The ultimate holiday guide to Antigua & Barbuda

Ever since my trip to the Dominican Republic back in 2018, I knew that I have always wanted to come back and visit another island in the Caribbean. I just didn’t know when or where that would be. That was until a few months back my friend decided she was going to move to Antigua for a few months (because why work from home when you can work from the Caribbean?).

This was the perfect opportunity to tick another Caribbean island off my list, whilst also reuniting with one of my best pals after a couple of months apart.

Antigua and Barbuda are located in the middle of the Leeward Islands in the East of the Caribbean, where the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean meet. The islands are both TINY. Antigua encompasses around 281 square kilometres. Barbuda is even smaller covering only 161 square kilometres. The country also owns a third, lesser-known island named Redonda. However, this island is uninhabited as it is a large mass of volcanic rock out in the middle of the ocean.

My favourite fact about Antigua is that it is home to exactly 365 beaches, meaning that if you lived here for a year you could visit a new beach every day. However, it’s not just its beautiful beaches that make Antigua the perfect place to come. The wildlife, the hiking, the history and of course the culture are just a handful of other reasons why thousands of tourists flock here each year.

I spent two weeks in Antigua exploring different parts of the island every day, so if you want to know some of the best things to do in Antigua, then carry on reading below!

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How to get to and explore Antigua

I flew to Antigua from London Gatwick Airport with British Airways. I was shocked to see that my flights were only going to cost me £350. The flight is approximately 8 hours long, which I found went super quickly with a combination of napping, eating and watching films.

Once in Antigua, I would recommend hiring a car. There are so many hidden little places to visit that you won’t find on the normal tourist trail, so a car is the best way to get access to these places. Car hire for two weeks will cost you anything between £300-£600. I would probably suggest spending a little more and hiring out an SUV. The road conditions aren’t great and there are potholes galore, so something a little sturdier is recommended. It’s also good to note that Antigua also drives on the same side of the road as England.

The best time to visit Antigua

For the best weather (and to avoid hurricane season from June-August) it is recommended to come between the months of December- April. I visited from late May to early June and still had perfect weather, so I don’t think you need to be too rigid with the dates.

How long will I need to visit Antigua?

10-14 days is the perfect amount of time to visit Antigua. This will give you ample opportunity to explore as well as rest and relax at some of the stunning resorts and beaches here.

How much spending money will I need for Antigua?

Honestly, Antigua is not cheap. I would say going out to eat here every day is quite similar to going out to eat in London every day. Cocktails are around £8-10 and the main meals around £15. If you want to cut costs I would recommend cooking some meals and if you want to drink alcohol then opt for the local beer “Carib”.

In terms of boat trips/ excursions, you are looking at roughly £100-£150 per trip.

After calculating all my spending (including flights and accommodation), I realised what I had spent came to the same amount as an all-inclusive holiday. And remember, most all-inclusive’s are just cover flights, accommodation, food and drink and do not include car rentals or excursions.

I would highly recommend not going down the all-inclusive route. This way you will be encouraged to visit more of the island and try out some of the local restaurants. However, this is obviously dependant on what you would like to get out of your holiday. If you want pure relaxation a chill for 2 weeks then an all-inclusive could be the answer.

Where to stay in Antigua

One of the best areas to stay is a place called Jolly Harbour. This is a great location because there are lots of restaurants, a local beach and you are also close to some of the best spots on the island. There are lots of reasonably priced Airbnb’s in Jolly Harbour to choose from starting at £100 per night.

If are interested in staying at an all-inclusive resort there are a few amazing ones I can recommend:

The best places to eat in Antigua

One great thing about Antigua is the food. You won’t go hungry on your vacation here as there is so much delicious food to try: jerk chicken, goat curry, fresh fish and more! My favourite restaurants that I would highly recommend are:

The best things to do in Antigua

Visit Darkwood and Ffyres Beach

Number 1 of the list of the best things to do in Antigua is Darkwood Beach and Ffryes Beach. You will get the “pinch me I’m in the Caribbean” kind of moment. I visited quite a few beaches in Antigua on my trip and I have to say these were my favourite. The beaches are a 3-minute drive from one another.

English Harbour

English Harbour is a small but stylish town that sits on two sheltered bays. It’s popular for its ample choice of bars and restaurants, as well as being home to Nelson’s Dockyard, Antigua’s most popular historical site. Here you will find some pretty impressive boats and yachts. The island also holds an annual sailing week from here.

