helpful and courteous. Others were downright rude. One day I entered Marios Restaurant for breakfast with a kimono covering my bathing suit. I was asked to leave and come back in proper attire. I had worn the kimono the day prior without any trouble. The entire experience left me scarred. Every time I visit a Sandals Resort I’m extremely self-conscious of my beach coverups.
4. Mosquito Fogging
If you are sensitive to chemicals, be aware of the daily fogging at Sandals Antigua. I believe it was around 6 PM each night. One night we were in the open-air lobby and the fogger came through. It was something out of LOST (if you watched that show, think Smoke Monster). We ran to our room, stuffed a towel under the door and waited for it to clear. I’m certainly thankful for the lack of mosquitoes at Sandals Resort locations, but I’d rather not come into contact with chemicals on my vacation.
5. Pool Chairs
This is a common complaint at every Sandals Resort, saving of the pool chairs! The butlers are up early saving the cabanas and shaded pool chairs for their guests. If you want a shaded chair, be sure to get up early and save it. BUT, not too early. The staff will clear your things to make way for the butlers. It’s a fine dance, but you’ll figure it out after a few days.
6. Quality of Restaurants
While there are 11 restaurants at Sandals Antigua, there are higher quality restaurants at other locations. We have found some of the best food served at Sandals LaSource Grenada. We are both gluten free and found Antigua to have fewer options for us.
7. Island Routes: Half Day Excursion
Since our excursion, I believe Sandals Resort has changed the vehicles you tour the island in. We were stuffed into a tiny SUV.
I sat in the front with the seat all the way up to the dash, my husband had to sit on the single seat in the way back and the other couple sat next to each other in the middle of the vehicle. The tour lasted an entire day even though we saw the best sites during the first half of the day.
For lunch, we were taken to an unknown area at someone’s house where we served local cuisine. We had mentioned our food allergies before booking; however, no care was taken for our gluten free dining needs. To say we were hungry and carsick at the end of the day would be an understatement.
8. Local Pests
Make sure to spray your feet with insect repellent. While dining at Eleanor’s my feet were bit by sand fleas. There is a wood floor in the restaurant, but sand underneath. My toe swelled up for several days, which made walking difficult.
If you like stray cats, you will love Antigua. Cats everywhere. While I don’t mind them taking care of other pest issues on the island, I prefer them to stay at a safe distance from me. Many guests feed them and pet them. I personally would be worried about diseases, fleas, etc.
9. Older Amenities
As I mentioned, Sandals Antigua is about 27 years old and it shows. The Mediterranean Oceanview Village is the newer side of the resort. We enjoyed our room there much more than the Caribbean room (which was dark, damp and dated). The resort itself is starting to look tired. I’m hoping to hear news of renovations!
10. Attention to Detail
We celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary at Sandals Antigua. The resort is great about doing little things for your anniversary. After dinner that night, we arrived in our room to flour petals on the bed, a bottle of champagne and a piece of chocolate cake.
That cake looked soooo good! When you have Celiac Disease, you trust nothing and assume everything is unsafe. Thankfully, we made a few phone calls and finally found out it wasn’t gluten free. What a let down! Not to mention, if I had trusted Sandals I would have been sick the rest of my stay. A big thumbs down from me on that one.
Sandals Grande Antigua Summary Review
Nick, my husband, and I are quite loyal customers of Sandals Resorts. We chose our first location to be Antigua for our honeymoon destination due to Sandals policies on food allergies (and the fact that it was gorgeous). Since that time, we’ve had 5 Sandals all inclusive vacations and are planning a 6th for the fall of 2019. Here is a list in order of preference of our favorite locations:
- Sandals LaSource Grenada – 2017 & 12/2019
- Sandals Grande Antigua – 2011 & 2016
- Sandals South Coast, formerly Sandals Whitehouse – 2012 (Sandals website. Photo tour coming soon!)
- Sandals Royal Bahamian – November 2014
While Sandals Antigua has our heart since it is where our love story began, Grenada Resort and Spa is our new favorite destination.
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This review of the Sandals Grande Antigua resort is not a sponsored article. All opinions are my own.