Turquoise Net
Maps.com has over 3,500 maps.

Home : Destinations : Photo Gallery : Maps

Where to Stay
Featured Accommodations
Featured Villas
Boutique Hotels
Private Islands
Sandals & Beaches Specials
Special Deals
All Places to Stay
Discussion Forum
Hotel Reviews
Trip Reports
Things to Do and See
Art, Music & Culture
News & Media
Tourist Boards
Tour Operators
Book a Hotel
Book a Flight
Currency Converter
Events Calendar
Caribbean for Canadians For Canadians

Home > Destinations > Antigua and Barbuda > Trip Reports > Trip Report

Antigua and Barbuda - Trip Reports

Sunsail's Colonna

Sunsail's Colonna resort on the northern coast of Antigua is very much oriented toward people who like to sail. Sunsail does not really claim the Colonna resort is all- inclusive, and it is not, although it does come close. (If you enjoy sailing, or think you might enjoy sailing, read on; but if you're not the slightest bit interested in sailing, you might as well stop reading this report now, as Sunsail is all about sailing and very little else.)

First, the details:
Getting there:
We took a combination of Delta Airlines (using Frequent Flyer miles) to San Juan, Puerto Rico, then Liat airlines between San Juan and Antigua. All flights were on time or very close. Other airlines are possible. American Airlines has both Eagle flights from San Juan, and a single 727 flight to/from Miami each day (but on a poor schedule... late evening arrival, early morning departure.) Non-Stop flights are also possible from Europe. I was a bit surprised to see a Virgin airlines 747 talking off one evening on our way back from an excursion. Since Antigua is part of the British West Indies, there are a lot of British vacationers there. The airport is large and reasonably modern, but fairly basic. I suspect the customs people are a bit overwhelmed when a loaded 747 arrives, but we went through very quickly. (Customs coming back into San Juan was also very quick. We didn't have to wait in line for a customs officer at any time; a nice change from other trips.)

The facilities:
Sunsail Colonna is a compact resort with about 200 total units on about 6 acres. Most of the rooms are standard hotel room type, with about 40 one bedroom suites and probably 20 two and three bedroom 'apartments'. We opted for a one-bedroom suite since the cost was very little more than a standard room. We were glad we did, as the suite was in a nice location and we had a little extra room, with fridge and a small range. The 2 & 3 bedroom apartments are on the opposite side of the resort from the 1 bedroom suites and that side of the resort seemed to pick up quite a bit more of the odor from what I believe was 'reclaimed' water for the landscaping. There is a large swimming pool (claimed to be the largest swimming pool in Antigua) in the middle of the resort. Sunsail took over the resort property in 1998 and it appears that they have done some renovations; some superficial, some significant. This is not a 5-star type resort; it might make 3 stars.

I'd guess the property was originally built 20 - 30 years ago, with several updates. Not all of the updates were done by experienced craftsmen. For example, the bath was retiled recently, but the tiles were poorly fitted, poorly grouted (or not at all) and not caulked. We frequently had water drops on our ceiling, probably from a leaking shower above us. Some of the trim has been 'patched' and the electrical work probably would not meet 'code' in most US cities. (Although their info-pack says they only have 220V, they actually have a mixture of 110 & 220 in the rooms. The only problem is in identifying for sure, which is which.) Each room has a phone (calls to US are expensive, but rates are posted) and a TV (4 channels: A&E, USA, Disney, and something else that came in poorly: the last day there, USA changed to CNN). Our suite had very nice sitting area in the back, with chairs, a small table, and a drying rack. This was an excellent place to watch the sunsets from. Most rooms had either a ocean or pool area view. The floors are tile and housekeeping was effective in keeping up with the sand. The furnishings are OK, if a bit sparse. Our 'king bed' was actually two double beds run together with a minimal 'bridge'. Main problem is that, at about 6'2", most of my feet hung over the end of the bed. I did sleep well, however.) We had one of a couple of suites that formed part of a curve in the building. The geometry meant that our suite (Apt. 15), especially the bedroom was significantly larger than the normal suites.

