Holidays in Antigua & Barbuda
Hold up a brochure against any view of Antigua & Barbuda and you’ll struggle to tell the difference. This pair of islands are textbook Caribbean, where swaying palms stud sugar-white beaches which arc like crescent moons around sheltered bays.
Antigua is the larger and more well-known of the two islands, especially for its golden curves. There’s 365 beaches here – once for every day of the year. However, Antigua’s spectacular sands are more a way of life than a quirky selling point. Sipping rum from shacks on the beach while admiring the view from a luxury resort represents a typical day here – bar for the odd snorkel. However, ever since Horatio Nelson was stationed there in the 18th century, Antigua has become a haven for sailors. Hardly a month goes by without a regatta or yacht race taking place on its shimmering waters, a legacy of British colonial rule that has only become a stronger fixture on the Antiguan calendar over the years.
Tiny Barbuda is often dismissed in favour of its big sister, but its blush-coloured beaches, minimal tourists and reef-filled waters await those wise enough to include it on their holiday.
Antigua & Barbuda highlights
Named after the admiral who ushered in the colonial period in Antigua, Nelson’s Dockyard is the jewel in the island’s proud maritime heritage. In operation since 1745, it’s the only surviving Georgian marina and became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2016. Fully restored to its original splendour, buzzing restaurants and shops now sit inside the quaint 18th-century buildings, presided over by a number of colonial forts that pock the hillside. The interesting museum there charts Antigua’s seafaring history, life on the dockyard and boasts a number of fascinating artefacts, including a telescope once used by Nelson himself.
Everywhere you look in Antigua is postcard-perfect – it doesn’t have an ugly side. So why not absorb all its beauty in one eye-popping panorama? That’s why we love Shirley Heights, a military lookout and battery perched atop a lush peak. The restored complex and parade ground is well worth a wander but peer past its walls for epic, sweeping views of English Harbour and the glittering Caribbean Sea beyond. It’s a sight that really takes your breath away.
Antigua’s 365 beaches may take the plaudits but the island’s tasty cuisine is a fusion feast that feels like it has almost as many flavours. Dining out in one of the many restaurants that are spread across the island is the perfect way to savour Antigua’s spectacular views. Eat delicious French food on a pristine beach near English Harbour at Catherine’s Café or head to the north coast to soak up incredible ocean views while trying the fresh seafood at Cecilia’s in Dutchman’s Bay. The finest of Caribbean cuisine can be found among the friendly beachside surroundings of Coconut Grove in Dickenson Bay, while Gallic gourmet has been a speciality of Le Bistro for over 30 years. Yum!
You can’t fully grasp the culture of Antigua & Barbuda until you witness the locals’ passion for cricket. There’s no better place than at the national arena, the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium, named after the country’s most famous cricketing son. Time your holiday right and you’ll have a chance to watch a premier international match here and the exhilarating atmosphere truly makes this a bucket-list experience.
If your toes are itching to get off the beach for a few hours, then a dune buggy safari is the best way to explore Antigua’s wild interior. Drive through historic local villages, lush grasslands, unspoiled beaches and sugar plantations that you probably wouldn’t see otherwise. It’s an exciting adrenaline-fuelled adventure that shows a hidden side of beautiful Antigua.
Where to stay in Antigua & Barbuda
The best time to visit Antigua & Barbuda
Antigua & Barbuda is a great year-round holiday destination, with plenty of rays to catch whenever you choose to visit.
December to April is peak season, with temperatures averaging a high of 27°C. It’s the driest time of year, sunshine is aplenty and April sees the Caribbean’s largest regatta roll into town, with Antigua Sailing Week staging races and cultural events.
The official Caribbean hurricane season runs from 1 June to 30 November and though the risk is unlikely, you could encounter a tropical storm. That said, June-November is typically nesting season on the island, making it a great time to spot hawksbill turtles. May to August is still beautiful, with average temperatures peaking at highs of 31°C, despite increased chances of showers. It’s also the time of Antigua’s biggest celebration, the 10-day Antigua Carnival in July and August, where the liberation of slaves is marked with performing brass and steel bands.
September to November sees the highest chance of rain but there’s still many sunshine hours to soak up and the weather turns the landscape lush and bursting with vegetation and tropical flowers.
Antigua & Barbuda travel essentials
No vaccinations are recommended for Antigua & Barbuda but the country is regarded as having a risk of contracting the Zika virus. However, please consult your GP at least four to six weeks prior to travel for current advice.
The time difference is GMT -4 hours.
The flight time from London to St John’s is around 9 hours.
The currency is the Eastern Caribbean dollar, although US dollars are also widely accepted.
UK nationals don’t need a visa to travel to Antigua & Barbuda.
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