Perhaps most famous for its beaches, Antigua touts a staggering 365 of them—which locals will enthusiastically remind you makes one for each day of the year. This tropical wonderland is a dream for any sun-and-sea worshiper, and with direct flights available daily from New York and Miami, it’s a perfectly convenient quick getaway. For romance seekers, there’s more to Antigua than just majestic palm trees and sunbathing, though: take in historical sites oozing British colonial heritage, indulge in aquatic activities, and soak up the luxe, yet unpretentious atmosphere that makes this Eastern Caribbean isle so special.
What to Do
Book a snorkeling or scuba diving excursion to Cades Reef, teeming with exotic sea creatures that are sure to impress even the most seasoned underwater explorer. Long Bay and Dickenson Bay also offer great subterranean sea life sightings. Be sure your excursion stops at some of the island’s most breathtaking beaches throughout the day like Half Moon Bay, Deep Bay, Jolly Beach, and Darkwood Beach. Tip: For added romance, reserve a portable private picnic lunch through your tour company or hotel.
Or, take the helm and charter a yacht or sailboat with Ondeck Sailing. Charming staffers are happy to let you participate as much (or as little) as you want. If you’re looking to get a taste of the action (or, simply sip champagne while aboard), a particularly exhilarating time to visit is during Sailing Week, a yacht regatta held each spring in the island’s capital, St. John’s. Expect serious sailing, fierce competition, and intense partying once the event is over.
Hire a guide and hit the trails at Wallings Dam, where you can hike through the rain forest and wade through shoulder-high lemongrass, and be rewarded with sweeping views of the island’s southern coast, as well as a unique perspective over St. John’s. Or, opt to swing through the rain forest on zip lines for a more aerial overview.
History buffs can explore the remnants of the former British colony at the English Harbour, as well as Nelson’s Dockyard, the impressively restored British Naval headquarters. Betty’s Hope, the first sugar plantation on Antigua, is also worth a visit.
Or, get your shopping fix at Heritage Quay, stocked with local crafts and duty-free goods like jewelry.
Where to Stay
Honor the essence of the island—laid-back, simple luxury that lets the destination’s natural beauty do the heavy lifting—at the Carlisle Bay Hotel. Brilliant aquamarine waters and swaying palm trees are the stars at this understated yet elegant Caribbean gem. Rooms are outfitted with modern conveniences like Gaggia espresso machines, laptop-accommodating safes, complimentary Wi-Fi, and flatscreen TVs.
For on-site activities, take a lesson from an on-site tennis pro, work out in the state-of-the-art fitness center, or simply read a book in the mod library. For luxe-loving couples who don’t want to leave the kids at home, there’ll be plenty of time for romance when your kids head to the resort’s complimentary Kid’s Club; you can also hire trustworthy babysitters through the hotel. After a full day, enjoy a sunset yoga class on the jetty or unwind in the Blue Spa—the same spa that Oprah visits when on the island. Need we say more?
Where to Eat & Drink
If you’re in town on a Saturday, stop by the produce market on Market Street in St. John’s, where you can sample unique goodies like black pineapple that you just can’t find back home.
For a romantic evening out, we recommend celebrity-favorite East, with worldly cuisine that draws inspiration from Thailand, Japan, and Indonesia (don’t miss the heavenly chocolate cake). Or, stop by local hot spot Papa Zouk, for casual yet sophisticated seafood, served up with an extensive selection of fum. If you’re after gastronomic fineness, hit Le Bistro for exceptionally elegant French classics. We also like Shirley Heights Lookout bar and restaurant for its relaxed atmosphere, killer sunset views, and classic Caribbean fare (tip: If you’re in town on a Sunday, don’t miss their famous reggae/barbecue bash).
Set out to sample Antigua’s buzzing nightlife at C&C Wine Bar, which serves fine wines from South Africa and Argentina, and hosts a lively karaoke party on Saturdays; or, try Abracadabra, a popular disco-bar where you can dance the night away.
Katie Goldstein is a freelance travel journalist based in New York City. In addition to Fodor’s, her writing and photographs have appeared on Forbes and CBS.com. Keep up with Katie’s adventures on her travel blog Travelingpanties, Twitter, and Instagram.
Photo credits: Courtesy of Katie Goldstein