Some guests call it Verandah Antigua. Others simply call it their second home. What I need you to know is that The Verandah Resort & Spa is an Antigua all-inclusive resort that’s worth a closer look for your next family vacation.
The Verandah is part of both Air Canada Vacations’ Spotlight Collection and Family Collection, as well as its Play program. Being part of “Air Canada Vacations Play” means it’s been recognized as the ultimate family-friendly vacation — a resort that’s perfect for kids with an exclusive flight experience. And it means that kids eat, play and stay for FREE (of course some conditions apply).
There’s good reason that guests return year after year to this lush eco-resort; a big part of that is the value you’ll get at this all-inclusive resort in Antigua. Checking Air Canada Vacation’s last-minute deals as I wrote this post, The Verandah Antigua was available for a one-week stay for two adults and two children under 12, departing Toronto on March 26, 2020, in a hillside suite for $4,531 all in! Upgrade to a superior waterfront suite and it still only comes to $5,540 total. Yes, including all flights, one checked bag per guest, accommodations, resort amenities, taxes and fees.*
We haven’t scored an all-inclusive getaway for the four of us for that price in YEARS. Maybe I’ve just been looking in the wrong place and The Verandah Antigua has been waiting for us all along.
Honestly, I always thought islands like Antigua were just far too out of reach for our family vacation budgets, so I really never considered it as an option. Oops.
An important note about Verandah Antigua’s star rating
Since we normally favour five-star properties, I have to say that The Verandah’s four-star rating set my expectations a touch lower than usual before we arrived. I was ready for our rooms to be a little worse for wear and for the service to be a bit less attentive than what we’re used to.
NOT AT ALL! This rating seems too low based on our resort experience.
Within a day of being at Verandah Antigua, we all kind of looked at each other quizzically and wondered how it could only be considered a four-star resort. We have stayed at a “five-star” all-inclusive in Mexico and another in Jamaica, both of which The Verandah Antigua easily PUT.TO.SHAME.
So, keep in mind that star ratings are often relative not only to the country in which the resort sits but also relative to other resorts under the parent company’s umbrella.
Our Verandah Antigua highlights
Now let’s dig into the fun stuff: the resort grounds, accommodations, food and beverages, beaches, pools, activities and more.
We packed a lot into our seven-day stay and wish we’d had even just two more days to soak up all that this Antigua all-inclusive has to offer. There was still more to explore when our Antigua vacation came to an end!
Here’s a video I put together to whet your whistle:
Verandah Antigua grounds
From the moment you arrive, this resort is knock-you-off-your-feet gorgeous. The grounds are covered in lush foliage and it’s rare to see any bare spots on the grounds. It’s palm trees, mangroves, flowers and green, green, green in every direction. There’s even an herb garden that supplies the resort’s restaurants.
It could be all the tropical leaves and flowers everywhere, or it may be that there’s no hotel-like accommodations on the resort’s 30-acre grounds, but there’s an intimacy and rain forest-y feel across the property that we haven’t experienced elsewhere — and we’ve been to some pretty spectacular properties around the world.
It’s probably due in large part to The Verandah’s commitment as a Green Globe Certified Resort, with daily operations geared toward the ecological preservation of the surrounding environment.
I woke up to catch the sunrise one morning and spent a couple of hours just wandering the palm- and aloe-lined pathways around the resort. There were birds chirping happily, hummingbirds buzzing about sucking the morning nectar from flowers and a tropical white noise that still brings a smile to my face.
Nighttime at Verandah Antigua cast a similar sound with tree frogs lulling us to sleep.
On day two, Big B said something that I’d been feeling but hadn’t yet put into words: “I don’t know why, but I fell into vacation mode here faster than any other resort.”
It was true, and it took me all week to articulate why. Without the fuss of typical hotel accommodations, waiting for elevators, rushing to find loungers by the pool or beach or worrying about fancy dress codes for dinners, we felt instantly at ease — and at home — at The Verandah.
Verandah Antigua suites & villas
Without low- or high-rise lodging, you might be wondering what the rooms are like at this 30-acre eco-luxe all-inclusive resort in Antigua.
There are little bungalows across the resort — a more authentic way to experience the Caribbean. The Verandah has 186 villa-style one- and two-bedroom suites available in four different categories. Each has vaulted ceilings and décor inspired by the West Indies.
