Our 5 night stay at Nonsuch was absolutely perfect, and our family's favorite Caribbean vacation by far. We loved the quiet, secluded, relaxed feel, and the friendly (but not overbearing or formal) service. Overall, I do think the reviews on TA paint an accurate overall portrait of this resort - what might be a positive for some (no need to save beach chairs with towels at the crack of dawn), can be a negative for others (no night life or shopping) - and so, as with all vacations, the key is deciding whether this resort is the right fit for what you want in your tropical getaway. We opted for the half-board, sailing inclusive option for our family of 4 (2 teens).
We stayed in a 2 bedroom, 2 bath, cottage on the beach which was incredibly spacious. It was new and clean, with gleaming dark hardwood floors, and spotless fresh linens. The kitchen was fully stocked with a full size fridge, new appliances, and other cool gadgets as well such as a panini maker and a juicer. We had a washer which was great for doing laundry each night (but, take note, no dryer, although I am not sure if this was the case for all units. This didn't turn out to be an issue, though - after the spin dry cycle, the clothes/bathing suits ended up drying remarkably quickly after being hung overnight or within an hour on the porch). The bathrooms were not as luxurious as the rest of the cottage, but quite spacious and clean, and the master bath had a jetted bathtub. In terms of the location, I am glad that we picked the cottage since it was just steps away from the waterfront, which was convenient. However, the views of the bay from the other villas higher up on the hill (especially if you were on the second floor) would be more expansive, as there were palm trees between our porch and the beach (good for privacy, just slightly more obstructed view). The resort is not so big that walking down the the water seemed like an issue, but it is hilly.
Usually, vacation eating is not a highlight of our trips, and we were completely surprised at how amazing the food was at The Bay. Essentially, we ate at a 5 star restaurant every night. With the half board option, breakfast and dinner are included, and you pick anything you want on the menu, which included grilled lobster, duck breast, mahi mahi, etc. The service charge is included into the half board price, so there was nothing additional to sign for at breakfast (which included coffee/juice). For dinner, the drinks are additional (and they include the tax and service charge for the beverages only) - honestly, it felt weird to pay only $25 after a huge 3 course gourmet meal for 4 people (though my husband reminded me it was in fact all pre-paid). We thought the service was attentive, personal and friendly - some have commented on slow service in prior reviews - it's not that they are slow b/c of disorganization, etc, but indeed the pace is leisurely, in keeping with a 5 star restaurant, so the full meal did take about 2 hours. I am so glad we chose the half board option, since dining at the restaurant would have felt prohibitively expensive otherwise. For families with younger children, it would probably make more sense to stock up on groceries and cook in the villa. I would also recommend looking at the menu in advance if you have specific food preferences - we eat everything, so had no difficulty making choices from the menu. They do also have a children's half board option for kids under 13 which had the more traditional kids' meals.
We picked this resort primarily because it offered sailing, and while our family wanted to go somewhere warm, we don't like to just sit at the beach/pool. With the sailing inclusive package, we could take out any boat, any time, and also could have sailing lessons as desired. The sailing staff was helpful but the set-up is pretty informal - essentially we let them know at the end of the morning or afternoon which boats we might want next. In terms of lessons, they don't have any formal programs/classes specifically - you just tell them what you want to learn and they take you out. The first day, we were taken out for a family sail on the bay (which I recommend, since you learn where all the reefs are, and get oriented), then later that week we learned how to trapeze on a catamaran, and other racing tips. As we were out on the water all day, we definitely got great value from the sailing inclusive package, but of course it was possible to do all these activities a la carte. (They have 3 RS Elite keelboats, 2 Hobie Cats, and a lot of smaller RS dinghies).
There is another outfit ("40") at the resort which offered other water activities such as paddle boarding, kite surfing, and ocean kayaking. It's not included in the sailing package, and we were so happily occupied we didn't use them, but they looked very friendly and offered other great options.
I had been a little apprehensive about the safety of having the kids sail alone, but because you are sailing in a bay, it was perfect - lots of tradewinds, but no undercurrent or huge waves, and the water was like warm bathwater. It was clear when we came back that the sailing staff had been keeping an eye on us as they knew how far out we'd been.
Some last thoughts:
The beach is indeed small, and there is a bed of sea kelp(?) on the ocean floor (not loose). So it's not the most glamorous, but very safe for young children.
We were told that this resort initially was conceived as a condo/villa resort, which makes it easier to understand its limitations - i.e., there isn't a fitness center or spa currently.
We didn't rent a car, and had the resort arrange to pick us up from the airport. For an extra $20, the driver brought us to Gourmet Basket to pick up food before arriving at the resort. It is worth making this stop in advance, but if you needed to pick up a significant stash of groceries, I would specifically request Epicurious in St John which sounds much larger. We found the basics for lunch, but the shopping wasn't exciting.
Bring everything you need/want with you. There is no gift shop (as yet) though the front desk has some emergency items (sunscreen, etc) for purchase. I understand that in the upcoming year there are plans to open a small store on site for sundry items, as well as plans to open a second, more casual eating option.
We loved everything about this resort, and are still remembering the warm tropical breezes, turquoise water, and the perfect 80 degree weather of each day.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Nonsuch Bay Resort nestles in forty exotic acres of the stunning bay carved out of the southeast of Antigua; embraced by lush tropical hills, a uniquely private and serene setting, a tranquil haven and home to wildlife including dolphins and turtles. Pure relaxation is blended with out-an-out adrenalin, and the finest luxuries with the simplest of pleasures. Resort facilities comprise a dramatically positioned restaurant, 3 infinity swimming pools, seclude sandy beach, 30 sailboats and tuition, kitesurfing, windsurfing, SUPs and spa treatments. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Nonsuch Bay Hotel Freetown
- Nonsuch Bay Resort Antigua/Freetown