Welcome to the Caribbean, welcome to the country with 365 beaches. Beginning of May 2019 I boarded a plane in London for my direct flight to the enticing island of Antigua & Barbuda. A week long I was able to explore the best Antigua tourism has to offer. It was my first time visiting Antigua & Barbuda, a country many people most probably never heard of, but since a kid I was in love with their flag. Finally I got the chance to travel to Antigua myself!
Antigua, once discovered by Christopher Columbus means ancient in Spanish. The native Indians that lived here long time before called it the land of oil and many waters though. Not to be mistaken with the Guatemalan Antigua, this Caribbean island is nowadays a prime beach destination and a popular vacation spot that is part of the Commonwealth but independent since 1981.
That was it regarding the Antigua history lesson. Im sure you don’t mind a bit of background information, but you are probably more interested in all my Antigua travel tips, what to do, places to see, the best beaches, activities and anything else worth knowing before your Antigua vacation.
Antigua Travel Tips
1. Where is antigua
When the Caribbean islands can be seen as a clock with Cuba at 12 o’clock and Aruba at 6 o’clock, then Antigua & Barbuda is located at 2 o’clock. Easy right? Antigua island is located in the northeastern Caribbean. The closest islands are Montserrat, St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Martin and Guadeloupe.
2. How to pronounce
Antigua, Guatemala is often mixed with Antigua & Barbuda. One of the main difference is the pronunciation. Antigua island in the Caribbean is pronounced as Antee - gah. The Guatemalan version is pronounced as Anti - guah. It was the first thing I learned when I traveled to Antigua & Barbuda.
3. Best time to visit Antigua
Rainy season in Antigua and Barbuda is from June till November. September and October is the unpredictable hurricane season. If are traveling to Antigua on a budget this is the best time of year though as prices are significantly lower. The high season and also the best season weather wise is from December till April.
So the best time to visit Antigua is in May, that was when I was there! It was after the high season, and it was actually very quiet. Did it rain? It may have rained twice for just for a couple hours during trip to Antigua.
4. Is it safe to travel to Antigua
Antigua is regarded to be one of the safest Caribbean islands. Traveling to Antigua & Barbuda is considered safe! I am a tall Dutch guy, which definitely makes things easier but I didn’t see anything suspicious during my trip. I even roamed around St. John’s with my professional camera and my GoPro in my hand and not a single soul that looked weird at me. The most beautiful places to visit in Antigua are secluded, use common sense and you will be totally fine. Even women in our group traveled around the island by themselves and experienced Antigua as a safe place to travel. Im sure in every Antigua travel blog people will speak highly about the safety on this island, so please don’t worry!
Drinking a Corona in the middle of the streets of St. John's. Totally safe, nothing to worry about! :)
5. Arriving at Antigua Airport ANU (V.C. Bird International Airport)
You are arriving on a Caribbean island so no rush, Antigua Airport is super quiet. Most likely there will be a hotel pickup waiting for you. In case not there are multiple taxi drivers willing to take you anywhere around the island. A taxi should never cost more than $25 USD. At the airport you could potentially buy a local sim card (too expensive), there are ATM’s and you can exchange money.
When you travel to Antigua the first thing you will notice upon arrival are the Caribbean vibes. Warm and friendly people are waiting for you with a big smile willing to help you finding your first steps on the island. Believe me it feels straight away like you made the right decision visiting Antigua. Oh and the Antigua beaches are waiting for you...
6. Currency, ATM’s and exchange
There are multiple ATM’s around in the capital St. John’s and some hotels also have ATM’s. Withdrawing money is the easiest and safest option, but you can also bring Sterling, USD and Euros and exchange them for the local currency. I exchanged Euros for ECD in my resort and paid about 5% commission.
The official currency is the Eastern Caribbean Dollar (ECD), it is linked to the US dollar and $1 USD = 2.7 ECD. If you are an all inclusive guest there is no need to get the local currency, neither for doing the standard Antigua tourism things, but for local activities you will need some ECD or accept a shit exchange rate.
