Antigua is one of the most luxurious and laid-back islands in the entire Caribbean, and there's no shortage of activities for both leisure and adventure travelers alike. Whether snorkeling the pristine reef surrounding the Twin Islands (the nickname for the nation of Antigua and Barbuda) or hiking to Shirley Heights for a spectacular sunset, the active traveler is sure to be satisfied with their visit. But if you're more interested in sunbathing at Pigeon Beach or sipping cocktails in the Antigua Yacht Club Marina, we don't blame you—just make sure you head to Carlisle Bay one evening for the sunset. Read on for the 15 best things to do in Antigua, and get ready to plan your next visit.
Head to Shirley Heights Overlook for the legendary Sunday Barbecue, which is now in its 31st year of operation. Enjoy live music, rum cocktails, and a spectacular sunset overlooking English Harbour. Not in Antigua over the weekend? Not to worry. "Reggae Heights" on Thursday night is another chance to get together with both locals and visitors to celebrate the island. Ambitious travelers can embark on the popular Shirley's Height Hike on their way up to the festivities, though thankfully there will be no shortage of taxis to assist revelers on the way back down.
Carlisle Bay's private beach in Old Road, Antigua, is one of the most picturesque spots on the island. And you don't need to book a room at the supremely elegant resort to enjoy the seaside view. Make a reservation for dinner at Indigo on the Beach to appreciate the spectacular sunset as it sets on the water (a sight best enjoyed over a rum cocktail or three.)
If you love water sports, nature, and rum punch, look no further than Adventure Antigua, your one-stop shop for island activities. Established in 1999, "Eli's Eco Tour" distinguishes itself from your typical Caribbean booze cruise. Visitors will snorkel the pristine North Sound (where you're likely to spot sharks, stingrays, and squid) and walk the nature trail of Great Bird Island. Of course, rum will be served as well—this is Antigua, after all.
Snorkel at the Pillar of Hercules
Thanks to its beautifully clear, turquoise waters, Antigua is a spectacular place for divers and snorkelers to explore the Caribbean Sea. Venture to the Pillar of Hercules, a rock formation which is just as majestic as it sounds. St. John's Xtreme Circumnavigation offers outings to the pillar, as do many other outfitters. If you book with Island Routes, your tour will include Stingray City and Nelson's Dockyard as well. Plus, you will get the chance to explore the secluded Galleon Beach, one of the most beautiful on the island.
Stingray City is one of the most appealing attractions in all of Antigua. Sign up for a boat tour to visit the floating docks where the wild stingrays congregate. Visitors can take photos of the stingrays, and even visit them in the water. Fearful travelers, take note: The stingrays actually seem to enjoy the company of their human guests, and truly mean no harm. If you don't trust us now, after one visit to Stingray City, you will.
Explore Nelson's Dockyard
Nelson’s Dockyard is a must-visit for travelers. Located in the heart of English Harbour, this beautiful and historic fort is bursting with restaurants, stores, a museum, and marina waiting to be explored. Come for the weekly "Seafood Fridays" festivities at the Copper & Lumber Store Historic Inn.
The best way to explore the famously turquoise waters off the coast of the Twin Islands? By catamaran, of course. But why settle for just any sailing cruise when you can book your own private charter for you and your travel companions? Opt for a four-hour brunch or sunset cruise with Antigua Island Paradise—but if it's a special occasion, why not splurge for a night on-board? There's a reason why all the major yachts leave the south of France for Antigua in the colder months, and you owe it to yourself to find out why. Go ahead and see how the other half lives.
When in Antigua, you'd be remiss not to sample some of the local flavor—by which we mean rum. Sign up for a rum tasting at Antigua Distillery Limited, established in 1932. Sip some world-class aged rums while you learn about the history of sugar on the island and meet the mastermind rum-makers behind the heritage brand.
Horseback Riding Along the Caribbean Sea
A trip to the Caribbean wouldn't be complete without some beachside horseback riding. We recommend booking a tour in St. John's with Island Routes, who will take you alongside the 18th-century cannons of Fort James and into the Caribbean water at Runaway Beach.
Enjoy Dockside Cocktails in English Harbour
English Harbour is the most happening spot in Antigua, and the nightlife within the marina is legendary. Check out Skullduggery's Cafe—known as Skully's to locals—for one of their world-famous martinis (we hesitate to recommend pre-gaming your dinner with one of these dangerously delectable concoctions, but use your own judgment).
Afterward, visit one of the many bars located within two blocks of the marina. Our top recommendation, Cloggy's, is very popular for being the site of endless rosé lunches by day, and raucous dance parties by nightfall.
Follow the Nature Trail on Great Bird Island
Located off Antigua's northeast coast, Great Bird Island is a 20-acre private island that is open to the public (though the undisturbed wildlife and nature would suggest otherwise). Hike along the nature trail, where you will discover lush vegetation, untouched coastlines, and a tropical cave on a hilltop, through which you can hear the ocean below.
Jet-Skiing at Jolly Harbour Beach
Jet-skiing is one aquatic activity you should absolutely take advantage of during your trip to Antigua; Jolly Beach, on the west coast of the island at Jolly Harbour, is the ideal destination for said activity. The vivid hues of the water—and the proximity of operators selling jet-ski rentals—ensures you are in for an invigorating splash of a beachside afternoon.
Visit Turtle's Surf Shop in Falmouth Harbor Marina and rent paddleboards to explore the nearby beaches. This low-impact, low-stress daytime activity is the ideal way to observe the natural beauty of Antigua Island. The pink-sand coastline and hillside rainforests are best appreciated from out at sea.
For a more scenester approach to sunbathing, make your way to Sheer Rocks. This stylish restaurant at Cocobay Resort Antigua offers a chic, yet laid-back party scene. Situated on a bluff overlooking Ffryes Beach, Sheer Rocks boasts a spectacular sunset, though the ambiance is just as happening in the daylight hours. Reserve a day bed and enjoy the music, cocktails, and scenery for as long as your heart desires.
Take a Day Trip to Barbuda
While visiting Antigua, you should consider a day trip to nearby Barbuda, which is equally beautiful though far less inhabited. Located only 28 miles from Antigua, Barbuda boasts a spectacularly diverse ecosystem. Witness gorgeous stretches of pristine pink-sand beaches, visit the largest Frigate Bird Colony outside the Galapagos, and enjoy unparalleled snorkeling and diving opportunities (just make sure to bring your own equipment). The 90-minute Barbuda Express runs six days a week between the Twin Islands, and day tours are available Monday through Friday.