Antigua is blessed with an abundance of fine white-sand beaches, but only in the southwest of the island, where a ridge of rainforest-covered hills rises abruptly from the patchwork of farmland, is the scenery grand and lushly tropical. Secluded behind this barrier, the nearby coastline has remained blissfully unspoiled. The country’s capital, St. John’s, is an uninteresting place much frequented by large cruise ships, but English Harbour in the south of the island is extremely pretty and is the site of Nelson’s Dockyard, a restored colonial naval station that contains an array of 18th-century neoclassical buildings. The highlight of the year is Antigua Sailing Week at the end of April.
English Harbour Rum
Antigua is not well-known for its rums, but it has a robust industry and a couple of fine products. The most common bottling is the brand Cavalier, which is good for mixing. A more refined product is English Harbour. Among the iterations of this elegant rum are five and 10 years old. The five-year-old iteration makes a nice sipping rum before dinner, as its sweetness makes it resemble a stronger sherry, such as an Amontillado. The 10-year-old is definitely for a reflective interlude after a meal.
The St. John’s Market
St. John’s can be overrun with cruise ship passengers, but we still make time for an excursion to its vibrant Saturday morning market. Vendors come from all over the island to sell fruits, flowers and handicrafts. It’s best to arrive early, around 8 a.m., before the market becomes too crowded.
The main public beach on Antigua’s south coast, Pigeon Point is popular with families and locals and is the island’s best beach for people-watching. While not exactly “undiscovered,” Half Moon Bay, a pristine curve of pinkish-white sand is very often deserted.
Shirley Heights on Sundays
For picturesque sunset views, visit Shirley Heights on Sundays, when visitors can enjoy a barbecue accompanied by rum punch and a steel band. For more local flavor, experience the island’s vibrant music and dance scene during the Antiguan Carnival, which takes place at the end of July and the beginning of August.
To phone hotels in Antigua and Barbuda, dial 1 + 268 (Antigua and Barbuda code) + local numbers.
Eastern Caribbean dollar (XCD). Set rate valued at XCD2.7 = US$1.00 as of April 2020. Note: Our suggested hotels quote rates in US$.
None. U.S. Embassy is located in Barbados, Tel. (246) 227-4399. Consulate: St. John’s, Tel. (268) 463-6531.