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Antigua and Barbuda

Antigua-and-Barbuda

Great Destination:

4

Value for Money:

3

Total Stars:

7.0

Personality Types that Like it Best

Appeals mostly to Mid-and Centric-Authentics, and true Authentics

Did You Know … ?

  • Antigua’s craggy coastline provides 365 beaches, literally one for each day of the year.
  • It is illegal to wear camouflage or military apparel in Antigua.
  • Barbudans count only a half dozen surnames; all are descended from a group of slaves who arrived in the 17th century.
  • Bananas are called figs by locals; thus, Fig Tree Drive is lined with banana trees.
  • Nelson’s Dockyard on Antigua is the world’s only remaining Georgian naval dockyard.

Two very different islands

The two islands, Antigua and Barbuda, offer a striking contrast. The much larger Antigua and its capital city of St. John’s boast hotels, restaurants, bars, nightlife, shopping and water sports.

Smaller Barbuda, an Antigua dependency, is laid back with a limited number of long but beautiful beaches, and little to do except enjoy calm waters protected by coral reefs. In fact, a couple of high-end hotels that opened on Barbuda had to close their doors and only smaller ones remain. Barbuda’s main claim to fame is a tropical bird colony with the largest population of frigate birds in the Caribbean. Unreliable air schedules can mean visitors wait for hours for their flights back to Antigua.

Antigua offers the array of water sports that typify most Caribbean islands, ranging from sunning and surfing to diving in countless coves. Boating of all types is an island specialty, and a wide variety of watercraft can be rented, from dinghies to sailboats, powerboats and jet skis. Boat races are frequent and available for watching or for visitor participation — for those with the skills. Also, Sailing Week is an international event in the spring.

Passing through customs and immigration can be a bit frustrating with up to two-hour waits for those arriving in the peak afternoon hours. It is slow going because officials want to know where visitors are staying, to examine their return tickets and to determine if visitors have sufficient funds for the duration of their visits.

The island nation also faces occasional crime problems. The best advice is: Don’t leave belongings on the beach while swimming or snorkeling and never walk alone in isolated areas or at night.

But it is still a magical place to visit and the government is working hard to upgrade tourism facilities and train locals to be service oriented because tourism accounts for almost two-thirds of the islands’ economy. Island lovers can experience numerous isolated powdery soft beaches or join in nighttime partying at various hotels and bars. Temperatures average in the high 70s in the winter and high 80s in the summer.

Things to do for Venturers

  • With constant trade winds, this is a great place for windsurfing. Inexpensive rentals are available at most hotels.
  • It’s hardly roughing it, but bring your snorkeling or diving gear and visit Barbuda and sleep on the beach overnight.
  • With countless beaches and coves, and coral reefs protecting Antigua, you’ll be able to find plenty of places to dive where the only divers will be you and your companion.
  • Sample local gastronomic specialties such as pepperpot (vegetable stew with fungee, a cornmeal and okra dumpling mix). And try roti (flatbread stuffed with a sweet curried stew), ducana (grated sweet potato with coconut, spices and banana leaf), tamarind balls (a sweet) and black pineapples noted for their sweetness.
  • Visit Redonda, a tiny uninhabited island and Antigua dependency, and wander through the national bird sanctuary where you’ll experience what Caribbean islands were like before they were discovered by humans.
  • Because horses and horse racing are important to islanders, you can rent spirited horses to explore Antigua and its interesting topography, rain forests and protected reserves.

Things to do for Centrics

  • A restored pirate ship will take you for a day or evening cruise to Great Bird Island with a full dinner, drinks and entertainment on board.
  • Antigua is one of the few Caribbean islands where you can purchase authentic, locally made items, especially straw goods, pottery, silk-screened fabrics and jewelry incorporating semi-precious Antiguan stones. So, go shopping.
  • Get moving on waterskis. Waterskiing is available through most hotels.
  • If you visit during April or May, schedule your visit during Sailing Week, an exciting world class sailing regatta that attracts yachtsmen from around the world. Other smaller but interesting events are held throughout the year.
  • The capital city offers so many appealing attractions it can take two days to explore, including St. John’s Cathedral (photographed by most tourists), the forts of Shirley Heights and Fort James, the magnificent English Harbour with Nelson’s Dockyard, and several lively markets in and around the city.
  • Crab racing is a local sport, available in several bars once or twice a week. Bet on a crab, and maybe you can buy a round of drinks.

Things to do for Authentics

  • Take a cruise in a glass-bottom boat around Great Bird Island reefs and view tropical fish. Your hotel concierge can make arrangements.
  • Scenic Fig Tree Drive can be seen with a taxi. The trip will include picturesque fishing villages, megaliths at Green Castle Hill, lush tropical hills and the octagonal church at Parham.
  • Wander through the streets of St. John’s and listen to the lively steel bands, some of the best in the Caribbean. Almost all players are self-taught and fashion their notes on cut-off 50-gallon oil drums.
  • Local drinks are available for sampling. These include Ting (sparkling grapefruit soft drink), Wadadli (local light beer) and a variety of light and dark rums with mixers of your choice.
  • Go deep-sea fishing for barracuda, dorado, kingfish, mackerel, tuna and wahoo. Spearfishing is prohibited.
  • You have choices for golf: two 18-hole golf courses at Cedar Valley on Antigua and a nine-hole course at Jolly Harbour.

Additional Resources

For more information, consult the Antigua and Barbuda Ministry of Tourism at www.visitantiguabarbuda.com