Home to a UNESCO World Heritage Site, numerous white sand beaches, limestone formations, and world-class dining and diving options, Antigua is an ideal spot for a quick getaway to refresh and refuel the soul.
It’s said that Antigua has 365 white sand beaches. That means one beach to explore every day of the year, making it the perfect place to get away and decompress. And believe us, the beach is just the beginning of this paradise’s treasures.
Non-stop flights from New York, Toronto, and London arrive daily, most after lunch. It’s best to spend your first few hours on the island relaxing at your resort…and why wouldn’t you? Most of Antigua’s lodging options have plenty of places to view the mesmerizing Caribbean Sea, which means they also have access to least one of the island’s 365 white sand beaches. Plus, there’s no better way to relax and adjust to island life then from one of the ubiquitous lounge chairs that dot every property. It may be hard to decide between dipping your toes in the Caribbean or the crystal clear (infinity) pool, but we say, why choose? Spend time in both as you’ve got the afternoon to relax and have a few cocktails. If you need something active to do, why not try your hand at some of the watersports available at your resort? Most have Hobie Cats, paddleboards, kayaks, or anything of the like available for your use.
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Tonight it’s best to plan for an early dinner because most excursions leave around 8:30 am, so you’ll be out and about early the next day. Pick a place that’s close to your resort, which won’t be hard to do as the dining options are numerous. Not far from Jolly Bay, the various dining nooks that characterize Sheer Rocks are the perfect place to enjoy your first Antiguan sunset and some superbly made cocktails. The food is a bit eclectic but the chef utilizes fresh ingredients in the tapas-style dishes—larger portions are possible— like the slow-cooked mahi-mahi.
INSIDER TIPIf you’re on the island on a Thursday or Sunday, head to Shirley Heights Lookout for amazing sunset views, live reggae music, and a BBQ. Sure it’s a bit touristy, but the views over English Harbour really are worth it. Be sure to take a taxi here (and back) so you can have a few drinks and relax.
This is the day to explore Antigua, and there are plenty of options for landlubbers and sea-faring folk. If you want to get in the water to see what lies beneath, sign up with Tropical Adventures for their Circumnavigation Tour upon the Excellence Catamaran, which you board from the Redcliff Quay in St. John’s. You’ll see the Pillars of Hercules (the limestone boulders are a popular diving and snorkeling spot), Jumby Bay (Oprah reportedly has a house on this private resort island), Bird Island, and Devils Bridge (a naturally formed limestone arch) before stopping at the uninhabited Green Island, whose “private” beach is the perfect place to stretch your legs, play in the sand, paddle about in the water, or join the crew for a snorkeling adventure. It’s also where you’ll have lunch—think a BBQ off the back of the catamaran. It doesn’t get much better than eating with your feet dangling in the water while you watch the fish come and go.
If the land is more your thing, Tropical Adventures also offers land-based Island Safaris (pick up is in a zebra-striped jeep is from your hotel) that take you to see Devils Bridge; Fig Tree Drive, a muddy road through the rainforest; Betty’s Hope; and Nelson’s Dockyard, among other places. Lunch is also included as is beach time.
You’ll be pretty wiped out from your six-hour outing, so head back to your hotel, or one of the many beaches, to relax before gearing up for dinner.
Tonight is the night to head to Ana’s on the Beach. This family-run gallery and restaurant is charming in its every detail. From the pink accents (pillows, curtains, napkin ties) to the personally curated works of art, you will almost forget that you’re right on the water. Almost, because you can’t avoid the soothing ocean sounds that set a lovely tone for the meal. The Mediterranean-influenced menu includes grilled seafood, curries, fried seafood, and anti-pastas. After you’re done dining, follow the music to the beach and dance on the sand with a cocktail in hand–there’s a DJ on Friday nights.
INSIDER TIPIf you have an extra day, consider an excursion to Barbuda. The island was devastated by 2017’s unforgiving hurricanes, but the 17-mile pink sand beach is still worth exploring. Ferries leave daily from St. John’s at 8:30 am, returning around 5 pm. Drinks can be purchased during the 90-minute ferry ride.
If you’ve gone to Ana’s the night before, you may want to move a bit slow this morning. So grab a leisurely breakfast at your hotel taking advantage of what’s sure to be a great buffet that will no doubt include fresh juices, baked goods, and made-to-order egg options.
After breakfast, head to Nelson’s Dockyard, the world’s only working Georgian dockyard–and a UNESCO site. Guided tours, included in the entrance fee, are given daily; it’s a great way to get a feel for the site and learn some of its history. Afterward, stop by the Dockyard Museum, in the original Naval Officer’s House, to see model tall ships, antique navigational instruments and maps, and exhibits that detail the history of the dockyard, as well as the people that worked there. Have lunch at the Pillar’s Restaurant located at The Admiral’s Inn, which was completed in 1788; the building itself is worth a look-see. There are great views of the marina and that beautiful blue water again. After eating, there are some great shops in the Dockyard worth poking about in to get a few keepsakes or souvenirs. The Cotton Club has sundresses, cover-ups, flip flops, and jewelry, but the t-shirts and rash guards make for fun multi-purpose souvenirs.
If you’re feeling adventurous post-lunch, head to Shirley Heights to explore the old forts, barracks, and powder magazines on various hiking trails, and the Dow’s Hill Interpretation Center, which provides an overview of Antigua’s past.
All that exercise means you must spend what’s left of the afternoon soaking up some rays. Not far from Nelson’s Dockyard, Pigeon Point has two fine white-sand beaches that are perfect for walking, or swimming. There are even a few bars nearby, including Bumpkins and its infamous banana coladas.
If you haven’t seen it already, and there’s time on the way back to your hotel, stop by Betty’s Hope. You don’t need more than an hour here, but it’s a great place to see how the sugar mills looked and ran. There’s a very small museum with some exhibits about the sugar industry and a diorama of what the plantation looked like. There’s usually someone there to ask any questions.
You’re most likely heading to the airport the next day, so take the opportunity to dine on property, which allows you to have a little fun and still get to bed at a reasonable hour. But, if it’s a Sunday (or a Thursday) go out with a bang at Shirley Height’s Lookout’s Sunday BBQ. You’ll thank us later.
Where to Stay
Antigua has everything from all-inclusive resorts like the swanky Curtain Bluff to affordable, beachfront hotels like the Siboney Beach Club. Many places offer a variety of meal options too. While all-inclusive rates (that include food and drink) are a great way to save money, if you want to get out and explore the island (which we strongly suggest doing), look into properties that offer the bed-and-breakfast option.
Blue Waters Resort and Spa, a 20-minute drive from V C Bird International Airport, offers both all-inclusive and bed-and-breakfast meal options. The property will take your breath away from the moment you step out of the car. The views of the crystal clear, turquoise blue waters through the airy main building may be hard to resist, but the resort’s 17 acres include stunning tropical gardens, secluded beach coves, and several freshwater pools that beg to be enjoyed.
Non-stop flights arrive daily from New York, Toronto, and London. Shuttles and taxis await arrivals, but if you plan to explore the island, renting a car is a good idea. Though most roads are in good condition, a four-wheel-drive vehicle is recommended.
When to Go
There’s really no bad time to go to Antigua, but high season (Mid-December to mid-April) is the most popular (and expensive) time to visit, as this is when the weather is typically warm and sunny. Rainy season (September through November) is when many properties close to do annual renovations; it can also be hot and muggy, though the rain showers never last long. The best value season is late April to July and November to mid-December, as hotel prices can drop up to 50% from high season. And, while there are chances of scattered showers, there’s also the promise of comfortable temperatures and fewer crowds.