We chose Jolly Beach Resort & Spa for our first visit to the beautiful Antigua island. We wanted an all-inclusive option for a hassle free vacation, but we knew we would be traveling around a lot, so we didn’t want to pay a fortune for it. Despite very mixed reviews on Tripadvisor, Jolly Beach Resort & Spa with officially 3 stars turned out to be a very good compromise for what we needed.
The resort lies on Jolly Beach, which is indeed one of the most beautiful beaches of Antigua. The transport from the Airport takes around 20 minutes by car (let me point out that the roads in Antigua are a big headache, especially during the night when you don’t see all those huge holes and canals). I’d say the location is more than convenient if you want to visit St Johns and go around the island.
Just before the entrance of the resort there is a Jolly Harbour Marina with all the necessities you need for those “just in case” moments: a very big and well stocked supermarket with rather normal prices, a pharmacy, some souvenir shops, internet café, restaurants and, in case you fall in love with Antigua, a real estate agency with rental and buy-sell options.
I booked Jolly Beach Resort & Spa via booking.com and honestly, I didn’t notice the catch with “supersaver” rooms. I went for the cheapest room with an ocean view and only later found out that these rooms are very small. I wasn’t completely sure about my reservation details and I could have checked whether that was a misunderstanding, but I just didn’t care. We came in very late and all we wanted was a good sleep. The bed was comfy and since we knew we would practically use the room only to change, shower and sleep, we didn’t want to complicate. However, if you want more space and if you come for 14 days, I do recommend you take a normal room.
The bathroom was very tired, so was the other furniture, but again, that didn’t bother me much. After all I didn’t come to Antigua to watch TV and get interior décor ideas. If you are picky, you can choose among 5 other accommodation options – you can check them here. Or you can always go and pick a four or five star hotel 😛
My first impression of the main dining area was quite shocking. Even though I am not a luxury traveler, I am still used to a certain standard when it comes to this issue. The place looks cheap as hell and the choice of food looks even cheaper. But when you get used to the atmosphere and taste the fish choices, you will highly likely loosen up. Breakfast choice is always the same but with still quite a lot of things to choose from – for vegetarians and meat lovers. The story with lunch and dinner is almost the same: soup (different every day and always very delicious!), choice of fish or meat, risotto (different styles and very good) and of course the classics like French fries, burgers and desserts. It may sound boring but it is not, trust me. There is a “chef’s” night once per week, in our case that was Thursday, when they serve food outside and make some special efforts.
What I strongly recommend is to try at least one of the 3 special restaurants for dinner, which you have to reserve one day ahead (every morning for the next day): Seafood, Indian and Italian. We only tried the Seafood one and it was totally worth it. You can chose from the menu and they serve you all the way. Even the wine is much better than in the main restaurant. Just a reminder: for the Italian restaurant you have to pay 20$ and need to wear long trousers, no flip flops and no T-shirts. An unnecessary fuss if you ask me.
Besides the food in the main restaurants your neon yellow bracelet also allows you to eat at the pool grill (hot dogs, burgers, fries) from noon to 5 pm, so in case you miss your lunch, you are still well taken care of. There are 2 main bars with free local drinks, however getting a drink there seems like a lottery. The waiters are very ignorant and slow, even if you tip them. This is probably a big minus in high season, especially if you are not a person with A LOT of patience. I have read and heard guests complaining about this issue but it just doesn’t seem the hotel management wants to handle it.
There are 2 pools in the resort, one with loud music and day animation like aerobics, dancing lesions, bingo and similar stuff, and another one in more quiet area, both large enough to have a decent swim. It is also well taken care of sports enthusiast – from table tennis and pool tables, to beach volley and a very well equipped fitness studio.
I am not sure why the resort is named Jolly Beach Resort & Spa, because from what I saw, the spa is nothing worth bragging about. From the outside it looked very small, not to mention the killer prices which were a big turnoff for me. I mean who would pay 100$ for a facial in a 3 star hotel, especially after seeing the whole picture. The massages were around 80$, which is almost twice as much as I paid in Maldives last year.
Besides the already mentioned animation at the pool, there are also live music, karaoke and some dance performances every night.
Another could-be-issue for an internet addict like myself: there is no free Wi-Fi in the rooms. When I checked the hotel, it said “free Wi-Fi” but I it didn’t say where… However, I decided this was a bliss, so I could actually enjoy my vacation. It’s all just a matter of perspective 😉 You can get all the Wi-Fi you want in the lobby, where the signal is great, everything worked well.
Anda’s rate: 7 from 10
Bottom line: It is true what most of the reviews say about Jolly Beach Resort & Spa: you have to go there with an open mind. It is a 3 star hotel and having an all-inclusive option in Antigua is very convenient, considering the high prices in tourist areas. However, if you have experienced something similar for example in Dominican Republic, Jolly Beach resort could be a small shock for you. But if the Nagging Lady Anda enjoyed and survived it without any scratch (meaning no official complaints), it sure can’t be that bad 😉