Antigua’s claim to fame is that it is home to 365 beaches—“one for every day of the year.” A place could do worse! The Caribbean island (pronounced An-tee-gah) is a haven for sun seekers, thanks to its hot climate, warm waters and hundreds of white sand beaches sprinkled across both Antigua and its little sister island of Barbuda. It is also a top destination for celebrities like Oprah and Eric Clapton, who both have beautiful homes here.
If your sole goal is to get a bronzed bod, then this is the place for you.
However, Antigua also has lots to offer in terms of excursions and sightseeing. Being one of the safer and cleaner islands in the Caribbean, it’s safe to head out on your own or walk along the mile-long beaches, and you likely won’t be approached by people peddling goods. Antigua is also one of the more expensive islands, but it’s true that you get what you pay for. Expect five star service, beautiful clean beaches and gourmet dining.
One of my favourite parts about the resort I stayed it was that there was CHAMPAGNE. I’ve mentioned I have a slight obsession with bubbles, but sadly most resorts only offer ‘sparkling wine’ at best. At the Grand Pineapple Beach Resort, they had Kir Royale ON THE MENU! The hotel also boasts 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.
Hit the water
Obviously you should spend most of your time on the beach, and will likely be happy as a clam simply wandering out to the white sand in front of your resort. However, it’s worth a trip around the island to check out some other locales. One of my favourites is Runaway Beach, which is near the stunning Sandals Antigua Caribbean Village & Spa. The long stretch of brilliant, soft sand offsets the bright blue waters, and there are a number of amenities in the area.
Get your taxi driver to drop you off, then simply set up your beach towel and veg, or book a water excursion. I hopped on a sea-doo for half an hour which was tons of fun, and quite different than the times I’ve ridden around a smooth lake. Waves make the water surprisingly choppy, and the warm salt water sprays up as you whip around.
I also took advantage of the parasailing on offer—the first time I’d ever gone up, and definitely a great place to try it out! We headed out on a speedboat with about four other people plus two crew members, and each got a turn going tandem on the parasail, which is attached to the boat by a long rope. The view from hundreds of feet up was incredible, granting a panoramic view of the turquoise water and a bright coral reef. It is also surprisingly relaxing as you watch the beautiful scene below, as the wind pushes you along. However, this is NOT an activity for those who are afraid of heights, as it feels like there is nothing between you and a big drop down.
Another great way to spend a day in paradise is taking a trip around Antigua. One way is on a boat tour, which will take you around the island in just a few hours. You get to see the incredible waters (everything from turquoise to dark blue to aqua green), do some celebrity spotting (Oprah’s house) and may also make a pit stop to do some snorkeling. Most resorts can set up this excursion for you, which usually costs about $130 depending on the length, and will likely include food and drinks. Be sure to pack some anti-nausea medication if you’re the sea-sick type, as the water can be choppy.
Antigua also has lots to offer on-land, including its capital of 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 if you’re into that story of thing. Otherwise, it’s best to get a tour around the island as part of an excursion or by hiring a taxi driver to take you around for the day.
Most people try to make a stop at the awe-inspiring Devil’s Bridge. A large limestone rock formation on the east coast, waves have pushed it into a bridge, creating blowholes that surround its arch. Stop for some 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 popular stop, and is THE place to see incredibly large yachts. When I was there, one of Microsoft’s bigwigs had his boat docked in its waters, which frankly looked like a hotel, complete with helicopter landing pad. 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 you scramble past the monstrous cacti, you can look down at the bright blue waters of the harbor below, and even see the neighbouring islands of Montserrat and Guadaloupe.
The best time to visit Shirley Heights is on Sunday, when there is a BBQ with live music compliments of a talented steel drum band. Reggae music takes over once the sun sets (a major highlight of the night, btw) and a dance breaks out.
Currency: U.S. dollar
How to get there: Try to book as an all-inclusive from Canada (through Toronto), the U.S. or the U.K., so all of your food, drinks, accommodation and transfers are included.
Must try: English Harbour Antigua Rum- enjoy it in a Rum Punch!
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