This article was originally published in June 2013 and updated in April 2018.
Antigua’s claim to fame is that it has 365 beaches—“one for every day of the year”—so it’s easy to see why the Caribbean island is a favourite spot for sun-seekers. Visitors love its warm waters which are an endless hue of blues, and the long stretches of sparkling sand sprinkled across both Antigua and its little sister island Barbuda are so stunning that celebs like Oprah and Eric Clapton ended up buying homes here.
For a relatively small island, there’s plenty to do in terms of excursions and sightseeing, whether you’re visiting for a day as part of a cruise or are lucky enough to be staying for a week or two. Those staying at an Antigua all-inclusive can expect five star service, beautiful clean beaches and gourmet dining, making for the perfect Caribbean escape.
Things to do in Antigua: Best beaches
With 365 of them to choose from, it’s no surprise most visitors spend most of their time on the beaches of Antigua. As tempting as it is to camp out on the white sand in front of the resort all week, it’s definitely worth taking a trip around the island to check out some other locales. Dickenson’s Bay is a great option, as well as Green Island which is popular with snorkellers and Carlisle Bay.
While there’s no clear winner when it comes to the title of best beach in Antigua, Runaway Beach on the northwest coast is a popular pick, thanks to its long stretch of brilliant, soft sand which offsets the bright blue waters. There are also amenities like a bar/restaurant, and sun beds available to rent. Easily accessible by taxi (even from the cruise ships), there are also lots of water activities including hopping on a sea-doo to take a spin through the waves.
The parasailing around Runaway Beach is also fantastic, as it grants birds-eye views of the vibrant reef below. Travellers head out on a speedboat with two crew members, then each take a turn going tandem on the parasail, which is attached to the boat by a long rope. The view from hundreds of feet up is incredible, and unless you happen to be afraid of heights is also surprisingly relaxing as you watch the beautiful scene stretched out below.
Another one of the top things to do in Antigua is a boat tour, which navigates around the island in just a few hours. Travellers get to see the multi-hued waters (everything from turquoise to dark blue to aqua green), do some celebrity spotting (Oprah’s house!) and perhaps make a pit stop for some snorkeling.
Antigua also has lots to offer on-land, with most activities starting from the capital St. John’s. The small city can be overrun with tourists on days when cruise ships dock there, but it does have some lovely shops near port. Otherwise, it’s best to take a day trip around the island as part of a guided excursion or simply hiring a taxi driver.
One of the top picks for what see in Antigua is the awe-inspiring Devil’s Bridge. Over time, large waves have carved a large limestone rock formation into a bridge, creating blowholes that surround its arch and make for a spectacular scene. Stop for photos if you get the chance, but take care if you get near it as the rocks can be extremely slippery.
English Harbour is another great stop, especially for those who lust after the large yachts owned by dot-com billionaires which frequently dock here. The harbour is surrounded by a historic district, but the best place to take in the stunning view is from Shirley Heights. The site is high up in the hills, in the ruins of a colonial observation post. After scrambling past the monstrous cacti, visitors can look down at the bright blue waters of the harbour below, which offers views as far as the neighbouring islands of Montserrat and Guadaloupe.
The best time to visit Shirley Heights is on Sunday night, when there is a BBQ with live music compliments of a talented steel drum band. Reggae music takes over once the sun sets and a dance party breaks out, which is sure to be a highlight of the trip!
Where to stay in Antigua
Most of the places to stay in Antigua are resorts, and some top-rated picks include:
Pineapple Beach Club Antigua: The water and beach in front of this hotel are gorgeous, and is also close to the popular Outhouse, a cliff-top restaurant where ‘Miss Mary’ serves mouth-watering BBQ ribs and jerk chicken. After licking off your fingers, scribble the name of your hometown on one of the many signs that decorate the place, or write the date of your visit. Click here to book
Sandals Grande Antigua Resort and Spa: With a gorgeous beach, butler service and all-inclusive pricing that includes water sports, it’s easy to see why guests love this spot. Click here to book
Hermitage Bay: Secluded cottages are nestled into the lush hillside at this resort, which has more of a boutique hotel feel to it. The ocean views are outstanding, and some villas even have private plunge pools. Click here to book
Currency: U.S. dollar
Best time to visit Antigua: The weather is beautiful year round, so avoiding the high-season of December through April can mean lower prices and less crowds. However, it’s worth noting there is a very slight chance of hurricanes from July through November.
Must try: English Harbour Antigua Rum- enjoy it in a Rum Punch!
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