Curtain Bluff Antigua
Curtain Bluff just re-opened after a 13 million dollar facelift. For those of you who know and love this property, fear not, it’s the same, just better. Sort of like Jane Fonda. If you’ve never been to Curtain Bluff I will tell you this, it’s the only property I have continually returned to year after year.
Curtain Bluff invited me down to see the updates for myself, and since the hurricanes just passed, I had many readers asking if Antigua is “really okay”. While it’s sister island Barbuda (a 90 minute boat ride away) was destroyed, Antigua got lucky, they lost a few coconuts from trees and that is the extent of the “damage”. I have visited in the past to cover their Fantasy Tennis Weeks and took the entire family for a Weeklong Family Vacation that they still talk about. For this trip I brought just one child, my 15 year old son and aspiring tennis player and sailor for a Mommy and Me trip. If you’ve never taken just one of your kids away, I was interviewed by the Wall Street Journal about how to do it, and why it matters.
Curtain Bluff 411
You fly into Antigua (ANU), you’ll find a plethora of flight choices, most of the major airlines fly there. We always fly Jet Blue. When you land there will be someone to greet you before you even wander into immigration and customs with a get out of jail free card because you are visiting Curtain Bluff. I hate waiting in lines, I know you do too.
Someone will guide you to the little Curtain Bluff stand where you’ll be offered cold towels and something to drink. Then if you are really lucky, Maurice will pick you up. It’s about 40 minutes to the resort. I don’t recommend renting a car, it’s really easy to get a taxi from the property if you want to go to English Harbour or anywhere else. The cost is around $60 (without tip) and can be billed to your room.
Until a few years ago there weren’t even room keys at Curtain Bluff. What you say? That’s crazy! You might think so until you visit. You quickly come to feel that you are being hosted by the inimitable and charming owner, Chelle Hulford. She and her husband built the resort in the 1960’s and treated every guest like family that you actually like. Chelle, and managers Rob and Wendy have continued this tradition. Each morning you’ll spy Chelle toodling about in her monogrammed golf cart, lipstick and jewelry already on at 7:00 am fluffing pillows and checking on everyone like a mother hen in her nest. She never lets me take her photo so I snapped this as she was zooming by. Also, when I grow up, I want to be Chelle.
The property has two beaches, one with strong surf and one that is more of a cove and very calm. I’ve seen it written that one side is the Atlantic and the other the Caribbean, not true. Though the island does sit within both, but the resort does not. The property is on the Southwest side of the island, the Caribbean side. The Atlantic is on the eastern side of the island.
There are bluff view rooms and beachfront rooms. If you are traveling with small children I would suggest an upper floor, the beach front rooms literally spill onto the beach and the surf on that side is strong. We have stayed in almost every room on the property, they are all equally fabulous. You are literally only in your room to sleep. Their claim to off the grid fame used to be that they didn’t have TVs in any of the rooms, they still don’t, but there is wi-fi everywhere, it’s robust and free. The bluff suite that Wilson and I recently stayed in had a living space that was open to the outdoors and even had a hammock. Wilson said he was “going to check it out”. This is how I found him.
You can click through the gallery of rooms on their website HERE if you want to see more. Wilson did a check in video to our room, it literally looks like it was filmed by a drunk person, I will spare you the dizziness. Though our suite was huge, were still never spent any time in it, you’ll find most guests either at the beach or enjoying the public spaces like the recently updated living room.
The first time I visited Curtain Bluff four years ago I was on the tennis court with a guy who turned out to be Elton John’s manager. Insider tip: This is where the wealthy and famous go to be low key. He asked me what I thought of the property and after some thought I told him, “it’s sort of we’re so rich we don’t need to buy new chairs to prove it.” What everyone loves about this resort is the service that makes you feel like family, the beaches, the amazing food, the views, the water, the ease of everything. The chairs were fine, but now they bought fancy new chairs and I am lost. There are several of these lounges on the surf beach. The new chairs for the calm beach had not arrived when I was there. With hammocks everywhere, who needs chairs??
All the action is at the “calm beach”. Here you’ll find a dock with waterfront staff who will run you and the kids out for a tubing ride or waterskiing. Anytime you want. For free. The only rule is that they don’t spot, they drive. So if you want to ski, there needs to be two of you, to tube there needs to be three. Wilson managed to be both my spotter AND action photographer.
They also have paddle boards, pedal boats and Hobie Cats. Wilson has recently taken up sailing and wanted to show off his skills. We spent hours out on the water with him tooling me about on the little Hobie. When I went back for an evening cocktail he went out on his own. The water is calm, the staff has their eye on you and the area is protected. I felt completely safe letting him go out on his own. Also, the water is warrrmmmmm.
All meals are included in the room price, all of them. And alcohol, all of it. This is the first “all inclusive” I have ever been to where I would recommend the food. Each morning breakfast is served in the Tamarind Tree restaurant, it’s all white tablecloths and table service. You can also order room service or breakfast to go if you are headed out for the day. The restaurant was part of the facelift, the chairs are new, the staff and amazing service are the same, the best. Also, they have the largest wine cellar in the Caribbean and a carefully curated collection. The fancy wines are not included in the room price, but if you love good wine, make sure you check out their list.
Lunch is served buffet style at the Seagrape restaurant on the calm beach. It’s a mix of local food and gourmet food, it’s all fresh and changes daily. Wilson learned the hard way that there aren’t a lot of rules at Curtain Bluff, but wearing a shirt to lunch is one of them. They make a drink called the Lime Squash (non-alcoholic) that I am obsessed with. Adding rum makes it extra special. The bar also has daily cocktail specials, did I mention all the drinks are included??