The one-bedroom suites can accommodate up to four guests with a king-sized bed or two double beds and queen sleeper sofa. The two-bedroom villas, and some with plunge pools, can handle up to six guests.
All of the lodging includes private verandahs, beach towels that are replenished daily, housekeeping, porters and access to a concierge. (Tips are included as part of your package, but we did leave a little something extra for our housekeeper because she provided such impeccable service all week.)
We were in villa 508 and it was in a fantastic location, within easy walking distance to the big pool, restaurants and the Main Beach.
Here’s a closer look at our plunge-pool villa we enjoyed at Verandah Antigua:
As The K Man and Miss Q get older, bigger and more aware of their bodies, we’re also trying to steer away from putting them in shared pull-out sofas, so having two twin beds at The Veranda Resort & Spa was perfect.
We had more living space in our two-bedroom plunge-pool villa than we ever used. Though Miss Q did splash around in the plunge pool (which parents of younger children will appreciate knowing was completely enclosed), we hardly used the massive patio that stretched the width of our villa. Our dining area was more for storage than anything else since we spent mealtimes at the restaurants. And while a kitchenette is lovely, we only used the bar fridge — at an all-inclusive, there wasn’t much else to do in a kitchen!
Finally, we loved the privacy that came with being in a villa surrounded by palm trees — there was no need to be modest or speak in hushed voices.
Verandah Antigua food & drink
This is perhaps the only area of our stay that we felt could use some improvement. Don’t get me wrong — overall, the food quality was very good and all four of us could always find something to eat that we really enjoyed. But in terms of variety, we found the Verandah Antigua’s buffet a bit limited in its offerings compared to some of the bigger all-inclusives we’ve visited (which, truthfully, is to be expected in a resort with only 186 rooms).
I would have preferred some more choice at breakfast, but really appreciated having a freshly made omelette each morning or the option to have someone whip up an over-easy or soft-boiled egg that I could dip some toast into. I missed having mango and coconut pieces as my morning go-tos, however, and since both grow in Antigua, I was hoping to enjoy both.
The highlight of the breakfast buffet at Seabreeze, though, was the smoothie bar. Bowl after bowl of fresh fruit, yogurt, sliced veggies and raw oatmeal saw us each try a different group of ingredients in our morning smoothies every day. Bonus: no added sugar! I find a lot of resorts want to add dollops of simple syrup to smoothies that are already sweet enough because of the fruit, so I was thankful there was none of that in sight.
Every day, before or after breakfast, we would head over to see the barista and grab an iced mocha. Honestly? Better than Starbucks.
Local dishes (like curried goat, salt fish and oxtail stew with rice and beans) were consistently outstanding for lunch at the Seabreeze buffet.
But one of our favourite places to grab a casual midday bite was at The Beach Bar & Grill. Just down the path from the big pool perched above the Main Beach where all of the watersports activities took place, you could choose bar-style seating overlooking the bay or sit at a table in the adjacent restaurant area.
With help-yourself nachos and an easy menu of basics like BLTs and burgers, the food was good and got us back to our sun-soaked days quickly.
Having drinks here was also a beautiful way to nab some shade and eat up the hillside views it offered.
I strongly recommend the weekly pool party dinner buffet on Tuesdays, which was a dining highlight for us. Everything was so delicious, I was served the best pina colada I’ve ever had an all-inclusive resort and eating poolside with the cooler evening breeze brushing your shoulders is such a treat. No reservations required! (Nor are they ever for the buffet.)
Dinner reservations are, however, required for the other restaurants. The only way to get room service is by booking a private dinner, which is pretty costly, so plan to dine out each night and make reservations the day you arrive to avoid disappointment.
The Buccaneer and The Beach Bar & Grill are both a la carte dinner restaurants starting at 6:30 p.m. that serve Caribbean-inspired dishes. The food at The Buccaneer was very good, with standouts being the salmon and pecan pie dessert.
The Beach Bar & Grill’s menu is a bit more basic but you get to eat outside on a patio.
