Antigua is captivating and peaceful, with year-round sunshine and some of the Caribbean’s most idyllic beaches
With its rolling hills, pretty coves and stunning views, Antigua is a picture-perfect island with a wonderfully laid-back vibe. Luxurious resorts are sprinkled along the coast, each one claiming its own pocket of paradise. Surrounded by a nearly unbroken offshore reef protecting miles of sugar-white sands and hidden coves, Antigua has a beach for every day of the year as well as activities from diving and world-class sailing to strolls around quaint colonial towns and 4x4 rainforest tours.
This independent nation was once a British colony and English influences can be seen all around, from the crumbling sugar plantations and delightfully quaint English Harbour to locals playing cricket and hotels offering traditional afternoon tea. Despite these familiar touches, the laid-back vibe that’s synonymous with the Caribbean imbues every corner of this relaxing island.
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- The views over English Harbour from Shirley Heights – particularly at sunset – are well worth the climb
- World-class sailing and the annual Antigua Sailing Week
- Naval history at Nelson's Dockyard, where the great admiral sheltered his warships in the late 18th Century
- Island hopping – Antigua can easily be combined with the popular islands of St Lucia and Barbados
- Keyonna Beach is a charming boutique hotel on a beautiful beach and it's exclusive to Kuoni in the UK.
Antigua holiday highlights
Where is Antigua?
Antigua sits in the middle of the Leeward Islands, to the east of St Kitts & Nevis, and north of Guadeloupe. It’s the largest of the English-speaking Leeward Islands and although it’s small in size, at just 14 miles long and 11 miles wide, it’s bursting with charm, history and natural beauty. Check out our best time to visit guide to find out more about Antigua’s climate.
Antigua has 365 beaches – a different one for every day of the year – so you’re guaranteed to find a perfect stretch of sand, whether you’re looking for calm waters for swimming, fun watersports, lively beach bars or secluded coves that can only be reached by boat. Dickenson Bay lies in the northwest and its soft powdery sands and calm waters are ideal for families with young children. Tuck into tasty coconut shrimp at Valley Church Beach on the west coast and sink your toes into this stretch of glistening white sand dotted with pretty seashells.
The capital, St John’s, has a lovely mix of West Indian gingerbread style houses, British colonial buildings, excellent harbourside restaurants and a bustling farmer’s market. It’s also home to Antigua’s biggest attraction – Nelson’s Dockyard National Park, a beautifully restored Georgian naval base that serves as Antigua’s historic heart. Soak up the atmosphere with lunch on the terrace at Admiral’s Inn and watch yachts docking in the pretty harbour. The harbour really comes alive during the annual Antigua Sailing Week, a world-famous regatta that kicks off in late April and attracts skilled yachtsmen from all around the globe. Visit the island during this time to experience the incredible carnival-like atmosphere and enjoy live music and parties as a cloud of billowing sails dot the horizon.
Antigua has some stunning look-out points. Follow the nature trail from English Harbour through forest up to Shirley Heights. Parts of the trail are quite steep but you‘ll be rewarded at the top with panoramic views over English Harbour. The summit is a romantic spot for watching the harbour become enveloped in a golden glow as the sun sets over the bay.
If you’re travelling from St John’s to English Harbour in the south, take a slight detour and follow the coastal road before journeying along Fig Tree Drive for a scenic - and sometimes bumpy -drive across rolling hills and through rainforest, farmland and banana, coconut and mango groves. Visit sugar mills and tiny picturesque villages and stop at a local fruit stand to sample the island’s extra-sweet black pineapple.
Cruise line passengers always make a beeline for the Heritage Quay Complex in St John's. This is a shopaholic's paradise with plenty of duty-free bargains to be found, from electronics and jewellery to designer clothes and bags. Head to the Vendors' mall to pick up some local art and crafts at bargain prices. In St John's you'll also find the historic Redcliff Quay which is home to small boutiques, jewellery stores and local artwork.
Diving & snorkelling
While Antigua isn't renowned for its diving it's almost completely encircled by coral reefs and as there is little or no current in the island's shallow water areas it's ideal for beginners. The visibility is good - often between 50 and 100+ feet - and most dive sites can be reached by boat between five and 45 minutes. Cades Reef lies off the south coast of Antigua and is one of the island's most popular diving spots. There are a number of dive sites throughout the inner and outer sections of the reef where you can see pillar-like coral formations as well as marine life including tropical fish, barracudas and nurse and reef sharks.
Food & drink
Antiguan restaurants offer a mixture of spicy Creole dishes and international cuisine with influences from Europe. Signature Antiguan dishes include ‘goat water’, a deliciously spicy stew; ‘duccana’, a side dish with sweet potato, pumpkin, coconut, cornmeal, sugar and spices steamed in banana leaves; and ‘fungi and pepperpot’, a thick vegetable stew. Taste the island’s sweet black pineapple and visit one of the raw bars along the coast for freshly-caught seafood such as spiny lobster, conch, oysters and red snapper.
Antigua is a small island and so all of the hotels are within easy reach of the airport – generally between 10-40 minutes. As many of the resorts are spread out along the coast, they aren't usually within walking distance of shops and restaurants so taxis are often the easiest way to get around the island. Buses are an inexpensive way to explore the island but they can be infrequent and are generally geared towards locals travelling between the villages and towns so they don't service all of the tourist areas. A catamaran or speedboat tour offers a different perspective of the stunning coast, harbours, towns and resorts.
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