Sandals Grande Antigua Travel Guide
Our Experience & Is It Worth The Price?
Welcome to my Sandals Grande Antigua Travel Guide! These are all my own personal opinions based on a vacation my husband and I took to Sandals Grande Antigua in of July 2021. I hope you find this in-depth travel guide helpful and informative. Let me know what you think in the comments below.
Why We Choose a Sandals Resort
When it comes to adults-only all-inclusive resorts, Sandals is a premier choice. Sunbathing at a luxurious Sandals resort has been on my travel bucket list for as long as I can remember. I finally got the opportunity to go with JJ in July of 2021 for 9 days and 8 nights.
Sandals has 16 resort locations, so the first step was narrowing down where we wanted to go. For us, the choice came down to Sandals Grande St. Lucian or Sandals Grande Antigua. We chose Antigua mainly because it was only a 15-minute drive from the airport rather than St. Lucia’s 90-minute drive.
The deluxe accommodations and atmosphere come with an extravagant price tag. So, my question going into the trip was “Will this vacation be worth the price?”, and that is the question I will help you answer in this Sandals Grande Antigua Travel Guide.
Arrival at Sandals Grande Antigua
When we arrived at the airport in Antigua, we were off the plane and at Sandals shuttle desk (located outside the airport) within 45 minutes. I’ve heard of other travelers paying for a Fast-Track pass to get through the airport quicker, but personally I don’t think that extra cost would have been necessary.
We hopped in our shuttle bus along with 2 other couples from our plane and set off to the resort. Once we arrived, we were greeted with cold towels and asked to wait in the lobby as our butler was on her way to retrieve us.
Photography - Worth it! (but it is an additional price)
In the short 5-to-10-minute wait upon arrival, Delmore, one of the photographers, asked if he could take our arrival picture. We instantly felt a connection with him and set up a sunset photo shoot for later in the week.
The photoshop is located in Saint Marks Square. I’m sure we could have easily gone there to set up a photo shoot, if Delmore hadn’t of found us first. A few photographers walk around the resort all day with their camera ready to snap your picture.
I wasn’t expecting to purchase a big photo package, but I thought one or two professional pictures would be fun to bring home. On our last evening at the resort, we went to the photo shop to look through all the pictures that were taken of us throughout the week. It was fun to review our adventures and see our tans get darker each day.
I was happy with the majority of the pictures and narrowing it down to just a few was difficult. If you are interested in getting pictures when you go, below is a pricing list:
1 picture (choice of digital or hard copy) - $18
10 picture package (includes both digital and hard copies) - $180
25 picture package (includes both digital and hard copies)- $450
The Room - NOT Worth It!
We stayed in the ‘Caribbean Honeymoon Beachfront Butler Suite’. Based on what I was expecting from the images of the room on the Sandals website, I was disappointed with our room.
If you look at the room images online, you will see lots of blue ocean views from every window, but that was not the view we had. We were on the first floor of the two-story Poinsettia building with an obstructed view from our patio and a view of the concrete stairs from our bedside window.
I did, however, like that our room was beachfront and in a central location so it was a quick walk to anywhere on the resort. The room itself was small and compact (I actually think the bathroom was as big as the entire bedroom/living area).
Warning: TMI – Another big downside to the room was the toilet. Because of the extremely low flow, every time we used the toilet in our room, we would have to flush at least 5 times for the paper to go completely down. Trust me, having to continually flush the toilet is not ideal on a romantic getaway.
The Service - Worth It!
JJ and I had a butler room and with that came two butlers, Neil and Vakeshia. We loved both of our butlers and grew very fond of them over the course of our stay. We received a butler phone upon check-in and were able to call to ask for anything we needed day or night. The butlers seemed to anticipate our every need even before we could call to make a request. Their service was always prompt and friendly.
Tips are not allowed anywhere on the resort, except for the butlers. We found it easiest to not worry about carrying cash, so we gave each of them a final tip in an envelope at the end of our stay.
In my opinion, having a butler was not a necessity and your trip to paradise will not be negatively affected if you don’t have one. That being said, having butlers made this trip unique from other vacations we have taken in the past.
My favorite part of having a butler was having them reserve a prime location on the beach for us every day with a cooler stocked with water and beer. Finding a spot on the beach by ourselves wouldn’t have been difficult, but I believe the butlers are able to reserve the greatest cabanas.
