Antigua and Barbuda is a nation known for its beaches, and a quick look at the map will tell you why that is true. Many of the beaches are in coves, protected from rough surf and perfect for snorkeling, diving, and other water sports. But Antigua (pronounced an-TEE-ga) offers more than beaches. Take a look at five money saving tips for enjoying this island nation in the Eastern Caribbean without breaking your travel budget.
Priority One: Beaches
The best value in Antigua is the incredible beaches. They claim there is one for each day of the year. No beach here is considered private, so no one will charge you a penny to throw down a towel and enjoy the day. Coves in the coastline create calm waters for snorkeling and other water sports. If you stay at a resort, chances are you'll have convenient beach access. Cruise ship visitors should hire a cab driver and ask for a ride to the beach. The beach at Long Bay, near the Long Bay Hotel, is a great choice for sunbathers and snorkelers. Other recommended beaches include Runaway Bay and Hawksbill Beach. Don't be afraid to hike a bit to a beach off the roadway...the rewards are sometimes a secluded and less crowded stretch of sand.
Beach Access Is Free, Amenities Are Not
Taxi drivers and tour operators often take you to a beach where the access is free, but anything else will cost you. Even a beach chair with an umbrella is $20 USD in some places. There are ways to combine expenses. Some hotels will accord guest privileges to day visitors who eat lunch in their beachside restaurants. Be warned: this lunch will most likely be overpriced, but if it also gets you access to restrooms and beach chairs, it might be a good buy.
Snorkeling Is Extraordinary
Snorkeling in Antigua could beachside fill up an entire day of your visit, and the costs are generally inexpensive. Once you've reached the beach (taxi charges can be negotiated) many places will rent equipment. It's probably best to bring your own mask, snorkel, and fins from home, where prices aren't set with a desperate, last-minute tourist in mind. You'll see a wide variety of fish species and impressive coral formations. Take care not to touch the coral, which causes damage to the reefs and makes the site less attractive to the budget traveler arriving after your departure.
Antigua's sheltered harbors provided great places for pirates and military fleets to take cover and recover from their latest forays. The British Navy chose a site on Antigua that became known (not surprisingly) as English Harbour. Nelson's Dockyard is named for the British naval legend who helped establish the facility. Beginning in 1951, the place was slowly restored for visitors. You'll see how ships had to be "careened" to remove parasites from their hulls, and you'll see a well-appointed museum. There are brief guided tours included with the modest entrance fee. All but a few naval history buffs will probably find it a short stopover, but if you spend even an hour or so, the admission fee is well worth paying.
Limit Your Shopping
You will certainly find beachside shops on Antigua, especially in the capital of St. John's. But this is not a place to spend extended periods shopping, especially if your time is limited. Much salesmanship is directed at cruise ship passengers arriving in port. There are interesting local crafts for sale, but beach time is the best value you can reach in Antigua.