Reservations are also required at Nicole’s, the fine-dining restaurant onsite. But there’s also a surcharge of US$40 per adult and a bit less for kids, so keep that in mind if you decide to book there. You will see a T-bone and lobster on the menu, both of which were quite good, so you just need to evaluate if that’s worth US$80 per couple. In our estimation, if you’re travelling without kids and have your heart set on lobster, this is a nice choice.
Your final dinner option is private dining. You can choose any location — your room or one of the many gazebos that dot the Verandah Antigua property. We went for a gazebo overlooking the bay and the entire evening was beautiful. They decorated the gazebo with pink flowers and tulle after they heard it was my favourite colour, and our butler served sparkling wine and each course with care. It doesn’t come cheap (it’s around US$280 per couple); what you’re paying for is the ambiance and private service. It’s upscale and wonderful but I’m not sure I’d splurge for this myself if we returned to The Verandah, primarily because I’m a foodie first and the food was no better than Nicole’s at US$200 less.
That said, if you’re visiting for a special occasion or planning to propose, you definitely want to add private dining to your stay! It’ll make the whole week unforgettable.
Prepare for a long dining experience with all of the a la cartes, with delivery of three courses taking anywhere from 1.5 to 2.5 hours from start to finish. This is too long in my opinion, but of course those without children who need to get to bed probably won’t care as much.
Overall, drinks were pretty good. The Cadillac margaritas were consistently excellent. Pina coladas ranged from the-best-ever to way-too-sweet, so really depended on who was making them. I found with blender drinks that I had to specifically request alcohol be added.
The kids loved getting strawberry-banana smoothies. Almost hourly some days. I loved that the resort used real bananas in them but wish they had real strawberries on-hand like they did at the morning smoothie bar so we could avoid that strawberry syrup stuff. Huge bonus: no one ever tried to add EXTRA sugar, which has been a common complaint of mine at sooooo many other resorts.
Verandah Antigua beaches & pools
Home to the largest freshwater pool in Antigua, The Verandah Resort & Spa has three total pools (one of which is adult-only). The main pool is massive but not heated by anything other than the sun. Wimps like me will need only sit in direct heat for 10 minutes, though, before getting in for a refreshing dip.
There are two beautiful white-sand beaches onsite, each with calm waters sheltered by reefs, making them safe for littles. Although my kids have grown to love big waves over the years, they were so happy to wade and splash in perfect turquoise water and make sandcastles in powdery sand.
If long beach walks or barefoot running are your thing, you’ll need to switch to long nature walks at The Verandah Antigua and use the endless paths for your runs.
The beachfronts are small — think of them more as a portal to play — but their footprint was just right for our family (though we preferred the Main Beach both because of its proximity to our villa and because we found Rasta Beach, near reception, a bit rocky).
The Main Beach has a bar and non-motorized watersports. Rasta Beach, which was a solid 20-minute-plus walk from our villa or a quick (and fun) five-minute golf cart ride away, features a reggae-themed bar with awesome music and a volleyball net. It also has the Wadadli Snack Shack (named after the local beer), where you can order a variety of grilled foods and eat them while enjoying beachfront views. I have to admit that eating and drinking in our swimsuits was pretty awesome.
The bottom line: if you want sandcastles and paddleboards, stick to the Main Beach. If you want to kick back with drinks and lounge in the sun, hit up Rasta Beach.
Verandah Antigua resort activities
There are a number of included non-motorized watersports at The Veranda Antigua: kayaking, standup paddleboarding, Hobie cat sailing. And there were also two Hobie Mirage Eclipse SUP Boards!
These things are so cool and basically combine a standup paddleboard with a built-in stepper. It’s a pedalboard. So you can get to all of the places a regular SUP could take you, but you’ll get there faster and be able to fight a nagging current more easily.
Be aware that although the water in the bay is very calm and easy to manage for kids, even if they get up on a SUP, once you get out beyond the bay closer to the reef — which is very, very far from shore (don’t worry, you can’t get there by accident!) — the current really picks up. I’m a strong and fairly skilled SUPer and it took a lot of work for me to get back to the bay after I (purposely) went all the way out.
Like I said, we didn’t have enough downtime at the resort to get to all of the activities. Here’s what we missed that are available as part of your all-inclusive Antigua vacation package:
- Tennis — two courts, complete with lighting so you can play at night
- Mini-golf — I’m so bummed that we didn’t do this because the course looked amazing!