Taking photos in front of the colorful houses is a fun thing to do in Antigua.
7. Antigua sim card
Avoid high roaming costs when visiting Antigua and buy a local sim card. According to many Digicel is the best Antigua sim card for tourists. I ended up buying a FLOW sim card, simply because they had better value for money. Check the link for my article about the best prepaid Antigua sim card for tourists.
8. Official language
When traveling to Antigua & Barbuda there is no need to be worried about any language barriers. The official language in Antigua & Barbuda is English. Everyone speaks very good English and people are easy to understand.
The vast majority of the 100,000 people living in Antigua are Anglican. People are officially religious but it is not practiced as much anymore. Family is the most important religion!
This is the St. John's cathedral, around the island you will find many churches. Some are really charming, like the pink church in Antigua. More about that later in the things to do section.
10. Power plugs in Antigua
For being a former English colony and part of the Commonwealth I was prepared for English electricity plugs, but to my surprise all power plugs and sockets in Antigua were American standard plugs. Traveling to Antigua from Europe you will need a travel adapter.
11. Marijuana is decriminalised
Since February 2018 smoking weed won’t cause any problems anymore. Possessing up to 4 grams is considered personal use and thus decriminalised. Walking around St. John’s I saw a couple men smoking on the street. All easy brother… :)
I didn’t get a chance, but I would have totally loved getting high with locals. Next time when I travel to Antigua, this is on my list of things to do.
12. You can drink the tap water
It is safe to drink the tap water when you travel to Antigua and Barbuda. A great effort in fighting the use of plastic bottles I would say! So think twice before drinking from a plastic bottle or even better bring your own water bottle and refill it every time.
13. Plastic bags are banned
Antigua was the first Caribbean island that banned plastic bags and styrofoam 3 years ago already. Plastic straws are banned as well.
14. Antigua goes green
Antigua is staying ahead of the other Caribbean islands when it comes to going green. There are multiple projects running to reduce waste and use renewable energy sources. While exploring Antigua we passed by huge fields of solar panels for example.
There was even held a Play It Out Concert to tackle plastic pollution in Antigua on June 1st, 2019. The hashtags used for that campaign were: #BeatPlasticPollution and #CoolisClean. Education is the way forward!
15. How to get around Antigua
There are local busses but they run very infrequent. They cost around 3 ECD ($1). I went on a little adventure to visit St. John’s but waited a long time for the local bus. When after 45 minutes the bus showed up it was full and I had to wait another 15 minutes for the next one. Taking the local bus is cheap and also safe. Local busses are like vans, I sat in the bus with a lot of friendly old Caribbean ladies who told me a lot about the real life in Antigua. Loved the experience, not the waiting! :)
Taxi’s are the best way to get around Antigua for tourists. A taxi from one side of the island to the other side of the island is around $25. Antigua is a small island. Hiring a driver to take you around the island cost about $180 for the day, but it not worth it when you ask me. What to do in Antigua? Rent a car!
Renting a scooter is possible as well but it cost about $80. Somehow renting a car in Antigua is much cheaper. Unfortunately, as driving a scooter around the island would have been the best thing to do.
16. Renting a car
The best way to get around Antigua is by renting a car. Most hotels and resorts offer car rental services in Antigua, but you can easily do it yourself and much cheaper. Through the internet you can easily find cars for $40 per day and they bring it to your hotel and pick it up there.
Keep in mind that when renting a car in Antigua you will need to purchase a temporary Antigua drivers license for $20. This is compulsory and you have to keep it with you when driving in case the police would stop you.
Hopping around the Antigua beaches is a great thing to do but you will need to rent a car.
