Antigua and Barbuda Travel Guide

The quintesential coconut regime, boasting a mere 60,000 inhabitants and a country smaller the Manhattan. With a different beach for every day of the year (if the locals are to be believed), the islands of Antigua and Barbuda offer a number of beautiful getaways with relaxing activities aplenty.

With a consistently scorching climate, scores of white-sand beaches and crystal clear water at every turn, these islands in the Caribbean are a sailing, diving, swimming and luxuriating paradise.

Why You Should Go

What’s Cool: Baking on the sand and then cooling off in the clear waters at one of the many beaches, cruising over to Great Bird Island and marveling at the aquatic life below on a glass-bottomed boat, bird-watching at Barbuda’s Frigate Bird Sanctuary, indulging in any number of water sports, haggling your way round some of the Caribbean’s best and most colorful markets, settling down to watch an afternoon of the national obsession - cricket. Swilling rum with the million dollar yachty crews in historic English Harbour.

What’s Not: Driving at night where there are no street-lights, fending off mosquitoes, getting caught in a tropical storm and watching all your stuff blow into the distance, yearning for your life to be complicated again.

When to Go

The climate in Antigua and Barbuda is quite simply amazing. Warm, sunny and mainly dry, the temperature hardly changes throughout the year. The main rainfall is between August and October, but it is sporadic at best. Occasionally during these months, the islands are hit by tropical storms, but these tend to be short-lived.

Getting There & Away

Just outside St John’s, VC Bird International Airport has a steady stream of flights arriving from other Caribbean islands, North America and Europe. The only other way you’re likely to enter the country is if you’re on a cruise. Ferries run all the time between Antigua and Barbuda so getting between the islands is a cinch. Taxis are pretty economical and the local bus service is more than adequate.

Health & Safety

Antigua and Barbuda are very safe for tourists. Avoid chatting to urchins or anyone who looks dodgy and don’t flash your wad of dollars about and you’ll have no problems. Mosquitoes are a nuisance, but a bit of repellent will usually keep them at bay. The tap water isn’t always tip top so stick to the bottled stuff. Generally though, you can’t go wrong here.

Food & Hospitality

The food is usually good quality and very tasty. Rice and cornmeal are often involved as the base of every meal, usually with some kind of meat or fish. The national dish is fungie, which sounds bad but is actually very flavorsome, if a bit heavy on the cornmeal. Being so close to the ocean, the seafood is usually fantastic. The local brews are also delicious, with luscious coconut milk and mango juice for the daytime and delectable beer and rum for the evening. Service is invariably friendly and attentive.

Itineraries

Two weeks on these idyllic islands should be enough to take in the main attractions.

  • A day strolling around Antigua’s English Harbor. Once a naval base, it has the most interesting collection of historic sites on the islands.
  • A day driving along Fig Tree Drive, a picturesque route through tropical hills and delightfully quaint fishing villages.
  • A week swimming, surfing, snorkeling or just lazing about on one of the plethora of beautiful beaches.
  • Two days checking out the thoroughly West Indian flavors of Antigua’s capital, St John’s.
  • Three days on a bush safari on Barbuda, marveling at the amazing wildlife and untouched scenery.

Extra time

  • Amble through the fascinating markets and hustle your way to some great bargains.
  • Head to the Museum of Antigua and Barbuda in St John’s and see the battered cricket bat of local god Sir Vivian Richards among other things.

Highlights

st-johns: touristy but not dominated by tourist attractions, this lovely town has retained its very West Indian flavor and the cathedral is well worth a visit.

barbuda: head over to the less developed of the two islands and soak up the amazing sights and sounds on a bush walk.

english-harbor: stroll around Antigua’s main tourist attraction and enjoy the atmosphere at this interesting historical site. Here you’ll also find the most ostentatious and filthy display of wealth moored in the quays of this natural harbour.

fig-tree-drive: check out the beautiful little fishing villages and brilliant scenery on this 32km route.

Beaches: lay back and slip into dreamland on one of the 365 beaches.

Activities

Scuba-diving: everywhere you go in Antigua and Barbuda there is the opportunity to get wet and enjoy yourself.

Partying: everyone’s having a good time on these islands so just head out and join in.

Bush trekking: get over to untouched Barbuda and immerse yourself in the wildlife and scenery.

Ambling: there are loads of places where you can don your loafers and enjoy a lovely stroll.

Haggling: the local markets offer bargains galore and stallholders are eager to bargain fairly and squarely.

Get pickled: on rum at the Sunday night ‘jump up’ at Shirley’s Heights fortress.

Festivals & Events

It’s party time all the time on these islands, but here are the events when the locals step it up a gear or two.

January: the Antigua Yacht Club’s annual round-the-island race is top quality viewing.

April: more nautical adventures as the Annual Sailing Week kicks off with races and events.

July: the 10-day Antigua and Barbuda Carnival kicks off, showcasing extravagant costumes, talent shows, amazing music and the Miss Antigua pageant.

November: the 1st is the anniversary of Antigua and Barbuda’s Independence from the British so expect plenty of merrymaking.