If you are looking for a tropical paradise with stunning beaches, friendly locals, and rich culture, look no further than Antigua and Barbuda. This twin-island nation in the eastern Caribbean is one of the safest islands in the Caribbean, with low crime rates, strict health protocols, and a stable political system.Read more: The Best Things To Do In Antigua and Barbuda- One of the Safest Islands In The Caribbean
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Antigua and Barbuda History
While the islands of Antigua and Barbuda were inhabited long before Christopher Columbus arrived in 1493, Antigua got its name from an icon of St Mary from Sevilla, Spain, it comes from the Spanish word for “ancient”. However, the original name was Wadadli given by the Arawak people who lived there.
The first English settlers arrived in 1632 and established a colony. They faced attacks from the Caribs, the French, and other European rivals. They also imported African slaves to work on the sugar plantations that dominated the economy. The slaves endured harsh conditions and resisted their oppression through revolts and escapes. In memory of this, we visited Devil’s Bridge National Park, a beautiful place with a sad somber history. More on that later, but in 1834 slavery was abolished in Antigua and Barbuda, but the former slaves still faced discrimination and poverty. In 1967, they became an associated state of Britain, with internal self-government. In 1981, they achieved full independence as a constitutional monarchy within the Commonwealth of Nations.
Quick Facts and Tips For Visiting Antigua and Barbuda
- Currency: The official currency is the Eastern Caribbean dollar (XCD), which is pegged to the US dollar at a rate of 2.7 XCD to 1 USD. You can exchange your money at banks, hotels, or authorized dealers. Most places accept major credit cards and US dollars as well.
- Sim cards: If you want to stay connected and use your phone in Antigua and Barbuda, you can buy a local sim card from one of the two main providers: Digicel or Flow. You can find their outlets at the airport or in major towns, such as St. John. You can also buy prepaid plans or top-up cards for data, voice, and text.
- Transportation: The best way to get around the islands is by renting a car, which gives you more flexibility and convenience. You can also use taxis, buses, or ferries to travel between different locations. The roads are generally well-maintained and signposted, but be aware that they drive on the left side of the road. But I highly suggest you rent a vehicle.
- Weather: Antigua and Barbuda have a tropical climate with warm and sunny weather all year round. The average temperature is around 28°C (82°F), with slight variations depending on the season and elevation. The dry season lasts from December to May, while the rainy season lasts from June to November. The hurricane season runs from June to November as well, so be prepared for possible storms and disruptions.
- Antigua and Barbuda is one of the safest islands in the Caribbean.
Now that you know a little bit about Antigua and Barbuda, let’s talk about some of the best things to do in Antigua and Barbuda that will make your vacation unforgettable.
Here are some of the best things to do in Antigua and Barbuda that will make your vacation unforgettable.
Explore the 365 beaches
There is a beach for every day of the year in Antigua and Barbuda. You can find a variety of beaches to suit your mood, from white sand to pink sand, from calm to windy, from secluded to lively. Some of the most popular beaches are Dickenson Bay, Half Moon Bay, Jolly Beach, Darkwood Beach, and Valley Church Beach. You can enjoy swimming, snorkeling, kayaking, sailing, or just relaxing on the shore. With a beach for every day of the year it is no wonder why the locals are nice and this is one of the safest islands in the Caribbean.
Visit Nelson’s Dockyard.
This historic site is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the only working Georgian dockyard in the world. It was built in the 18th century by the British Navy and named after Admiral Horatio Nelson, who lived there for three years. You can admire the restored buildings and ships, learn about the naval history of Antigua and Barbuda, and enjoy the views of the harbor and the surrounding hills.
I got to try the Mainbrace Restaurant at the Copper and Lumber Store Hotel with amazing views of the water.
Hike to Shirley Heights
If you are feeling adventurous, you can hike to Shirley Heights, a former military lookout point that offers panoramic views of English Harbour and the neighboring islands. The hike takes about an hour and a half from Nelson’s Dockyard and passes through scenic trails and ruins. You can also drive to Shirley Heights if you prefer. On Sundays, there is a lively party at Shirley Heights with live music, barbecue, and rum punch.
Experience the culture and cuisine
Antigua and Barbuda has a rich and diverse culture that reflects its African, European, and Amerindian influences. Throughout the year many events are the perfect way to see the culture of Antigua and Barbuda come fully alive, such as Carnival and Antigua and Barbuda Restaurant Week.
You can experience the local culture by visiting museums, art galleries, markets, churches, and festivals. Some of the highlights are the Museum of Antigua and Barbuda, the Harmony Hall Art Gallery, the St. John’s Cathedral, and the Antigua Carnival. You can also taste the delicious cuisine of Antigua and Barbuda, which includes seafood, jerk chicken, roti, fungi (a cornmeal dish), ducana (a sweet potato dumpling), and souse (a pickled meat soup).
