Antigua and Barbuda: Holidays
Life is a beach
Backpacking in Antigua and Barbuda
Antigua is not a cheap holiday destination even in the summer off peak season. However, there are a few low budget places to stay. A group sharing self catering accommodation in Jolly Harbour or room only at Nelson’s Dockyard in low season would be affordable. Camping is prohibited. Local transport or a shared taxi is a cheap way to discover Antigua and there are many places to eat and drink at very reasonable prices.
Beach in Antigua and Barbuda
Antigua is a sunseekers paradise with warm climate all year round, sunshine and choice of hundreds of lovely white sandy beaches. If you want privacy you can find many secluded bays and beaches tucked away in rocky coves. If it is beach sports, choose a hotel with its own beach front and clear water for safe swimming or for those wanting more active beach sports many hotels and resorts offer snorkelling, scuba diving, windsurfing, kayaking, sailing and kite surfing. Antigua is surrounded by offshore coral reefs which protect the beaches from currents and waves and also provides wonderful sites for scuba diving and snorkelling. The beaches on the Atlantic side of Antigua generally have better winds and waves for windsurfing. All beaches are public in Antigua, the hotel beaches are patrolled up to sunset, the other beaches are not. Best beaches in Antigua for safe swimming, water sports, activities and great hotels are on the north coast, Dickenson Bay with the Sandals Beach Resort, on the south coast, Johnson’s Point, Cades Bay, surrounded by reefs perfect for snorkelling and scuba diving, Rendezvous Bay and Mamora Bay. On the west coast, Runaway Bay, quieter than Dickenson’s Bay, gorgeous Deep Bay, Ffreys Point and Hermitage Bay are all beautiful beaches. Hawksbill Bay has four fine beaches one of them is reserved for nude bathing and Darkwood Beach, one of the best beaches in Antigua for water sports, is great for discovering the underwater canyons and the reef fish. On the east coast, which faces the Atlantic, the best beaches for wind and board surfing are Long Bay protected by a barrier reef, Nonsuch Bay, Half Moon Bay, a pretty beach with very clear waters, and Jumby Bay on Long Island reached by the hotel shuttle voted one of the best beaches in the Caribbean.
Cruises in Antigua and Barbuda
Antigua is a sailor’s paradise. Throughout the year the Antigua Yacht Club organises annual events such as Round the Island Race in January, the 10 days international Antigua Sailing Week in April, the Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta in April, the Jolly Harbour Yacht Club organises a major regatta in October. During the year inter island races and club championship events are an important part of Antigua’s sporting and social year. Boat owners flock to Antigua to take part in these prestigious international events and for visitors race weeks offer plenty of entertainment besides the spectacle of offshore racing. Antigua is keen to combine sightseeing with ECO cruises so that visitors can explore the reefs surrounding Antigua, the mangroves and the tropical rainforests in the North Sound National Park and the offshore islands such as Great Bird Island, Long Island and Prickly Pear Island and Green Island.
There are ECO Tours by sail and by kayak and cruising around the island and beach hopping with snorkelling, beach BBQ, and drinks included in the itinerary. Popular cruises and tours are arranged by Adventure Antigua who offer ECO Tours including nature walks and snorkelling, full day for USD 90, the Xtreme Circumnavigation by power boat, full day for USD 153. Paddles, explore the mangroves and shallows of the sparsely populated east coast bays and caves by kayak, half day for USD 55. Eli Fuller, an Antiguan and former Olympian, has been organising adventure trips, ECO tours and cruises for many years. No holiday in Antigua is complete without joining one of Eli’s tours. His Adventure Eco Tour by power catamaran is themed on Antigua’s history and ecology. A full day to the unspoiled North Sound National Park which is protected by numerous small islands, reefs and mangroves. Explore the hidden islands and snorkel the clear waters and stop on a beautiful beach for lunch and drinks.
Cost is USD 80 all inclusive, no children under 5. For groups who wish to plan their own cruises there are several yacht charters for single or multiday sailings. Costs include crew, equipment and meals. Jabberwocky Private Yacht Charter organises a full day cruise in a luxury 50 foot sailing yacht with a gourmet chef on board. Sailing, snorkelling, swimming and beach combing are combined with total relaxation on board and fine dining. Cost is USD 130 each with 4 persons sharing or USD 80 each for 8 persons sharing. Tropical Adventures offer cruises on their Tiami catamaran to Cades Reef, and Great Bird Island or self charter.
