• Antigua Holidays
  • Overview

    Picture-perfect Antigua enjoys a fabulous climate and, together with 365 gloriously pristine sandy beaches backed by swaying palms and sea grape trees, a laid back atmosphere combining Caribbean warmth and good humour, and world-class hotels, it’s not surprising that this Caribbean island plays host to sophisticated sun seekers, stylish beach lovers and serial water sports aficionados.

    History

    Originally known as Waladli or Wadadl (‘our own’) by its native settlers and re-named Santa Maria de la Antigua by Christopher Columbus, the first English settlers arrived in 1632 and, soon after, Sir Christopher Codrington created the first permanent European settlement, Betty’s Hope Estate. The island served as a British naval base for Admiral Nelson and, by the end of the 18th century, was Britain’s accepted Gateway to the Caribbean. The country, now part of the Commonwealth, remained a British colony until it gained internal autonomy in 1967 and full independence in 1981.

    A tropical paradise

    Situated in the north-eastern Caribbean Sea, the twin nation of Antigua and Barbuda additionally includes the uninhabited island of Redonda. Just a nine hour direct flight from the UK, Antigua measures 14 miles long by 11 miles and is the largest English-speaking of the Leeward Islands.

    Low-lying and volcanic in origin, the highest point, 402m, is Mount Obama, formerly known as Boggy Peak, in the Shekerley Mountains, whilst the coastline curves into a multitude of delightful coves and harbours. It is surrounded by an almost unbroken offshore reef and blessed with an impressive 365 beautiful, pristine white and pink-hued beaches backed by swaying palm trees, sea grape trees, and lapped by serene turquoise waters and, together with a wonderfully verdant interior and an emerald green rainforest, Antigua is a true paradise.

    Luxurious award-winning hotels and resorts provide first class service and there’s a prevailing atmosphere of warmth and good humour; Antiguans are renowned for their ‘it’s no problem’ attitude. There’s a vibrant calypso music scene, great examples of colonial architecture and historic sights, duty free shopping, tantalisingly spicy Creole cuisine and world-renowned rum punches.

    The national sport is cricket and several West Indian legends hail from here, plus the island’s reputation as an outstanding sailing centre is unsurpassed throughout the Caribbean, and with an abundance of marine life, the diving and snorkelling is superb.

    Heritage

    Music and cuisine is typically African and West Indian although echoes of British-ness can be found throughout emphasised by colonial architecture, English afternoon teas, village cricket greens, driving on the left, rum production and the quintessential English Harbour. And, although there’s a convivial laid back atmosphere overall, casual formality tends to be the norm at dinner whether in a restaurant or hotel.

    Cuisine

    For authentic Antiguan cuisine, try one of the excellent local eateries for hearty Caribbean and spicy Creole dishes; if your preference is for extra hot, add a splash of Susie’s Hot Sauce. Fresh spiny lobster, red snapper, conch and mahi mahi are freshly caught specialities whilst Pepperpot combines hearty vegetable stew, salted meat and fungee; cornmeal and okra dumplings. Try ducana, grated sweet potato with coconut and spices steamed in banana leaf, or rotis, patties filled with curried potatoes, chicken or beef, often served at roadside stalls. Don’t miss the island’s famous extra-sweet black pineapples and bananas (confusingly referred to as figs) plus, of course, the legendary Caribbean rum.

    Getting Around

    For exploring Antigua at your own leisurely pace, we recommend hiring a car, even if it’s only for part of your holiday. Driving is on the left, so it’s pretty easy to get around but alternatively there are plenty of taxis available with drivers qualified as tour guides for sightseeing trips; rates are standard, but do confirm the price before setting off. Public buses radiate in and out of the capital, St John’s, but tend to serve local, rather than sightseeing, routes.

    South Coast

    The south coast encompasses historic English Harbour featuring Nelson’s Dockyard and Shirley Heights Lookout, Falmouth Harbour with its yacht marina and variety of restaurants and bars, and some superbly luxurious beachfront resort hotels.

