Curtain Bluff

Comfortable, casual, traditional

Old Road., St Johns


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At a Glance

Curtain Bluff is an old school resort with 72 accommodations, no televisions in the rooms, a long history on the island and a tremendously dedicated staff that delivers a truly personal touch.

Indagare Loves

  • The Executive Suite, which can be combined into a two-bedroom suite and has a fantastic living room area, an outdoor seating area and a hammock.
  • The extensive wine cellar, stocked with the vintages such as Château Margaux and Château Pétrus
  • Family-run management that makes every guest feel like a regular


You cannot tell the story of Antigua without telling the story of Curtain Bluff, the first luxury hotel on the island, erected in 1961 by the late Sir Howard Hulford. Nearly fifty years later, Hulford’s wife, Michelle, still runs the place, catering to a cadre of guests who have been coming year after year, generation after generation. (Some seventy percent of guests are repeats.) There are other resorts on the island with a prettier beach or better food, but none that have more soul or a kinder staff.

Curtain Bluff feels incredibly personal from the moment you arrive and are invited to a welcome cocktail party at the owner’s house, which is set on the top of the bluff. Hulford is intimately involved with day-to-day operations, and you can bet that she and Rob Sherman, the managing director who has been with the property for 25 years, will greet you warmly, remember your name, and stop by at lunch or dinner to see how you are liking everything. By the end of the first day, you’ll feel like an old friend.

Hulford and Sherman have extended the same generosity of spirit to the local community through a foundation called the Old Road Fund, which the Hulfords created in 1972 to benefit members of the village (Old Road) that surrounds the resort and is the source of much of its staff.  Over the years, the foundation, which is funded by the resort and its guests, has spent a whopping $1 million, much of it in educational scholarships for local kids.

Uncommon generosity begets uncommon loyalty, and this approach has proved to be good business for the resort. The result is an incredible staff of people who are long serving (many 10 to 20 years) and totally devoted to Curtain Bluff and its guests. Visitors tend to form strong bonds with the staff, which is one reason the return rate is so high. “You just feel so well taken care of,” one regular told me.

The resort is set on a spit of land on the southern coast of the island with one side of the bluff facing the rougher Atlantic and the other facing the quiet Caribbean. All the rooms overlook the Atlantic, which means you hear the marvelous sound of crashing surf (a sound that is largely absent from other resorts where the waves are calmer). Even with the air conditioning on at night and the doors to the terrace closed, I could hear the ocean. Guests are discouraged from swimming on the Atlantic-facing beach, as it is rocky, but it’s a lovely and secluded place to lounge with a book.

On the other side of the property, reached by a walk of a few minutes, is the calmer Caribbean-facing beach. There are lots of palm trees to shade the lounge chairs and plenty of hammocks. (Compared to the other beaches on Antigua, it’s nice but not a knock-out.) In back of the beach are a half basketball court, shuffleboard, a freeform pool and a swing for kids. On the other side are four tennis courts, a squash court, fitness center and the spa. Like Carlisle Bay, Curtain Bluff is close to the rainforest, and birdsongs are a delightful constant during the day, as is the sound of tree frogs at nights.

Many of the features of Curtain Bluff conspire to make your trip feel like a visit with old family friends. Until a few years ago, rooms did not have locks on them, and regulars still never bother to use keys. The rate is all-inclusive, so there are no dinner checks to sign, and tipping is not permitted. (Instead, guests are encouraged to donate to the Old Road Fund.) Also included are your activities, whether you want to go deep-sea fishing or scuba diving, play squash or join a tennis clinic. This is particularly wonderful for older kids, as they can easily set off on all sorts of adventures. “We tried having a kids’ club,” Sherman explains. “But it never really took off. We’ve never needed one, because by the second day here, kids feel independent and have their own agenda. Maybe the younger ones are visiting the pineapple farm, while their big brothers are headed off on a boat ride to go waterskiing.” However, the resort does offer a formal kids club during a few peak times of the year including Christmas break.

Lunch is served down by the beach and might include standards like lobster salad or tomatoes and mozzarella. When I was there, it was served buffet style with a steel band playing in the background and highlighted West Indian specialties like sautéed plantains, as well as a carving station with grilled flank steak. The atmosphere was lively, fun and super casual. Dinner is served up on the terrace in the center of the resort. Dishes were simple and light, such as grilled swordfish with fresh tarragon and baby bok choy. Most impressive is the extensive wine cellar, stocked with the likes of Château Margaux and even (amazingly for the Caribbean) Château Pétrus. Sherman hosts wine tastings for oenophile guests.

The rooms are spacious and in nice condition, with wicker furniture and huge marble bathrooms: not über-chic, but very comfortable. Recent additions are very well done, such as the beautiful spa and a fitness room overlooking the sea. As you might imagine with a resort that’s fifty years old, there are parts of the property that could use some updating, and some furniture that is past peak. (This is not the place for travelers who prefer Four Seasons-type properties where everything is super luxe.) Curtain Bluff is the kind of place where you can find flaws if you look for them, but the atmosphere is so jovial, energetic and welcoming that you will surely leave happy, feeling wonderfully connected to the island and determined to return.

Who Should Stay

Curtain Bluff is very Antiguan in spirit. Low-key people who want a resort with a strong sense of place and an informal, friendly and easy-going atmosphere will be happy here. And families who love to be active will find tons to do and older kids will feel a great sense of independence.

Written by Eliza Harris

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