Carlisle Bay, Antigua
It's a common vacation-eve refrain: "I'm going to plop my ass down in a beach chair with a big dumb drink and do nothing for a week." And that sounds pretty enviable when a colleague you sort of know spots you exiting the office elevator with a carry-on that's bursting at the seams. But it's probably not true. You're not just plopping yourself down on a beach (wherever it is) and doing nothing for a week. Nothing doesn't last that long. The flavor wears thin, and your aspirations of true idleness – no matter how tall and delicious that drink – give way to activity, the call of actually doing something. (At least if you're on this site they do.)
That's why we spent half this year's two-weeks vacation at Carlisle Bay, a full-service and indulgent resort on the southern coast of Antigua, where idleness is encouraged but hardly required. The call to action here doesn't come because the beach isn't enchanting enough to tame a restless spirit: In fact, the resort's white sand cove is more than suitable for champion ass-plopping. It's because the smart people who run Carlisle Bay have obliterated the one major obstacle between you and activity: the hassle.
Say you're sauntering mindlessly up the beach, carelessly counting the number of people reading '50 Shades of Grey.' Within a few minutes you could be snorkeling along the reef, whacking groundstrokes at one the resort's nine courts, or keeling over recklessly in a Hobie Cat with a steady on-shore breeze – no waivers or tutorials required. (Though, in fairness, the guy who handed over the Hobie took one look at us and insisted on a trial lap around the bay. And with good reason.)
One afternoon, just minutes after tea (Antigua is a British colony, which means some dainty watercress, salmon sandwiches, and a generous slice of almond cake are factored into every day), we made the 90-second commute to the dock, signed out a kayak, and within minutes were out battling the head-high swells just beyond the cove.
Some tropical clouds rolled in, providing a temporary haven from the ever-present sun. What we didn't realize was the water was more tumultuous, the swells higher and more ferocious, than we ever could have guessed from the dock. We struggled (okay, maybe struggled is too strong a word – we hustled) to keep our perch on the roiling surf. A little afternoon thrill, a minor racing of the heart before dark & stormy hour. And to think we still had some almond cake in our teeth.
But we didn't love Carlisle Bay just for the kayaking, or the remarkable ribs at the barbecue buffet, or the world class snorkeling just a quick boat ride offshore, or the mini-theater screening room, or the way you can swim across the cove in a downpour and float on your back, enjoying the resulting rainbow (yes, this happened). It wasn't even because the manager – or someone pretending to be the manager – wrote a welcome letter to our kids and made them feel awesome by laying out junior-sized bathrobes for them. It's because all of those things are in one place under one very soft and photogenic Caribbean sky.
Don't for a minute mistake this for adventure. It's more like the cushy, all-inclusive, brainless Caribbean vacation for the restless rest-of us. Sloth may be inextricably linked and implied in a Caribbean vacation, but it doesn't have to be. [From $635, LHW.com/CarlisleBay]