17. Visiting St. John’s
Visiting the capital St. John’s is a great escape from the Antigua beaches. Be prepared though that this is not a pretty city neither a place where you would like to sit outside on a terrace having a beer. For those who like gambling there is a casino, but strolling through St. John’s is a real Caribbean city life experience. You could check out the cathedral, the local market and some colorful houses around town, but that is mostly it. If you like interaction with locals then this a great thing to do in Antigua and Barbuda.
Typical street life of St. John's. Ask people before taking pictures. This woman agreed, but didn't want to be on camera so she turned away.
You will only need about 1-2 hours for visiting St. John’s, it is a small town. I loved to see the city life and have some random chats with locals. Big Bananas is a cool joint to have a coffee and a snack. A nice place to sit on the waterfront is Java To Go Cafe. Rastapasta is a cool shop where you can go souvenir shopping, however the market across the street is where you can bargain for your souvenirs. If you are looking for things to do in St. John's Antigua you can also go to the casino or stroll through Heritage Quay.
In Heritage Quay you will find a couple shopping streets mostly catered towards the cruise passengers to flock here on a daily basis.
This is Java To Go, great for coffee and also where the ferry from Antigua to Barbuda leaves from.
18. There are 365 Antigua beaches
It is said that there are 365 Antigua beaches! Not sure if it is a saying or really true, but I can tell you on your Antigua holiday you can go to a different beach every day, for sure! We are in the Caribbean, what else did you expect? :)
By law all beaches in Antigua are public, although some beaches are inaccessible as they are on private resorts. Don’t worry there are a ton of stunning beaches for the grab and trust me they are mostly all deserted.
19. Best beaches in Antigua
It is impossible to tell you what is the best beach in Antigua as all the locals I spoke with all had their own favorite. Half Moon Bay has been voted as one of the most spectacular beaches in the world. It is located in the southeast, it is stunning but you will need a car to get there. Pretty sure once you arrive you will find it completely deserted. No need to mention that finding your own deserted beach is a must do on your Antigua holiday.
Closer to St. John’s there is Dickinson Bay in the Northwest. Watching the sunset from Dickinson Bay Beach is one of the best things to do in Antigua. Another great sunset beach in Antigua is Valley Church Bay in Jolly Harbor.
A popular beach in the South is Pigeon Point Beach, close to English Harbor. The more you go off the beaten path the more likely these beaches will be deserted.
This is a photo of Morris Bay all the way in the South, the resort you see on top of the hill is called Curtain Bluff. As you can see deserted beach and Antigua & Barbuda go hand in hand.
20. English Harbor
From all the places to visit in Antigua to me English Harbor is one of the most beautiful ones and also one of the liveliest tourist destinations on the island. Nelson’s Dockyard is a former British navy base located right in the heart of English Harbor. There are a couple bays and beaches and it is a popular marina for (super) yachts and sailing boats. I saw a bunch of restaurants all clustered around beautiful bays. Galleon Beach in English Harbor is a great place to go snorkeling in Antigua.
If you are looking for a cool night out, Seafood Friday in Nelson’s Dockyard is a cool thing to do in Antigua on Friday nights of course. Catherines Cafe often has live music from a nice local band called Itchy Feet. I really enjoyed being in English Harbor, to me one of the most beautiful places on Antigua island. Catherines Cafe is one of the best places to go for Antigua Nightlife.
21. Scuba diving
Be prepared that scuba diving in Antigua is expensive. At least according to my standards! May be I dove too much in Asia, where a fun dive costs around $30. In Antigua $150 per dive is a normal price. I guess that is an ongoing price in the Caribbean though as in Bermuda I paid the same. In Bonaire in the southern Caribbean islands it is slightly cheaper. Scuba diving in the Caribbean is always a good idea. Click here to read about my best scuba dive destinations in the world.
One of the best things to do in Antigua if you want to see the amazing marine life and don’t want to break the bank is to go snorkeling. There are a ton of possibilities to snorkel and you can basically just rent snorkel gear and start exploring from the beach. Best snorkel spots are a little out though, so booking a tour is the best way to do so. There is also scooter snorkeling in Antigua. You get a little sea scooter that helps you swim faster through the water. You will spot stingrays, turtles, etc.
