Back to blog listing

Beach bliss

Beyond the beach in Antigua

Laura Weeden May 5, 2016

If you’re travelling to Antigua make sure you leave your lounger and explore more of the island. Content Manager Laura Weeden provides her top 5 tips for the perfect Caribbean holiday. 

Antigua, like a lot of the Caribbean islands, is famous for its beaches. They’re covered in flour-white sands, backed by palm trees, dotted with luxury resorts and lapped by waters as clear as your G&T – the perfect place for a week of relaxation. But if, like me, you get itchy feet after a few hours on a lounger, fear not. Antigua has plenty more up its sleeve. Here are five things to do that don’t revolve around sunbathing.

1) Dance your flip-flops off at Shirley Heights

Every Sunday, locals and tourists descend on Shirley Heights, a clifftop lookout point that’s part of a national park. They’re not just here for the views, though. Around 4pm, barbecues are lit, rum punches are poured and a steel band strikes up for the island’s biggest weekly al fresco party. Grab a drink and a plate of jerk chicken and rice, then settle down to watch the sun set over English Harbour below. Once darkness falls, make your way over to the dance floor for a proper Antiguan shindig. 

2) Hurtle through the rainforest on a zipline

Antigua’s coastline might be gorgeous, but its interior isn’t too shabby, either – think soaring mountains and thick, bottle-green rainforest. If you’ve got a head for heights, one of the best ways to see it is on a zip line. The Antigua Rainforest Company has strung up a network of zip lines and aerial walkways between the hills – don a fetching harness, helmet and pair of safety gloves, and spend a morning or afternoon whizzing above the treetops with panoramic views of the surrounding rainforest. 

3) Snorkel with stingrays

Of all the things I did in Antigua, snorkelling with stingrays is the one people always want to know more about. It’s one of those bucket-list, once-in-a-lifetime experiences that you’ll always remember (whether you opted to buy the souvenir photos or not). A speedboat whisks you out to a sandbank in the middle of the ocean, where you jump into the waist-deep waters and wait. Pretty soon, you’ll be joined by a ray or two. Then three. Then four. After a while, the waters are teeming with these graceful creatures. Swim alongside them, gently touch them (they feel a bit like firm jelly...), or even feed them – whatever you feel comfortable doing. 

4) Sail along the stunning coast

Antigua is known for having a beach for every day of the year (they even create an extra one on leap years), and a catamaran cruise along the coast is a great way to tick a few off in one go. I opted for a trip along the island’s west coast, setting off from St. John’s and gliding past quirky rock formations and old forts to Deep Bay (a deserted curve of white sand backed by pastel-coloured beach shacks) and Turner’s Beach (another pristine white-sand stretch). The crew barbecued local lobster for lunch, before letting down the sails and cruising back to the harbour.  

5) Uncover the history of Antigua 

Historically, the bulk of Antigua’s income came from sugar. Plantations were scattered all over the island (you can still see the remains of a hundred-odd stone windmills around the countryside), the first of which was Betty’s Hope. Having been left in ruins for years, restoration of Betty’s Hope started in 1990, and today you can explore the remains of the Great House, learn about the history of the plantation and Antigua’s sugar trade in the fantastic little museum, and peek inside a fully restored windmill.    

Tempted? Take a look at our Antigua travel guide or our hotel deals page for more inspiration and holiday ideas.