Boasting 365 stunning beaches and lush vistas, Antigua is a must-visit for those seeking some serious fun. There may be a beach for every day of the year, but there’s more to this paradise. Here, explore eight ways you can soak up some sun while learning about the island’s rich history, witnessing its exotic wildlife, and tasting incomparable Caribbean food.
Where: Antigua is part of a young nation located in the middle of the Leeward Islands in the Eastern Caribbean. It is comprised of three islands, including Barbuda and the uninhabited Redonda.
When: The best time to visit is from December to April, but if you don’t want to miss its biggest festival, go in July for the annual Carnival.
1) Soak up the sun at Half Moon Bay
At the southeastern tip of Antigua lies one of its best beaches at Half Moon Bay. This idyllic, mile-long crescent-shaped white sand beach overlooks the azure sea, beckoning you for a swim or a snorkel to admire its marine life. Check out the small concession stand just off the beach for snacks.
2) Visit Stingray City
On the Stingray City tour, a speedboat will whisk you to the coral reef where Southern Rays swim in the crystal clear waters. These gentle fish are considered the puppy dogs of the ocean, and they love attention. On the tour, you can feed the rays and spot other marine life, such as sea turtles. The tour lasts four hours, includes lunch and beverages, and is ideal for both cruise ship passengers and visitors staying on the island.
3) Tour the island with Tropical Adventures
A half-day jeep safari by Tropical Adventures brings you to some of the popular sights on the island, including Nelson’s Dockyard (English Harbour): a restored shipyard surrounded by nature trails and ruins of historic forts. The next stop is Shirley Heights lookout for a quintessential Antigua panorama of sailboats, sea and rolling hills. End the tour at the village of Willikies on the Atlantic side to admire Devil’s Bridge, a limestone arch at the head of Indian Creek, with blow-holes and spouting surf.
4) Have a picnic at Betty’s Hope
Enjoy an outdoor lunch arranged by Tropical Adventures at Betty’s Hope, the island’s largest and first sugar plantation built in 1674. The government now uses it as an open air museum where visitors can witness the two stone sugar mills and get insight into the lives of Antiguan slaves at the former cotton house storeroom. The island is still home to 112 sugar mill towers that dot the countryside.
5) Walk the Strip in St. John’s
The capital of Antigua is where all the ships dock and you’ll soon discover plenty of jewelry, liquor and souvenir shops. When you get hungry, head over to Hemingways Caribbean Cafe, located in a traditional green and white wooden building. It’s exactly the kind of establishment the namesake author would have frequented during his time in Antigua. Be sure to order the delicious coconut shrimp and blueberry bread pudding.
6) Stay at Blue Waters Resort
Blue Waters is an all-inclusive, luxury resort with impeccable service. Built on 17 acres in the northernmost part of the isle, the sprawling property features Caribbean-infused spacious suites and villas with private pools. At Blue Waters, they take their drinks seriously, crafting a unique cocktail for every meal. Whether it’s a Rumtini alongside brunch or a Coconut Crush splashed with local rum paired with dinner, you’re sure to indulge in some of the best tropical drinks.
7) Take a boat tour to Bird Island
Bird Island is a tiny islet home to endangered species, including brown pelicans, West Indian whistling ducks, red-billed tropicbirds, and the Antiguan racer snake. The two and a half hour boat trip, led by Captain Owen and his buddy Dave on a Monterey boat from Blue Waters Resort, will carry you to the gorgeous islet. After you venture on a short walk for wildlife sightings, enjoy a picnic on the shore with yucca nachos, avocado dip, and refreshing drinks. On the voyage back, sip champagne while watching the sunset.
8) Dine at the Cove Restaurant
At the sophisticated Cove Restaurant at Blue Waters, you’ll find the best of both Caribbean and French cuisine. Sitting atop a cliff overlooking the aqua-green waters, the candle-lit hall is simply divine. The first-class service is second only to the delectable dinner. Be sure to try the butternut arancini, fried risotto cakes, and the Cove’s signature mahi-mahi, topped off with tiramisu crepes a la mode, featuring coconut ice cream.
About the author: Lavanya Sunkara is a writer based in New York. Her love of adventure has taken her all over the world from Australia to Zanzibar. When she’s not traveling, she’s hiking with her dog and planning her next getaway. Follow her on twitter @Nature_Traveler. Read her articles at www.nature-traveler.com.