- Windsurfing and kayaking — in addition to the above-mentioned watersports
- Kidz Club — the daily schedule looked awesome and Miss Q went to one session where they put a couple of fun island braids (complete with beads) in her hair
- Pool tables — apparently there are three of them. I didn’t see one!
- Ping pong — nor did I see table tennis
- Shuffleboard — or this!
We were just so happy to be in the sunshine surrounding by happy staff and friendly guests — playing in the pool or hanging out at the beach — that we didn’t feel like we needed to go off in search of more.
Verandah Antigua tours & extras
Speaking of sunshine, the weather in Antigua was the best and most consistent I’ve had in the Caribbean or Mexico since we visited Aruba nearly 10 years ago! It was between 27-30 degrees every day and only cooled slightly in the evenings. PERFECTION.
And that makes getting out and seeing more of the island than just your resort a must. One of the free ways to do this is by taking advantage of the nearly daily walks from The Verandah to Devils Bridge; we saw walking tours listed frequently on the activity board leaving from the gym area at 5 p.m. The resort is adjacent to Devils Bridge National Park, so the walk isn’t too far. It would be a lovely evening stroll!
But we got to see Devils Bridge during our Pink Panther tour, so we passed on the walk.
Pink Panther tour
The largest of the English-speaking Leeward Islands, Antigua is only about 14 miles long and 11 miles wide, totalling a mere 108 square miles. Somehow, in that small space, it has 365 white-sand beaches.
Getting around the island is easy and car rentals are only about US$50 per day. But if you just want a few highlights and would rather leave the driving up to someone who knows their way around, the half-day Pink Panther Safari is a good choice.
Owned by the same parent company that runs Veranda Antigua, the Pink Panther tours boast an all-female crew. Our tour ran from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., leaving us time to chill at the resort all afternoon. For US$59 per adult and US$39 for each child 12 and under, you get to visit Devils Bridge, English Harbour and Nelson’s Dockyard, Shirley Heights and then spend about an hour at a beautiful beach where you can watch boats in the distance.
This tour is best for older kids who are really interested in history. Little ones will probably not find it very interesting and all of the stops could get a bit overwhelming. Our favourite parts of the tour were Devils Bridge (a limestone “blow hole” where the ocean will gladly come up and greet you; you will get wet if you decide to get close!) and English Harbour — especially the bakery! Wow…take some Eastern Caribbean or US dollars with you and have a beef patty, apple turnover or coconut square. All baked in-house and very reasonably priced.
Calypso Cat tour
This is hands-down one of the best tours we’ve done on any vacation! Both of our kids agreed it was their favourite part of our whole trip to Antigua — and that’s impressive because it was a stellar vacay.
Calypso Cat is another half-day tour from about 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and very kid-friendly. Take swimsuits, towels, good walking shoes, lots of sunscreen, hats and a waterproof phone case. I mean, I’m happy to just be on a boat all darn day, so getting to tour around on a two-level catamaran was already awesome. But it was so much more.
Stop one: snorkelling. I really wish we’d brought our GoPro along because there were A LOT of fish — including a barracuda!
For whatever reason, this is the first snorkelling excursion on which The K Man has felt comfortable and so it marked our inaugural family snorkel adventure. I can’t even tell you how happy I was seeing him enjoy the underwater world for the first time.
After snorkelling and swimming in the ocean, the catamaran took us to Bird Island (named because of its shape from above). We went on a short guided hike to the top for some incredible views of Antigua, which is a truly stunning island.
We saw two more blow holes up here and then had time to enjoy this offshore island. Before we knew it, lunch was served and we were on our way back to The Verandah Antigua. Between the open bar, some fun music and a bunch of really lovely passengers, we danced en route to the resort — until we were told to sit down as we crossed back into the waves of the Atlantic.
The half-day tour is US$85 per adult, US$50 per child ages 5-12 and US$20 for kids 2-4. Money well spent.
Pro Tip: Note that although it sounds like you get picked up and dropped off at one of The Verandah Resort’s beaches, you are NOT; you must make your way to reception and hitch a ride to Long Bay. This is included in the cost but leave yourself enough time to head there after breakfast.
