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Jumby Bay Resort

Gary Walther
From the Print Edition:
Andy Garcia, Mar/April 2004

One species of high-end/low-key Caribbean resorts deliberately eschews decorator-showcase rooms and lavish facilities in order to offer guests something rarer: simplicity. Amenities are pared down and intangibles (calm and quiet) are played up. The mantra is less is more, and that includes the tariff. Simplicity can cost a lot, but to some, it’s priceless.

Jumby Bay, which reopened in December 2002, is a sterling example. Scattered across a 300-acre island off the northeast coast of Antigua, the resort comprises 50 suites and villas, which share the island with second homes. The place feels like a tropical junior college campus, where guests get around on foot, by bike and in golf carts.

Resorts like Jumby Bay must get the maximum from the minimum or simplicity can look like paucity. At rates starting at $1,050 a night in high season, which includes three meals, spirits and house wine, and water sports, it’s still a bet that the resort, for the most part, pulls off.

The food is very good (straightforward but sophisticated), the restaurant and bar staffs are on the ball, and the circa-1830 Estate House, left over from the sugar-plantation days, is an enchanting place to dine at night. While activities are limited—three tennis courts, a 25-meter lap pool and a small gym—remember, that’s the idea. There’s no spa, but there is Su Hua Yang, a massage therapist who is terrific. The atmosphere is laid-back verging on drowsy—even the azure water off Jumby Bay Beach is usually dead calm. Nightlife consists of a 9 p.m. movie. If you can’t relax here, you know one of two things: you need St. Barts or you need help.

While the rooms have come-hither four-poster beds and outdoor showers in the top-end accommodations, the interiors are dark and the chocolate brown woven-leather and rattan furniture, which remains from when the property closed in 1996, makes them even duskier. At the price, I’d like the option of watching television. Not everyone agrees. When I pined for video, one long-time guest looked at me as though I were advocating floor shows and sniffed that the addition of telephones in the rooms was not in the spirit of the place.

Guests that fall for this tranquility base fall hard and stay loyal. Many move from renting a room to building their own on lots that start at $2.5 million. Just-renovated two-bedroom villas go for $1.4 million. Ahh, the simple life.

$1,050–$2,800 (January 1–March 31). Best rooms: Courtyard Suites and Harbor Beach Villas. Call 888-767-3966.

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