Guests return for royal treatment, elegance and serenity at Antigua’s Curtain Bluff Resort
Photos by Laurette M. Veres
In the 1950s, Howard Hulford, an executive pilot for Texaco, flew into Antigua with a planeload of oilmen researching the feasibility of building gas stations there. As he flew around the beautiful, undeveloped island he noticed a small finger of rocky land jutting into the Atlantic Ocean, pounded by the unrestrained sea on the windward side and hugged by a small bay on its leeward side.
Hulford explored the land, falling in love with the climate and beautiful turquoise water surrounding the peninsula. He decided to build a home in this Caribbean paradise.
Antiguan officials who owned the peninsula had no interest in selling land for a private residence. Focused on growing tourism, they wanted to sell the land to resort developers. Not willing to give up the unique property, Hulford found investors, purchased the land and built Curtain Bluff Resort. The property opened in 1961 with 20 seaside units.
Curtain Bluff has grown to 70 rooms, each with private balconies and stunning beach views. The resort is still surrounded by turquoise water—rolling surf on one side of the peninsula and a calm, peaceful bay on the other.
The small, all-inclusive resort serves gourmet food, top shelf liquor and has live music and dancing every evening. Activities included in the basic room rate are snorkeling, deep sea fishing, scuba diving, exercise classes, tennis, squash and much more.
Curtain Bluff is a unique resort. Keys are not needed to enter guest rooms. Most of the trusted staff have been here for decades; many of the guests have been coming just as long. There is no reason to lock doors when everyone knows one another.
Howard and Chelle Hulford still live on property most of the year. They have long since hired a management company to run the resort, but attend most meals. Chelle flits from table to table making sure guests receive good service, and shares her stories of 40-plus years of Curtain Bluff adventures.
The Hulfords built their dream home on the highest point of the peninsula. The open two-story structure has stunning views of the Atlantic and Montserrat, a volcanic island on the horizon. A scenic location for weddings, parties and gatherings, the home can be rented for special occasions.
Few zoning and building restrictions were in place when the resort was built in the late 50s. Consequently, Curtain Bluff sits very close to the ocean on the Atlantic side of the peninsula. The surf rolls within 15 yards of the rooms. I’ve stayed in many places where you can hear waves, but here they thunder. It is extremely tranquil. Sleep is deep and peaceful. Waking up and getting out of bed takes commitment.
The rooms are designed to make good use of ocean breezes coming through the oceanside doors. Portals are cut into bathrooms and bedrooms, so air circulates through the entire unit before exiting windows in the back. Doors are ventilated to not block the breeze. Utilizing the breeze was a necessity—until two years ago Curtain Bluff had no air conditioning, so it would close in the heat of June and not reopen until fall. They still close during off-peak months (August through November) to perform property upgrades and maintenance.
Evenings at Curtain Bluff call for proper attire: long pants, dress shoes and collared shirts for men. Women will be comfortable in sun dresses and nice wraps to protect them from evening breezes. Howard sits at the front door offering suggestions to those who don’t meet the dress code. The resort gives impeccable service. When we finally reached Curtain Bluff, three hours late due to a plane mechanical problem, the assistant manager was sitting on a bench out front waiting for us. Worried we’d be hungry (we were), he had food prepared for us. Long after the kitchen closed, we were served pan seared mahi-mahi with all the fixings. Employees are overly attentive and expect nothing in return; tipping is strictly forbidden.
The rooms, pavilion, furniture and lobby are nice—comfortable and beachy, not exquisite. But the resort is exceptional in many ways: the azure water surrounding it, proximity to the crashing waves, tasty food, attentive service and lush landscaping. Curtain Bluff was recently voted the Best Caribbean Resort by the readers of Conde Nast Traveler. Room rates include food, drinks and activities; junior suites start at $825 per night double occupancy.