Life really is a beach in Antigua, with one for every day of the year (they even go as far as ‘creating’ an extra one for leap years). The white sands and cerulean waters are what we love most about a holiday in Antigua – Pink Beach, Ffryes Beach and Turner’s Beach are three of our favourite picks – but this Caribbean isle has much more to offer besides sunbathing spots. Swathes of Antigua’s interior are covered in lush rainforest, the island has a rich naval history, and the capital, St John’s, lines up cute pastel-painted buildings and fantastic duty-free shopping.
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The isolated little sister of Antigua, Barbuda, is located just next door. The entire island is a smooth, low-rise beach set amidst crystalline, reef-filled waters. The island is teeming with birds and dotted with stunning, secluded beaches. Mostly accessed by boat, Barbuda doesn’t have much—but that is, perhaps, its true appeal. There is a small resort with a handful of guesthouses and outside of that, it’s just you and the beach.
Antigua is perched right where the Caribbean Sea meets the Atlantic, uniting in a magnificent natural phenomenon called Devil’s Bridge. A limestone arch formation has been sculpted by the crashing of the two seas, carving a natural bridge that has taken millions of years to form. Around the bridge are several natural blowholes and geysers, and nearby there is a popular swimming spot where the reef acts as a natural breakwater. Swimming at Devil’s Bridge is not allowed and walking on it is not advised as it is very slippery.
Nelson’s Dockyard is a preserved Georgian naval facility, cultural heritage site, and marina. Located in English Harbour, the dock was built in 1725 as the headquarters of the British Leeward Island’s fleet. Now the dock features a yacht marina, nature trails to Fort Berkeley, and a visitor’s centre. Visit the Dockyard Museum in the original Naval Officer’s House to see ship models, maps, prints, and antique navigational instruments.
St John’s is the largest town in Antigua. Wander past pastel-coloured shops and weathered houses with corrugated iron roofs to Heritage Quay and browse duty-free shops and upscale souvenir stores. Then head for the National Museum of Antigua and Barbuda, a small museum detailing the island’s history through exhibits and photographs. Continue east on Long Street to view beautiful St. John’s Cathedral, a cathedral designed with a pitch pine interior encasing the freestone structure to protect the building from earthquakes and hurricanes.
There are two main carriers offering flights to Antigua from the UK with a third going via the States.
Direct Carriers: Direct carriers from the UK are British Airways and Virgin from London Gatwick
Indirect Carriers: British Airways offer flights from most other regional airports such as Manchester, Glasgow and Edinburgh with a connection via London Gatwick.
American Airlines also offer indirect flights from London Heathrow and Manchester via Miami or New York.
None for British citizens
There are no restrictions on the Eastern Caribbean Dollar and it is fixed to the US Dollar. While US Dollars are widely accepted, you will save money if you use Eastern Caribbean Dollars.
We suggest changing your UK Pounds to Eastern Caribbean Dollars before you go on holiday to Antigua. You can do this in advance at the Post Office, where you will get a better exchange rate. Make sure to keep your receipt so you can sell any leftover notes back. Alternatively, withdraw cash from cash machines after you arrive in Antigua. You can also exchange money in Antigua at cash exchange offices, hotels, or banks (which give the best rate). Major credit cards are widely accepted throughout Antigua, but small vendors usually only accept cash.
You should expect to tip about 10 to 15 percent while on holiday in Antigua. Make sure to check your bill as many establishments automatically include a 10 percent gratuity. If you are very happy with the service, add an extra five to 10 percent. Give taxi drivers and restaurant workers about 10 to 15 percent of the bill, give porters and bellhops one US Dollar per bag, and give cleaners a few US Dollars per night.
May, June, September, October and November
Hepatitis A, Polio and Typhoid are reccommended.
Antigua half of the nation of Antigua and Barbuda, is a tropical island located near the equator. The island has low rainfall, low humidity, and hours of uninterrupted sun tempered by gentle trade winds. Antigua's location near the equator means the island gets consistent temperatures in the mid-twenties throughout the year. You should check with your hotel what power supply they have. Some have standard British outlets and are 230 volts at 60 hertz while others have North American outlets and are 110 volts at 60 hertz.