The Jolly Roger Cruise in an old wooden schooner for day or night cruises with live entertainment and dancing and is great fun. Kokomo Cat Cruises offer 3 full day cruises in their Wadadli catamaran, Island Circumnavigation for USD 110, Great Bird Island for USD 95, Cades Reef for USD 95 and private charters arranged. Costs include food and drinks. Their yacht Sentio organises half day sailing cruises including gourmet lunch and wine, champagne sunset cruises from the Curtain Bluff Resort and from Nelson’s Dockyard. On board weddings and private functions are a speciality. Other popular companies operating cruises and bespoke charters include, Miramar Sailing Ltd., based at Jolly Harbour. Antigua Safaris who specialise in coastal exploration and dolphin sightings.
Culture and Arts in Antigua and Barbuda
Antigua’s culture is influenced by its African slave roots and its colonisation by the Portugese, French and the British. The National Museum of Antigua and Barbuda in St. John’s is worth a visit as it traces the history of Antigua from the Arawak Indians, the original settlers, to the Caribs and the European settlers, Christopher Columbus and Admiral Nelson who established a navel supply and refit base for the British Navy. The decline of the sugar industry coincided with the emancipation of slaves which had a serious effect on Antigua’s economy and Barbuda suffered with the dwindling of wreck salvage bounty. The Museum housed in Admirals House in Nelson’s Dockyard is very interesting as it focuses on the Dockyard history from the days of Nelson to its current restoration. Small art galleries are at Harmony Hall which is free and showcases monthly exhibitions of local and Caribbean artists. The Islands Art Gallery in Hodges Bay to the north of Antigua, a small gallery and studio owned by Nick Malley a British artist who originally worked in major films as a make up artist. He exhibits his work and the work of other West Indian artists. The music of Antigua, traditionally reggae and zouk, meaning party, and the calypso rhythm rooted in slave culture are well represented by steel bands at island events and especially at Carnival.
Cycling Activity Holiday in Antigua and Barbuda
Antigua is a small island with lots of interesting trails ideal for cycling to the best beaches, secluded bays, rainforests and the remote parts of Antigua, inaccessible by public transport and taxis. Paradise Boat Sales in Jolly Harbour, Bike Plus and Cycle Krazy in St John’s and Shipwreck in Parnham rent out bikes by the day or week. Some hotels also rent out bikes. The best locations for cycling are; Fig Tree Drive and the Boggy Peak area for great views and a picnic spot at Fig Tree Hill, Monks Hill above Falmouth Harbour for a strenuous ride and fabulous views at the top, Shirley Heights for panoramic views of the neighbouring islands; Half Moon Bay and Harmony Hall, Long Bay and Devil’s Bridge on the Atlantic Coast and take the Rendezvous Trail through tropical rain forests to the reservoir at Potworks Dam, stop at the picnic area before returning to Rendezvous Bay. You will find that hiring a bike will give you so much more freedom to enjoy all that Antigua has to offer.
Disabled Needs in Antigua and Barbuda
There are certain destinations in Antigua which are fairly inaccessible for disabled persons, because the hotels or resorts are in hillside locations and certain hotels and resorts do not have lifts. Much of the beauty and attractions of Antigua depend upon physical mobility to access them. Generally the hotels and resorts cater for disabled persons giving every possible assistance in their typically charming way however they generally do not provide special facilities or services for disabled persons. There should be no problems but the hotels and resorts will be able to answer all your queries regarding access, facilities and transport at the time of booking.
Family Holiday in Antigua and Barbuda
Antigua is a great family holiday destination. There are wonderful white sandy beaches, warm clear waters for safe bathing especially on the north west coasts and hotels and resorts which specifically cater for families with young and older children. Water sports such as sailing, kayaking and pedlos will appeal to the whole family. The hotel beaches and hotel pools are patrolled during the day until sunset so there are no worries leaving the younger children to play in the pools.
Many hotels and resorts in Antigua offer many amenities for mums and dads such as tennis, fitness centres and spas and supervised kids clubs for the younger ones. Baby sitting services are available. Apart from the beaches and hotels Antigua offers many more attractions for the family. ECO tours by boat to the islands and to the marine parks are great ways for the whole family to enjoy. The Zipline Canopy Tour suspended by cable through the canopy of the rainforest run by Eli Fuller is another must do for the family. Stingray City where you can swim with the stingrays is an unusual family attraction. Restaurants, cafes and outside eateries have cuisine which will appeal for families. Children will enjoy the delicious desserts and fresh fruit drinks.
