Looking for that one magical resort where the kids have fun and you actually get to relax?
It exists, I found it in Antigua, a Caribbean island a 4 1/2 hour flight from New York. Curtain Bluff has stacked up “World’s Best” awards, but that doesn’t impress kids – here’s what does:
Why my kids love Curtain Bluff
Unlimited and FREE water activities
All the kids had to do was ask politely and wait their turn, the staff would take them out. No room charge, no waiver, no signatures, just fun. They could also water ski, which is the one skill I possess that still impresses my children. They are hard to impress.
The resort sits at the magical point where the Atlantic and the Caribbean meet. All of the water activities (and beach bar) are at the “calm beach.” The path from your room to the beach is short, the resort is gated and the kids don’t need or want your help getting out on the water. The water staff have been working at Curtain Bluff for decades and by the end of our stay, my kids knew them all by name. In fact, the average length of employment at Curtain Bluff is 27 years. The boat staff had no problem keeping the kids safe and in line. They went tubing so frequently they actually wore out the tube, which was more of a floating sofa, so the staff brought out the taco which was even more fun.
Want to snorkel? Get on the boat. It’s that easy. Every day the snorkel boat leaves at 10:00 am and 2:00 pm. No reservations, no room charges, no stress. The boat goes about 15 minutes out to a nearby reef and the guides are with you and the kids the entire time. The water can be a little rough depending on the day; I would say that any child over the age of five who is a strong swimmer could totally go snorkeling. There are also scuba and fishing trips offered daily, none of us tried them, but they come highly recommended.
In addition to motorized water sports there are paddle boards, kayaks, pedal boats, Hobie Cats and good old fashioned floaties. You never see floaties at US resorts anymore because some damn lawyer somewhere said that people might drown. These are by far my favorite features of Curtain Bluff, also, if you ask nicely, the wait staff will deliver your frozen cocktail to your floatie. Floating and drinking takes more skill than you might imagine.
Just like packs of wild dogs find each other and then roam the island unfettered, so do kids. They brought friends with them, found friends, made friends. By the end of the week we were making reservations for 13 for dinner, and that was just for the kids. The patient and accommodating staff didn’t bat an eye that the adults were happily supping a good distance from their offspring and enjoying bottles of champagne. The kids had excellent dinner parties, I have no idea what was discussed, but I did hear there were crushes. Keaton always spills the beans.
Every day the kids would all meet somewhere and play a pick up game of soccer. Usually in their swimsuits and bare feet. At the end of our stay the staff (Clive) arranged an epic soccer match between our kids and the local soccer team. It was by far the best memory of our trip. The match was announced on Facebook by the local team’s coach and a huge crowd gathered to watch. They weren’t cheering for either team, they were cheering the game. The local team had the advantage of cleats, shin guards and actual skill. Our team had the advantage of pure adrenaline, and a loaner goalie from the other team. We lost by 2 points, but it didn’t matter, it was a day none of our kids will forget. I made a photo album of the game as a gift to the local coach and hope we can make it a tradition every year when we return.
Unstructured Free Time
I know, that sounds weird right? When was the last time your kids spent the day playing and you had little to no idea where they were? Why do I have so few photos of this? I have no damn idea where they were. They told me that there were pick up games of soccer, a game they called “raft wars” and lots and lots of Marco Polo in the pool. No one organized their play, or refereed it, or gave them a trophy for showing up. Also, much to their delight, no one shushed them. I’m pretty sure “raft wars” would be banned at most resorts due to the lawyerly concern of injury. But kids are smarter than anyone gives them credit for. They played to win, but made sure no one got hurt. When Keaton jammed a finger they made a floatie ambulance and the big kids rushed him to shore. He had so much fun on the “ambulance” his pain magically disappeared prior to triage.
They played cards, for money. The poker game moved from room to room each night.
No TV, no smart phone, no Buzzfeed? What to do? Turns out books aren’t so bad…
Though Curtain Bluff offers world class tennis instruction, the kids wanted to run their own tournament. So every night after the grown ups were done (and likely off drinking somewhere) the kids took over the courts. Some wore shoes, some did not. Some had Tracy Austin for a mom, some did not. It didn’t matter, they played big kids, little kids, great players and lousy players. With no adult help or trophies of any kind.
What I did while my kids were somewhere….
Why I love Curtain Bluff
My first trip to Curtain Bluff was to cover one of their Fantasy Tennis weeks, since then I’ve returned twice. I can’t think of another resort that I’ve covered for work that I’ve actually gone back to more than once. I never covered it as a family resort here on Luxury Travel Mom because I won’t recommend a property for your family unless I have taken mine there. It’s funny: some resorts look great on paper and the kids hate them, other places undersell themselves for kids, Curtain Bluff was a total upside surprise. There are no huge water slides or never ending beach games run by over caffeinated camp counselors. What Curtain Bluff offers is far more rare, good old fashioned fun under the watchful eye of a staff who cares as much about your kids as you do. When Keaton left the room at 7:00 am because he had a “breakfast date” with a 12 year old girl he had met, and DID NOT need my help, I knew this resort was a keeper. So while there are plenty of reasons to love this resort for kids, there are just as many reasons to, well, just love it.