All Inclusive??:
While most activities and meals are included in the base cost, not all are... For example (assuming a 7 night stay), you get all breakfasts, two lunches, and four dinners included. That really works better than it may at first sound. The non-inclusive dinners are nights that other activities are available. For example, on Sunday evening a favorite excursion is to Shirley Heights for a great view, a nice sunset, music, dancing, drinks and bar-b-que. For Monday lunch, a trip over to Prickly Pear island and Miguel's hospitality (and drinks and cooking) is recommended. (But watch out for his Rum Punch... it does have a real punch!) On other days the main Beach restaurant is open for lunch with snacks, sandwiches, etc., at reasonable prices. There is also a 2nd restaurant, open to non-guests, at the resort. Restaurants in St Johns are only about 5 - 10 minutes (and $10) by cab, or one of the nicer restaurants, Le Bistro, is about a 15 minute walk from the resort. In keeping with British ways, there is a 5:15 'Afternoon Tea' with tea, coffee, and cookies, biscuits, etc. No alcoholic beverages are included in the base cost, not even wine/beer at meals. Coffee was not available with dinner. We like to have coffee with desert, but were told that we'd have to get coffee at the bar (and the times we asked, they did not have a fresh pot available). All on-site activities were inclusive, including use of all watercraft, even the powered ones.

There was one tennis court, and snorkel equipment is available (but check it out carefully... we got several masks that were broken and/or leaked badly.) How about the Food? I frequently start out explaining Club Med food to friends by reminding them that Club Med is a French company, and the food reflects that. Well, Sunsail is a British company. The Caribbean influence certainly helps some, but few people will come to Sunsail for the food. We didn't go hungry, but the food certainly did not compare to any of the Club Med's we've been to in variety, quality, or quantity. The Breakfast buffet, with a reasonable selection of fresh fruits was probably best; made to order omelets and eggs are available. Anyone wanting gourmet meals will probably be going to the other local restaurants. There was little or no food available outside of the mealtimes and tea (except for ice cream snacks).

The Staff:
All of the staff were always friendly and helpful. The food staff, housekeeping and watersports people seemed to be some of the happiest and friendly workers at any resort I've been too; possibly even more so than the friendly people of Aruba (where we have been twice). When the people here said "no problem, Mon", they meant it, unlike how it seemed in Jamaica. The watersports people, especially, seemed to enjoy their work, and really wanted you to have a good time. They were frequently laughing and joking (with the guests, not at them). The general population seemed the same way.

My wife and I did not hesitate to take a walk down the road to a beach about 1.5 miles away; several of the passing cars gave us a friendly wave. The crowd (and it was a crowd!) at Shirley Heights were mostly local people, and they were very friendly. Sailing: As I said, Sunsail is about sailing. Sunsail is one of the largest sailboat charter companies in the world, with facilities and boats all over the Caribbean, Mediterranean, and other areas. There are 5 or 6 sailing resorts in the Med, and Colonna is the first in the Caribbean. As I mentioned, this is a British company, and you might remember that the British are known for a historical love of the sea. There is an excellent selection of boats, from windsurfers, to beginner's dingies (Topaz), to Lazers, to 16' cats (Dart 16s), to 20' day sailers and 30' cruisers. All seemed to be quality equipment and very well maintained. The resort was not full the week we were there, and there was never a long wait for a boat. If what you wanted was not rigged and ready, they would pull one out and rig it for you quickly. Unlike other resorts I've been to, including Club Med, the assumption was that you know how to sail when you get here. If you don't feel comfortable in some boat, it's up to you to ask for instruction or assistance. Only the powered boats required a checkout before use. If you said you could handle the 32' cruiser the first day you were there, they believed you (although I suspect they would keep a close eye on your actions as you prepared it to get under way.)

