The faint buzz of construction workers from someone's new villa is heard. That's it. Silence pervades across the white sands. Beyond a bushy tangle of sea grapes, the beach curves around an azure bay, ending in a spit of land crowned by another distant villa. In the other direction, the sands stretch off to another promontory, this one forested in palms. Ahead, the waters of Pasture Bay twinkle and lap against the sands. The Antiguan sun beats down, its blaze tempered by the breezes.
A golf cart whirs out of the tropical vegetation, ending a moment of solitude. The cart, driven by a waiter, pulls up to the chaise lounge. Smiling, the waiter unloads a wicker basket from the back, and then drives away. Silence takes over the beach once again. Inside the basket, a place mat, a cloth napkin, silverware, and arranged on china plates, a perfectly made bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich and crudités in a light, almost impeccable dressing--lunch has arrived.
That's the sort of dreamlike event that makes Jumby Bay what it is--a world-class resort. For much of the time visitors are in residence here, they feel like the whole island belongs to them, wandering its miles of trails, ogling the handful of private villas scattered along the beaches, or simply reclining on a chaise with toes dangling into the tropical waters. In many ways, Jumby Bay is appealingly primitive; there are neither phones nor televisions in the guest rooms, and trade winds provide the only air-conditioning. Yet the luxury and pampering expected of a Relais & Châteaux resort is there for the asking.
Jumby Bay is a 300-acre private island off Antigua in the West Indies. Twenty minutes by taxi and motor launch from Antigua's V.C. Bird International Airport, this island is at once the most exclusive and most accessible of world-class getaways. At present, the resort offers just 38 rooms, plus a few rental villas. Don't lift a finger. Here are the important facts: At five tropical acres and there attentive staff members per guest couple, this place offers plenty of privacy and as much personal attention as you require.
A stay at Jumby Bay is a lot like dropping in on a favorite rich uncle who happens to live in paradise. Money seldom changes hands during your visit. The shop will mail postcards for you, gratis. If you spill a little passion fruit juice on your Bermudas, the garment will be laundered and placed in your room, no charge. Thirsty? Shake the sand off your feet, amble over to Ginnie's station behind the open-air bar, and savor one of her nutmeg-scented rum punches, gratis. And don't bother looking for a right-hand column at the Estate House, the historic mansion that serves as the resort's formal dining room. Lavish breakfasts, lunches, teas and dinners, all prepared by Enrico Derflinger, former chef to the Prince and Princess of Wales, are included in the daily room rate.
Of course, to obtain all this freedom from financial fuss, there are a few niggling details to be worked out ahead of time. Specifically, for every week of peak season that you and your significant other want to visit, arrange for the transfer of about $7,500 to the Jumby Bay coffers.
Sure, that's not an insignificant fee. But don't look at it as room charges. Think of it as the world's most expensive ten-minute boat trip. Once your topsiders hit the Jumby Bay dock, a private Caribbean island is yours. Not a bad deal.
Jean T. Barrett is a Los Angeles-based writer on wine, spirits, food and travel.