The twin-island nation of Antigua and Barbuda lies between the tranquil Caribbean Sea and the stormy Atlantic Ocean, creating rugged coastlines to the east and peaceful westerly bays. Boasting exactly 365 beaches – one for everyday of the year – Antigua is definitely one of the most popular Caribbean vacation spots. It’s gained significant recognition over the last two decades as the host of one the largest sailing competitions in the world. Aside from sailing, here are the top ten things to see and do in Antigua.
1. Have a Sunset Cocktail at Shirley Heights
Shirley Heights is one of the most breathtaking viewpoints on the island, overlooking both Falmouth and English Harbour. We recommend attending one of the Sunday parties, where you can enjoy fresh grilled lobster, strong local rum punch and the cool sounds of live reggae music. Sunday is the most popular party, but Thursday nights can get busy as well. If you prefer a more intimate experience, stop by any other night of the week for a sunset cocktail, and definitely don’t forget your camera.
2. Walk Across Devil’s Bridge
For thousands of years, the Atlantic waves have crashed into Antigua’s limestone coast to form a natural bridge above the water. Legend has it that when the African slaves would escape from their masters, they’d go to Devil’s Bridge to jump to their death. The rough waters below supposedly hold the souls of those who jumped hundreds of years ago. If you’re brave enough, walk across the bridge, but be mindful of the rough surf below and frequent sea spray.
3. Sail on a Catamaran from Jolly Harbour
For a great day out on the water, we recommend chartering a catamaran or joining a day cruise to explore the west coast of the island. Most catamarans depart from Jolly Harbour, a residential boating community containing shops, restaurants, villas, private houses and golf-course, and make their way up the coastline. The day cruises typically include a fresh Caribbean lunch, snorkeling gear and trips to deserted beaches and abandoned forts. If you have other ideas, most captains will cater to your specific requests. You may even catch of glimpse of swimming dolphins.
4. Party in English Harbour
You can’t miss a night out in English Harbour, one of the best things to see and do in Antigua. Located on the south coast, it’s home to hundreds of lavish yachts and sailboats as well as over thirty bars and restaurants to enjoy. English Harbour is the entertainment hub of Antigua. Be sure to have a drink at the Mad Mongoose or dance the night away on a Saturday at Abracadabra.
5. Visit the Farmer’s Market in St. John’s
Saturday is the best day to venture into the capital city, located on the northwest corner of the island. A bustling town, St. John’s offers visitors the opportunity to experience daily life in Antigua. Pick up some fresh produce or peruse the local arts and crafts stands. Be sure to go early so you won’t miss the chance to try the native black pineapple.
6. Discover Nelson’s Dockyard
Nelson’s Dockyard National Park is located in English Harbour on the southern coast of the island. Once home of the British fleet during the Napoleonic Wars, the dockyard served as the headquarters of Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson from 1784 to 1787. Visitors can enjoy an array of cafes and shops on the water’s edge, visit the Dockyard Museum and see Nelson’s telescope and tea caddy on display. You can learn more about Antiguan history and culture at Dow’s Hill Interpretation Center.
7. Picnic at Half Moon Bay
A picturesque picnic spot for couples and families, Half Moon Bay is surely worth the trek. Tucked away in the southeastern corner of the island, this beach is far away from just about everything. It can be reached by a paved yet windy road with little signage, but don’t give up because it’s surely one of the most breathtaking coves on the island. For those looking for a bit of adventure, Half Moon is also ideal for windsurfing and kiteboarding.
8. Snorkel at Galley Bay Beach
Located in the northwest corner of the island, this one mile stretch of sand offers some of the best surfing and snorkeling in Antigua. Galley Bay is also a great beach for catching a glimpse of the native sea turtles, who often leave their eggs there to nest. Plan a nighttime visit and you may have a chance to see the baby hatchlings make their way to the sea.
9. Bathe Nude on Eden Beach
If you’re into that sort of thing, Eden Beach is a clothing optional area of the secluded Hawksbill beaches located on the western side of the island. The three other secluded Hawksbill beaches include Royal Palm Beach, Sea Grape Beach and Honeymoon Cove. Although they are technically located on the Hawksbill resort’s property, they are open to the public. Recommended for honeymooners and mature adults, Eden beach is a beautiful stretch of sand where you can completely “let loose” on your Caribbean holiday.
10. Visit During Sailing Week
Occurring just at the end of April, sailing week is one of the busiest times on the island as thousands of boaters make their way to Antigua’s shores. Antigua Sailing Week has become one of the biggest events on the international sailing calendar with over 100 yachts competing each year. Besides the on-water action, nightly social events and parties take place at Nelson’s Dockyard, Shirley Heights and Pigeon beach. If thrilling water sports and entertainment is what you seek, try to plan your visit to Antigua around this time.