Antigua, justifiably, is known as one of the ultimate destinations for a ‘fly and flop’-style holiday. Boasting so many pristine beaches that you could spend every day of the year chilling out on a different one (yes, Antigua really has 365 beaches), the island is perfect for couples craving chilled, Caribbean vibes and the chance to kick back with a rum punch. That, however, is not where the story ends.
For better or worse, I am not the kind of person who spends the duration of their holiday sunbathing on the beach or relaxing in the pool. Whilst I love beautiful beaches, chic hotels and the easy-going Caribbean outlook on life, there’s something even more important that I look for in a holiday, and which Antigua guarantees: adventure!
Despite being only 14 miles long by 11 miles wide, there is far more to this little paradise than its stunning, azure coastline. If eye-opening adventures are your sort of thing then read on for our top five Antigua activities. One activity at a time, we are busting the myth that Antigua is home, only, to beautiful beaches.
1. Snorkelling with stingrays
Allow me to begin by assuring you that this is absolutely not as scary as it sounds. In fact, it’s not scary at all! Endearingly referred to as the ‘teddy bears of the sea’, the stingrays couldn’t be any friendlier. And hey, who’s scared of teddy bears, right?
Upon arriving at ‘Stingray City’, you’ll enjoy a short briefing from your guide, with plenty of fun facts about the friendly teddy bears (sorry, stingrays) you’ll be meeting, followed by a short and scenic boat ride to a shallow, natural pool in the ocean where the stingrays like to hang out. After throwing on your snorkelling gear and hopping in, you’ll appreciate the graceful beauty of these wonderful creatures in no time. Despite being over 5 metres in length, they’ll put you right at ease and, should you wish, you’ll be given the opportunity to feed them, with a little help from your guide.
Those who are not confident swimmers or who are holidaying with children should not be deterred. At Stingray City, all are welcome! The shallow depth of the natural ocean pool means this is an activity perfect for all ages, and you don’t actually have to be able to swim. Regardless of your age or swimming ability, this is a surreal, eye-opening experience that you and your loved ones can cherish forever.
2. Dining at a local Antiguan house
If you’re looking for an authentic Caribbean dining experience with a twist, head on down to Buba’s Hide Out on the south coast and enjoy a home-made three-course meal at Buba’s very own, very rustic Antiguan home. Using fresh produce grown in his own back-garden, Buba and his family will cook up a delightfully tasty treat and serve it to you as if you were one of the family.
On my recent trip I enjoyed cream of lentil soup, followed by mouth-watering chicken in a cheese and spinach sauce, with a side of rice, fresh vegetables, black beans and a jacket potato. For dessert, the lightest and most delectable of sponge cakes, with a spot of ice cream to top it off.
At Buba’s, the deliciously fresh Antiguan cuisine isn’t where the Caribbean authenticity ends, however. While digging into your meal, you’ll enjoy an evening of delightful live Antiguan music, courtesy of Buba’s very own family band. And if that’s not enough Caribbean charm for you, allow me to recommend Buba’s special rum punch to round off the night! Truly, it is an experience you’re sure to remember, which just cannot be replicated at any hotel restaurant.
3. Sunset party at Shirley Heights
If breath-taking views, cocktails, Caribbean music and barbeques are your kind of thing, look no further than the sunset party at Shirley Heights.
Set at the southern-most tip of Antigua, Shirley Heights offers a breath-taking view over the whole of English Harbour, and is the perfect place to take in a spectacular sunset. For an atmosphere like no other, visit late afternoon on a Sunday when, at 4pm, an afternoon party kicks off and carries on late into the night.
A true Antiguan institution, the Sunday afternoon party has taken place every week for over 30 years, and when you visit you’re sure to see why. With a steel drum band, flowing drinks and local food sizzling away on the barbeque, the Shirley Heights afternoon party guarantees an extra-special night with the fun-loving locals.
4. Beach bar crawl
You may not have a whole year to check out all 365 of Antigua’s beaches, but it would be rude to not sample a few! What better way to do so than on a bar crawl? Expect plenty of rum and stunning scenery as an absolute minimum on your bar crawl, turning it into a bar crawl with a true Caribbean twist.
Start your bar crawl with food at Dennis’s Cocktail Bar and Restaurant and enjoy live music while overlooking Ffryes Beach – one of the most famous on the island for good reason. The order of the day is authentic Antiguan cuisine, with an especially fantastic seafood offering.
Next stop is Rum Bus Beach. You can’t miss this place; just look out for the two red double decker London buses! If the heat becomes too much, take a dip in the boat which has been transformed into a beach pool.
Keep the bar crawl going by strutting on down to Jacqui O’s BeachHouse, aptly located on Love Beach. Grab a cabana and prepare to be waited on hand and foot. Stick around for the sunset and live the Caribbean high life while Lance, the owner, blasts Pavarotti, signalling that the party really has begun. A favourite with returning visitors, the infectious party atmosphere means you are bound to finish your bar crawl in style.
5. Jeep Safari
If, like myself, you’re an avid explorer and keen to brush up on local culture, this could be the activity for you.
Taking to the open road, your tour guide will whisk you away to Antigua’s most beautiful, rustic and rugged countryside, including important historical sites, giving you a real taste for island life. It’s not only the wonderful sights you’ll enjoy; you’ll hear fascinating stories from Antigua’s past and present, while learning about the locals, their culture and the island they call home.
With five different tours available, you can tailor your safari to suit your tastes – even combining your jeep tour with a kayak trip through the luscious mangroves of the North. Explore the rainforest, Nelson’s Dockyard and other areas inaccessible by any other vehicle. A safari tour really does allow you to see those beautiful areas of the island that are off the beaten path.
To start planning your Antigua adventure call our Travel Specialists today or make an enquiry here.