Head for the hills: the expert guide to hiking for beginners
Antigua offers much more than the typical tropical getaway. While this charming Caribbean island celebrates the easy life, its attributes are anything but simple. Tailor-Made Travel by Saga has a great collection of hand-picked hotels that offer an authentic experience of the island, blending down-to-earth hospitality with top-end luxury.
Antigua is undoubtedly that barefoot-in-the-sand Caribbean dream, with its sheltered coastline made up of hundreds of perfectly formed coves and sandy bays hugged by the azure waters of the Caribbean Sea to the west and the Atlantic Ocean to the east. But there’s more to it than that.
English Harbour in the south of the island blends colonial history with beautiful beaches
While Antigua’s character is grounded in relaxed charm, it’s also highly refined. A key player in the sailing scene, the island has its Charter Yacht Show that has run for six decades, bringing in the world’s finest charter yachts to the historic Nelson’s Dockyard to mark the beginning of the Caribbean sailing season each December.
Then there are the restaurants. If fresh-out-of-the-water seafood and lashings of rum are your thing, then you’ll leave Antigua satisfied, but we’d also advise exploring the island’s fine-dining scene, where grassroots Caribbean cooking and European influences collide with spectacular results.
There’s an easiness to Antigua, with its slower pace of island life – and this is complemented by the fact that you can get direct flights from the UK that take as little as eight-and-a-half hours from London.
Tailor-Made Travel by Saga provides plenty of luxury accommodation options in Antigua for a stress-free booking experience. With a little help from the experts, you can personalise your trip for the ultimate Antigua experience. Whether you’re looking for relaxation or adventure, one of Tailor-Made Travel by Saga’s luxurious four- or five-star resorts makes an idyllic base.
Getting around the island itself is just as breezy, with no shortage of cabs. If you want to hire a car yourself, there are plenty of rental services, too. The island is tiny at just 108 square miles, and just 13 miles across; it’s easily drivable within one day. There are buses on offer, most frequently running from the capital, St John’s, but they can be unreliable and the bumpy roads make for a rough ride.
Make time to enjoy some Caribbean steel band music
While the island might be small, its areas are distinctive. Lively St John’s on the west coast is lined with candy-coloured houses and there’s plenty to see and do. Shopping malls, markets and monuments provide opportunities to meander, while the Museum of Antigua and Barbuda gives the opportunity to dive into the island’s storied history, with exhibits on indigenous tribes and plantation life. If you want to escape the hustle and bustle, neighbouring Barbuda, with its secluded beaches and unspoilt landscapes, can be reached in just 90 minutes by ferry from St John’s. Head over for a day trip to see the frigatebirds, visit the caves and sample delicious fresh seafood.
English Harbour, the cultural centre of Antigua, lies on the island’s southern shores, with attractions such as Nelson’s Dockyard National Park, the Pillars of Hercules rock formation and the Shirley Heights lookout. At this high vantage point, you can soak up the best views of the island, as well as some reggae beats – an epic party takes place each Sunday, where locals and tourists mingle with live music and a weekly barbecue, the dancing colours of the fading Caribbean sky providing a backdrop like no other.
The quieter Jolly Harbour provides rolling emerald hills and quiet sandy coves to explore. Accommodation options are more quaint and colourful inns rather than five-star resorts, though there are a few luxury options in the area.
For active pursuits such as hiking, snorkelling or fishing, Falmouth is a great option, with easy access to trails that provide incredible views of the island, as well as being in close proximity to what’s regarded as one of Antigua’s standout beaches, Rendezvous Bay.
Explore Mermaid Gardens, on the stunning southern tip of Antigua
As for the food, where do we start? Antigua offers a typical Caribbean culinary experience, but its dining scene also possesses real variety. For those craving authenticity, there’s no shortage of colourful waterfront cafes where you can enjoy a portion of goat curry and a bottle of Wadadli beer.
There are also gourmet spots that will take you by complete surprise, blending cultures and influences masterfully. Try the Cove Restaurant, fusing French and Caribbean cuisines, with the option of the Connoisseur’s Choice, which presents diners with a selection of delicacies such as 28-day aged beef, lobster tail and a rack of lamb, or Hemingway’s restaurant and lounge bar, situated in an ex-hotel from the 1800s and headed up by Antiguan chef Angela, who teams the flavours of the island with European influences.
Discover fusion flavours in Antigua’s thriving foodie scene
Antigua conjures images of white-washed sandy beaches with good reason – its beaches are stunning. But like its varied dining scene, there’s plenty more of its landscape to discover aside from the obvious. Journey inland to discover Antigua’s lush rainforest and hiking trails. Hire a jeep (or book a tour) to discover the scenic Fig Tree Drive, which navigates windy roads with epic views. Watch out for old sugar mills and churches along the way.
There’s no shortage of places to stay on the island, catering for tourists looking for a slice of island life. The offering is varied, from sprawling and luxurious resorts to more intimate boutique hotels with original features that tell a tale or two about the island’s rich history. Tailor-Made Travel by Saga has a variety of options, so you can choose what suits you best.
If you’re looking for a holiday to the Caribbean that has the ability to surprise you, Antigua should be top of your list. From discovering the island’s rich cultural heritage and traversing its varied landscapes, to dining on innovative cuisine and enjoying the warm embrace of Caribbean hospitality, there’s plenty to savour. It’s no surprise it’s a destination that so many return to, time after time.
For more information about Antigua and Barbuda, go to visitantiguabarbuda.com
To book a holiday, visit Tailor-Made Travel by Saga