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Antigua Visitors Guide

How to Get There, Things to Do & More

Updated May 2022

Antigua Visitors Guide. The Best Things To Do In Antigua.
Antigua Visitors Guide. The Best Things To Do In Antigua.

Welcome to Antigua

Relax on one of the 365 beaches, hike up Shirley Heights for some beautiful views, or learn about some Caribbean culture at one of the former sugar plantations: there is sure to be something for everyone on the beautiful island of Antigua. The island is perfect for anyone who wants to escape and relax or for those that want a bit of an adventure!

Antigua Map

Map of Antigua

Contents

Antigua Visitors Guide. The Best Things To Do In Antigua.

A Bit Of History

The first documented inhabitants were the Arawaks, which canoed to the island from Venezuela and lives in Antigua for hundreds of years before being driven out by Carib settlers. While Christopher Columbus spotted the island in 1493 and named it Santa Maria de la Antigua, it wasn’t until 1632 that the English finally colonized the island. Other attempts were previously made, but the Caribs fended them off. During the English settlement, the island produced tobacco, ginger, and sugarcane. In 1981, Antigua became fully independent from British rule.

Antigua Visitors Guide. The Best Things To Do In Antigua.

Antigua Today

Today, Antigua is known as a luxury island destination with sailboats and yachts filling their marinas. Scuba diving is also extremely popular as Antigua is widely considered a premier dive location. Tourism is a huge part of Antigua’s economy and makes up 80% of its economy.

Where is Antigua?

Antigua Caribbean Map

click map to enlarge

Antigua is one of the Leeward Islands on the southeastern edge of the Caribbean. The island lies to the southeast of St. Barts, to the east of St. Kitts and just north of Guadaloupe.

Best Time to Visit Antigua

The average temperature in Antigua usually stays in the 80s, making this a perfect island to vacation to year-round. There are, however, some months that will be more enjoyable than others, with less crowds and more sunshine.

May to November

May to November is considered by some to be the best time to visit Antigua. These months are considered offseason, and therefore visitors can find better deals on flights and hotels. However, tourists should be aware that hurricane season is from June to November, so make sure to check the forecasts.

December to February

While December to February gets less rain, it is also the peak tourist season, which means more crowds and more expensive flights and hotels.

March to April

March and April have beautiful weather but can be a bit crowded with the cruise crowds.

How to Get to Antigua & Around

There are a few ways to get to and around Antigua.

Arrival by Air

There are many airlines from the US and the UK that fly into V.C. Bird International Airport (ANU), located on the northern end of the island. Tourists can easily get to the island in 9 hours from London or 4 hours from New York.

Arrival by Cruise

There are many popular cruise lines that stop at St. Johns in Antigua like Carnival Cruises, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises, and Norwegian Cruises.

By Taxi

One of the best ways to get around the island can be by taxi. While the drivers love to double as tour guides, it can get quite expensive. Make sure to get a quote before committing. The two well-known taxi services are Barry Taxi and Tour and Roger Taxi.

By Rental Car

Renting a car can be another great way to get around the island, especially if you want to visit attractions that may be farther from the tourist area. Visitors should be aware that Antiguans do drive on the left side of the road and tourists will need an Antiguan driving permit, which can be obtained at rental agencies.

Things to Do in Antigua

Antigua's Top Highlights

Antigua has so much to offer the outdoor lovers. From water sports to nature hikes, and from kayaking to biking, there is sure to be an activity for anyone on Antigua.

1. Hike To Shirley Heights Lookout

Shirley Heights, a restored military lookout and gun battery, offers amazing views of the English and Falmouth Harbor. This high point on the island is the perfect place to take in two of Antigua’s most famous vistas either during the day or at sunset. The easiest way to get to the trailhead is to book a hiking tour that includes transport from your hotel and guide. If you stay until the sun sets and you are extremely lucky, you may even catch a green jet of light in the sky, which is known as the “Green Flash”!

  Check out this flexible hiking tour that will let you pick which trail you visit!

2. Go Island Hopping

Off the coast of Antigua are a number of small uninhabited islands worth adventuring to. Taking a boat cruise to visit some of them can be a wonderful way to spend a day in Antigua! This island hopping tour includes visits to Maiden Island and Bird Island and includes some coral reef snorkeling, a nature walk and a lobster bbq! Um yes, please.

  This top rated island hopping tour includes snorkeling, nature walks, lobster, rum punch and more!

3. Take A Sailing Class

Antigua is well-known for sailing and even hosts one of the most notable sailing events at the end of each April. Visitors can book day-long sailing excursions once on the island, like the Sailing Antigua’s West Coast excursion. However, for the more adventurous and dedicated, Antigua offers weeklong classes that allow students to stay aboard and learn everything there is to know about sailing.

