My wife, 10 year old daughter and I just returned from St. James and our first trip into Antigua. We have been to 15 different Islands in the Caribbean so we do have a fairly broad comparison spectrum. We relied on reviews read on this website when we made our decision to go to St. James.
When we made our booking we were offered a hotel transfer for $60USD per person per direction for a total of $180 per direction. I can say to everyone if you are offered the same, don't take it. Taxi was easy, safe with very friendly driver who gave us the history of the Island during the ride and it was a flat rate of $31USD per direction for all of us. I can also say we were well on our way long before the vast majority of those using hotel transfers.
The resort itself is quite nice. It gives the impression of a community with its own roads bustling with golf carts as residents make their way around the place. They also have a very large team of security guards who are very visible starting late in the afternoon into the evening. My wife went for a walk after dark on our first night and felt very safe with all the security around, although she did say after a while it creeped her out a bit because it was like they were following her around. Check in was smooth although the staff didn't really say much during this process. They basically told us where to eat that night and handed us a key but didn't say anything about the type of room we had nor did they offer us any map or information on the resort. The hotel manager however did give us a wonderful greeting upon arrival and offered a refreshment. We were shuttled off to our beachfront room in the Mango building on one of the golf carts.
The room is pretty much what you would expect. Overall for the Caribbean it was fine. The bathroom was massive and the shower felt like you were in your own boat the tub was so large. The air-conditioning does not go into the bathroom which made it often feel like a sauna which was a bit of an irritant. Some days it was so hot in the bathroom my wife had a difficult time getting ready.
The resort is easy to get around. Distances are not far so long as you are in reasonable shape as it is very spread out. Many resorts are concentrated in one particular area where everyone gathers. St. James is on a very large property with very distinct areas which is largely what we liked about it. You never feel that you are in a crowd.
We read a few reviews with people complaining about the food. Our experience with the food was fine. We loved Coco's which was open air and right on the beach and very casual. Most nights we had most of the place to ourselves.
They advertise 6 pools. This is misleading as we only saw 2 we were allowed to use and believe me we looked! We did see a couple of more off in the distance but they were reserved for people staying in villas only and had signs all over the place advising you were not allowed to go there unless you were staying in the villa, so the claim of having 6 available pools is exaggerated.
The Mamora Bay side is like a typical lake and not a Caribbean sea experience but it was beautiful. They had great availability of water sports, the staff was friendly and offered Catamaran lessons for free. Never had to wait for a kayak and was never once given a time limit .
The difficult part of Mamora Bay at least while we were there is it was extremely hot with dead air, not any breeze which is probably the reason why it was largely deserted most of the time.
On the other side, CoCo beach was my biggest frustration. It was a beautiful beach with lots of lay out chairs and Palm trees and palm umbrellas for shade with nice views and it is all less than 5 steps from our balcony, but you simply cannot go in the water. I was dying to go into the ocean and I tried on a number of occassions, however it simply isn't a beach for swimming. Allow me to give some perspective on my views. I grew up in Atlantic Canada 10 minutes from a beach. I am very accustomed to having seaweed around my legs in the water. This however was different. Some days you couldn't even get into the water it was so thick. Then anything pretty much deeper than your knees there was not a 'sand bottom'. It was more like standing in a field of grass which was uncomfortable. I have to give the staff credit, they worked hard all week trying to clear the seaweed, but it was a losing battle. The stuff just keeps coming. That created another problem because all week they had to run tractors up down the beach to cart the stuff away so it does take away from the peace and quiet. The worst day it was like being at a construction site when they brought a backhoe in the water the seaweed was so thick and they were running dumptrucks as well. They tried. I give them credit for that. It was also clear they have no choice but to continue their efforts because if they stop, the place will become like a swamp very quickly it is that thick. The other problem is when they are not able to keep up the smell can get pretty bad so they are doing what they need to do, but it is a shame.
The 2 pools we were allowed to swim in were nice and the staff was friendly. They have a golf cart that does go up and down the beach distributing drinks which was nice. The tennis courts are OK but you can only reserve for 30 minutes at a time. Not so bad but if you plan on playing you would do yourself well to bring your own equipment. We were given 3 tennis balls and 2 of them were split down the middle making them impossible to use. We met another couple who only had split tennis balls so they couldn't play at all. Not sure why they don't just throw away damaged unusable equipment. They gym was fantastic and very clean with good equipment.
While there are some negative comments here, I do have to say I honestly enjoyed my stay and I don't regret going despite the issues with the beach, and for me that is saying a lot because I love swimming in the ocean. We had a very peaceful and relaxing stay and we don't regret choosing St. James.
The important question is would we ever go back to St. James? The answer is a difficult one. I would love to go back to St. James, but honestly I don't think I will. It saddens me to say it but the reason is simply because of the beach. There are dozens if not hundreds of Caribbean resorts to choose from so if I can get one with a good beach, I will. If they could solve the problems on CoCo beach this would be the ideal resort. Most people who go to the Caribbean surf through a multitude of photos of crystal clear water for swimming and body surfing, which you won't find here.
If you don't care so much about swimming in the ocean and are happy with lying on a chair or swimming in a pool, then this place is ideal. If you want to splash and frolic in the ocean then stay away.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Welcome to the All-Inclusive St. James's Club & Villas, Antigua's most famous address. This beautiful resort is ideally located on a private, 100-acre peninsula. You will love our two white sand beaches, water sports, tennis, four restaurants, indoor and outdoor bars, beach bar & grill, luxurious spa & salon, freshwater swimming pools, supervised Kids Club, wide array of water sports, Scuba diving, and so much more. One of the Caribbean's most popular all-inclusive resorts. Excellent for couples, honeymooners, families, and friends. Located just minutes from major attractions like English Harbour, Nelson's Dockyard, and the lively Shirley Heights. Our warm and welcoming staff and management team will make your stay wonderful and memorable. We look forward to seeing you soon! ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- St. James`s Club Hotel Mamora Bay
- St James Club Antigua
- St Jamess Hotel
- St Jamess Resort
- St James Antigua
- St Jamess Club Antigua
- St. James's Club & Villas Antigua/Mamora Bay