The conditions require some level of ability also; the wind was generally blowing 15-25 knots, mostly side-shore, with some pretty good waves/chop. The launch area was not real big, with a fairly small mouth to the little harbor area. In other words, you should know what you're doing, or ask for some help/instruction. In addition to 'local sailing' there are several "Sail-Away"s to islands or beaches several miles away. There is always a "safety boat" on the water whenever any sailing is going on, and it was frequently kept busy checking on overturned sailboats. (In fairness, most small boat sailors consider an occasional knock-down a part of sailing, and can right a boat and be on the way again quickly.) Although the staff is glad to offer assistance and instruction, I don't think I'd recommend Colonna for the absolute first time sailor, at least not during the windy parts of the year. Perhaps in late summer or fall, when the wind is less brisk, a beginner would feel comfortable. Likewise, a beginning windsurfer would be very frustrated since there is not a good protected and shallow area for learning. But, if you already know a little (or a lot) about sailing, and want to learn more, or just enjoy sailing in a beautiful environment, using modern well-maintained equipment, this is the place for you. One caution: make sure you are comfortable with any boat before going out in it. The 'briefings' are very brief, perhaps to a fault so it's up to you to keep asking questions and getting information until you are comfortable. The staff is generally happy to go out with you for a brief 'intro' sail if you ask, but they generally will not require or suggest it themselves. If you are a beginning sailor, consider conforming to their Wed - Wed schedule as they have "Beginners lessons" on Thursday and Friday which would be very good for first-timers.

- The club has a very comprehensive children's center. We were surprised at the number of young guests, from about 12 months up, at the club. The parents we spoke to were very happy with the activities and the care given their children. During the vacation months, there is also a very complete program for kids up through age 16.
- There are a number of excursions and trips available through the club. We went on several and were happy with the arrangements and cost. (I'd definitely recommend the Morgan's Boatyard / Shirley Heights excursion on Sunday evening.)
- There is essentially no evening entertainment. They make attempts a couple of nights, but I'd suggest bringing a good supply of books or other diversions (like the laptop computer on which I'm writing this report while sitting in our room at Sunsail.)
- The club is only about 10 minutes from either the airport or Antigua's largest city, St Johns. Rental cars are available (about $50 per day, plus one time $20 Antigua drivers license) but watch out.... they drive on the British (left) side of the road. Taxis are always available at the front of the resort at reasonable prices.
- The swimming beach at Colonna is very limited. If you want to find a nice beach, there are many on the island and several excursions combine some beaches and snorkeling. (Antigua claims to have 365 beaches; one for each day of the year.) Antigua is not a good place for beach walkers, however, since most of the shoreline is rocky, with occasional pretty little beaches. (Reminded me somewhat of Bermuda in that respect.) Dickenson Bay, the destination for one of the Sail-aways, has a beach perhaps 1/2 mile long and is the site of the Antigua Sandals resort and is only about 5 files from Sunsail.
- The official currency is the Eastern Caribbean Dollar (EC), but US dollars are universally accepted. Most items are marked with both prices, and the exchange rate is about EC$2.60 per US$.
- Sunsail seems to operate on a Wednesday - Wednesday schedule, with most guests arriving and departing on Wednesday.

The big regatta is Tuesday and the 'awards presentation' is Tuesday evening. The primary welcome reception is Wed. evening. Arriving on any other day is not a problem, and you won't really miss out on much (see comment about beginner sailors, above).

Sunsail does have a web site with information (including rates) for this and other Sunsail resorts. Hal doesn't like to post URLs, but if you try the 'obvious' URL, you'll probably find it with no problem. I suspect that few US travel agents will know about Sunsail. We provided the basic information (phone numbers, URL) to our travel agent and the rest was taken care of with no apparent problems.

Thanks to Mike for this trip report ...
May 2000

    Antigua and Barbuda  
    Places to Stay  
    Hotel Reviews  
    General Information  
    Photo Gallery  
    Real Estate  
    Trip Reports  

About Us : Advertise with Us : Disclaimer : Privacy Policy : Contact Us

© 1995-2016 Turquoise Interactive. All rights reserved.