Honeymoon in Antigua and Barbuda
Antigua is a top destination for weddings and honeymoons. Guaranteed warm weather and sunshine, beautiful tropical landscaping and pristine beach settings are major plus points for choosing Antigua for your very special occasion. Most hotels and all resorts offer great packages including free wedding arrangements and ceremonies if you book a specified number of nights stay. If you are planning to have friends and family attend your wedding there are plenty of villa rentals for shared accommodation. Antigua will provide the perfect setting for your wedding, there are so many great options from wedding cruises, large sea view villas, hotels, resorts and even deserted islands. Everything is available for an Antiguan wedding from wedding planners, caterers, photographers and flower shops.
You can organise your wedding if you have time but why not decide to do it the carefree Caribbean way and leave all arrangements to your hotel or resort. Sandals Grande Antigua Resort and Spa on the popular Dickenson Bay has been voted the world’s leading honeymoon resort for 6 years in a row, there is also a wide choice of similar hotels and resorts offering romantic settings and good deals. The wedding fees are; registration fee USD 40, application for a special license USD 150 and the Marriage Officer’s fee is USD 50. Your hotel or wedding planner will make all the arrangements, pay these fees on your behalf and when the wedding is over the photographs and memories remain as your lasting record of a wonderful day. The wedding couple and party can continue to enjoy lovely Antigua, the perfect place for weddings and honeymoons.
Naturism in Antigua and Barbuda
Antigua has a relaxed attitude to naturism provided it is not practised in public and as all beaches in Antigua and Barbuda are public beaches; it is a matter of selecting a deserted spot. Antigua is surrounded by reasonable deserted bays and rocky coves some of which may be difficult to access on foot. Hawksbill Bay has 4 sand beaches; the furthest beach from the Hawksbill Beach Resort is Antigua’s only beach reserved for nudists.
Party Holiday - Singles Life in Antigua and Barbuda
Antigua has a low key night life. Dancing to live bands and DJ’s and for a great party atmosphere, try Abracadabra at English Harbour, Rush at Runaway Bay, Beach at Dickenson Bay, Tattooz Bar at the Antigua Village Hotel. The three casinos also have live music and entertainment, Kings Casino, the largest at St. John’s in Heritage Quay, Grand Prince Casino at Jolly Harbour has the best disco and Sandhaven Casino is right on the beach at Runaway Bay. Russells at Pigeon Point has jazz on Sundays. Most hotels and resorts in Antigua have regular entertainment and live bands during the peak season, December to April and are open to non residents. Generally there is no admission charge for entertainment. A must do is the Sunday afternoon BBQ and rum punches at Shirley Heights at The Lookout and continue the party at night to the steel bands and reggae rhythm. Antigua is a magnate for singles who enjoy the relaxed life style, and the friendly people, many stay on and many return. Accommodation is available around Nelson’s Dockyard, Jolly Harbour and around St. John’s - all lively places with plenty of bars and cafes. Antigua is a great place for singles of all ages.
Couples Holiday in Antigua and Barbuda
Antigua is the perfect holiday destination for couples young and old. If its relaxing on a beautiful beach soaking up the sun, enjoying good food and a drink in a romantic spot overlooking the sea, enjoying an ECO tour of the marine parks and offshore islands by sail or kayak, renting a car to explore the island then Antigua is the place for you. There is a choice of hotels and resorts, offering self catering or all inclusive deals for couples depending on your budget and choice of location. Couples often return to Antigua for their wedding and honeymoon or just to celebrate an anniversary.
Golf Activity Holiday in Antigua and Barbuda
There are only two 18 hole golf courses in Antigua. Jolly Harbour and Cedar Valley for non members to play. The green fee for both courses is USD 60 per round including a buggy. Antigua is probably not the ideal golf holiday destination unless golf can be an excuse to visit this lovely Caribbean island.
Sailing Activity Holiday in Antigua and Barbuda
Antigua is the perfect destination for a sailing holiday. Hotels and resorts have sailing dinghies and catamarans for the use of guests. Sailing lessons are also given. There are also a number of water sport centres for hire of sailing dinghies. Larger sail boats can be chartered by the day or longer on a bare-boat basis or with crew. Joining a party on a trip around the island or to an offshore island combined with snorkelling and a beach BBQ is great fun. The Antigua Yacht Club organises Antigua Sailing Week in April and Jolly Harbour Yacht Club has a programme of sailing regattas throughout the year. Antigua is a great destination for a sailing holiday and a great stopover point if you are cruising with your own boat. (See Our Cruise Holiday Section too!)