    Inland, Fig Tree Drive is a beautifully scenic, steep, and sometimes bumpy road leading across rolling hills and through rainforest, leading to tiny picturesque villages, open farmland and delightful mango, banana and coconut groves. Bays and beaches include Pigeon Point, a sheltered cove with calm waters, pristine sands and shady trees; can be crowded at times as it is very popular.

    At celebrated Carlisle Bay, where the calm Caribbean meets the wilder Atlantic, the water is a wonderful shade of blue and, slightly off shore in Cades Bay, the island’s largest coral reef is perfect for snorkellers of any age and divers of every ability.

    West Coast

    There’s an array of beachfront hotels and gorgeous bays and beaches on the west coast. There’s idyllic Turner’s Beach with its excellent local-style restaurants, delightful Darkwood Beach boasting stunning views of the island of Montserrat on a clear day, off-road Ffryes Beach and, just a ten minute drive from St John’s, one of the main resort areas along this coast, Jolly Bay, with its popular hotels, fabulous mile-long stretch of white sand backed by palms, bars, watersports, golf course, marina and a plethora of restaurants.

    Hermitage Bay is a secluded paradise and highly-regarded Hawksbill Bay boasts four lovely crescent shaped stretches of sand, including the island’s official nudist beach. The southwest is home to the island’s highest peak, formerly known as Boggy Peak; re-named Mount Obama.

    North Coast

    The vibrant capital, St John’s, boasts two waterfront shopping malls, a lively farmer’s market, fabulous harbourside restaurants, an imposing cathedral and the Museum of Antigua and Barbuda set in the Georgian style Courthouse dating from 1750.

    One of the island’s two golf courses, Cedar Valley, is a ten minute drive from St John’s. Beaches and bays include one of the very finest, Dickenson Bay; a mile of beautiful golden sand fringed by hotels, lively bars and restaurants and with shallow, calm waters it’s great for watersports. North of Dickenson Bay, Paradise Reef is heralded as Antigua’s best snorkelling spot with a mile long stunning coral garden.

    On the northeast side, Jabberwock Bay is ideal for wind and kite surfing whilst Dutchman’s Bay is known for being delightfully quiet and secluded.

    East Coast

    Stingray City offers a fantastically unique experience of snorkelling amidst the graceful rays whilst the limestone arch formation of Devil’s Bridge, created by the crashing Atlantic breakers, is in a national park named Indian Town.

    Inland, Parham is a sleepy town noted for its spectacular 19th century church and Antigua’s first sugar plantation, Betty’s Hope, is located just outside the village of Pares. Remote Harmony Hall in Nonsuch Bay, built on the foundations of a 17th century sugar plantation house, is now an art gallery and restaurant.

    North Sound is a fabulous marine park with mangrove inlets and tiny islands; great for kayaking. Additional bays and beaches include Half Moon Bay with its pink-hued sands and, as it is protected from the full force of the Atlantic by a reef, it’s a great choice for families, as is Long Bay Beach with its renowned calm waters.

  • What to do?
  • Tours & Cruises
  • Hotels
 

Picture-perfect Antigua enjoys a fabulous climate and, together with 365 gloriously pristine sandy beaches backed by swaying palms and sea grape trees, a laid back atmosphere combining Caribbean warmth and good humour, and world-class hotels, it’s not surprising that this Caribbean island plays host to sophisticated sun seekers, stylish beach lovers and serial water sports aficionados.

History

Originally known as Waladli or Wadadl (‘our own’) by its native settlers and re-named Santa Maria de la Antigua by Christopher Columbus, the first English settlers arrived in 1632 and, soon after, Sir Christopher Codrington created the first permanent European settlement, Betty’s Hope Estate. The island served as a British naval base for Admiral Nelson and, by the end of the 18th century, was Britain’s accepted Gateway to the Caribbean. The country, now part of the Commonwealth, remained a British colony until it gained internal autonomy in 1967 and full independence in 1981.

A tropical paradise

Situated in the north-eastern Caribbean Sea, the twin nation of Antigua and Barbuda additionally includes the uninhabited island of Redonda. Just a nine hour direct flight from the UK, Antigua measures 14 miles long by 11 miles and is the largest English-speaking of the Leeward Islands.