Another one of my favorite parts of having a butler was returning to our room at the end of a long beach day to find champagne chilling, snacks, and a hibiscus flower filled bubble bath. The butler was a fun treat and they made us feel “extra”!
Don't Get Scared If You Read Negative Reviews
After reading some negative reviews before our trip, I was pleasantly surprised with the service we received at the restaurants and bars. We packed extra patience and reminded ourselves that we were on ‘island time’.
The waitresses and bartenders were always busy and working hard, so we gave them the benefit of the doubt. We only had to wait one night (about 20 minutes) to get a table at a restaurant for dinner. Our butler was there and made sure we had a comfortable place to sit and that our drinks were always full while we waited.
For the most part, the servers were friendly and prompt. If we were allowed to tip the waitstaff and bartenders, I would have been happy giving lots of good tips.
The Food - Worth It!
Overall, we were very pleased with the flavors and variety of food offerings. Pro tip: Try new things; you can always order something else if you don’t like what you get. By ordering meals that I normally wouldn’t try, I found a new love for curry and am having a fun time experimenting with cooking it at home now. If you’re looking for an ocean view while you eat, Eleanor’s and Bayside have the most beautiful sights.
For breakfast, we ordered room service and sat on our patio the first two days. For the remainder of the trip, we ate breakfast at Eleanor’s which was great. I usually kept breakfast pretty simple and stuck to eating fruit and oatmeal most mornings. Once JJ discovered the Banana French Toast, there was no turning back and he ate that every morning. After breakfast, I liked to stop at Café de Paris for an Iced Sylvia Espresso Cocktail!
We tried different restaurants for lunch almost every day. Bayside has a different lunch theme every day; my favorite theme was Antiguan because I enjoyed getting a taste of the culture and authentic food from the island. I was hesitant to try Bayside for lunch because it was my least favorite dinner food, but lunch there is totally different and the view can’t be beat!
Bella Napoli, the pizza restaurant, was surprisingly another one of our favorite lunch spots. Pizza on the beach just tastes better, right? Pro tip: If you have a butler, ask them to bring the pizza right to your cabana on the beach. Getting out of the ocean to find pizza waiting for you is my version of bliss. I never order Hawaiian pizza, but with my toes in the sand, it just felt right!
Pro tip: When it comes to dinner, I suggest ordering two or three appetizers. Their appetizer portions are very small and hardly shareable. After eating at every restaurant for either lunch, dinner, or both I ranked the restaurants from 1-10 along with my favorite dish from each. Note: I didn’t include Café de Paris in my ranking although it was my favorite place to get coffee, pastries, and ice cream.
Restaurant Ranking at Sandals Grande Antigua (in order of our favorite):
- Soy - Crispy Philly Roll and Salmon Sashimi
- Eleanor’s – Seafood Curry and breakfast with a view
- Mario’s – Lasagna and Caesar Salad
- Bayside (lunch is better than dinner) – Goat Curry for lunch served on Antigua Theme Day
- Bella Napoli – Hawaiian Pizza and Sausage Calzone
- Kimono’s – You sit at a table with 3 other couples. Be prepared to socialize or have an awkwardly silent meal. The shrimp was my favorite part of the meal. This restaurant had JJ’s favorite food.
- OK Corral –Salmon Tostada and Pork Tacos. This is one restaurant where the portions are huge. We ordered like we usually did everywhere else, but we were extremely full when we left.
- Barefoot by the Sea – We ate here for lunch and dinner, and I honestly don’t remember what I ate. Not a good sign. The views are amazing and having your toes in the sand while you eat is a fun experience.
- Courtyard Bistro – I ordered the Tuna Melt and Chickpea Salad; both were fine but nothing to write home about.
- Drunken Duck – JJ’s Fish & Chips were tasty. I was underwhelmed with the Tikka Masala because I was expecting more flavor. We had the worst dining room service here as well.
The Beach, Pools, & Watersports - Worth It!
At Sandals Grande Antigua you can chose your level of relaxation or adventure. We loved starting our day with a beautiful beach walk along Dickenson Bay The beach has tons of watersport options to choose from, such as: paddleboards, kayaks, hobie cat sailing, and snorkeling.