Shirley Heights

Shirley Heights is the most popular place on the island to watch the sunset, and one of the best things to do in Antigua. You have views of English Harbour and can watch the sunset behind the lush green mountains. Sunday is the best day to come here, for a sunset watching party. There is also an onsite bar and BBQ. I would recommend going for the rum punch and jerk chicken. In normal times they would normally have live music here too but this has been stopped for the moment due to the pandemic.

Enjoy a day by the pool

If you’re not staying at a hotel and your Airbnb does not have a pool then there are a couple of pretty cool places to go where you can enjoy a lazy pool day

Boom (located in English Harbour) is home to a stunning infinity pool that looks out over Nelsons Dockyard. Simply buy some food and drinks from their onsite restaurant to enjoy the facilities here.

Tradewinds (located near Dickenson Bay) is a stunning hilltop hotel, set back from the beach. The view from the hotel is pretty amazing and looks directly out of a Dickenson Bay. You can easily spend the day here sitting by the pool, drinking cocktails and waiting for the sun to set over the horizon.

Sheer Rocks

Sheer Rocks is a fabulous resort perched on a rocky cliff. The resort looks out over Coco and Ffryes Beach. Sheer Rocks is most popular and well known for its rock/plunge pools that look out over the ocean. You can hire these pools out for the day, but be quick as reservations fill up fast. Plunge pool day passes start at a very reasonable price of £27 for the day.

If you don’t manage to snap up a plunge pool for the day I would still recommend coming here for lunch or dinner. The food is amazing and the views are second to none.

Take a Boat Trip to Barbuda Island

Want to experience even more Caribbean paradise? Well, one of the best things to do in Antigua is to also visit the island of Barbuda. I recommend doing a day trip over to Barbuda Island. We hired out a boat charter with an amazing company called Barefoot Antigua. We got together a group of 12 so the boat hire cost us around £90 each. The company provide you with drinks but you are also allowed to bring more drinks and snacks on board.

We were taken around Barbuda and then stopped at the island for lunch and cocktails. There are a couple of restaurants in Barbuda. If you are looking for more traditional food then you can head to Uncle Roddy’s. However, if you are after something a little different you can head to the famous sushi restaurant, Nobu, which is interestingly owned by Robert De Niro.

Galleon Beach

Grab your snorkel and head to Galleon Beach. This is the best place to come for some wild turtle spotting. There are so many in the area and you can even see them popping up for air whilst just sat at the shore.

Close to Galleon Beach is the hiking trail up to the secret (not so secret) mermaid pools. Click here to find out the best way to get there.

Devils Bridge

Devil’s Bridge gives you a unique glimpse into Antigua’s natural formation. The bridge is made up of limestone rock. Over time the waves of the Atlantic Ocean have crashed into the rock, forming the natural arch as well as blowholes and geysers.

Blue Waters Resort

If you want to experience 5* Luxury for the day then Blue Waters is the place to come. You can visit here for the day for £90. This entitles you to free food and drink all day, as well as the use of three pools and three small beaches. There is also an onsite spa where you can book treatments at an additional cost.

Dickenson Bay

Dickenson Bay beach is probably most famous for its extremely random, but truly iconic, red British telephone box that’s nestled between the palm trees. There are some lovely little beach view restaurants here and would definitely recommend getting some rum punch from Salt Plage.

Further along the beach, you will see a floating tiki bar out in the middle of the sea. Hop on one of the speed boats to get taken out here for some floating bar fun.

St John’s

St John’s is the islands capital city. As the island is so small chances are you will be passing through St Johns on route to many of these other destinations I have mentioned in this post. Stop off and have a look around the city. There are lots of colourful buildings around, but my favourite was this orange wall below. The perfect picture spot ;).

Carlise Bay

Just another one of Antigua’s beautiful beaches you need to visit. This beach is noticeably surrounded by a lot of palm trees, so you truly feel like you are in a tropical paradise.

Great Bird Island

Great bird island, is a small inlet only 20 acres in size. It is only accessible by boat, but most boat tour operators will travel here if you are opting for a boat tour around Antigua. You can hop off the boat and do a short hike around the island, it’s well known for (yep you guessed it) tropical birds, as well as being home to the rare Antigua Racer snake. The whole world population of this snake lives on this island.

Looking for more Caribbean inspo? Click here to read about my all-inclusive experience of the Dominican Republic.

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