Antigua, not be confused with the city in Guatemala, is the main island in the country of Antigua and Barbuda. Nestled in the West Indies region of the Carribean, Antigua means ‘ancient,’ and was named after Christopher Columbus himself! Locally, it is also known as Wadadli, which refers to the local Amerindians who live there.
It is a small island, with fewer than 100,00 inhabitants, and its economy is reliant mainly on tourism. However, this is a place that remains largely unspoiled, with some of the most picture-perfect beaches you could possibly imagine. So much so, that many of the world’s rich and famous have been and are residents here, including Admiral Horatio Nelson, Georgio Armani and Richard Branson!
What to Do
Being a Caribbean Island, Antigua of course offers some fantastic beaches. The sand is white, the sea is clear and blue and the palm trees are emerald green. On the northwest coast Dickenson Bay offers the full tourist package. More off the beaten track are those on the south coast of the island. Rendezvous Bay takes a bit of effort to reach, but is well worth the time.
For those who lazing about on the beach doesn’t quite cut it, there is a huge amount of sailing to be done whilst in Antigua. The Antigua sailing week (usually held towards the end of April) is considered one of the world’s premier sailing regattas. In addition, throughout the year Antigua holds a whole range of sailing and yachting events, including the largest charter yacht show in the world.
Divers will be spoilt for choice over the fine coral reefs, shipwrecks and sea-floor shelves that can be found all around the Antiguan coast. Cades reef has an underwater park and it is possible to explore the three-masted merchant ship, the Andes, which sunk in 1905. Indigo Divers can help you out with everything you need to know. For those wanting to dance, Antigua has a dazzlingly colourful ten-day carnival during the summer where calypso and reggae beats fill the air.
Where to Stay
For a taste of Antigua’s history, stay at Admiral’s Inn. The late eighteenth-century building offers comfy rooms and a fantastic restaurant, all in the old dockyard. Family owned business Blue Waters resort offers everything a paradise island hotel should do, with friendly staff.
For those of you on a tighter budget, Antigua still has plenty to offer. La Galleria in St John’s is a comfortable and clean mid-range option. Anchorage Rooms, found right in the centre of town, includes wi-fi, has it’s own café down stairs, all within easy walking distance of the most lively café’s, beaches, bars and nightclubs in the capital. They are extremely good value for money. It is also very easy to organise renting an apartment or villa whilst in Antigua, and prices can be found to suit all budgets.
Where to Eat
The national dish of Antigua and Barbuda is fungie, which is a cornmeal dish similar to Polenta, and pepper pot. Other common local foods include salt fish (which is mostly eaten for breakfast), rice, plantains, salad and chicken. There is, of course, delicious fish to be had as well. Those with a sweet tooth will certainly not be disappointed. Ice cream, cake, sticky juices, sugarcake and peanut brittle are found all over the place. Tamarind is used to makes sweet stews and juices.
In season the fruit is delicious, and includes pineapples and mangos. English Harbour Rum is the local tipple of choice. In the capital, Darkwood Beach Bar is well known to be delicious, as it City View Hotel. In the resort areas, most hotels have good restaurants and it is recommended that you book ahead in high summer. Most restaurants accept credit cards, and some have a dress code.
When to Visit
Antigua is one of the sunniest islands in the Caribbean and has little rain. This makes it good for visiting year round. Peak season is from around December to April, which takes in Yacht week. As a result, cheaper deals can be found during the low season, which stretches from the end of April to around December.
However, with officially 365 beaches on the island, a visit to Antigua could take you a whole year, and you would never lounge on the same sand twice!