Luxury Antigua holidays are pure bliss. On an island with 365 beaches you could live here for a whole year and never sunbathe on the same beach twice, with secluded coves of pure pink-hued sands dissolving into waters so blue they will take your breath away. Add the fact that this stunning modern Eden also offers a cosmopolitan sophistication to satisfy the most modern of fun lovers and you'll soon discover this island has it all.
As you might expect from an island with such a strong marine tradition, many events and activities take place on and in the water. Antigua holidays are a haven for the yachting crowd who certainly know how to party, if the annual regatta in April is anything to go by.
Despite being only 14 miles long by 11 miles wide, encompassing 108 square miles, there are some great places to visit back on land, including Nelson's Dockyard National Park and St John's, the island’s capital. Also worth a visit is the legendary Shirley Heights Lookout, a restored military lookout overlooking English and Falmouth Harbours, with panoramic views that on a clear day take in Guadeloupe and Montserrat. Today it’s home to a bar and is very popular on Sundays, when a band starts playing at 3pm until late into the evening when the party really begins, so you have some great sounds to serenade you into the night.
Antigua is situated in the middle of the Leeward Island chain in the eastern Caribbean, not far north of Guadeloupe. It is the largest island of the English-speaking Leeward Islands and also the main island of the nation Antigua and Barbuda.
If you haven’t already heard, Antigua is famous for its sailing – why is why it hosts several world-class boating events throughout the year. Its circular formation and constant trade-winds make sailing fairly straightforward, while the endless delightful coves and harbours are perfect for anchoring. You can hire all sorts of boats in Antigua, and the island’s geography means that there is a boating experience on offer for everyone – for the more experienced sailors, the rugged east coast is ideal, whereas Dickenson Bay or the Jolly Harbour area are perfect for a more relaxing amateur sail.
To connect with the island’s vibrant marine life, head over to Sting Ray City, which offers visitors a memorable experience snorkeling with tame sting ray, surrounded by unspoiled coral reef and spectacular scenery. Back on land, the island boasts many popular hikes, with hilltop fortifications and stunning views to be enjoyed. Although hiking remains a fairly underdeveloped organised activity in Antigua, there are endless nature trails and hiking trails to be explored; why not head up to the lively Shirley Heights via the gorgeous Lookout Trail, for example. For a unique adventure, try zip-lining through the lush Antiguan rainforest with a Canopy Tour – you need to be in pretty good shape, but the experience is unforgettable.
Antigua is famed for its lively festivals and events running throughout the year. Popular with boating fanatics, the island plays hosts to the annual Antigua Sailing Week, which attracts over 300 yachts in late April and early May, and the Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta in mid-April. There’s also the Antigua Tennis Week in May, hosted by the Curtain Bluff resort, and the Antigua and Barbuda Sports Fishing Tournament. Another highlight is definitely Carnival, a ten-day festival celebrating emancipation and running from the end of July to early August. It’s colourful, exciting and entertaining, thanks to the eclectic mix of costumes, music competitions, food fairs and parades.
Throughout the rest of the year, head up to Shirley Heights, where you can spend Sunday afternoons lounging in the sun to live music, and the evenings partying the night the away. The restaurants on the island offer a wide variety of menus, from European and American cuisine, to authentic Caribbean and Antiguan delicacies. Local specialities include chicken and rice, fresh fish and lobster. Some of the best restaurants and bars can be found in and around English Harbour, while mouth-watering fresh juices should be tried from a local farm – the pineapple juice is divine!
Time difference: GMT -4 hours
Flight duration: 8 hours 40 minutes (direct)
Currency: Eastern Caribbean Dollar (although the US Dollar is widely accepted)
Capital: St John's
Visa information: No visa required for citizens of United Kingdom, United States and Canada; valid passport required.
British Airways and Virgin Atlantic fly direct from London Gatwick, landing at Antigua's VC Bird International Airport in the north-eastern corner of the country, a 15-minute taxi ride from the capital, St John's.
The weather in Antigua is hot and dry all year round with even the highest temperatures cooled by refreshing sea breezes and the trade winds. The weather becomes unsettled between June and November, with storms an occasional possibility.
Antigua’s high season is the same as the majority of the Caribbean and most travellers will visit the island from December through to the middle of April as the weather during this period is at its warmest and driest.
For those looking to avoid the larger crowds and take advantage of the lower prices should visit in the off season which runs from mid-April through to late November. Antigua however remains relatively dry during most of the year.
Another element to take into consideration when choosing when to visit is the island’s seasonal events calendar. Like most of the Caribbean Antigua hosts many festivals and events that would make a great addition to your holiday.
At the end of April and start of May Antigua plays host to Sailing Week, which is the most popular of the events held on the island. Over five thousand spectators visit the regatta to watch the world’s best sailors in action. Also in April is the Classic Yacht Regatta which means April is the ideal time for sailing enthusiasts to visit.
The Antigua Carnival is held in late July and early August and includes the wonderful combination of fantastic cuisine, drink plus costumes and dancing. The island’s Independence Day is on 1st of November and its heritage day on 29th of October.