Trousers and light jackets for wearing in the evenings or for going anywhere besides the beach;
Lightweight clothing that will keep you cool;
Sunscreen and sunglasses;
Sandals or flip flops;
Camera and underwater camera for snorkelling;
Historically, Antigua has imported most of its food so it is unsurprising that the specialties tend to be Creole-influenced or specialties from the cultures that originally lived here. Many dishes combine a mixture of green peppers, tomatoes, onion, and garlic and are heavily spiced—sometimes meaning spicy (hot), sometimes just meaning full of spices. Locals like to add heat to their dishes if they aren't spicy enough, like the popular red habanera and scotch bonnet hot sauce called Susie's Hot Sauce.
Fungi is the popular national dish of Antigua. This dish often comes as a side, accompanying mashed vegetables, salted cod, or garlic and onions. It is a mixture of cornmeal and okra with a consistency similar to grits. The cooked cornmeal paste is stirred with a special cooking utensil called a fungi stick, which the Antiguans say is essential for making the firm texture of the fungi.
Souse is a type of soup eaten as an appetiser or as a side dish for lunch or dinner. Meat is culled from the head, feet, and tail of a pig. The meat is washed with lime, then boiled in salted water to make a flavourful broth. Then the ubiquitous mixture of onions, sweet peppers, and spices are added.
While this popular Caribbean dish may have originated in Jamaica, Antiguans love it also. Jerk chicken combines a unique set of spices to make a well-rounded sweet, spicy, herbal chicken dish that is mouth-wateringly juicy and tender. Grill it, bake it, whatever way you eat it, this dish is authentic and delicious.
This traditional Antiguan dish is like a sweet dumpling and is fairly simple to make. It consists of grated sweet potato mixed with coconut milk, flour, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, raisings, and a dollop of butter. The mixture is formed into little dumplings and steamed in a banana leaf. Douse it with pineapple vinegar or hot sauce to get that perfect combination of sweet and savoury that Antiguans love so well.
Pepperpot stew is a classic Antiguan dish that is often served with fungi. This type of pepperpot differs from others in the Caribbean in that it is green. The green colour is thanks to the inclusion of fresh spinach. The stew also adds a variety of rich ingredients such as yams (or pumpkin), smoked ham, corned (or salt) beef, pigeon peas, tomatoes, and spices.
Roti is basically a type of bread that is similar to a large flour tortilla, but slightly lighter. In Antigua the roti is filled with goat, chicken, conch, shrimp, fish, or lobster and chunks of potatoes. Usually the filling is curried, but jerk and Creole sauces offer a yummy alternative. Smother it with Antigua’s popular hot sauce, Susie’s, for that spicy, mouth-watering kick.
Antiguan street food captures the essence of the Caribbean. Vibrant, spicy, colourful, flavourful, you definitely don't want to miss out. In Antigua, street vendors have to be licensed, so you are generally safe buying food from them. However, do be careful to only order street food from vendor’s whose food is clean and fresh, as well as cooked in front of you.
Saltfish cakes made their way to Antigua from the West Indies. Popular in local restaurants and served by street vendors, they can be bought by the dozen or just a few at a time. Saltfish, dried and salted cod, is mixed with onion, sweet pepper, mashed potatoes, and scotch bonnet or habenero peppers, as well as milk and flour to form a batter. The batter is dropped into heated oil and deep fried until crispy and delicious.
The Antigua Black Pineapple gets its name because it is ripe and ready to eat while the skin is still dark green. This unique pineapple is not just sweet, it is super-sweet. Slice it and serve it on a plate, then take it to a tropical beach and pair with a piña colada for a taste of the good life.
Breadfruit was originally introduced to the region from the East Indies. This green fruit has a pale yellow or white flesh that is so bready it can be made into flour. In Antigua, street vendors boil the breadfruit in salted water for a few minutes, then smother it with butter, garlic, and parmesan, and bake it until it is bubbling and golden brown.
Just like in the UK, pasties are a popular type of street food in Antigua. These savoury pastries are stuffed with meat, potatoes, and onion and baked in the oven until the pastry is golden and delicious.
Johnnycakes were introduced to Antigua by its earliest settlers. These delicious little cakes are a type of bread, made with butter, flour, milk, sugar, salt, and baking powder, mixed, then patted down and fried in a pan. These easy-to-eat bits of bread are especially popular at beach parties and festivals.
