I have mixed feelings about the Jolly Beach--overall, it was an awesome vacation--how can a Caribbean island not beat out a February in Wisconsin after all?!
Check-in was no problem. We arrived maybe 4-4:30 and went straight to our room. No lines, and I never really saw lines at the front desk any time I was up there. We had a Queen Superior room and it was a fairly large room, with a beamed cathedral ceiling, big balcony, fridge (empty, but cold), iron, ironing board, bath with tub/shower--everything you need. Yes, we all know it's old, but really people, do you all live in brand new houses that get remodeled every year? It's clean and my vacation priority is great weather and beaches. Paying double the price so I get a granite counter in the bathroom really is not worth it for me. I think if they updated the wicker dressers and flowered bedspreads, the room would look that much better. Also, there was only ONE plug that our American appliances/chargers worked in. We had a full set of converters, but none of those worked, so I don't know what kind of plugs were in the rooms, so beware of that!
The grounds were nice, and the resort was much larger and more spread out than I thought. The St. John building we were in had just 12 rooms and was right on the beach on the north side of the property towards the Italian restaurant. This was a great location for us--really quiet and away from the main beach area in front of the pool, but far from the buffet and towels. The beach is so big, it's really easy to spread out and find a quiet spot. The beach was nice, but the water was rougher than I expected. There were several red flag days, and sometimes the surf brought in a lot of shells that made it difficult to walk into the water. Hopped in the pool just a couple of times, but it was nice--not crowded. I never felt crowded anywhere at the resort since the grounds are so large and spread out. But the big problem, NO CHAIRS!! Jolly Beach--BUY. MORE. CHAIRS. This was by far, the worst I have ever seen the chair game at any place I've been. It wasn't even a matter of finding shade, it was finding a chair, period. I started going out at about 6:30 and they were almost all taken. I, however, used mine all day after I ate breakfast, whereas most of the chairs I watched sit empty until well after lunch. We'll give this problem 50% responsibilty of the resort for not having enough chairs, and 50% responsibility of the guests who hogged them.
Food was OK--not a ton of selection, but you won't starve. Lots of stuff looked suspicious piled up in the buffet server, but tasted pretty good! You had to wait to be seated which was sometimes a pain. I think it was supposed to keep things orderly so the servers would know you were there, but it didn't seem to help! Definitely no hurry to get things done, but that's OK, we're on island time! You can get all the beverages at the self serve stations, so I don't know why people get upset when they aren't "served"--it's right there for you. (soda, juice, water and coffee anyway) Some plusses in the food department--real Wisconsin butter, Heinz ketchup, good fries and good bread! The soda machine was out of Diet Coke the whole time we were there, and it ran out of regular Coke maybe 3 or 4 days into our trip, and that was never filled again--there were cans and bottles, but they seemd to ration it at that point! That is kind of unacceptable to run out and not ever get it back.
Never went to any of the specialty restaurants. Anything that looked appetizing had a surcharge, and the buffet was just fine with variety each night.
Entertainment was decent--killed time in the evening. There was usually a local band and some were quite good. And then there would be some sort of dance show or something--pretty typical all-inclusive stuff. Karaoke night was actually pretty funny--I thought it would be lame, but there were quite a lot of people who joined in! As the hostess said--who cares? You're never going to see these people again!
I was disappointed with the nearby Jolly Harbour. I guess I expected a lot more there as far as shops and restaurants. We went to the Crow's Nest Friday night to watch a steel drum band and had pizza which was decent. There was a steak place which had a buy one get one free NY strip one night which we wish we would have known about before we ate at the buffet that night! Otherwise it seemed sort of expensive. And there was an Italian restaurant. For shops, there was one gift shop, and one shop with paintings, and that was about it. Furthermore, they all closed at 5 pm, so no going there at night to kill time. There used to be a huge casino there too, but it was all closed up--just a sign that the Antigua economy is suffering too.
A few vendors out on the beach. They always said hello and didn't make you feel uncomfortable or got pushy. We actually talked to one lady--Angie Baby--every day and she was just a nice lady who liked to talk! No pressure to buy stuff, but we finally did on the last day beacause she was so nice. Same with our cab driver back to the airport--we knew about all her kids, their birthdays and all about their school by the time we got there! Just treat people nicely and they will be nice to you too--no need to be afraid of them!
Overall, the Jolly Beach is a decent place to stay if you don't have money burning a hole in your pocket and you just want to see this beautiful island. If you are picky and can't live without your granite countertop and travertine tile in the bathroom, keep looking! Sure, it could use improvements, but are you there to take pictures of the caulking in the shower, or to have a nice realxing week in the sun? I think the reviews here give a pretty accurate picture (except for the angry people) so even if I forgot something in this long review, the answer is out there! Have fun!
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Antigua's best all-inclusive value, the 464-room Jolly Beach Resort & Spa is an exciting Caribbean experience. The resort offers great year-round value for destination weddings, honeymooners and families. Rates include accommodations, government taxes and service charges, all meals, snacks and afternoon tea, house brand beverages, non-motorized water-sports, activities, Jolly Kidz and Teenz Clubs, use of the gym and entertainment. All rooms are air-conditioned and face the ocean; each has a patio or balcony, direct-dial phone, TV and hair-dryer. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Jolly Beach Hotel Bolans
- Jolly Beach Resort And Spa
- Jolly Beach Resort Antigua
- Jolly Beach Resort All Inclusive
- Jolly Beach Antigua
- Jolly Beach Resort & Spa Antigua/Bolans