Mamora Bay Divers
Although the dive centre isn’t located at The Verandah, it is part of the resort group so it’s easy to arrange and access. You can learn to dive here, but I can’t tell you much about it other than they offer the standard PADI Certification program at a reasonable rate (US$590; for reference, I paid US$450 20 years ago.)
A two-tank dive for certified SCUBA divers is just US$130. In my 20 years of diving, I can tell you that’s very reasonable. In many places, that’s the price of ONE dive.
You’ll be picked up at reception at 8 a.m. to head to the St. James Club, get outfitted with a wetsuit and equipment (all part of the fee you’ve paid), and do two dives at two different sites. In between, you might be so lucky to be in the right spot for a tour of English Harbour (a totally different vantage point than seeing it on land!).
The diving was very good; aside from loads and loads of tropical fish, we saw two HUGE (and I mean H-U-G-E) sea turtles, a couple of big lobster, a moray eel, a few stingrays and two or three reef sharks — all in pretty close proximity. The visibility was excellent, and the coral looked in good health.
You’ll return to the resort just after 1 p.m. Head straight to the buffet because you’ll be starving after all that hard work!
Pro Tip: accept the wetsuit offer. I can count on one hand the number of times in two decades that I’ve worn anything other than a swimsuit to dive and I was SO GLAD I did here. Despite our two dive sites being on the Caribbean Sea side of Antigua, once we were down around the 40- to 55-foot mark, it got a tad chilly.
Wi-Fi at The Verandah Resort & Spa
Verandah Antigua has free Wi-Fi throughout some of the resort’s public areas, but if you want to be connected in your room (a must for us), you need to purchase daily or weekly packages. It was about US$40 for the week at our villa and we connected four devices.
The free Wi-Fi, where available, is quite strong and consistent. The in-room Wi-Fi could be finicky at times and required us to sign-in anytime we’d been away from our device for longer than 15 or 20 minutes. It was fast enough to check email, watch videos, play music and do social media — but it wasn’t good enough for me to upload a video to my YouTube channel. Not the end of the world, but keep it in mind if you have work to do that may require faster/better Wi-Fi.
There was no Wi-Fi at the pool or beach areas, and — frankly — it was refreshing. We never brought our devices out of our villa (other than on tours so I could take photos and videos) because there was zero temptation to use them. As a result, you didn’t see guests lying around on their phones. Instead, people were playing, talking, laughing… it was a beautiful thing.
Antigua vacation packages with Air Canada Vacations
The Verandah Resort & Spa is just one of Elite Island Resort’s all-inclusive properties in Antigua and Barbuda. We caught glimpses of the Pineapple Beach Club, St. James Club & Villas resort and the new, luxury adults-only Hammock Cove — all of which are all-inclusive Antigua vacation packages available through Air Canada Vacations. And now I want to stay at all of them!
There are plenty of benefits when you choose Air Canada Vacations for your dream vacay to an Antigua all-inclusive:
- Packages booked with Air Canada Vacations always include one complimentary checked bag per person as well as transfers to and from the airport at your destination
- There are five daily non-stop flights to Antigua from Toronto between December and April, making it easy to choose departure and arrival times that work for your family’s needs and schedule preferences
- You can earn Aeroplan Miles on your booking and/or put your Aeroplan Miles towards your vacation package
And if those aren’t enough reasons, how about 30 beachfront acres of tranquility? Lush gardens. Tropical views. Turquoise waters… The Verandah is calling.
And don’t forget to download the Air Canada app before your trip. I use it to check in online and do seat selections and upgrades ahead of time, but it’s also your inflight entertainment system on all Air Canada Rouge flights.
Just keep in mind that if you thumb through the new movie releases and decide to watch A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood like I did, you’re gonna want to have tissues handy. (I did not. It wasn’t pretty.)
My whole family is now rather obsessed with returning to Antigua, so I’m off to explore more Antigua vacation packages and info about all of the things we can do next time. Because there’s definitely going to be a next time.
*This search was completed on 03-10-2020 at 10:36 a.m. ET and may not reflect prices in real-time when you read this post. Prices fluctuate around the clock in travel!
DISCLAIMER: As an Air Canada Vacations partner, I was hosted at this resort to facilitate content and provide information to my readers to help inform vacation decisions. As always, opinions are my own.