With 365 beaches – one for each day of the year – and an impressive list of celebrity fans including Prince Harry, Giorgio Armani and Oprah Winfrey, Antigua is the Caribbean at its very best. With picture-postcard palm-fringed beaches, verdant tropical rainforests and a charming colonial capital, St John's, this West Indies island is ripe for exploration.
It's also a honeymoon paradise with golden sunsets, aquamarine sea and plenty of gorgeous hotels to suit all tastes and budgets. In fact, Lionel Messi, the world’s greatest footballer, has chosen it for his honeymoon with new wife Antonella Roccuzzo , who's been keeping her Instagram followers up to date with envy-inducing images of the sun-drenched island.
Lionel Messi went on honeymoon in Antigua
So when HELLO! Online was invited out to sample the delights of Cocos Hotel, an intimate boutique-style property on the south west of the island, we were booking a flight faster than you can say 'make mine a rum punch, please.'
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The beautiful couples-only resort is perched on a secluded ocean bluff – meaning there are spectacular, Instagram-worthy views everywhere you turn. I think I'd taken at least 20 photos while I was lounging in the open-air reception area (which has a bar, and, handily, a book library – perfect for stocking up on beachside reading) before we'd even checked in to our room.
The sunset lounge has incredible views across the ocean
There were more photo opportunities as soon as we arrived at our beautifully-rustic wooden cottage. There are 30 in total, each with its own private veranda, large bathroom with his'n'hers sinks, and an outdoor shower. All of them are clean, comfortable and feature dark wooden floors, crisp white linens and a well-stocked fridge, but if it's a special occasion I'd recommend splashing out – and splashing around - in the signature Sunset Plunge Pool Cottage, where there's a private infinity pool…
The signature Sunset Plunge Pool Cottage is well worth splashing out on
How gorgeous is that?! Ten out of ten on the romance front. (Our room didn't have one of those pools but we had a tranquil view of the hotel's swimming pool and the beach from our veranda, which was lovely too. Plus we had a king-sized four-poster bed, and who doesn't love a king-sized four-poster bed?) The vibe of the charming, family-run hotel is very much unpretentious chic, and most of the dressy items of clothing I took with me with sunset cocktails and evening meals in mind remained in my suitcase in favour of simple floaty dresses and flip flops.
The main swimming pool is located just metres from the beach
It really is a haven of relaxation and if you want to unwind even more, I'd recommend one of the massages in the hotel’s Serenity Cottage, which is basic but offers fantastic body treatments. There are also yoga and pilates classes available to try. In Antigua there are tanning opportunities aplenty given the island's year-round average temperature of 27 degrees, so while the hotel can organise a wealth of excursions – including jet skiing, sailing trips, day visits to St John's and cruises to neighbouring Barbuda - the beach is where we (lazily!) spent most of our time. There's a beach bar serving up everything from local beers (we love a nice cold Wadadli) and piña coladas (mmm!)
The beach is so beautiful you'll be reluctant to leave
By the way, the hotel may be all inclusive but the cocktails do contain proper ingredients. (If you fancy something sweet we'd recommend the BBC which is made with Baileys and banana and is absolutely delicious! There are also daily rum specials.)
Pay a visit to the beach bar for daily rum specials
Likewise, food in the restaurant – which has been named the most romantic restaurant in Antigua on more than one occasion – is à la carte, and unlike in other all inclusive resorts I've stayed in, is different every night. Expect to splurge at breakfast (bacon and eggs, pancakes, fruit platters, French toast, cereal, freshly-baked cakes…) and have plenty of freshly-caught fish at dinner, where the menu is international with strong local influences. If you have a special occasion to celebrate the staff will bend over backwards to reserve you a special spot in the restaurant.
On our memorable last night we pre-ordered champagne and sat at the edge of the top tier of the restaurant, overlooking the sparkling ocean as a local band played live calypso music and we watched the sun go down. Bliss.
It's easy to see why the restaurant has been named the most romantic in Antigua
It really is a wonderfully romantic spot. No wonder so many couples choose to honeymoon here, and celebrities continue to flock to Antigua. We can't wait to return.
Cocos Hotel from £412 per night, double occupancy, on a full-board basis. For further details visit www.cocoshotel.com. Virgin Atlantic flies from London Gatwick every Tuesday, Friday and Saturday in summer and every Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday during the winter. www.virginatlantic.com.
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