5 Days at Sandals Grande Antigua

Sandals Grande Antigua Dickson Bay Beach
Sandals Grande Antigua Dickson Bay Beach

Sandals Grande Antigua looked like it was pure paradise when we booked our trip online. I’ve been all over the world, but this was my first Sandals experience. After 5 days there here are my thoughts and things I think anyone should know before going there.

Arriving at Sandals Grande Antigua

When you arrive at Grande Antigua you’ll most likely fly into V.C. Bird International Airport, where you’ll have to clear customs. I don’t know if it was just our bad luck, but the line here was incredibly long, and clearing customs took almost an hour for a flight that had maybe 75 people on it. Compared to Bahamas or Anguilla, which were each probably 10 minutes max, the long wait without ac was brutal.

Once you clear customs you’ll make your way to the airport exit. If you want any alcohol or cigars you should get them at the duty free. Leaving the resort is difficult, and there are no stores nearby. It’s also important to know that you’ll quickly be approached by people offering to carry your bags to the Sandals Grande Antigua desk that is outside and roughly 100 feet away. These people are not Sandals employees, and they will expect a tip. I saw a lot of travelers offended by this, but if you travel at all you should know and expect this. The locals on islands like this depend on tourists and if you aren’t prepared to tip them, carry your own bags.

The taxi driver that will take you to Sandals Grande Antigua is also not a Sandals employee. So be prepared to tip them as well. I feel like having US currency on you (at least $500) is something every tourist should carry like they do their passport. The whole world accepts the US dollar. It can be very helpful when traveling at home or abroad. The ride from airport to resort is less than 20 minutes.

Main Pool at Sandals Grande Antigua

When you arrive on property they’ll take your bags and bring them to your room when ready. You’ll be greeted with a cookie and a glass of “Island Time” to welcome you properly.

Making Reservations

We spent hours before our trip to Sandals Grande Antigua looking over the restaurant menus and activities and had every day/night planned as far as what we wanted to do and where. There are 11 restaurants to choose from, and some require reservations that you can’t make until you arrive. Once we were there and checking into our room we tried to make our reservations immediately because we didn’t want to miss out on them. We were very disappointed to hear that two restaurants were already fully booked and most of the excursions were also full. But if we wanted to we could show up and put our names on a waitlist.

Sunset dinner at Eleanor's, Sandals Grande Antigua
Sunset dinner at Eleanor’s

What we found during our stay was that guests were reserving activities or dinners and not showing up on time. If I could ask Sandals to change one thing it would be the way they accept reservations. I think it’s fair for people to have to put down a deposit. I think it will force them to rethink what they book and when. If you want to eat at Eleanor’s or Kimonos, two of the busier restaurants that we were told were both full, show up when they open. Both were empty and seated us right away. If you want to do an activity or excursion show up to the earliest ones they have.

Why? Because most of the people here are drinking all day. So dinner at 5 turns into dinner at 7 or 8, and snorkeling at 8am when you’re hungover is a no go.

Food and Drinks

The food and drinks at Sandals Grande Antigua was not really what I had expected. Whenever I have traveled to island in the Caribbean it’s always been heavy seafood and local cuisine. This is like stepping into a village in any American city. But there are a couple small gems here you need to check out.

Cafe de Paris

Everything here is incredible. They have delicious ice cream and sorbet, bite size cakes, gourmet coffee, and one of the best places to sit at night on the entire property. Go here around 7 before the live entertainment starts so you can have a romantic after dinner bite by the fountain. Tip: don’t sleep on the vegan desserts they’re AMAZING!

Carrot Cake, Chocolate Cake, Pumpkin Pie, Champagne.
Carrot Cake, Chocolate Cake, Pumpkin Pie, and Champagne by the fountain.

Mario’s

Hands down our favorite place to eat at Sandals Grande Antigua. We ate breakfast here every day and dinner once. It’s the same breakfast you can get at Bayside, but you get to eat in air conditioning and I honestly think it’s far less crowded. 10/10 recommend the risotto at dinner. You will not be disappointed.

Courtyard Bistro

The Cuban sandwich here is so good I got it twice. If you don’t get this at least once while you’re here you wasted your trip.

Sailing

During our 5 days at Sandals Grande Antigua we sailed more than any other activity. Even if you’ve never sailed, they’ll teach you quickly and it’s really easy. The boats are small, easy to maneuver, and take you to a stunning view of the mountains behind the resort. I can’t stress enough how much fun this is for people of any skill level!

Sailing in Grande Antigua
Sailing in Grande Antigua

Kayaking/Standup Paddleboarding

Both of these are available to anyone anytime after 9am until roughly 5pm (sunset in August is 6:30pm!) so if you’re gonna do this do it early!

Kayaks on the beach at Grande Antigua
Kayaks on the beach at Grande Antigua

Photography

We enjoyed the sunset photo session. Our photographer Omega did a great job, and didn’t ask us to do any ridiculous poses (you’ll see what I mean if you do it). You can download them digitally for 6 months on as many devices as you want. It takes about 40 minutes so plan accordingly and be on time. One thing to point out is that they don’t edit them. So what you see below was after I ran them through lightroom.

Conclusion

If you’re looking at Sandals Grande Antigua for a great beach experience where the food is predictable and there aren’t kids running around everywhere, this is a fairly decent option. The Google Reviews I’ve found list it at an average of 4 Stars and I think I’d agree with that. We stayed in Caribbean and would definitely stay there again because it’s centrally located to everything. I think for me personally I learned that 5 days is my limit to be somewhere and not leave/explore at all. We were told Antigua has over 300 beaches and we only saw 1. If you enjoyed this check out other posts of mine like this one on my trip to Bali!

Sunset at Sandals Grande Antigua Dickson Bay
Sunset at Sandals Grande Antigua Dickson Bay

*I own the rights to all photos in this post and do not authorize their use or reproduction without written consent.