DAY 1: Ready-Made
The nation of Antigua and Barbuda has one of the smoothest-running tourist infrastructures in the Caribbean — thanks in part to a World War II jet runway that’s been open to commercial flights since the 1960s. It’s like a clock keeping perfect island time. Fly nonstop from New York or Charlotte, North Carolina, to Antigua (ANU), then let the island do its thing. Check in at Hermitage Bay resort, proof that the value of an “all-inclusive” depends on what’s included — native Antiguan hardwood in cottage suites perched above the picturesque cove, for example, not to mention food to help you forget the ghost of buffet lines past. Nothing to worry about is included too.
DAY 2: Beach Counting
Antigua claims 365 beaches. Most visitors count to about three — Jumby Beach, Half Moon Bay, Long Bay (home of the classic British-style Grand Pineapple Beach Resort) — then decide on their favorite and forget the other 362. For an overview, sail around the island on Antigua Adventures’ catamaran circumnavigation tour. Request a stop on Rendezvous Beach on the south end, a secluded beauty accessible only by boat (or maybe Jeep).
DAY3: Fun for All Eras
The naval warfare that defined the Caribbean in the 18th and 19th centuries is palpable island-wide but especially at Nelson’s Dockyard — in the pillars of the old sail loft and the capstans used to careen huge wooden ships. If it’s Sunday night, the party that defines Antigua’s 21st century is above at Shirley Heights — steel drums, rum punches and views of Redonda Island in the distance. It’s more fun if you know someone, so say hello to someone.DAY 4: Away from Away from It All Barbuda Express (leaving Tuesday-Saturday from St. Johns). Take the 90-minute run on the wave-piercing catamaran to Antigua’s pretty but shy sister island. Drive through sleepy Codrington (pop. about 1,200) and catch a water taxi across the lagoon to Lighthouse Bay Resort. Accept a cool washcloth and a welcoming tropical juice, then walk through the open-air lobby to the 11-mile beach, shell pink in some seasons and home to some of the most coveted sand on Earth. With only half a dozen people on the whole expanse, you should be able to find a stretch with no footprints.
DAYS 5-6: Choose Your Own Adventure
Barbuda has lots of ways to do nothing. At the frigate-bird sanctuary (the world’s second largest), watch these incredible fliers soar and feed. For adventure, go by four-wheel-drive taxi or boat around to Rubbish Bay on the northeast side. Don’t be fooled by the name (or the namesake drifts of junk): This is a wild, pretty spot, home to caves once inhabited and illustrated by Arawak Indians. This is also one of the best places to hunt for messages in bottles. Find one. Or send one: Please don’t rescue us!