Have you heard of Antigua and Barbuda? Not Antigua in Guatemala.
When I told people I was visiting Antigua, 99% of them have never heard of the country. It’s 324 miles from Puerto Rico. East of US Virgin Islands and North of Barbados. Here it is on the map:
If you are wanting to avoid the resort route, I’d advise you don’t. The resorts offer a lot of things to do and you don’t have to worry about transportation or food, like I did. I will admit that if I stayed an additional 3 days or more, I would have trouble finding enough things to do within Antigua.
Antigua has a beach you can visit every day of the year — 365 beaches. If you’re searching for an island with white sands and aquamarine waters, this is the place for you!
Antigua & Barbuda was colonized by the British in 1632 and received its independence in 1981. Most Antiguans are of African lineage, descendants of slaves brought to the island centuries ago to labor in the sugarcane fields.
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GETTING TO ANTIGUA
From the US, non-stop flights are available from New York City and Miami. About every month, Jetblue or American Airlines sells a roundtrip ticket from New York (JFK) to Antigua (ANU) between $277 and $298.
From Houston, roundtrip flights cost on average around $800 with a brief layover. I paid a total of $603 for 4 one-way tickets. A combination of Jetblue and Southwest.
This is the cheapest flight deal I’ve seen from Houston to date: $336 roundtrip with Delta.
THINGS TO DO
Go Horseback riding on the beach
To do this, you’ll find a guy with horses at Dickenson Bay. The ride was an hour long. We rode on Runaway Beach, which is far less crowded and just as beautiful.
Original quoted price was EC$100 per person. You can negotiate and try to get the price as low as EC$12 (local price).
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Visit Jolly Beach
There is a caveat. This beautiful beach is available to guests at the resort, but I’m not sure it’s available to the public. I was at the resort for a few hours by invitation and did not spend the night.
A night at Jolly Beach Resort is $212 USD for a room with 1 bed. They offer other activities that I was unaware of. For example, an all-day cruise around the island and jet skiing.
Snorkel with Stingray City
Reservations are highly recommended. They have 3 tour times: 9 am, 11am, and 1 pm. Price is $50 USD for persons over the age of 4. Price includes the snorkeling gear and free rum punch.
The ferry ride to where the stingrays are located was about 8 minutes. Besides snorkeling, you get to hold a stingray and feed it raw calamari. Loved every minute I was there!
Visit Nelson’s Dockyard National Park
The park entrance fee is EC20.80 ($9 USD). The site most known at the park is Shirley Heights. It’s a restaurant bar and a live band typically performs. Best time to visit is during the evenings and on Sundays. There is no activity in the mornings.
Hiked the Lookout trail which begins at Shirley Heights. It’s half a mile long and leads to Galleon Beach. Not a soul was on this trail the whole time. The terrain is very rocky. Antigua has several hiking spots. Because of the climate, it’s best to hike early in the morning or early evening.
At Galleon Beach, the waters are calm. You can even snorkel. Not much of a crowd present as you can see.
Visit Devil’s Bridge
Composed of limestone rock, the rugged terrain of Devil’s Bridge is the result of millions of years of ancient reef formation. Located on the east side of Antigua. There is no entrance fee.
Visit another country – Montserrat
Montserrat is a British territory with Anglo-Irish influence. It was devastated by Soufrière Hills volcanic eruptions in 1995 and thought it would be awesome to see how the nation is recovering and what life is like.
It was very disheartening to find out that I forgot my passport upon my arrival to the ferry terminal. Unfortunately there was not enough time to go back and get my passport. I guess it wasn’t meant to be because I’ve never had such a situation like that.
To visit Montserrat by ferry, click here. It’s a 2 hour ride and cost EC$300 roundtrip ($110 USD).
You can also fly for $200 USD and up roundtrip. It’s a 20 minute flight.
Some of Antigua’s beaches were full of brown seaweed
The smell is pungent. Apparently this type of seaweed is appearing in other parts of the Caribbean and Atlantic Ocean. The beach shown below is highly rated on Tripadvisor.
Everything is expensive. Fuel is EC$12.50 ($4.60) per liter.
Because it’s an island, a lot of food is imported. 2 boxes of Lucky Charms cereal in Antigua cost $9.25 per box (23 oz).
In Houston, that cereal is $4.48 for 25 oz.
Ground beef in Antigua is $5/lb. In Houston, the price can vary from $2.99/lb to $5.19/lb depending on which part of the cow and how lean it is.
Just some caution is needed. What Antigua calls a freeway is an ordinary two-lane street road. Their freeways are narrow and barely have any road markings.
They drive on the left side of the road. The freeway speed limit is 40 mph.
Not all streets have a name so having a map app with navigation is essential.
For authentic Antiguan cuisine, go to Annette’s in St. John’s, the capital. Located by King’s Casino on High St. The food is on point!
At Coconut Grove, which faces Dickenson Bay, I ordered what you see below. The seasoning for the kingfish was pretty good.
If you like ice cream, check out Fred’s Belgian Waffles and Ice Cream. Located in St. John’s. They serve waffles with a scoop of any ice cream flavor you want. Free ice cream samples are available.
WHERE TO STAY
I visited Jolly Beach Resort like I mentioned above and their standard room with a balcony looks decent. The guests staying there were satisfied. It’s about a 30 minute drive (10 mi/16 km) from the airport.
To book at Jolly or anywhere, use the tool below. Or if you prefer Airbnb, use my discount.
My sister lives on the island so my main source of transportation was her car. You can, however, rent a car from the airport. They have a lot of the American car rental agencies (Budget, Dollar, Thrifty, Avis). Use carrentals.com.
If you don’t want to rent, there are taxis but they are typically not on time. Uber, Taxify, and any ride-sharing service does not exist.
I noticed there are bus stops in certain spots, so there is public transportation for the locals.
Being that it was my first time in the Caribbean, my experience of Antigua was like I was in parts of Africa to a certain extent. A country filled with people that look like me. Several nameless streets. Many shacks. And an expensive place to live.
I’m a beach lover, enjoy snorkeling and horseback riding, but for the associated costs to visit Antigua, it just isn’t worth returning back when there are 24 other Caribbean countries and other territories. The locals aren’t as friendly like Americans or warm-hearted like some parts of the world I’ve traveled to. I think what was missing on this trip is I just didn’t feel a connection to locals.
Don’t get me wrong, I had a good time. But not every country will leave you wanting more. Would like to check out the island of Barbuda though.
Disclaimer: Some links in this article are affiliate links, which means if you do book through my link, I will get a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks for your support!
Have you been to Antigua? Share your thoughts below!