Antigua and Barbuda — Overview
The tiny Caribbean islands of Antigua and Barbuda may be most famous for their 365 white sandy beaches - one for every single day of the year. However, as their official tourism website points out, ‘the beach is just the beginning’ of the activities found at this popular Caribbean cruise ship destination.
Visitors who have less than a year to spend in Antigua and Barbuda may have trouble deciding which of its 365 beaches best suits their needs. Dickenson Bay offers the best parasailing, while windsurfers love the challenge of the rough Atlantic Ocean waters along Half Moon Bay. Colorful tropical fish often swim right up to the guests venturing in Johnson’s Point’s clear and motionless waters. Antigua and Barbuda’s most popular snorkeling and scuba diving spots include the beautiful coral formations of Paradise Reef, Long Bay, and the even tinier, uninhabited islet of Prickly Pear.
Off road Land Rover safari tours take visitors through small villages and lush rainforests, and are the best way to explore Antigua on dry land. Centuries-old wooden houses topped with iron roofs line the streets of Antigua and Barbuda’s capital, St John’s, while ruins of British forts sit along Antigua’s otherwise pristine coastline. However, no historic landmark is a more impressive reminder of the island’s colonial past than Nelson’s Dockyard National Park, where countless ships still enter each day and Antigua’s biggest weekly parties are held every Sunday evening at Shirley Heights.
Antigua hotels are typically small, with some closing altogether during the slow summer tourism months from June to September. Competition among the upscale boutique hotels can be fierce and steep service charges and government tax further increase the cost of many high-end accommodations. Yet few consider the price a burden once they’ve experienced the islands’ beaches. Package booking and off-season visits are the best ways to save money when choosing Antigua hotels, many of which are beachfront, all-inclusive resorts that include food and drink.
Antigua and Barbuda’s only airport, VC Bird International, is located five miles northeast of St John’s. It is the only way to enter these small islands other than by the cruise ships which regularly dock here. Antigua is just one of many daytrip stops for liners island-hopping across the Caribbean. The three-hour Barbuda Express voyage or a quick charter flight are the only ways to travel between Antigua and the much more sparsely populated island of Barbuda.
It doesn’t take long for visitors to get around Antigua’s 56-mile long coastline. One of the island’s most scenic routes is the 20-mile Fig Tree Drive across the main mountain range through several picturesque villages and lush rainforests along the island’s southern shores. Those who use rental cars must drive on the left and be extra cautious after dark, as few of the island’s roads are properly lit. Antigua’s public transportation options are cheap, yet unpredictable. Buses are available, while expensive taxis often feature drivers who double as helpful tour guides. There is only one road on Barbuda outside of its only major community, Codrington.
- Plunge beneath the surface of Paradise Reef’s mile-long coral gardens
- Sail Antigua and Barbuda’s turquoise seas aboard a glass-bottomed boat or even a motorized pirate ship replica
- Soar up to 351 feet on a zip line across Antigua’s lush rainforests
- Watch more than 5,000 birds at Frigate Bird Sanctuary, while relaxing on the deserted beaches of Barbuda
- Spot Antigua’s elusive ‘green flash’ at sunset while partying with the locals on Sunday evenings at the Shirley Heights military lookout
- Get a taste of Antigua’s once thriving sugar cane industry at what remains of Betty’s Hope, the island’s first plantation
- Stock up on duty-free goods at Heritage Quay Complex