JJ was more adventurous and took advantage of the watersports daily. I played on the watersports a few days, but mostly I laid on the exquisite beach getting pampered by our butlers. I like that we could be as adventurous or as lazy as we choose based on how we were feeling that day. The beach is absolutely stunning and the ocean water is calm enough to float in all day. Many people brought innertubes and floats into the ocean.
The only negative side of the beach is the beach vendors. Most of the vendors were respectful and wouldn’t bother you if you didn’t want to purchase what they were selling, but a few were very pushy and made us feel uncomfortable at times. Selling items and experiences on the beach is their way to make a living, so we didn’t let it bother us too much. By the end of the week a few of the kind, respectful vendors knew us by name and would make nice conversation with us.
Sandals Grande Antigua has pool options: quiet, relaxing pools and one big party pool. Both pools have swim up bars. The smaller pool was less crowded and easier to get a drink at. The party pool is huge and has music, entertainment, and trivia throughout the day. I can’t say too much about the pools because we were beach bums all week.
Entertainment - Kinda Worth It (depending on the night)
The music and entertainment start around 8 o’clock each night, but 9 o’clock is when the performers take the stage and the real show begins.
Each night had a different theme, such as: Antiguan Culture, Caribbean Night, Carnival, and Reggae. White Night was not advertised well and only 25% of guests wore white. Our favorite entertainment was the Antiguan Cultural dancers and firebreather. We also had a blast at the Silent Dance Party; each guest was given headphones and a choice of three different music options. JJ and I were both sore the next morning after dancing the night away. The Silent Dance Party was held on July 4th while we were there, but the workers say it only happens a couple times a year.
Some entertainment nights were cheesy or not as thrilling, but a party was always going on around the stage or in the next-door Pub. Honestly, JJ and I are early risers rather than night owls, so we hardly stayed at the entertainment stage for more than an hour or two each night.
What to Wear
During the day at Sandals Grande Antigua, you can expect to see lots of swimsuits, cover ups, flip flops, and casual beach clothes. In the evenings, I was surprised that people weren’t dressed as fancy as I thought they would be. Attire was a mix, so if you don’t want to “go all out” its ok. Most of the restaurants say attire is “resort casual”. I packed heels, but I never wore them; personally, I wish I brought more dress up sandals. In the evenings, I wore sundresses and JJ wore seersucker pants or dress shorts with a button down or polo shirt.
Rebooking Discount at all Sandals Resorts
If you decide to rebook while on resort you will get 10, 11, or 12% off your next Sandals stay depending on which room category you choose to rebook. The discount is a good incentive to book another trip, especially when you are high on Vitamin D and tipsy off island cocktails. Make sure you go into your trip with a clear plan of if you want to rebook or not and where you would like to go next.
Departure day was sad, but we made the most out of it. We packed the night before and got up early, went for a walk in the white sand, popped champagne on the beach, took one last dip in the ocean and ate breakfast at Eleanor’s. Our shuttle was set to depart at noon, so we went to the lobby with drinks in hand and waited. Although there were a lot of people leaving at the same time, departure went smoothly. When it was time to leave, our butler took our luggage and walked us straight to the shuttle waiting at the resort entrance to say “See you next time!”.
Pro tip: Order pizza right before you depart Sandals to bring to the airport for lunch. We were able to bring our pizza through security and eat while most everyone else waited in an extremely long line and ordered an expensive meal at the airport.
So, Is Sandals Grande Antigua Worth The Price?
Yes! Overall, we were happy with everything at Sandals except the view from our room and the ever-annoying toilet that wouldn’t flush. The beach and resort were beautiful and the hospitality and food were excellent. That being said, it was one of the most expensive vacations we have ever taken. Yes, we could have stayed in a lower category room making our stay less expensive, but having a butler category room made our trip special.
When comparing this Sandals trip to our past vacations that were much less expensive, it is slightly better. I believe this trip was better for two main reasons:
1. the amazing butler service we received
2. the calm ocean with endless watersports at our disposal
If you have the opportunity to go to a Sandals resort, try it out! If you are able to, splurge for the butler to make your experience unique!
Let me know if you have been to a Sandals Resort or if you choose to go after reading this article. I would love to hear about your Sandals experience in the comments. I hope you found my Sandals Grande Antigua Travel Guide helpful. As always, feel free to reach out with any questions.