Few Caribbean destinations enjoy quite as many pure white beaches as Antigua, nor have the same rich blue waters that dazzle in the sunlight. And for those seeking paradise, this is one island that won’t disappoint, for this island is about the coastline, few locals have managed to explore every beach on the island, and few travellers fail to be amazed that in these times of mass travel that Antigua contains deserted beaches where your only company is the sound of the sea.
Antigua has the atmosphere of relaxation, with the exception of the regatta and sailing weeks, the primary feel of the island is one of low key entertainment, and of good living, with most of the activities taking place in the handful of resorts that line the shores; great for star spotting Antigua is exclusive enough to be the destination of choice for the well heeled taking a winter break, but affordable enough to be accessible to all.
Sugar Ridge is one of the best known and most highly acclaimed hotels on the island, its location on a hillside above the most perfect of beaches gives an indication of its appeal, but it’s only when you see the stylish rooms, with their dark woods and leafy greenness that you begin to really understand why this hotel stands out amongst some tough competition.
The budget that allows you to stay in hotels of the calibre of Sugar Ridge isn’t available to all, and there is no reason why you can’t have a fabulous time in Antigua on a far more stringent budget; St John’s has some great hotels, guesthouses and cottages at very modest prices, try the Heritage Hotel with its location close to the cruise-ship pier – although without the luxury of the exclusive resorts, this modestly priced hotel is a great budget option.
Fine dining isn’t really a concept in Antigua, although some of the high end hotels do have very impressive restaurants, but what you will find is lots of great restaurants that serve local foods, cooked simply and packed with the flavours of the Caribbean, expect to see plenty of seafood, tropical fruits and the Creole flavours enjoyed by visitors and islanders alike.
Papa Zouk in St John’s is not only known for its lively style, its Creole beat and its fantastic fish and seafood, but it is also known as the place to enjoy one of the best selections of rums in the Caribbean; the welcome is warm, but don’t visit if you’re in any hurry to get away.
It may hark back to the colonial past, but you can’t understand the culture of Antigua without embracing its love of cricket, official matches are played during the season (January to July) and generally take place on Thursday, Saturday and Sunday; the main ground on the island is a test match venue and has excellent facilities, as well as the most amazing home crowd. Don’t be surprised to see impromptu matches take place anywhere across the island though, with anyone taking part, just relax and enjoy the islands love of its national sport.
Take a trip to English Harbour, which in its heyday as our main Caribbean Naval base was heavily defended, and really meant business; now it is nothing more than a fantastic tourist attraction, with a completely restored Georgian dockyard that holds a well thought out and interesting museum, restaurants and bars. Visit during the early evening when the grounds come alive with the sounds of the lively waterfront, and a drink as the sun sets invariably leads to several more!
Travel between December and April to escape the horrors of the British winter and to enjoy the very best of the Antiguan weather, with temperatures that are glorious but without the intensity of the peak summer months, and that lack the downpours of the rainy season or the risk of hurricanes that may arrive from August through till October.
Travel during April to enjoy two of the islands premier events: the Classic Yacht Regatta attracts all manner of vessels, and is swiftly followed by Antigua Sailing week, both as much about the social scene as the races, making it the perfect time to visit for those that like a party with their slice of paradise.