Plenty of stars have visited Antigua and Barbuda, but the real celebrities on this lovely pair of islands are the beaches. You may find bigger hotels, glitzier casinos, and better restaurants elsewhere in the Caribbean, but it’s worth traveling to Antigua and Barbuda just for these stretches of sugar-white sand — 365 of them in all, according to local lore.
- Location: Eastern Caribbean Sea on the boundary with the Atlantic Ocean
- Size: 170 square miles
- Capital: St. John’s
- Language: English (official), Antiguan Creole
- Religions: Anglican, followed by Roman Catholic and other Protestant denominations
- Currency: Eastern Caribbean dollar, which trades at a fixed rate of about 2.68 to the U.S. dollar
- Area Code: 268
- Tipping: 10-15 percent depending on the service. Some restaurants and hotels will automatically add a 10 percent gratuity. Tip porters 50 cents per bag.
- Weather: Average temperatures range from the 70s to mid 80s. Hurricane season is June through November.
Activities and Attractions
Both Antigua and Barbuda have excellent diving and snorkeling. Off the coast of Barbuda lie the remains of many shipwrecks, while the shores of Antigua are known for colorful tropical fish and calm waters. In English Harbour on Antigua, visit Nelson's Dockyard National Park, the only Georgian dockyard in the world, and completely restored from its heyday in the late 18th century. At the Saturday morning market in St. John’s you can purchase handicrafts or simply admire the tropical flowers and fruit for sale. There are many activities in the area.
The beaches are the primary reason to come to Antigua and Barbuda. Standouts include Dickenson Bay, with all the facilities and amenities you could wish for, plus calm water that is great for kids, and Half Moon Bay National Park, regarded as one of Antigua’s most beautiful beaches and popular with windsurfers. Note, however, that the surf can be rough here and there aren’t many facilities. Long Bay, whose waters are protected by a nearby reef, is another good choice for families. Barbuda’s beaches have pink sands, like those in Bermuda.
Hotels and Resorts
With a few exceptions, hotels in Antigua and Barbuda tend to be smaller and more intimate than the glitzy all-inclusives you find on other Caribbean islands. Places such as Curtain Bluff, Carlisle Bay, Jumby Bay, and the St. James's Club are exclusive and deluxe — and have the prices to match. For a glimpse into Antigua’s past, stay at The Copper and Lumber Store Hotel in St. John’s — but be warned, there’s no pool and no beachfront.
Restaurants and Cuisine
Spicy Creole flavors, British traditions and fresh seafood are all part of Antigua and Barbuda’s cuisine. Traditional local dishes include goat water, a spicy stew made with goat meat seasoned with hot peppers, cinnamon and cloves; as well as fungi, a kind of polenta, and pepperpot, a root vegetable stew. Look for raw bars along the coastline and seafood restaurants serving the likes of red snapper, spiny lobster, conch and oysters. You can sample traditional island flavors at The Home Restaurant in St. John’s. For a more casual meal, visit the Mad Mongoose in Falmouth Harbour.
Culture and History
Early inhabitants include the Arawak and Carib Indians. Although Columbus discovered Antigua and Barbuda in 1493, it was not settled until 1632. Sugar production made this an important economic colony, and by the end of the 18th century, Antigua had also become a strategic port. In 1981 Antigua and Barbuda became fully independent. Many Antiguans are descendants of Africans brought over to labor in the sugarcane fields, and their influence is seen in popular island musical traditions like calypso, steel drum and reggae. British influences are also prevalent. Locals enjoy afternoon tea as well as cricket matches.
Events and Festivals
Sailing Week, held near the end of April, has been around for 40 years and is one of the biggest regattas in the world. Carnival is another popular event, featuring local music traditions, colorful costumes, talent shows, and local cuisine.
Nightlife centers on the hotels, which present live music, limbo dancers and calypso singers. You’ll find a few casinos, such as the Grand Princess and the St. James’ Club, plus some dance clubs. The Mad Mongoose in Falmouth Harbour has a hopping bar scene, plus live music on the weekends.