It feels like standing at the edge of the earth.
The Devil’s Bridge National Park is an ancient limestone peninsula on the Caribbean island Antigua’s far east side, carved away by centuries upon centuries of tumultuous Atlantic waters. Each wave approaches the rocks, which form a natural-arch bridge, and within a split second sends a tower of white ocean spray soaring into the sky or shooting up via tiny geyser-like holes in the rock. With tremendous winds approaching from all sides, and sweeping vistas of tall grass jutting up from the jagged rocks, it can be a truly dramatic, almost extraterrestrial place to stand.
And yet, literally right next door to this national landmark is Hammock Cove Antigua, the newest entry in The Daily Beast’s The New Room With a View series.
When one thinks of an “all-inclusive” resort, the usual images are overrun family hotels with watered-down liquor, sub-par food, and repetitive activities. With Hammock Cove, hotelier Robert Barrett seeks to reinvent that image. The property feels exclusive, with only 42 villas along its protected waters, each with its own private plunge pool; uninterrupted and personalized service, thanks to round-the-clock “ambassadors” assigned to your villa; complimentary premium liquors and wine both in the room and throughout the resort; and luxury dining envisioned by a Michelin-trained chef (a romantic meal at the upscale Lighthouse restaurant is a must) and an ample wine list curated by a house sommelier—all included.
Much of the resort pays tribute to the stone excavation site it was built on, as well as the island on which it resides. All colors—inside and out of your villa—resemble the minerality of Hammock Cove’s land, and each room’s vaulted ceilings, soft white linens, and enormous rain-head showers evoke traditional Caribbean luxury. Local artists are featured throughout the hotel, most notably inside along a road underneath the main building leading to several of the villas.
The protected bay is shared with several other resorts straddling the shoreline and framing the dramatic cliffs overlooking the water, which has a gentle chop from being on the Atlantic side of an island. The majority of Hammock Cove’s villas overlook this bay and, while it may at times be noisy with the sounds of an adjacent family resort’s beachfront, the wide-open waters provide coolly refreshing views from each room’s private patio.
And with such an all-inclusive experience, visitors may never want to leave Hammock Cove’s property. But Antigua—an up-and-comer compared to tourism giants like Jamaica and the Bahamas—gives visitors plenty of reason to get out and explore.
Of course, there’s the Devil’s Bridge. While Hammock Cove—which, full disclosure, brought this writer out to review the hotel—is technically “adjacent” to the park its address is literally inside the park. Like many Caribbean islands, Antigua is still grappling with the brutal legacy of slavery and colonialism. Locals openly relay folktales and legends about families destroyed by enslavement, disease, or sugar profiteers.
The dramatic landmark itself is, in fact, a stark reminder of that past, its name being the result of urban legends about slaves being lured to the ancient formation by some devious power, ultimately meeting their demise by leaping off its rocky, wave-pounded edges.
But many of the island’s landmarks are rife with the hope, pride, and sense of community Antiguans have for their land since its emancipation and governmental independence. The island’s hilly terrain is dotted with churches, stuffed to the brim on Sundays, hymns radiating throughout the otherwise quiet streets. Old British forts—particularly ones overlooking English Harbour—are now lookouts to observe the island’s natural beauty and learn about its people via various presentations.
The old gun battery at Shirley Heights is perhaps most famous, with its stunning westward views of the island and its role as host to Sunday evenings’ wildly popular parties featuring a massive steel drum band and throngs of people drinking rum punch and eating gigantic pork ribs or jerk chicken. And excursions to view the island’s Caribbean side—which includes a hilly, lush rainforest and beautiful white-sand beaches like Turners Beach—are a must.
But one could be forgiven for also spending as much time as humanly possible in your private villa at Hammock Cove.
Take it from this writer, hours can melt away ordering the included room service—recommended: the burger with a house-selected beef blend, bleu cheese, and an onion jam—to your private plunge pool while soaking, sunbathing, or lounging in your own hanging hammock chair. It would be understandable to get lost in the mesmerizing views, particularly when a squadron of brown pelicans methodically take turns dive-bombing into the bay to scoop up a fish, or fail and try over and over again.