If you are looking for an amazing food tour check out Eat and Lime. Our guide Tiffany was very knowledgeable about the local businesses, gave great insights into the culture of food in Antigua and Barbuda, and shared the best of the best of her food recommendations.
Discover Barbuda’s natural wonders
While Antigua is more developed and touristy, Barbuda is more pristine and untouched. You can take a ferry or a flight from Antigua to Barbuda and explore its natural wonders. Some of the attractions are the Frigate Bird Sanctuary, where you can see thousands of frigate birds nesting; the Codrington Lagoon National Park, where you can kayak through mangroves; the Indian Cave, where you can see ancient Amerindian petroglyphs; and the Pink Sand Beach, where you can enjoy one of the most beautiful beaches in the world.
Things to do in Antigua and Barbuda for Adventure Travelers
Go on a boat tour or a cruise
One of the best ways to see Antigua and Barbuda is from the water. You can go on a boat tour or a cruise that will take you around the islands and show you their beauty from a different perspective. You can choose from different options depending on your budget and preferences.
There are many tours to choose from, but while I was there I took part in a sunset cruise with Tropical Adventures Antigua. This was a fun catamaran sunset cruise where we got to dance our hearts out as we watched the sunset and took in the beautiful views of Antigua from the water. If you are looking for something more intimate you can organize an experience with Coco Vibes. Coco Vibes is certified by the Green Fins program and will have you snorkeling while learning about the beautiful coral you see.
Try some water sports or adventure activities.
If you are looking for some adrenaline rush or fun activities to do in Antigua and Barbuda, you have plenty of options to choose from. You can try some water sports such as surfing, windsurfing, kite surfing, stand-up paddle boarding, (SUP), jet skiing, water skiing, wakeboarding, parasailing, banana boating, etc.
You can also try some adventure activities such as zip lining, horseback riding, ATV riding, helicopter tours, scuba diving, etc. While it is one of the safest islands in the Caribbean I do recommend getting travel insurance for the adventurous traveler.
Stingray City Antigua Snorkel Adventure Tour
One thing I wanted to do when I came to Antigua and Barbuda was get over my fear of stingrays. When I was younger I had a sort of traumatizing experience, however, on this trip I was put at ease in the clear waters of Antigua and Barbuda. We took a boat to a sandbar area where there were tons of stingrays and we got up close with them. The guides shared with us how to approach them and what to do/what not to do. It was amazing to swim without fear snorkeling around the stingrays. I even got to hold one. Book the Stingray City Antigua adventure and safari here.
Sweet Wadidly Jungle Rides- Go Kart Tours
It is easy just to be a beach bum when you visit Antigua and Barbuda, and Sweet Wadidli wants to share some of the interior sights as well as hit up a beach to cool off after getting a little muddy. I loved this experience. We also got to go to a watermelon farm, trying it straight from the field, and met the owner as well!
We also got to see and learn about the dark history of the island by visiting the Devil’s Bridge National Park and seeing the windmills that represent a time when the sugar plantations were active. Finally, we got to relax and cool off at Half Moon Beach. If you don’t want to get dirty or wet you could also check out Go Ziplining with The Antigua Rainforest Company.
One activity that I always wanted to do was scooter snorkeling! This was such a unique experience offered in English Harbour in Antigua and Barbuda. What is scooter snorkeling? With the push of a button, you can take a glider to free dive next to sea turtles, fish, coral nurseries, and more. The picturesque Galleon Beach is located in English Harbour and is where the tour is led. We even got to see a sunken ship that has been taken over by fish. I saw puffer fish, flatfish, sea turtles, and
Where to eat?
Big Banana – Is located in St. John’s, Antigua. There are a range of dishes to choose from pasta, pizza, and it has an all around great menu. However, they are known for their pizza. I got the BBQ Chicken Pizza and it was one of the best I have had!
Get hands-on with a cooking class with Nicole’s Table
Day Trip To Barbuda
Barbuda is a beautiful island that is part of the country of Antigua and Barbuda. It is known for its pink sand beaches, coral reefs, and wildlife sanctuary. If you are visiting Antigua and want to have a day trip to Barbuda, here are some tips on how to plan your adventure.
First, you need to book a ferry or a flight from Antigua to Barbuda. The ferry takes about 90 minutes and costs USD 100 round trip. The flight takes about 20 minutes and costs USD 140 round trip. You can find more information and schedules on the official website of Barbuda Express (https://www.barbudaexpress.com/). Book your tickets in advance, as they can sell out quickly, especially during peak season. You should also check the weather forecast before you go, as the ferry and the flight can be canceled due to bad weather.
