> Destinations > Antigua and Barbuda > Trip Reports > Trip Report
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:
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.)
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
While most activities and meals are included in the
base cost, not all are... For example (assuming a 7 night stay), you
all breakfasts, two lunches, and four dinners included. That really
better than it may at first sound. The non-inclusive dinners are nights
other activities are available. For example, on Sunday evening a
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
Pear island and Miguel's hospitality (and drinks and cooking) is
(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
5 - 10 minutes (and $10) by cab, or one of the nicer restaurants, Le
is about a 15 minute walk from the resort. In keeping with British
there is a 5:15 'Afternoon Tea' with tea, coffee, and cookies, biscuits,
No alcoholic beverages are included in the base cost, not even wine/beer
meals. Coffee was not available with dinner. We like to have coffee
desert, but were told that we'd have to get coffee at the bar (and the
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
snorkel equipment is available (but check it out carefully... we got
masks that were broken and/or leaked badly.)
How about the Food?
I frequently start out explaining Club Med food to friends by reminding
Club Med is a French company, and the food reflects that. Well, Sunsail
British company. The Caribbean influence certainly helps some, but few
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
quality, or quantity. The Breakfast buffet, with a reasonable selection
fresh fruits was probably best; made to order omelets and eggs are
Anyone wanting gourmet meals will probably be going to the other local
restaurants. There was little or no food available outside of the
and tea (except for ice cream snacks).
All of the staff were always friendly and helpful. The food staff,
and watersports people seemed to be some of the happiest and friendly
at any resort I've been too; possibly even more so than the friendly
of Aruba (where we have been twice). When the people here said "no
Mon", they meant it, unlike how it seemed in Jamaica. The watersports
especially, seemed to enjoy their work, and really wanted you to have a
time. They were frequently laughing and joking (with the guests, not at
The general population seemed the same way.
My wife and I did not
take a walk down the road to a beach about 1.5 miles away; several of
passing cars gave us a friendly wave. The crowd (and it was a crowd!)
Shirley Heights were mostly local people, and they were very friendly.
As I said, Sunsail is about sailing. Sunsail is one of the largest
charter companies in the world, with facilities and boats all over the
Caribbean, Mediterranean, and other areas. There are 5 or 6 sailing
in the Med, and Colonna is the first in the Caribbean. As I mentioned,
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
equipment and very well maintained. The resort was not full the week we
there, and there was never a long wait for a boat. If what you wanted
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
you know how to sail when you get here. If you don't feel comfortable
some boat, it's up to you to ask for instruction or assistance. Only
powered boats required a checkout before use. If you said you could
the 32' cruiser the first day you were there, they believed you
suspect they would keep a close eye on your actions as you prepared it
get under way.)
The conditions require some level of ability also; the
wind was generally blowing 15-25 knots, mostly side-shore, with some
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
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
(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
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
during the windy parts of the year. Perhaps in late summer or fall,
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
this is the place for you. One caution: make sure you are comfortable
any boat before going out in it. The 'briefings' are very brief,
a fault so it's up to you to keep asking questions and getting
until you are comfortable. The staff is generally happy to go out with
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
to their Wed - Wed schedule as they have "Beginners lessons" on Thursday
Friday which would be very good for first-timers.
- The club has a very comprehensive children's center. We were
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
their children. During the vacation months, there is also a very
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
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
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
are universally accepted. Most items are marked with both prices, and
exchange rate is about EC$2.60 per US$.
- Sunsail seems to operate on a Wednesday - Wednesday schedule, with
guests arriving and departing on Wednesday.
The big regatta is Tuesday
'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,
Sunsail does have a web site with information (including rates) for this
other Sunsail resorts. Hal doesn't like to post URLs, but if you try
'obvious' URL, you'll probably find it with no problem. I suspect that
US travel agents will know about Sunsail. We
provided the basic information (phone numbers, URL) to our travel agent
the rest was taken care of with no apparent problems.
Thanks to Mike for this trip report ...