The spa is perched on the bluff with a stunning view of the ocean below. The spa itself is small and unassuming, if you didn’t go up for a visit, you would never know the nirvana you are missing. The treatments start with fresh juice, the massage rooms boast gorgeous views, and treatments end with champagne and a soak in the infinity edge hot tub. What more do you really need to know?
The tennis isn’t only about Fantasy Tennis Weeks. The pros at Curtain Bluff are fabulous instructors and their sunny personalities make a day on the court even more fun. And with courts surrounded by palm trees with views of the water, that’s saying a lot. Everyone knows I have my favorite pro, Nigel. I proudly wear my Team Nigel shirt and hear his accent in my head when I’m playing “come on Kim-Marie-that’s right that’s right.”
Rooms, Food and Costs
The resort was built in the 1962 by Howard and Chelle Hulford. They wanted to build a vacation home but the Antiguan government wouldn’t let them. So they built their dream house and added some rooms for friends to visit, and it’s been that way ever since. Their return guest ratio is over 80%. That’s almost unheard of. Chelle still makes the rounds daily in her swag fringe topped golf cart trailing her signature scent of Giorgio of Beverly Hills behind her.
Curtain Bluff has 72 rooms. They range from standard rooms to suites, but don’t put too much thought into where you stay because trust me, you won’t be in the room. The rooms are comfortable and have stunning views of surf beach. The resort has two beaches, one calm, one with big waves. All of the rooms face the big waves unless you are in a bluff suite, which are not as convenient. If you have older kids, get a ground floor room and they can walk straight out to the beach. If you have younger kids, get an upper floor so you don’t have to worry about little ones slipping out the sliding glass doors.
They have been in business for 50 years and never had room keys until last year. Thanks to some insurance wonk you can now be inconvenienced by trying to remember your key. We stayed in a junior suite with a connecting room. You can have double beds or a king, the sofa turns into a bed and they can also bring in a rollaway. There are no televisions in the rooms and all the hammocks and free drinks are outside, so why would you be in your room?
Food and Alcohol
All food and alcohol are included in your room price. Yes, you read that correctly. Unlimited cocktails. And it’s not crappy all inclusive food either, it’s gourmet fare and top shelf alcohol. Breakfast is served in the restaurant, on the weekends they do a brunch buffet. The kids generally took themselves to breakfast, as far as I know (I was sleeping). Lunch is served at the beach and is a massive buffet. This is not lousy food; think lobster salad and traditional Caribbean fare and all you can eat. Just grab a table between 12:30 and 2:30. Dinner is served in two restaurants, the only one that needs reservations is Sea Grape on the beach. You might have to adjust your timing by 30 minutes, but they can always accommodate you. If you get hungry before dinner, stop by the bar where they lay out a traditional afternoon tea.
There is a dress code for dinner, which I love. I don’t mind tank tops and flip flops at lunch, but dinner calls for nicer attire. Also, each week Chelle hosts a cocktail party at her home, the stunning Bluff House where guests who have known each other for years, or are meeting for the first time, can mix and mingle. I love returning every year just to share a cocktail with the infamous General Manager, story teller and flirt Rob Sherman.
In the evening, for dinner at our restaurants, gentlemen and boys are required to wear long pants (no jeans), collared shirt and dress shoes. Ladies and young ladies are asked not to wear shorts in the bar and restaurant areas after 7pm.
Deluxe rooms are around $1,200 per night during high season, add $300 for Christmas week but know that return guests book a year ahead of time, if you’re thinking of a holiday stay, call now. I think the best value is in April, rates drop to $820 for a deluxe room and $915 for a junior suite on April 3rd. It’s not too hot and you are just in time for Antigua Sailing Week and my favorite week of the year Fantasy Tennis Week with Tracy Austin.
Children under two years of age stay in their parents’ room free of charge. Children over two and under five years pay US$ 85 per day. Over five and you are a “real” person. Rates are based on double occupancy and do not include 10% service charge and 12.5% govt tax. Another bonus of Curtain Bluff, you are not shelling out tips every time you turn around.
I was hosted by Curtain Bluff for purposes of reviews. You can read my multiple Curtain Bluff Resort Reviews about their tennis weeks. The kids’ opinions are not swayed by comped stays, as I have been comping their stays for 17 years now. They are begging to go back next spring, they have NEVER begged to go back anywhere.