Shopping Holiday in Antigua and Barbuda
Shopping is not the main reason for choosing Antigua as a holiday destination. As a momento of your holiday there are some uniquely Antiguan purchases such as straw goods, local pottery, batik and silk screen printed fabrics, jewellery with semi-precious Antiguan stones. The duty free shops at Heritage Quay and Redcliffe Quay at St. John’s sell crystal, perfumes, watches and table linen. The colourful local Friday market and Vendors Mall at St. John’s sells handicraft, clothing and souvenirs. Shopping hours are Monday to Friday 8.30 to 4.00 pm and Saturday 8 to 12 midday, half day closing on Thursday. Be warned, when the cruise ships are in port, expect crowds and higher prices.
Scuba Diving Activity Holiday in Antigua and Barbuda
The warm, clear waters around Antigua and Barbuda surrounded by coral reefs offers a fascinating underwater exploration for both beginners and experienced divers. Scuba diving in Antigua and Barbuda has over 500 dive sites with coral canyons, wall drops, sea caves and wrecks, home to an abundance of marine life including parrot fish, angel fish, groupers, lobsters, rays, nursing and reef sharks and 400 species of Caribbean reef fish. For the beginner and the experienced divers there are over 10 diving companies in Antigua offering one day diving courses as well as full courses and refreshers up to Dive Master which will enable visitors to Antigua who have never dived before or for the more experienced who need a refresher to discover the wonderful marine life of Antigua. The best dive locations include Cades Bay, the most popular spot, Long Bay, Curtain Bluff, Jolly Beach, Dutchman’s Bay and Deep Bay where the Andes wreck is partly exposed in 30 feet of water. These locations are close to dive centres for equipment hire and instruction. Barbuda is surrounded by coral reefs, the graveyard of hundreds of wrecks which are ideal spots for diving in the warm clear waters. Tour operators to Barbuda provide equipment but if you are making your own way there you will have to hire your equipment in Antigua.
Well-being and Spa in Antigua and Barbuda
The warm climate and the relaxed atmosphere of Antigua are conducive to indulging in a bit of pampering at one of the many beach hotels and resort spas and well being centres on the island. Luxurious accommodation, a superb dining experience combined with a healthy environment and exciting activities blend perfectly with the well being and treatments available in Antigua. The following hotels and resorts are a sample of the best treatments; Sandals Grande Antigua Resort and Spa at Dickenson Bay, Dian Bay Resort and Spa, a secluded retreat on the east coast, a full service spa offering a wide range of treatments and therapies, Blue spa at the Carlisle Bay Antigua, offering extensive treatments, yoga, pilates, Antigua Yacht Club Marina and Resort at Falmouth Harbour offering a fitness centre, spa and Turkish steam bath, Hermitage Bay Hotel on the west coast, spa and therapies. The best salons and spa centres found in the town include; Akparo at Nelson’s Dockyard, a hair salon, massage and beauty care, Alternative Body Works at Redcliffe Quay, St. John’s, for Chinese massage, reflexology, acupuncture and facials, Chakra Body Works at Jolly Harbour, Antigua’s only walk-in clinic for massage (specialising in couples’ massage) and yoga classes. Equilibrium for passive exercise, toning electrotherapy, body wrap, massage, waxing and facials, Esthetiques Plus at the Woods Centre, a day spa for massage, paraffin treatments, waxing, body wrap and steam room. Touch Therapies, Fort Road for seaweed wraps, hot stone, steam therapy and Swedish massage, Tree House at English Harbour for Swedish therapy, shiatsu massage, osteopathy and reflexology. A Wellbeing and Spa holiday in Antigua could be the well deserved tonic you deserve.
Winter Sun in Antigua and Barbuda
Antigua probably has the best climate in the Caribbean with an average of 8-9 hours of sun per day all year round with average temperatures ranging from 23C (73F) in the winter to 30C (85F) in summer. Antigua’s summer temperatures are cooled by the prevailing north east, south west trade winds, except in September, probably the worst month of the year. The little rain Antigua has falls between July and September. A holiday in Antigua during the European winter months will usually guarantee warm weather, sun with a little intermittent rain some days. These months are also low season when hotel accommodation is much cheaper and there are fewer people so that there is no need to pre-book restaurants and tours. It is a lovely time to visit Antigua to enjoy the perfect weather, the beautiful beaches, swim in the warm clear waters and explore the island in comfort or maybe a good time to relax, reflect and dream. Some hotels, restaurants, nightclubs and tourist facilities close in the low season so do check out availability before visiting.