Dinner is served at both restaurants, though you need to make a reservation for Seagrape. All meals are included. If you feel like chilling in your robe in your room, room service is also included. Wilson had steak and a hot fudge sundae for dinner our last night at the hotel. After eating a man sized meal he was still hungry and called room service to see if he was allowed to have another dessert. Somehow the guy on the phone convinced Wilson he needed multiple desserts and sent them up. Oh, everything in the mini-bar is free too. It’s a teenage boy’s dream come true.
Curtain Bluff has tennis courts with the best view of anyplace I have ever been. They have four seaside hard courts that are lit at night. There are three staff pros, Nigel, Dillo and Rennie. I know I’m not supposed to have favorites, but I’m Team Nigel. The lessons are only $70 per hour and they can work with you one on one or in a group. Wilson took lessons every day from Nigel. If you forget a racquet, clothes or shoes, not to worry, there is a pro shop with everything you need.
You cannot go to Curtain Bluff and not visit the spa at least once. I don’t even know what’s on the spa menu, I don’t care. The massages and tub with a view are EVERYTHING. It’s like it was made for Instagram. Also, instead of just healthy tea or something they offer real snacks (banana bread dipped in chocolate) and champagne. Now that’s a spa menu. Wilson needs some work on his posing game. He did not get a treatment but on our last visit I did a couples massage with my daughter. I know, everyone wants me to adopt them.
Every day a boat leaves for the Cades reef just a five minute ride away. It’s a free snorkeling excursion. Wilson and I were going to go waterskiing again but then decided to hop on the snorkel boat. It’s THAT easy. No reservations, no charge, no worries. They set us up with masks and fins. The water is so salty you don’t even need a life vest to float, but they are available if you want one. The guides did a great job of finding sea life for us, he tickled a sting ray to get him off the bottom of the ocean, pointed out a lobster (I’ve only seen them on my plate) and even got an octopus to come out of his hole. And just like in Finding Nemo, the octopus inked and left. The entire experience was maybe an hour? Then I was back on the beach with a rum punch.
Antigua is the sailing capital of the eastern Caribbean, they host Antigua Sailing Week at the end of April and a visit to Falmout or English Harbour (a 30 minute ride for Curtain Bluff) is always excellent yacht spotting.
To get Wilson on the water in something larger than a Hobie we went to On Deck Sailing in nearby Falmouth Harbor (again, an easy ride with Maurice, around $30). Here you can go out for an afternoon and learn a little about the “sheets”, turns out these are the ropes, not the sails, and even take the helm. If you really want to learn to sail, this place is the real deal, it’s here that crews get certified. They offer everything from competent crew training to yacht master. I’m considering a program where we can live onboard for 4 nights and really learn to sail, it’s only $945 and includes breakfast and lunch each day. I did not ask about accommodations, I’m sure it’s just a bed, but who cares? I could be a REAL Captain.
If you want to go out for the day, a day charter is $850 and includes lunch. I managed to get it out of the crew that they had recently taken out Bill Gates and Kevin Costner (not together). The day after we sailed with On Deck Wilson and I were on the Hobie at Curtain Bluff when he spotted the Athena, the boat we had just sailed on. The same crew, One Love (he was cool before Sean Combs) and Sadiq were picking up a couple from the resort for a sunset cruise. Wilson had been there for two days and already had his sailing buddies. Reach out to Peter at On Deck for more information, he’s fabulous. Our day was not comped, I paid for Wilson to sail.
Why Curtain Bluff is the BEST Resort for Kids AND Parents
I always describe this resort as being like my childhood in the 1970s. Kids can go off and. play on their own safely. The resort is small and within one hour of being on property every single staff member will know you and your child. When I couldn’t find Wilson before I went to the spa I just left this note at the beach. Later the manager Wendy told me she had spotted him banging a coconut on the rocks trying to “get some water”, she just left him, he eventually mangled it enough to feel successful.
I have yet to find another resort where I am this relaxed and the kids are this happy. Usually if mom is relaxed, kids are bored and miserable and ruining the whole relaxation vibe (little jerks), if the kids are having fun (Atlantis) mom is exhausted. At Curtain Bluff I don’t even think about food, the kids just go eat, or fun, they go to the dock and ask to waterski or how I’m going to get my drink to my hammock, Leon will deliver. It’s great for one child or all of your children. Wilson missed having his siblings and friends to play with and made me play Bocce for hours even though I constantly beat him. Also, yes we played Bocce in our swim towels with a drink in hand (only mine had rum).
The last time we were in Curtain Bluff all of the kids at the resort played King of the Hill on the swim platform, there are some things I refuse to play, even for Wilson. I just let him be King.
Curtain Bluff has a long history of giving back to the local community through the Old Road Fund. After sister island Barbuda was devastated by the hurricanes, they turned their fundraising efforts to helping rebuild the island. The resort raised $100,000 from guest donations to give to Barbuda. You read that correctly, $100,000 in just a few months, that is how connected Curtain Bluff guests feel to the community and how much they trust Manger Rob Sherman and his team to properly distribute funds.
If you are considering a stay, let me know and I can help you book it. I was a guest of Curtain Bluff but paid for Wilson’s airfare and activities, but not the mountain of food he ate.