My boyfriend and I decided to visit Montserrat having seen it on 'Trevor Macdonald's Secret Caribbean' - we were fed up of finding that the only places to visit in the Caribbean that we could afford involved package deals to resorts. We've visited Barbados a few times and during our last visit in 2010 we felt it was becoming too commercialised and losing its charm. After some research, we found that Montserrat would be surprisingly affordable to stay on, so decided it was the right place to visit. As many guidebooks make light of there being little to do, we chose to book 8 nights on Montserrat and 7 on Antigua, expecting Antigua to be more like Barbados. We went in July 2012.
On Montserrat we stayed with Maureen and David Hodd (details on the Visit Montserrat site), in their pool side guest house. I cannot even begin to praise them enough as hosts. David met us from the airport and drove us by a supermarket to pick up some cold beers, and Maureen greeted us with a hug - having emailed a lot before going I felt I knew her already! The room was the most beautiful, perfect room I've ever stayed in, and the view through the rainforest to the sea is stunning. Maureen and David made us feel completely at home, and after enjoying a peaceful meal with them on our first night we knew we'd become friends - they have lived on Montserrat for 42 years and have some incredible stories to tell. Our room rate included breakfast each day, which we enjoyed outdoors in the sun (a full cooked breakfast was an option but we preferred to eat something lighter), and when we were 'at home' Maureen made us delicious sandwiches (we enjoyed them so much we've been trying to recreate them at home!). David was an excellent guide for the first few days, and took us over to the daytime entry zone, Garibaldi hill and up to Air Studios (which he designed!) before we had a hire car (which he also arranged for us). Once we had our own car we were able to easily explore the island alone, and go out to eat at The Attic, Gourmet Gardens, Olveston House, Tina's and Watermelon Cottage. We filled our days hiking, scuba diving (this and other trips arranged through the Green Monkey Dive Shop), visiting beaches (our favourite was Lime Kiln Bay) and snorkelling (we took our own gear), taking a boat tour to see Plymouth, visiting the volcano observatory, kayaking to Rendezvous Bay and relaxing by the pool. We were also lucky enough, through a fairly special set of circumstances related to my career, to be able to visit Plymouth. This is an extremely rare opportunity we don't expect to have again, I will never forget it.
From the moment we arrived on Montserrat we felt relaxed and happy. In all honesty, holidays are often a disappointment to me and I end up stressed out as they never live up to my expectations. Montserrat exceeded everything I could ever hope for in a holiday, and was by far the best trip of my life. Even months after returning we were still constantly happy. We loved it so much that after around 24 hours in Antigua, we were planning our return - in the end we found Antigua busy, difficult to navigate, and impossible to eat out in and really disliked being there. It's set up for tourists who wish to remain in resorts and leave only on organised tours, which is not our idea of fun. After 3 nights we returned to Montserrat and it felt like going home! Returning also saved us money as Antigua is so expensive, and it meant being able to do things we didn't have time for the previous week. Having seen what Sandals' resorts idea of romantic is on Antigua, we realised we were unbelievably lucky to be spending time somewhere where we often had the beach to ourself (even Rendezvous Beach, which we kayaked to and spent 4-5 hours on without seeing another soul) and our own pool to float around in watching the stars at night. Having gone back to a 'normal' hotel in Antigua (all be it with amazingly friendly and helpful staff), we were so glad to be back with Maureen and David who we'd come to see as surrogate parents! Montserrat has captivated us so much that a few months on we've booked to go back, with 10 nights in Barbados, 10 nights in Montserrat and 1 night in Antigua in July 2013.