4. Hit The Beach!

There are over three hundred beaches to explore in Antigua. Half Moon Bay is known to be a visitor’s favorite beach. The crescent-shaped beach offers a quiet place to relax or a great place to bodysurf and snorkel. Turner Beach is another great spot that offers paddle boarding and its own beach bar and restaurant that serves great seafood and adult beverages. Dickenson Bay is one of the most popular beaches in Antigua and has a ton of restaurant options and water sports. Curtain Bluff Beach (pictured above) is a less developed but a beautiful beach as well.

5. Visit Nelson’s Dockyard

Today Nelson’s Dockyard houses a five-star hotel, gift shops, art galleries, and restaurants, but in the early 18th century this area of the English Harbor was used to protect ships from storms and to monitor French naval activity. Later in history, it became even more important as the only harbor in the Caribbean that was large enough to repair naval ships. Today visitors can learn about the history of the restored 18th and 19th-century buildings in the Dockyard Museum, which is in the old Admiral’s house.

  Take a look at this Historic Island Tour that features Nelson’s Dockyard and Betty’s Hope. Or check out this Scenic Tour of Antigua that takes you to all of the island’s best sites past and present, including Nelson’s Dockyard.

6. Kayak And Snorkel In Mangroves

If you are into watersports and nature, Antigua offers some great excursions to get you close to both. There are many day trips throughout the island that takes visitors kayaking through lagoons and mangroves. One suggestion is SoCoHo Half Day Jeep Safari- Mangrove Kayak and Reef Snorkeling. This tour has visitors kayaking through a lagoon to reach a private beach and snorkeling off the Cades Reef.

7. Enjoy a Caribbean Cuisine Cooking Class

While in Antigua, make sure to check out one of the many cooking classes that allow visitors to learn about the unique Antigua food. Tourists can learn how to make curries, jerks, and other famous Antigua cuisines.  Make sure to also try Antigua’s unique black pineapple!

  The best cooking classes on the island can be found at Nicole’s Table, where you can take a variety of classes including All About The Jerk, Cooking With Rum, From The Sea, and Coordinating Curry.

  If you’re not interested in learning how to cook but want to enjoy Antigua’s cuisine consider the  City Lime Food Tour where you can taste Antiguan culture as you make your way through Heritage Quay.

8. Discover the Beauty of the Jungle and Tropical Forests

It is no doubt that Antigua offers some amazing hiking and biking trails. If you are up for an adventure, book an excursion that takes you through the beautiful jungle and tropical forests of the island. One great trip is the Biking, Kayaking, and Hiking Activity in Antigua. This two to three hour excursion will have you exploring the island by bike, boat, and foot.

9. Wander Around St. John’s

St. Johns is the capital of Antigua and offers some of the best streets to explore. Visitors can walk through the farmer’s market, enjoy the colorful buildings, and learn about old sugar plantations. Make sure to visit and learn about the history of St. John’s Cathedral.

  Take a look at this City of St. John’s Sightseeing Tour where you can take in the most fascinating sights in the capital city.

10. Take An Island Eco Excursion

Antigua has many different eco systems, and what better way to learn about them than on an eco excursion. There are a few different tours that visitors can choose from, but one suggestion is Adventure Antigua-Eli’s Original Eco Tour. On this excursion, guests will spend a full day in North Antigua, where there are 22 uninhabited islands that include the turtle project at Jumby Bay, the Mangrove system of Guiana Island, and the reef ball system at Maiden Island.

11. Go Diving

Some of the best diving in the world is in Antigua. From the water’s well-preserved reefs and mystical shipwrecks, there is a great adventure to be had for any diver. Jettias Wreck is one of the most famous shipwrecks to explore, which was a French steam powered freighter that sunk in 1817. If you’d rather check out some reefs you can spot parrotfish, batfish, turtles, eagle rays, barracuda, and in some places even reef sharks and nurse sharks. Some of the best reefs to explore are Pillars of Hercules, Mary Kay Reef, and Chimney’s Reef.

  Check out these great freediving tour options!

  ISLAND LIFE TRAVEL TIP : GET TRAVEL INSURANCE

When going on vacation in the time of Covid, Travel Insurance is a must. Most of the current policies cover Covid medical issues as well as vacation delays due to Covid. They will even cover your hotel if you test positive while on vacation and have to extend your trip a few days until you get a negative test. Our site visitors almost unanimously choose a Trawick International Safe Travels plan, which was a Forbes top-rated travel insurance plan of 2021. Easily compare the different Trawick, Generali and other top travel insurance plans here.

Where to Stay in Antigua

There are all types of accommodations in Antigua. From all-inclusive resorts to boutique hotels and more. Location and amenities are the two top things to look for. For great hotel info and recommendations, check out our Antigua Hotel Guide or our Antigua All-Inclusive Resort Guide.

The Best Antigua All Inclusive Resorts: CocoBay Antigua

For hotel recommendations for every budget, check out our Antigua Hotel Guide

What to Eat in Antigua

You can find a wide range of wonderful bites to eat in Antigua. If you’re looking for a culinary adventure, check out our Antigua Restaurant Guide.

The Best Antigua Restaurants: Catherine's Cafe

For great restaurant recommendations, check out our Antigua Restaurant Guide

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