There are plenty of reasons to choose Antigua for a vacation, including the reality that the island is a choice culinary destination, a land of beautiful beaches and other amazing scenery, and the fact that vacationing here means you’ll likely also get a chance to spend some time on sister island, Barbuda.
When it comes down to it, the reasons to love Antigua are all tied into the things the island is most known for: its beautiful white sand beaches, sailing, the 18th century Nelson’s Dockyard, its culinary delicacies, the largest nesting colony of frigate birds in the Caribbean, and much more!
Antigua is a great vacation choice for both first time and repeat visitors, and in this blog, we’ll explore the top 19 things Antigua is known for.
Picture: Relax on silky-soft, pure white sands and let the warmth of the Caribbean fill your senses at Sandals Grande Antigua.
There is no other island in the Caribbean that can boast a beach for every day of the year, but Antigua does so effortlessly. Even more significant – many of these beaches are the dazzling sort that glimmer off the pages of the most read travel magazines. Yes, indeed, Antigua is known for having some of the best beaches in the world, sure confirmation that your decision to vacation on this island was probably one of your better ones.
Sailing is a popular pastime in Antigua, and if you’re into the sport you’ll want to visit the island during Sailing Week. This annual event has earned its place as one of the best-known regattas in the world. During the seven-day event you can enjoy racing, parties, and lots of excitement.
Antigua Sailing Week is usually held at Nelson's Dockyard in St. Johns. The event was founded in 1967, and every year it attracts between 150-200 yachts, with around 1,500 participants and 5,000 spectators on average. If your trip to the island isn’t during Sailing Week, but you still want to take in some sailing action, you can charter a sailboat for the day or sign up for a sailing excursion. Half-day excursions are usually enough to get that sea splashing, wind in your face sensation that you crave.
Picture: Voted the "World's Most Romantic Resort" year after year, adults-only Sandals Grande Antigua is located on Antigua's best and most famous beach, Dickenson Bay.
To the north of Antigua, Dickenson Bay is the poster child for beaches in Antigua, and rightly so, with its extensive stretch of white sand, and turquoise bays. Beaches can hardly get any more perfect than this, and this is precisely why Dickenson’s Bay is rated as one of the best beaches in the Caribbean. Whether you just want to go for a swim, or spend the day trying different water sports, you’ll find it all at Dickenson Bay, including opportunities to windsurf at the windsurfing hub on the island. There are lots of resorts and restaurants along the Dickenson Bay stretch, which assures that you’ll find plenty to do in this area.
Want to have unlimited cocktails on Dickenson Bay? Guests of all-inclusive resort Sandals Grande Antigua can enjoy unlimited drinks, gourmet food, water sports and more. It’s all included in your stay!
Picture: Whether you seek adrenaline-pumping activities or more low-key pursuits, every conceivable activity is included in your stay at Sandals Grande Antigua.
The Caribbean is known for having great weather throughout the year and Antigua is one of the sunniest islands in the region. Temperatures are usually in the 80s in the summer, and when it’s cold in some parts of the world, Antigua is continuing to warm up, with temps in the mid-70s. Though it can get hot in this part of the world, the northeast trade winds cool things down significantly in Antigua, which equates to low humidity most of the year.
Those who choose to go on an all-inclusive vacation in Antigua; there’s no better way to leave your cares behind than this. When all the drinks, food, and entertainment you’ll need are included in your vacation before you even get to your resort, you’ll surely return home in better spirits than you came, and be more than ready for a repeat vacation. If you’re trying the all-inclusive concept for the first time try a resort like Sandals Grande Antigua, voted the "World's Most Romantic Resort" year after year.
Sir Viv Richards is known as one of the greatest cricket batsmen of all time, and his roots shoot up from the island of Antigua. If you’re a fan of cricket, which is immensely popular in the island, you may already be familiar with some of his achievements which include scoring 8,540 runs in 121 Test matches, and 5 centuries (100 runs in cricket is referred to as a century) in World Series Cricket between the years 1977–79. The popular Antiguan restaurant Sea Breeze is his favorite hangout, and while dining here, you may just have the privilege of meeting this sporting super star in the flesh.
Shirley Heights is one of the more popular attractions to visit in Antigua. What’s interesting about this space is that it’s a restored military lookout and gun battery and features a restaurant and bar that’s most lively on Sunday evenings with a band and a happening barbeque.
The sunsets viewed from this location are described by many as the most beautiful in the world, and if you go during the day you’ll be able to catch great views of Freeman’s Bay and Falmouth Harbor, among other areas. If you go just for the party, 5 PM is the ideal time to arrive as by then you’re likely to walk into a lively party scene with Caribbean themed music. As you’re taking in the sunset from this 360-degree vantage, don’t forget to look out for the green flash!
Antigua has one of the most popular carnival celebrations in the Caribbean, and the celebration here is loved by many because it is such a spectacle to behold. If you go to the between July to early August when carnival is held, you’ll find a hive of activity, particularly during the 10 days of festivities which involve shiny costumes, parades, steel bands, and live music.
If you’re not planning on ‘playing Mas’ with one of the local bands but still want a taste of the carnival action, consider joining a j’ouvert band. J’ouvert in Antigua happens in the wee hours of carnival morning, and you’ll get to dance through the streets in a t-shirt band to sweet Soca music! The island of Barbuda also has its own carnival celebration, held in June every year; that event is known as Caribana.
A cultural heritage site and marina, Nelson’s Dockyard National Park in English Harbor is a popular venue for sailing events in Antigua. Not only that, it has historical significance as can be seen in its 18th and 19th century style restored buildings, which today house shops, galleries, museums, and more.