Low-lying and volcanic in origin, the highest point, 402m, is Mount Obama, formerly known as Boggy Peak, in the Shekerley Mountains, whilst the coastline curves into a multitude of delightful coves and harbours. It is surrounded by an almost unbroken offshore reef and blessed with an impressive 365 beautiful, pristine white and pink-hued beaches backed by swaying palm trees, sea grape trees, and lapped by serene turquoise waters and, together with a wonderfully verdant interior and an emerald green rainforest, Antigua is a true paradise.

Luxurious award-winning hotels and resorts provide first class service and there’s a prevailing atmosphere of warmth and good humour; Antiguans are renowned for their ‘it’s no problem’ attitude. There’s a vibrant calypso music scene, great examples of colonial architecture and historic sights, duty free shopping, tantalisingly spicy Creole cuisine and world-renowned rum punches.

The national sport is cricket and several West Indian legends hail from here, plus the island’s reputation as an outstanding sailing centre is unsurpassed throughout the Caribbean, and with an abundance of marine life, the diving and snorkelling is superb.

Heritage

Music and cuisine is typically African and West Indian although echoes of British-ness can be found throughout emphasised by colonial architecture, English afternoon teas, village cricket greens, driving on the left, rum production and the quintessential English Harbour. And, although there’s a convivial laid back atmosphere overall, casual formality tends to be the norm at dinner whether in a restaurant or hotel.

Cuisine

For authentic Antiguan cuisine, try one of the excellent local eateries for hearty Caribbean and spicy Creole dishes; if your preference is for extra hot, add a splash of Susie’s Hot Sauce. Fresh spiny lobster, red snapper, conch and mahi mahi are freshly caught specialities whilst Pepperpot combines hearty vegetable stew, salted meat and fungee; cornmeal and okra dumplings. Try ducana, grated sweet potato with coconut and spices steamed in banana leaf, or rotis, patties filled with curried potatoes, chicken or beef, often served at roadside stalls. Don’t miss the island’s famous extra-sweet black pineapples and bananas (confusingly referred to as figs) plus, of course, the legendary Caribbean rum.

Getting Around

For exploring Antigua at your own leisurely pace, we recommend hiring a car, even if it’s only for part of your holiday. Driving is on the left, so it’s pretty easy to get around but alternatively there are plenty of taxis available with drivers qualified as tour guides for sightseeing trips; rates are standard, but do confirm the price before setting off. Public buses radiate in and out of the capital, St John’s, but tend to serve local, rather than sightseeing, routes.

South Coast

The south coast encompasses historic English Harbour featuring Nelson’s Dockyard and Shirley Heights Lookout, Falmouth Harbour with its yacht marina and variety of restaurants and bars, and some superbly luxurious beachfront resort hotels.

Inland, Fig Tree Drive is a beautifully scenic, steep, and sometimes bumpy road leading across rolling hills and through rainforest, leading to tiny picturesque villages, open farmland and delightful mango, banana and coconut groves. Bays and beaches include Pigeon Point, a sheltered cove with calm waters, pristine sands and shady trees; can be crowded at times as it is very popular.

At celebrated Carlisle Bay, where the calm Caribbean meets the wilder Atlantic, the water is a wonderful shade of blue and, slightly off shore in Cades Bay, the island’s largest coral reef is perfect for snorkellers of any age and divers of every ability.

West Coast

There’s an array of beachfront hotels and gorgeous bays and beaches on the west coast. There’s idyllic Turner’s Beach with its excellent local-style restaurants, delightful Darkwood Beach boasting stunning views of the island of Montserrat on a clear day, off-road Ffryes Beach and, just a ten minute drive from St John’s, one of the main resort areas along this coast, Jolly Bay, with its popular hotels, fabulous mile-long stretch of white sand backed by palms, bars, watersports, golf course, marina and a plethora of restaurants.

