Antigua Ace

A small resort with a big upside

By: Kevin Brass

Curtain Bluff is one of the Caribbean’s venerable small resorts, a secluded, high-end all-inclusive that has been under the same private ownership for 45 years. Located on a palm tree-covered outcropping on the south end of Antigua, it is a 30-minute drive across the island from St. John’s, the island’s capital and busiest city, and a world away from the thumping all-inclusives peppering the region. And with only 72 rooms dispersed along the bluff all with stunning ocean views the resort has a homey, less-cluttered vibe, with no music blasting from speakers or squealing spring breakers.

In recent years, Curtain Bluff has been given a $10 million overhaul, including updates of all the rooms and the construction of a wine cellar, billed as one of the largest in the Caribbean. Our Junior Suite was in the main three-story building. Completely demolished two years ago and rebuilt, the building also includes two massive penthouse suites, each with a hot tub and a private deck. This summer the makeover continues, with the construction of a spa. And for the first time, Curtain Bluff is adding air conditioning to guestrooms.

During the heat of the day, we decided to take advantage of Curtain Bluff’s unique all-inclusive plan. In addition to the standard meal packages, Curtain Bluff includes a wide range of activities in the room rate, including deep-sea fishing, diving and water skiing even basic wedding services.

“This place isn’t normal,” said Rob Sherman, Curtain Bluff’s managing director. “We don’t have a board of directors. We don’t have to watch our margins.”

Despite tough times around the Caribbean, Curtain Bluff has seen a steady increase in occupancy in recent years, said Sherman, who is actively reaching out to travels agents. Curtain Bluff offers 10 percent commission on total packages. In 2002, it joined Virtuoso and works with such wholesalers as Classic Custom Vacations and Island Destinations

With the odd cricket bat lying around, Curtain Bluff maintains the aura of a cool place for England’s moneyed crowd. At dinner, women are required to wear skirts or dresses and men must wear collared shirts, long pants and shoes although nobody seemed to mind when I showed up in sandals.

Curtain Bluff focuses on a relaxed, no-hassle, healthy environment. Meals were simple and tasty, always with a few options for carb watchers. There was no 24-hour buffet, but the staff gladly offered to bring a sandwich to our room in the late afternoon.

Most of our time was spent close to home, in part because it’s not easy to get around on Antigua. Hiring a driver for a roundtrip from Curtain Bluff to St. John’s was $60 (on the upside, everyone takes dollars). Renting a car was an option, but it didn’t seem like much fun, considering the narrow roads and the challenges of driving on the left side of the street.

Instead, we focused on taking advantage of Curtain Bluff’s luxurious hammocks and facilities, including a well-appointed (and air conditioned) weight room; a full-service racquet club with four tennis courts and a squash court; and a dive center.

One afternoon, we snorkeled around Antigua’s famous reef. Another day was spent leisurely kayaking around the bay. But most of our time was spent lounging on the beach, reading taking advantage of Curtain Bluff’s extensive library. By happy hour we were sipping rum drinks on the resort’s wide patio, cooled by the sea breeze.

“We’re not glitzy,” Sherman said, as we killed time on the patio, “less is more.”



Outside the duty-free shops of St. John’s, Antigua’s only real tourist attraction is English Harbor, a tribute to the days when Admiral Nelson’s fleet ruled the seas. The secluded bay on the south side of the island was Nelson’s home base in the Caribbean, where the fleet could relax, protected from hurricanes and marauders by the surrounding hills.

Today, Nelson’s Dockyards feature a collection of the fleet’s old buildings, restored for small museums, restaurants and shops. For sailors, the harbor offers an array of moorings and services. And the best views of the island are from Shirley Heights, a lookout above the harbor.

The Admiral’s Inn is a cozy hotel on the docks, with an inviting pub and small rooms (268-460-1027,; pays 10 percent commission).

Antigua and Barbuda
Department of Tourism