There are many hiking trails visitors can venture out on to fully take in the beauty of this space, and there are also hotels and restaurants in this area which is made especially popular by the fact that the 18th-century British naval dockyard is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The dockyard is the oldest running Georgian dockyard in the world. When you’re done exploring that, you can make your way to the Fort Shirley or Fort Berkeley, both located in the vicinity. The 18th-century Clarence House and Dow's Hill Interpretation Centre are also in this area.
Mount Obama is the highest point of Antigua. It was once known as Bogey Peak but was renamed in 2009 in order to recognize the successes of black people. It is often referred to as a “a symbol of black achievement”, and was named after U.S. President Barack Obama.
Be careful not to burn your mouth as you try to do it like the Antiguans, dousing your food with zesty hot sauce. It’s too delicious not to try though, and if you already love spicy food, you’ll be in heaven here. Try Susie’s Hot Sauce, one of the more popular varieties of the island. The local restaurant Dennis also has its own hot sauce, which is loved by locals and visitors alike.
Conch is a popular dish in the Caribbean, and it can be cooked up in various ways. In Antigua, conch-centered dishes that you can order off local menus include curries, chowders, and even tropical salad.
Conch is also often fried up in a dish known as conch fritters. If you don’t mind trying raw conch ‘cooked’ up with citric juices and loaded in a bowl with diced vegetables, conch salad may be just your fix.
One of the best spots to try conch in Antigua is in Nelson’s Dockyard. There’s never a shortage of conch at some of the restaurants in this area, but there’s also many other dishes you can try if you’re not feeling conch-ish. Surf and turf, featuring steak, lobster, and tasty Antiguan sides is a great alternative.
This dish may sound a bit strange but Saltfish and Fungi is Antigua’s national dish, and it’s quite delicious. Fungi in this sense consists of cornmeal and okra made into a paste, and then formed into balls. Fungi is often served with stews and meats, but the most popular combination is with stewed saltfish.
The capital city of Antigua, St. John’s is one of the areas on the island you’re most likely to spend time in during your vacation. There’s so much to do in St. John’s, and it’s such a colorful place, that you’ll feel the rhythm of the Caribbean from the minute you set foot in the town.
One of the most distinctive and historic buildings in the town is the high rising St. John’s Cathedral, and after a tour of that location, you can make your way to Heritage Quay for some duty-free shopping.
St. John’s is a great place to souvenir shop, particularly in Redcliffe Quay. If you’re in town for the weekend, check out the harborside public markets, on Fridays and Saturdays – you can also spend some time visiting the ruins of the 18th-century Fort James and Fort Barrington, which date back to the days of war. The cruise ship port is also located in the city, and days with ships in port tend to be the busiest.
Devil’s Bridge is a limestone bridge in Antigua, which took its shape over many years of being carved out by the sea. Just outside the village of Willikies, the natural arc is surrounded by geysers and blowholes. This is a sight to see at high tide when water is forcefully pushed through the blowholes.
As it is often very slippery, walking across the bridge is not advised. If you want to explore however, check out the Indian Town National Park in this area, which is great for bird watching with close to 40 species frequently being spotted in the park. History buffs will also appreciate a chance to explore the old Arawak campsite to the eastern end of the park.
Birds are such peaceful creatures, and while in Antigua, you can take a trip to Barbuda to visit that island’s bird sanctuary. This will entail a short boat trip to Barbuda, and then onto the northwest lagoon. Here you’ll find the largest nesting colony of frigate birds in the Caribbean. The large sea birds which are usually found in tropical and subtropical oceans are a huge part of the attraction here, but there are as many as 150 bird species which are frequently seen in the bird sanctuary, including herons, cormorants, and pelicans.
Picture: We know our islands intimately and are ready to let you in on all the secrets that paradise has to offer with our own hand-picked adventures.
Afraid of heights? Hopefully not when ziplining tours are available in Antigua. Zip through the rainforest for an experience you won’t soon forget. Island Routes offers one of the best Rainforest Canopy Adventures for travelers looking for a zipline adventure which will grant them spectacular views of the forest and surrounding areas from the tree tops.
Learn all you can during this eco-tour and let go of your inhibitions as you zip across lines up to 328 feet in length marveling at the surrounding fauna and flora and having the time of your life. Helpful tip: anticipate challenge elements, a tree house and suspension bridges along the way!
You’ll have plenty of room to explore in Antigua & Barbuda. Both are immensely beautiful islands, where hills and valleys abound. Along the coasts and inland you’ll find many hiking trails, some of which are located within national parks.
As the topography of the islands vary, you can expect most hikes to be a mixture of challenging (as you navigate cliffs and mountains) and pleasantly refreshing, walking less strenuous paths that lead into the heart of the islands. When hiking in Antigua or Barbuda, expect to spend some time exploring rainforests, learning the history of the islands along the way.
The great thing about small islands is that you can cover more ground in less time, which means you’re less likely to return home feeling like you missed out on anything. In Antigua, you can drive around the island several times in one day though you’re probably going to want to explore the island at a more leisurely pace.
Measuring 108 square miles, and 13 miles across, it will not be hard to make your way around the island, whether you decide to take out a rental or hire a local cab. Being able to make your way quickly from place to place will be something you’ll appreciate, as it allows you to do more in less time. All of this means that a week or two is enough to explore the whole island, though you’re welcome to enjoy this paradise island for longer if you’d like!
It’s time to relax and wait in blissful anticipation, as you get set to enjoy the sunshine in one of the most beautiful islands in the world!