Hermitage Bay is a secluded paradise and highly-regarded Hawksbill Bay boasts four lovely crescent shaped stretches of sand, including the island’s official nudist beach. The southwest is home to the island’s highest peak, formerly known as Boggy Peak; re-named Mount Obama.

North Coast

The vibrant capital, St John’s, boasts two waterfront shopping malls, a lively farmer’s market, fabulous harbourside restaurants, an imposing cathedral and the Museum of Antigua and Barbuda set in the Georgian style Courthouse dating from 1750.

One of the island’s two golf courses, Cedar Valley, is a ten minute drive from St John’s. Beaches and bays include one of the very finest, Dickenson Bay; a mile of beautiful golden sand fringed by hotels, lively bars and restaurants and with shallow, calm waters it’s great for watersports. North of Dickenson Bay, Paradise Reef is heralded as Antigua’s best snorkelling spot with a mile long stunning coral garden.

On the northeast side, Jabberwock Bay is ideal for wind and kite surfing whilst Dutchman’s Bay is known for being delightfully quiet and secluded.

East Coast

Stingray City offers a fantastically unique experience of snorkelling amidst the graceful rays whilst the limestone arch formation of Devil’s Bridge, created by the crashing Atlantic breakers, is in a national park named Indian Town.

Inland, Parham is a sleepy town noted for its spectacular 19th century church and Antigua’s first sugar plantation, Betty’s Hope, is located just outside the village of Pares. Remote Harmony Hall in Nonsuch Bay, built on the foundations of a 17th century sugar plantation house, is now an art gallery and restaurant.

North Sound is a fabulous marine park with mangrove inlets and tiny islands; great for kayaking. Additional bays and beaches include Half Moon Bay with its pink-hued sands and, as it is protected from the full force of the Atlantic by a reef, it’s a great choice for families, as is Long Bay Beach with its renowned calm waters.

I love everything the Caribbean offers; a fantastic climate, great beaches and friendly people. Additionally, and especially on our chosen islands of Barbados and Antigua, there are exceptionally high standards of accommodation and, whilst choosing all the hotels and villas for this programme, I’ve been lucky enough to visit and inspect all of them personally.

Matt Rice, Deputy MD

Featured hotels

St James's Club & Villas

Perched on a secluded 100-acre hillside peninsula, exclusive St James’s Club overlooks two idyllic white sand beaches for sun worshippers and watersports enthusiasts

Request a quote

The Verandah Resort & Spa

Nestling in 30 idyllic acres on the pristine northeast coast and bordered by Devil’s Bridge National Park, The Verandah Resort & Spa is an eco-friendly resort in a superb beachfront setting

Request a quote

The Inn at English Harbour

Intimate and charming, The Inn at English Harbour offers beachfront boutique luxury, discreet service and a sense of privacy and seclusion

Request a quote

Blue Waters & Cove Suites

Set in an idyllic tropical paradise in Antigua’s north western corner and boasting an enviable reputation as one of the Caribbean’s finest resorts

Request a quote
See all hotels in Antigua

Featured hotels

St James's Club & Villas

Perched on a secluded 100-acre hillside peninsula, exclusive St James’s Club overlooks two idyllic white sand beaches for sun worshippers and watersports enthusiasts

The Verandah Resort & Spa

Nestling in 30 idyllic acres on the pristine northeast coast and bordered by Devil’s Bridge National Park, The Verandah Resort & Spa is an eco-friendly resort in a superb beachfront setting

The Inn at English Harbour

Intimate and charming, The Inn at English Harbour offers beachfront boutique luxury, discreet service and a sense of privacy and seclusion

Blue Waters & Cove Suites

Set in an idyllic tropical paradise in Antigua’s north western corner and boasting an enviable reputation as one of the Caribbean’s finest resorts

Left Right See all hotels in Antigua

Antigua special offers

See all Antigua offers

I love everything the Caribbean offers; a fantastic climate, great beaches and friendly people. Additionally, and especially on our chosen islands of Barbados and Antigua, there are exceptionally high standards of accommodation and, whilst choosing all the hotels and villas for this programme, I’ve been lucky enough to visit and inspect all of them personally.

Matt Rice, Deputy MD

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