Galleon Beach in English Harbor is known for good snorkeling and there is a big chance of spotting sea turtles.
23. Shirley Heights
Probably the best place to visit in Antigua for sunset. Wow Im was impressed by the absolutely fantastic view on top of this hill. It is easily accessible as you can drive up all the way to the top of the hill.
You can go every day, but I recommend you to go on either a Sunday or a Thursday. Going to Shirley Heights on a Sunday is one of the best things to do in Antigua according to locals. There is a live band playing Soca music, there is food and of course ice cold beers or rum punsh. Thursday nights are reserved for Reggae music.
This is how it looked when the party was over: Shirley Heights at night!
24. Climb Mount Obama - Boggy Peak
The highest point in Antigua is officially called Mt. Obama, but the locals still like to call it Boggy Peak, its original name. On August 4th 2009 the birthday of the former US President Boggy Peak was renamed to Mount Obama. According to locals the mountain will soon be renamed to its original name again.
You can hike up to Boggy Peak which takes about 1 hour. From the top you are able to see the neighboring islands Montserrat and St. Kitts. It is one of the most active things to do in Antigua. Mount Obama is 1,319 feet (402 meters) high.
25. Signal Hill hike
Hiking in Antigua is one of the best things to do in the early morning. The southwest of Antigua is lush green and there are many trails. I can recommend you to hike to the top of Signal Hill which is located in the Walling Nature Reserve. The hike to the top is only about 1 hour or so but the views from the top are spectacular. On a clear day you can see Montserrat and Guadeloupe, other Caribbean islands. There is an entrance fee of $10 for Wallings Nature Reserve. There are over 10 trails including one to Secret Beach and there are also caves and a big water reservoir in the rain forest.
26. Devil’s bridge
This is the most northeastern tip of the island where the ocean is rough and waves crash into the cliffs. A natural bridge is formed creating some blowholes. It is called Devil’s bridge as in the years of the slavery it was a common place for people to commit suicide.
27. Pink Church
In the center of the island there is a pink church, the church is pink, like pink panther pink. Yes it is a pink church, that is it. But you know we live in the Instagram era so taking a photo with the pink church instantly became one of the best things to do in Antigua. The pink church is officially called Tyrells Church Our Lady Of Perpetual Help, you can easily find it on Google Maps under pink church Antigua as well.
28. Fort James
One of the best places to visit in Antigua is Fort James, a historic fort ruin with cannons that served as the entrance to the St. John’s harbor. It was built by the British in the 18th century. From St. John’s city center it is a 45 minute walk, a little over 2 miles. Worth going when you are looking for things to do in Antigua, the ocean views are amazing. The nearby Fort James Beach is a great place for sunset.
This is the sunset view from Fort James in St. John's. Although one of the things to do in Antigua a very quiet place around sunset. Great to bring your Tinder date! :)
29. Mangroves tour
Good fun out on the ocean is a mangroves tour. The calm water in the mangroves are easy to paddle through by kayak and you will get to see upside down jellyfishes and other marine life when you are lucky. I saw a baby shark! It was a great Antigua activity for the morning when it was not too hot yet.
30. Zip lining
When looking for cool things to do in Antigua then may be zip lining through the rainforest is something for you. The zip lining company is called Antigua Rain Forest Canopy Tour and is located in the lush green hills in the southeast of the island. There are several canopy tours you can choose from.
31. Kitesurfing in Antigua
There is a kitesurfing school in the northeast side of the island at Jabberwock Beach. They are open from December to August whenever there is enough wind. You can rent kites, boards and gear from the kitesurfing school. Darkwood Beach is another famous kitesurfing beach in Antigua and it is located in the southwest side of the island for kitesurfing in the Caribbean Sea. Im not sure if you can rent kitesurfing gear at Darkwood Beach. I couldn’t find anything about it in other Antigua travel blogs.