Antigua holidays tend to be a bit more expensive than some Caribbean holidays. You should expect to pay about 10 Eastern Caribbean Dollars for an inexpensive meal and about 100 Eastern Caribbean Dollars for a mid-range meal for two. A cappuccino costs about four Eastern Caribbean Dollars and a bottle of water (.33 litres) at a restaurant costs about three Eastern Caribbean Dollars. A 1.5 litre bottle of water costs about six Eastern Caribbean Dollars.
Antigua’s national dress is reminiscent of colonial times, with a twist of European and African influences. It was officially implemented in 1992 when the Library Fund Raising Committee launched a competition with the theme ‘post-emancipation era Antigua’. The winning women's outfit includes a madras (textured cotton) dress with puffed sleeves and a gathered waist worn under a starched white apron decorated with ruffles, lace, and pockets. Men wear a madras vest over a starched white shirt with full sleeves, black trousers, black shoes, and a straw hat with a matching madras band.
While Antiguan’s wear their national dress during holidays, most of the year they wear beach clothes. Men wear Bermuda-style shorts or khakis with a cotton or linen shirt, and women wear dresses, shorts or trousers, and short-sleeved tops.
The people of Antigua have that Caribbean thing down pat. They are laid-back and friendly, with a relaxed way of going about their day. There are, however, some social customs and traditions in Antigua you should keep in mind.
• Religion plays a very important role in the lives of most Antiguans.
• Antiguans have a very conservative attitude toward dress. It is not acceptable to wear beach attire outside of the beach.
• Antiguans like to take things slow and easy. Rushing and not taking the time to greet people is considered very rude.
• Possession or trafficking illegal drugs results in long prison sentences and heavy fines.
• It is illegal to bring or wear camouflage clothing as this is reserved solely for the military.
• Like many African cultures, the Creole influences in Antigua mean that families here tend to be matrifocal, focusing on the mother’s lineage.
• Antiguans may get offended if you try to haggle on prices excessively. This is taken as a sign of disrespect.
Like most of the Caribbean, many of the animal species on Antigua are not indigenous but have found their way here over time. The wildlife you will see on holiday in Antigua is typical to the Caribbean, including donkeys, lizards, and several bird species. This is the only place in the world the Antiguan Racer, a small harmless snake, can be found (on the tiny islet of Great Bird Island).
While there are no bird species that can be found exclusively on Antigua, there is a rich and varied bird population to see. In the evening, head north out of St John's to McKinnon’s Salt Pond to see osprey, sandpipers, cattle egrets and great egrets, wilson’s plovers, and yellow-corned night herons. Fitches Creek, a mangrove swamp area south of the airport, is home to spotted sandpiper, snowy egret, and green-backed herons. Just west of St. John’s is a little pool inland from the Galley Bay Hotel which holds a variety of water birds, including herons and waterfowl.
For a truly unique experience, head to Stingray City to snorkel with stingrays. Here you will have the chance to touch and feed the stingrays as they swim through the water. A speedboat takes you to Barge Reef, a shallow pool surrounded by a colourful coral reef, where you can swim with the southern stingray. These ‘puppies of the sea’ are friendly and safe and you will soon find yourself spellbound by their gracefulness. After your visit with the Stingrays, enjoy meeting parrots, iguanas, and cheeky monkeys back on land.
Antigua’s Donkey Sanctuary
This donkey sanctuary is located within the Humane Society’s Animal Sanctuary. The sanctuary provides shelter for more than 150 donkeys on the eastern side of Antigua near Bethesda. All of the donkeys were rescued in some way and are now cared for by the shelter. In the animal sanctuary, see grazing paddocks and corrals for rescued horses, sheep, goats, and a small petting farm.
Snorkelling and Scuba Diving
Snorkelling and scuba diving on holiday in Antigua is something you will not soon forget. The warm, clear waters are almost entirely surrounded by countless coral reefs, walls, and shipwrecks. From the beaches, hire snorkel gear and explore the coral reefs of Halfmoon Bay, the Hawksbill Beaches, Pigeon Point, and Pineapple Beach. Further offshore, Cades Reef is one of Antigua’s most popular sites, as is the wreck of the three-masted merchant ship The Andes. See a rainbow of tropical reef fish like sergeant majors, batfish, and spadefish swimming amid the sea sponges and colourful coral. Check out the sea turtles, barracuda, and sting rays as they dart beneath the unique underwater landscape around Antigua.