A sanctuary for doing nothing — or everything. Such is the motto of Hermitage Bay, a secluded resort tucked within Antigua’s pristine beaches and verdant hills, where wellness manifests as possibility. Found at the end of a winding unpaved road, Hermitage Bay is a study of the soul: embracing that of the Caribbean while nourishing those of the guests. Experiences of all kinds await, curated to what best revives and reinvigorates each individual, whether that is wandering among St. John’s vibrant restaurants and shops, venturing through the Antiguan rainforest or contemplating a sunset cascading over the waves.
Owner Andy Thesen, an avid environmentalist, envisioned Hermitage Bay as a space that emphasized the core elements of wellbeing: connection with loved ones, connection with nature and connection with ourselves.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Andy about the environmental ethos behind Hermitage Bay and how finding resort-level wellbeing in our daily lives is a matter of learning how to disconnect.
Beth Doane: What is Hermitage Bay’s origin story? How did you initially find the property, and what inspired you to create the resort?
Andy Thesen: I am a former oil field engineer turned investment banker turned hotelier. I first saw Hermitage Bay 20 years ago when it was a deserted beach on the west coast of Antigua. My initial reaction on seeing the beach was thinking that it would be a shame to build anything there because it was such a wonderfully secluded, untouched spot. A true place to be a hermit. Keeping this in mind, we built a ‘non-invasive’ hotel with the intention that it would sit comfortably in its natural surroundings. We opened in December 2006 with 25 suites. Over the years, we slowly expanded to 30 but wanted to maintain its original feel of being a small, secluded, boutique hotel.
What makes the property a unique haven for wellness seekers and luxury travelers?
It has a natural Caribbean feel. All suites are individual buildings and thereby provide privacy. It is supposed to be the antithesis of modern urban life, so guests are able to leave all their worries at home.
I love that phrase — ”the antithesis of modern urban life.” Can you elaborate on that and its connection to wellness?
I believe that human connection is really important for wellbeing. For example, lots of research shows that loneliness impacts health in many ways. Time at Hermitage Bay enables guests to spend time with the ones they love in a quiet natural space. Being in nature is good for wellbeing. We focus on the natural noises of a beachside location — the sea, the birds, the tree frogs (particularly at night) and the breeze in the trees. We limit man-made noises as much as possible, including piped music, car and transport noises, air conditioners and phones ringing.
How has practicing wellness helped you in your personal life?
After failing to have children, my wife and I started therapy in our 30’s and from there developed an interest in self awareness and wellbeing. I now do yoga and meditation daily and keep physically fit through a combination of tennis, walking and workouts.
When did you first know you wanted to work in hospitality, and what was your career trajectory?
I stumbled into hospitality having planned to be solely an investor in the Hermitage Bay project, but I got swept into operations as we arrived on the threshold of opening. I have a very limited career in hospitality and am a bit of a one trick pony.
As an owner of a retreat, you must see firsthand the challenges that people face with their wellness, especially now. What are some of the biggest issues you see guests grappling with in terms of their wellbeing?
Our guests all suffer from a fast-paced lifestyle and need time to relax and reflect on where they are going with their lives. Hermitage Bay offers a perfect ambience to disconnect and take stock.
How does your interest in environmentalism and wellness connect to Hermitage Bay?
All my family members are foodies and interested in healthy eating and looking after the planet. This is reflected in Hermitage Bay — it’s constructed primarily of wood and thereby has a low carbon footprint. We grow our own organic food and source as much as we can locally. We avoid processed food. All dietary restrictions and preferences are catered to, and we have vegan menus. Yoga, pilates and meditation are part of our all-inclusive offerings. All our spa products are organic. We consider the environment and the wellbeing of our staff and guests in everything we do.
What are three wellness tips you find most fundamental to a healthy life?
First, eat well, cook your own food and keep fit, healthy and strong. Second, prioritize sleep, and severely limit or quit alcohol and smoking if you can. Finally, make room for time off and creative pursuit.
What’s your favorite quote?
Given the current stage in the epidemic, “They think it’s all over…”
It’s a quote from the commentary of the 1966 World Cup Finals. Shortly after, England scored a fourth goal and the commentator added, “It is now.” Let’s hope the same is uttered sometime soon in relation to COVID-19.