32. Stingray City Antigua
One of the most popular things to do in Antigua, but according to many also one of the worst things to do in Antigua is Stingray City. Although the stingray encounters are in the wild it is NOT recommended to feed them. Because the wild animals are fed and therefore indirectly used for tourism purposes many wildlife experts discourage these kind of activities. It is a controversial Antigua activity.
33. Donkey Sanctuary
A more animal friendly thing to do in Antigua is to visit the donkey sanctuary. This registered animal welfare charity houses approximately 150 donkeys. If you are traveling to Antigua on a budget then you can volunteer here and get housing in return. The Donkey Sanctuary in Antigua is listed on WorkAway, click here for more info about it.
34. Drink rum
When you travel to Antigua there is no escaping from rum punch. It is the to-go drink on this Caribbean island, but Im the last one complaining. On most tours they give you a couple free rum punch and be careful they kick in I can tell you. You don’t really taste the alcohol but after two rum punch you will start the feel it! :)
Especially while watching the sunset they go down very well!
35. Sunset cruise
One of the best things to do in Antigua and the highlight of my trip is a sunset cruise on a catamaran. We left from St. John’s harbor and cruised around Fort James and continued North along the shore. There was an open bar and the ‘rum-punch aka baby makers’ got the party started. It was a trip to remember and something I would totally recommend for your Antigua vacation.
36. Floating Bar
Definitely one of the coolest things to do in Antigua is to have a drink at the floating bar in Dickenson Bay. To get there grab the red flag on the beach and keep on waving till someone at the bars spots you. You will then be picked up by a little dinghy. You can of course also swim! Getting drunk and watching the sunset from the floating bar is a must do when you visit Antigua. So much love for this place! The rum punch goes down well here.
37. Sheer Rocks restaurant
The Sheer Rocks restaurant must be included in this Antigua travel blog. Probably one of the most amazing pool views on the island and one of the best things to do in Antigua if you like to get amazing Instagram pictures.
Sheer Rocks restaurant is located in the Cocobay Resort one of the best hotels in Antigua. You don’t need to be a Cocobay guest to go to Sheer Rocks restaurant. You can reserve lounge chairs for the day or for sunset. The restaurant is pricey, but views are unbeatable.
Mostly everyone just solely speaks about Antigua, but Barbuda is equally stunning. In 2017 hurricane Irma passed directly over the tiny island and caused a lot of damage. It took a little while but Barbuda is slowly becoming the paradise it once was. Princess Dianna used to vacation on Barbuda.
Unfortunately I did not visit Barbuda myself on this Antigua holiday, but surely next time I want to check out the Pink Beach and if my ears allow me I definitely want to go scuba diving in Barbuda. Barbuda is completely flat and that is the reason why a lot of ships stranded in the past. There are about 120 shipwrecks in the waters around Barbuda, every scuba divers dream. Visiting Barbuda’s bird sanctuary is another great thing to do as the largest Frigate Bird colony in the world lives on the island.
A secret travel tips for Barbuda: camping on the beach in Barbuda is allowed and a common thing to do. So your trip to Barbuda doesn’t have to break to bank.
39. How to get to Barbuda?
If you are limited on time a day trip to Barbuda is one of the best things to do in Antigua. In the St. John’s harbor there are two ferries to Barbuda.
The more expensive one is called Barbuda Express. They charge $85 for a round trip or $164 for a full day tour including lunch. They leave 9.00am from Antigua and the boats leave Barbuda at 5:30pm. The trip take 90 minutes.
Caribe Breeze Ferry
This is a much cheaper ferry from Antigua to Barbuda and there are 2 boats every morning. The first ferry leaves at St. John’s harbor at 7:00am and at 7:30am there is another one. The trip takes about 2 hours and cost 180 EC ($67) return and 100 EC ($37) one way. There is only one boat back at 4:05pm.