What to do on Barbuda?
Second, you need to decide what you want to do and see on Barbuda. Some of the popular attractions include the Frigate Bird Sanctuary, where you can see thousands of frigate birds nesting and flying; the Codrington Lagoon, where you can kayak or paddle board among the mangroves; the Highland House, where you can learn about the history and culture of Barbuda; and the Martello Tower, where you can enjoy panoramic views of the island. You can also visit some of the historical sites, such as the Codrington Estate, where the first settlers lived; the Indian Cave, where you can see ancient petroglyphs; and the River Landing, where Christopher Columbus landed in 1493. Another thing you won’t want to miss is the Princess Diana Beach a pink sand beach where the princess loved to visit.
Where to Eat in Barbuda?
The best place to eat for the experience is NOBU right on the water and beach. It is an amazing experience for those that love fresh fish, sushi, and enjoying a luxurious experience on Barbuda.
Tips To Visiting Barbuda
There are no ATMs in Barbuda, so you need to have enough money for transportation, food, and souvenirs. You should also bring a passport or a photo ID, as you will need to clear immigration and customs when you arrive and depart from Barbuda.
Finally, you need to enjoy your day trip to Barbuda and make the most of your time on this paradise island. You can relax on the beach, swim in the turquoise water, snorkel or dive among the coral reefs, explore nature and wildlife, or visit the local villages and shops. You can also try some of the local cuisine, such as lobster, conch, or goat curry. Whatever you choose to do, you will surely have a memorable experience in Barbuda. As you are in one of the safest islands in the Caribbean, you can take normal precautions you do while traveling solo to stay safe.
Where to stay in Antigua and Barbuda?
I had a wonderful stay at Blue Waters Resort. It was an amazing resort that is family owned and is a 4-star resort about 20 minutes from the airport, and about 15 minutes from St. John.
Blue Waters has a few restaurants and a beautiful beach, and the villas have amazing views of the ocean. The rooms were spacious. I particularly loved just listening to the waves in the morning with my cup of coffee before breakfast. The villas each had a pool, and there was even bar service right from the pool at your villa.
Blue Waters had a special event with a celebrity chef while I was there, which made dining here extra special for me one night. They also have other resort activities, and a floating tub of sorts you can sit out in the crystal-clear water.
There is also a beautiful spa and a few restaurants and bars to choose from so you will never be bored!
While I was in Antigua and Barbuda I also got to visit a few other hotels and resorts.
Where to stay on one of the safest islands in the Caribbean?
Tamarind Hills: I ate and watched a perfect sunset from Tamarind Hills ocean-side restaurant as well as got to tour one of the modern villas. If you want privacy, modern luxury, and a personal hot tub by your room with an epic sea view look no further than Tamarind Hills. I see this as being perfect for couples.
Hodges Bay – If you are young and want to have fun Hodges Bay offers a unique design concept as soon as you walk into the lobby there are art installations. I particularly loved the pools at Hodges Bay. There is a hot tub as well that is huge and has an infinity edge. There is also an iconic spaceman at the pier where you can catch a boat to the private island of Prickley Pear. While there for an event we had a private event out on the island and danced the night away after watching sunset.
The Inn at English Harbor – If you are looking for a 5-star hotel check out The Inn at English Harbour, the rates include both breakfast and dinner. The restaurant gets fresh ingredients of herbs and veggies from the garden on the grounds. Also, this place is so convenient with a water taxi for guests to take you to Nelson’s Dockyards. This is a smaller luxurious hotel with an amazing ambiance and also activities like snorkeling and kayaking available for free for guests.
Carlisle Bay- Another beautiful 5-star resort is Carlisle Bay. While I did not get to stay here I did get to enjoy a sunset on the beach here, as well as dinner. This 78-room resort has a contemporary and modern chic design and is located on a pristine beach. We ate at Ottimo at the resort.
Conclusion: Visit One Of The Safest Islands In The Caribbean Year Round!
If you are not convinced that a visit to Antigua and Barbuda, one of the safest islands in the Caribbean, is the right choice for your next Caribbean holiday after reading all of the wonderful things to do, I don’t know what to say. Maybe check out my videos on Youtube and that will convince you. This place has many activities to enjoy especially if you are solo traveling to the island, and while it is great to come with friends or some resorts are perfect for couples it is for sure a destination for everyone. With 365 days of the year and 365 beaches in Antigua and Barbuda, this is an island to experience year-round! It is one of the safest islands in the Caribbean so if you are traveling solo I do recommend visiting Antigua and Barbuda.
Check out Visit Antigua and Barbuda for more information.