Postcards from Antigua Part 3: The Jolly Beach Resort

Jolly Beach Resort was the first of three resorts my girlfriend and I stayed at during our recent trip to Antigua.

This all-inclusive resort is located right on the edge of the beach and looks out over majestic Jolly Bay, a bay of such turquoise waters that train-of-thoughts are inevitably derailed with a single, mesmerizing glance. I spent long afternoons here, reclining on the beach and staring out at the water, occasionally jumping in to cool down. Unfortunately, despite the wonderful blue color of the water, the bay is sadly lacking in the snorkeling department. It does, however, more than make up for this letdown in the float-atop-the-water-and-simply-do-nothing department.

For those looking for a bit more excitement, Jet Ski cowboys tool up and down the coast renting out their rides. In addition, the resort also provides kayaks, windsurfing, and sailing for those more inclined towards non-motorized water sports. Not interested in getting all salty when you swim? Jolly Beach has two fresh water pools on the grounds as well.

I was quite pleased with our accommodations at the resort. We opted for the air-conditioned junior suite which included a spacious bedroom (as you can see above), a living room and even a kitchen–a rather useless amenity at an all-inclusive resort.

The best thing about the room was undoubtedly the view. Just check out the above photograph to see what I awoke to every morning. When it rained in the afternoons, I simply sat on the balcony and took in the brief thundershowers. It could have used a hammock out there, but otherwise it was perfect.

One of the most important ingredients of an all-inclusive is the food. I was a bit disappointed to arrive at 11 p.m. after a long flight from Los Angeles only to discover there was no way to get a meal at that time. The front desk rounded up some sandwich meat and bread, but after the kitchen closes at 10 p.m., guests are SOL. So I went to bed hungry on my first night.

I ate mostly at Hemispheres, the resort’s buffet restaurant. Like most buffets, the majority of the food was simply average. There was always, however, one or two tasty items which made the meal worthwhile–usually some locally caught fish. The salad bar was pretty good but the dessert table, although seductively tantalizing, was a big disappointment; none of the food tasted as good as it looked.

Jolly Beach Resort also has three restaurants. These are proper sit-down restaurants with a wait staff and menus. The selection includes Italian (Bocciolo), Seafood (Lydia’s), and Indian (Ustav). I would like to write that the food was all wonderful but we were turned away from Bocciolo for wearing jeans (it’s the only restaurant with a dress code) and the others were booked up (reservations are indeed necessary). So, sorry but I have nothing to report about the restaurant food at Jolly Beach.

The Coconut Grill, located between the beach and pool, is the most causal place to grab a bite. Open from noon to 4 p.m., the grill serves exactly the type of fare you’d expect from a grill; burgers, hot dogs, and fried chicken. The food was okay, but vaguely high school cafeteria-like.

Something I was very disappointed about, having read so much about it in various guidebooks, was the fruit and juice scene. Jolly Beach, as well as the two other resorts we stayed at, had just average juice selections and very little fruit to speak of. Antigua is supposedly blessed with a bounty of wonderful fruit but it rarely made an appearance. Perhaps they export it, I don’t know. It was disappointing nonetheless.

Fruit juice aside, I was impressed with the bar. All-inclusive also includes drinks and the bar, open until midnight, is happy to oblige. We kept asking the bartenders for their specialty and kept getting these wonderfully mixed drinks, usually filled with rum. Tasty blended drinks, such as the hurricane and the hummingbird also came our way. In addition, the poolside bar also has a serve-yourself daiquiri machine with a bottle of rum next to regulate the amount of alcohol you might want dumped into your drink.

With so much alcohol at hand, one might expect a drunken bacchanalia, but this wasn’t the case. The guests, the vast majority of which were British, were relatively well behaved. This was probably due to the fact that they were mostly families. There were a couple of drunk teenagers running around, and a few bratty kids, but otherwise the crowd was tolerable.

Overall, I was impressed with Jolly Beach Resort. It is a three-star resort and has a few shortcomings (occasionally slow staff, charging to use the room safe, average food) but otherwise I’d highly recommend it–of course, with such a beautiful beach at hand, even a hole in the sand would be a lovely place to stay.

Yesterday: St. John’s
Tomorrow: Cocos Resort