Im pretty sure this is the info the lady gave me when asking for the ferry schedule from Antigua to Barbuda. But two boats going and only one coming back sounds odd… :)
40. Sailing Week
Every year at the end of April there is Antigua Sailing Week, one of the biggest happenings on the island. There are races, festivals and amazing events mainly concentrated in English Harbor.
41. How much does a trip to Antigua cost
When traveling to Antigua keep in mind that you are on a secluded island in the Caribbean. Things are not cheap in Antigua! It of course depends how you travel and what kind of budget you have, but expect Western prices.
For a night out in a nice beach front restaurant expect to pay around $50 per person minimum. Local beers cost mostly somewhere around $3 to $5. Even street food is not really cheap either and starts from $5 onwards.
42. Travel to Antigua on a budget
If you are a solo traveler than it will be an expensive destination. First because there is no hostel in Antigua. There are cheap guesthouses but they also charge about $70 per night. Your best bid when you travel to Antigua on a budget is renting an Airbnb. You can find them from $50 per night onwards.
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43. All inclusive heaven
By researching some hotels I stumbled across many amazing all inclusive resorts in Antigua. I am not the biggest all inclusive hotel fan as I would have a severe FOMO on all the amazing places to visit and cool things to do in Antigua. But when on the contrary paying that much for a night in an all inclusive I would find it hard to leave the resort! LOL
Loads of all inclusive resorts in Antigua are sold by Antigua holiday packages including flights and are popular with American tourists. Most of these amazing hotels have quiet private beaches and ocean views. So if you are looking to kick back then an all inclusive resort would be my Antigua travel tip.
44. Where to stay
There are numerous amazing places to stay in Antigua and it is hard to tell you which one is the best. These are some popular luxury (all inclusive) resorts:
This is the Antigua resort where I had the time of my life for one week long. IT is located on the northeastern tip of the island next to Devil’s Bridge. My stay at Verandah Resort definitely was a highlight from my Antigua trip. There was an open bar until midnight, funny staff, a lot of entertainment and the rooms where very spacious and had good ocean views. The food in the restaurant was good, I loved the breakfast and the Verandah Resort has two pristine private beaches in secluded bays. The sea is super calm and great for swimming, relaxing and water sports.
This elegant small 5 star resort in English Harbor Town has the best views over the marina and the tranquil bay. The swimming pool and the balconies face the marina and views are unbeatable. This resort is located in a quiet area in one of my favorite places on the island.
This is one of the most well-known Antigua all inclusive resorts and a very popular place to stay. Also it has one of the best review scores on the island, so it is probably a great place to stay. I didn't stay here myself, but visited the onsite Sheer Rocks Restaurant. The sunset views are amazing as the resort is facing west. There are cottages with a private pool on their balconies as well as hammocks. Your Antigua holiday at Cocobay is a guaranteed success.
Looking for a unique experience on your Antigua holiday then this is may be something for you. I was actually looking for cheap places to stay in Antigua when I stumble on a small sailing boat on Airbnb. It is very small, but how cool is that and it is only $50 per night. Perfect when you are traveling to Antigua on a budget.
My experience traveling to Antigua
My trip to Antigua was one to remember for sure as I was staying with about 40 colleagues and friends in Verandah Resort & Spa. The resort is somewhat secluded in the Northeast tip of the island away from most of the cool things to do in Antigua. At first I was a little nervous, because I am all about adventure travel and going places. Plus I was not used to an all-inclusive hotel but in the end I think that really added up to my trip. This Antigua holiday/work trip was my first ever all-inclusive experience and I must say I had more than an amazing time. If you are with a group of people like we were than staying in an all-inclusive hotel is a great idea.
Normally I always travel solo and go on adventures on my own, but since Im traveling the world continuously for the last 6,5 years (read here how I became a professional travel blogger) it was actually pretty nice to have a base for at least a week. Getting inspire by colleagues never felt that good and obviously the amazing
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Enjoy your trip to Antigua & Barbuda!