No trip to the Caribbean is complete without a stop in Antigua. East of St. Kitts, this quintessential Caribbean island is defined by corrugated coasts, miles of silky golden sands, quaint pastel-colored villages, and rum-infused mellowness.
This Caribbean dream island is home to first-class resorts, five-star accommodations, and a vibrant local cuisine filled with foodie gems. Whether you’re a beachcomber, boatman, bird watcher, or backpacker, there’s plenty to eat, see, and do in Antigua.
A brief history of Antigua
As a former sugar colony of the British Empire, Antigua is filled with plenty of colonial character. Today, glimpses of the island’s rich, cultural history can still be seen. Remaining sugar mills are scattered throughout the island that draws in history buffs year after year.
And every year, the island is host to the Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta and the Antigua Sailing Week, maintaining the island’s historical tradition as Britain’s former hub of maritime power in the Caribbean.
Dining in Antigua is a feast for the eyes and the senses. There are seasoned stalwarts providing a everything from local cuisine to tasty international fare for you to choose from. The endless variety of restaurants in Antigua means there’s a delicious meal available no matter your price point.
For those looking for something truly special, there’s the award-winning Catherine’s Café offering French-inspired cuisine set in an elegant beach-side setting and boasting of some of the island’s most arresting gourmet dishes. Sheer Rocks on the west coast is a feast for your eyes not least because of the food, but because of the jaw-dropping cliff-side location and turquoise waters below.
Mid-range options are extensive, giving travelers some real variety for their money.
First up are Trappas, a fun and lively restaurant set in the heart of Antigua’s English Harbour, or Cloggy’s in the Antigua Yacht Club Marina. This fun pub and restaurant with gorgeous marina views is world famous in the super yacht industry!
Those looking for something more local will find plenty to enjoy at Papa Zouk Fish ‘N’ Rum. As the name suggests, Papa Zouk features over 200 varieties of rum to sample with a menu focused on fresh fish.
To get a real taste of the island, head over to St. John’s. West Street Bus Station transforms every Saturday morning into the Heritage Market, a bustling food, provisions, and craft market.
Travelers to Antigua can search at the local farmer’s markets as well for delicious authentic Antiguan snacks, local fruits and vegetables, or beautifully crafted souvenirs.
Antigua’s rich colonial history comes alive across many of the island’s preserved heritage sites. Nelson’s Dockyard, for example, is a stunning snapshot of Georgian naval history. Formerly the naval yard for British warships, Nelson’s Dockyard is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Shirley Heights is another must-visit attraction in Antigua. Once a military lookout, today, Shirley Heights affords travelers unobstructed, stunning views of the surrounding English and Falmouth Harbours. Be warned: It’s a good hike up to the peak, but well worth it.
Once at the top, you’re rewarded with some of the most stunning views the island has to offer. Every Sunday evening, Shirley Heights Lookout comes alive with the sounds of steel bands, reggae beats, and other Caribbean-vibe music with a weekly party that has been in existence for over 30 years.
A visit to Betty’s Hope is also a must for those looking to explore Antigua’s sugar-sweet history. A former sugar plantation turned heritage landmark, Betty’s Hope is one of Antigua’s earliest sugar plantations.
The heritage site features fully restored windmills, complete with a working distillery.
The biggest draw for many travelers to Antigua, undoubtedly, is its fantastic beaches and beguiling azure blue water. Antigua claims to be home to 365 beaches, meaning there’s a new beach to enjoy for each day of the year.
Life in Antigua may be a beach, but that’s just the beginning.
Two of the most interesting activities outside of sun worshiping is perhaps the aforementioned Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta and the Antigua Sailing Week. Both events are week-long extravaganzas held annually. Each event is known for spectacular races and its lively after-parties.
Other adventurous pursuits to consider are guided hiking tours, zip-lining, snorkeling and diving, sunset cruises, and canvassing the island on a road trip.
Of course, an Antigua holiday is incomplete without a tour of Barbuda.
Antigua’s sister-island is a largely underdeveloped paradise that is home to some of the world’s most vibrant animals and sea creatures. The Frigate Bird Sanctuary off Barbuda’s northwest coast features one of the world’s largest nesting grounds of frigate birds.
Many tour operators offer day trips out to Barbuda to soak in the sun and enjoy the island’s unique ecosystem.
Best Time to Go
If you’re looking to escape the bleak freshness of winter, then the best time to visit Antigua would be during the winter months, particularly during the months of December to April. This period is also when Antigua is at its coolest and driest.
Those looking to travel light on their wallet will find great deals available from May to August. As this is when the temperature reaches near its peak, prices can drop by as much as a third.
The least desirable times to visit Antigua would be during island hurricane season, which predominantly appears in September and, to a lesser extent, October.
Kal Kennard is a Partner at Citizens International, a white-glove specialist firm offering private client services necessary for citizenship investment into the Caribbean. Based in the Caribbean for the past 15 years, she is an experienced consultant who works directly with many professional partners and advises clients worldwide.