Take a nap in an oceanside hammack.
Photography courtesy of Rosewood
WHY NOW: We can think of no better way to celebrate the holiday season than sipping piña coladas prepared by amiable beachside bartenders at Jumby Bay, A Rosewood Resort, a 300-acre private island two miles off the coast of Antigua. Or make it a rum punch, if you prefer, which you will fall madly in love with the minute you board the boat that shuttles you to your accommodations. (The party starts immediately, as the boat is stocked with adult beverages.) Nothing expedites relaxation like a potent cocktail and a warm greeting from a Caribbean crew. NOT YOUR AVERAGE BEACH RETREAT: We love Jumby for its laid-back vibe, which makes it more like a country club than a chichi resort, thanks to a genial staff that treats guests like old friends. And many of the guests are just that, because they choose to make Jumby Bay an annual vacation destination. Bicycles are the primary mode of transportation, providing the perfect means to enjoy the tropical foliage largely unspoiled by overmanicuring or imposing buildings. Don’t misunderstand—the place is luxurious, with 40 suites decked out with plantation-style furnishings and romantic four-poster beds. And get ready for the the sexiest fully tiled bathroom you’ll ever bathe in. It opens up to a private outdoor courtyard complete with a pedestal tub for starlit soaking. The pool area is secluded and serene, with comfy chaise lounges arranged cabana-style, with white canvas curtains that can be drawn for even more privacy. Dinner here is a formal affair replete with white tablecloths and wine service, but the experience is far from stuffy.

Bathe under the stars in the outdoor tub.
Photography courtesy of Rosewood
  SLEEP TIGHT: You’ll be snug as a bug in a bamboo rug in one of the suites, or tucked away in one of the 11 villas. Groups and families who need more space in which to play should check out the private estates available for rent. (The island is actually owned by the homeowners; Rosewood runs the resort and manages the rentals.) Choose Tir Na Nog, situated on Pasture Beach where the hawksbill turtles come to nest (see “Turtle Time”), and enjoy 4,000 square feet of living space, including two master suites and two courtyard guest rooms, decorated with Indo-Asian antiques. Or spread out on seven gorgeous acres at Carisbrooke, which has two self-contained, two-bedroom guest cottages in addition to the main house. The estates come with a butler who’ll take care of your every need. While he’s anticipating your next one, enjoy the facilities at the resort, such as sunfloats and sailboards—and, of course, beachside bartenders ready to whip up that frothy piña colada. Turtle Time
For 20 years, researchers on the Jumby Bay Hawksbill Project have studied the hawksbill turtle, one of four species of sea turtles commonly found in the Caribbean. These small (about 88 to 130 pounds) endangered reptiles will travel hundreds of miles to return to the area where they hatched to lay their eggs—and one of those primary nesting sites is the dense shrubbery on Jumby Bay’s Pasture Beach. They dig for about an hour and lay about 150 eggs—a process they repeat four to six times a season. It’s estimated than only one in 3,000 hatchlings survives to reproductive age. 

Want to watch these little guys in action? Then put your name on the “turtle watch” list, and one of the girls on the research team—they work from 8 pm to 6 am—will alert you when the turtles are on the move. Or, if you’re shacked up in Tir Na Nog, watch out for hatchlings in the pool! The babies once got sidetracked but were safely led back to their ocean home.

FASTFACTS

Jumby Bay,
A Rosewood Resort
888-767-3966
www.jumbybayresort.com
Rates (November 11–December 15): $850–$2,250, all-inclusive (except bottles of wine)

How To Get There
American Airlines (www.aa.com) flies into the V.C. Bird International Airport in Antigua, most likely connecting through San Juan, Puerto Rico. The resort provides transportation from the airport to the private boat that takes you to Jumby Bay.