Carlisle Bay, Antigua
Because you will not find a more stylish and understated hotel in the Caribbean. Because there are few finer spots on earth to improve your topspin backhand, with the courts just a few steps away from the sandy beach, and surrounded by rainforest (you will find yourself putting on your tennis shoes with sand stuck between your toes, but you won’t care). And any masochist who feels as though an hour or two of singles or doubles is not enough exertion for the day can always conscript themselves to an early-morning cardio tennis session. When I tried it for the first time, and this was at eight in the morning, my heart-rate spiked at 190 beats a minute, sweat was gushing from my body like bath-water from a squeezed sponge, and I was afterwards informed by the instructor that I had done enough running, hitting, sprinting, twisting and swinging to have burned through 750 calories in 45 minutes. Do that before breakfast, and you will not feel so bad about eating three slices of the extraordinary banana bread. Or about having afternoon tea with a side-plate of sandwiches and cakes – this can be delivered to your suite, or to your lounger on the beach.
This will not be recommended by any sports scientists, but I had no complaints when, after walking off court after a game of mixed doubles, the hotel’s resident coach popped a bottle of champagne and poured me a glass. Here on the island’s south coast, the hotel rightly makes the most of its tennis facilities. There are nine courts, eight of them hard and the other artificial grass. Four have floodlights so you can play long into the evening. Guests can sign up for ‘tennis tasters’ or ‘tennis weeks’. Carlisle Bay also holds what they call ‘professional tennis weeks’, which are aimed at ‘keen’ players – Jeremy Bates, a former British number one, has hosted a couple of these weeks, which include daily coaching, culminating in a competition and an awards dinner. “Each morning,” the hotel says, “there will be a small group to improve technique, skills and match play.”
Sailing, windsurfing and kayaking are complimentary for guests. The hotel can also arrange boat trips – we snorkeled off a reef, and were taken to a bay up the coast, where we swam and picnicked. For the more extravagant, there are helicopter tours of the island. There is one spa (a deep-tissue massage was much needed after several days of intensive tennis), one gym, one cinema, two restaurants and three bars. Candelit dinners for two at the end of the wooden jetty are possible. Activities also include yoga and pilates. This is a child-friendly hotel, with a creche and a kids club, but for those travelling without children, it never feels over-run with kids as families tend to be at one end of the beach.
The hotel, which has a colour scheme of cool greys, has 82 suites, some suitable for couples and some for families.
Prices for Tennis Week start from 1700 pounds for seven nights (single occupancy).
Mark travelled to Carlisle Bay with ITC Classics.