It would be easy to devote your trip to simply enjoying the beaches of Antigua. After all, there are 366 and each, with its white sand and clear water, is picture perfect. But, if you did, you’d miss out on getting to know the personality of this laidback island full of surprises.
Get ready for a lively Jeep tour, a zipline experience, reefs to snorkel and scuba dive, and a Sunday night block party where the whole island is invited.
Party at Shirley Heights Lookout
Come Sunday night, Shirley Heights Lookout is the place to be. This scenic overlook grants sweeping views of English Harbour, the sea and a few nearby parishes. Come for the barbecue dinner—choose from ribs, burgers, chicken and more, straight off the grill—and stay for the ongoing party. A live steel pan band sets the mood for dancing.
Or, for more low-key types, head to the nearby hillside for a lower volume of music while stargazing and hanging out.
Kids ages 4 and older—so long as they weigh 35 pounds—can join Antigua Rainforest Zipline Tours’ 13-line challenge course, the only ziplining option on island. The course, with the longest line spanning 365 feet, also includes nine ropes challenges above the trees.
The best part: If your photo wall at home is in desperate need of a photo of you or your kids screaming and laughing high up in the jungle, rest easy. Staff photographers take action shots and video, so the adventure is well-documented.
Explore the Pillars of Hercules
Right at the mouth of English Harbour, this natural wonder of columns carved by water is typically viewed by boat. You can also hike in, starting from Galleon Beach. Walk around the crescent-shaped beach until you reach the limestone formation. Wear shoes with grip or hop in the water to swim the last piece until you reach the pillars. Then, take advantage of a perfect photo op with nobody else around.
Join Pink Panther Safaris
It’s not an island tour—it’s a party that just happens to take place inside a Jeep as it travels around Antigua. Seriously, the personalities of the local guides add so much flavor and fun as you see every inch of the island, from beaches to overlooks, sugarcane plantations to historic forts.
This trip is a good way to check off a lot of island must-sees, including Nelson’s Dockyard, the Devil’s Bridge and Shirley Heights. The 8-hour experience includes a beach visit, lunch with a view of English Harbour, plus a shopping opportunity in the main city of St. John’s.
Yes, Antigua has golf, but just three courses—only two of which are open to the public. Cedar Valley Golf Course, just a 10-minute drive north of Saint John’s, is the best value, and heads and shoulders above the other public option. Plus, it’s the island’s only 18-hole championship course. Cedar Valley rates highly with players, thanks to its challenging design and hilltop vistas.
Jolly Harbour Golf Club, sitting on the eastern coast, is a second option, but doesn’t pack as much thrill in the design. Mill Reef Club is a third option, but you can only play if sponsored by a member of the club.
Experience Sailing Week
Every spring, Antigua launches into boat madness as Sailing Week descends upon English Harbour. In addition to the five days of sailing regattas, the schedule includes nightly events, including beach parties, outdoor reggae concerts and of course a final awards ceremony—and party.
With Sailing Week, you can also expect a running race and cycling race, so enthusiasts of other sports get in on the action, too.
Antigua’s reefs and sea conditions are well-suited to beginner snorkelers. Spots such as Long Bay on the east side of Antigua is just a 100-yard swim from shore to reach corals and sponges supporting colonies of surgeonfish, French grunts and bluehead wrasse.
Another option is to book a day trip to visit one or several satellite islands, such as Green Island, Bird Island or Prickly Pear Island. Or take on Stingray City, where guests can hand-feed the Southern stingrays for an up-close experience with this velvet-smooth species.
Coral-and-sponge-covered boulders plus offshore reefs and even a few wrecks define the Antigua scuba diving experience. One of the most popular sites is Cades Reef, found off the southwestern tip of Antigua. This site is a haven for marine life—including lobsters, eagle rays, nurse sharks and schools of blue tang, Creole wrasse and more.
Another popular site, regularly visited by Mamora Bay Divers, is just below the Pillars of Hercules, a shallow site home to green sea turtles, eels and a host of small critters.
Artisans Antigua Traveling Market
Held at the Antigua Yacht Club Marina and Resort, this farmers and artisans market brings together local produce and homemade goodies, as well as souvenirs made by locals. You can find leatherwork, woodwork, bow ties, canvas bags, jewelry, paintings, photography, soaps, beauty products and eco-products.
Even if you’re not in the market for souvenirs, stop by for a drink; Local vendors sell small-batch beer, wellness teas and fresh-pressed juices. The market is a regular event, held alternating Thursday evenings.
Visit the Donkey Sanctuary
A fun stop for animal lovers and kids, Antigua’s Donkey Sanctuary houses 150 of the rescued animals. Guests can meet, pet and brush a handful of the residents, which are clearly well loved and taken care of. The sanctuary is free but welcomes donations to be able to keep up with the work they’re doing. Find it on the eastern side of island, open every day except Sunday.