Set among landscaped grounds on Dickenson Bay, one of Antigua’s longest white-sand beaches, Sandals Grande Antigua consists of the Caribbean Grove and Mediterranean Village, which opened in July 2007.
Facilities: Laid back and lively, it caters to all, from couples who enjoy cocktails at the swim-up bar, to those who like a bit of peace and quiet. With six pools, tennis, volleyball and water sports, including diving, daytime activities are plentiful. Themed evenings range from live bands to beach parties.
Food: For an all-inclusive, the choice and quality are surprisingly impressive – even at the buffet. The nine eateries range from Kimono’s, where teppanyaki chefs prepare Japanese cuisine tableside, to seafood at the beachside Barefoot restaurant. The Piano Bar and Cricketer’s Pub are open until 2am.
Spa: A warming red interior sets the scene for Sandals’ signature Red Lane Spa. Staff are attentive and rates medium-high – $40 manicure, to $880 for a three-and-a-half-hour Love Potion couples treatment.
Rooms: In the Caribbean Grove’s lower-category rooms, soft furnishings and bathrooms seem dated, but renovated Garden Rondovals and Honeymoon Oceanview Suites with butler service hit the spot. Med Village rooms are impressive, with flatscreen TVs and marble bathrooms, but top prize goes to the honeymoon-friendly Luxury Ocean Village one-bed suites with plunge pool, hot tub and butler.
Internet: Costs extra. Wi-fi through-out, wired access in Med Village rooms and an internet cafe in the Caribbean Grove.
Key selling points: The powder-white beach, 15,000sq ft Mediterranean pool and tropical gardens.
Virgin Holidays offers seven nights all-inclusive at the Antigua Grande, flying from Gatwick, staying in a Portofino Junior Suite (concierge room) between March 3 and 24 for £2,269 per person, a saving of 35%. 0844 557 3989
Only 14 miles long and 11 miles wide, Antigua is the sunniest of the eastern Caribbean islands with low humidity and rainfall averaging 45in.
Highlights: The 365 pristine beaches including Dickenson Bay, the location of the Sandals Grande Antigua, in the northwest and Half Moon Bay in the east. Old sugar plantations dot the lesser-developed, more rugged Atlantic Coast.
Water sports: Coral reefs and shipwrecks attract divers and snorkellers to offshore sites such as Cades Reef. The current is virtually non-existent and water temperature hovers around 25C. Above water, Wadadli Cats operates catamaran cruises, sailing is de rigueur and windsurfers love Dickenson Bay. At Stingray City, children can feed stingrays in shallow waters.
Active pursuits: For golfers, 18-hole championship courses such as Cedar Valley and Jolly Harbour offer quality games, while high-wire canopy tours above the lush rainforest are increasingly popular.
Tours: Enjoy the views from historic Nelson’s Dockyard in the English Harbour and on Sundays, join locals at Shirley Heights’ legendary calypso and barbecue party at the Lookout, Antigua’s finest viewpoint. In the capital, St John, enjoy the lively waterfront and shops of Heritage and Redcliffe Quays, or head to Jolly Harbour for retail therapy.