Antigua and Barbuda Holiday Planning Guide
Antigua and Barbuda is a twin-island country in the Americas, lying between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. It consists of two major inhabited islands, Antigua and Barbuda, and a number of smaller islands (including Great Bird, Green, Guinea, Long, Maiden and York Islands and further south, the island of Redonda). The permanent population numbers about 81,800 (at the 2011 Census) and the capital and largest port and city is St. John's, on Antigua. Separated by a few nautical miles, Antigua and Barbuda are in the middle of the Leeward Islands, part of the Lesser Antilles, roughly at 17°N of the equator. The country's name was given by Christopher Columbus in 1493 after discovering the island, in honor of the Virgin of La Antigua in the Seville Cathedral. The country is nicknamed "Land of 365 Beaches" due to the many beaches surrounding the islands. Its governance, language, and culture have all been strongly influenced by the British Empire, of which the country was formerly a part.
Places to Visit in Antigua and Barbuda
Regions of Antigua and BarbudaAntigua
: The larger of the two main islands, Antigua, with its natural biodiversity and innumerable beaches, boasts world-renowned annual regattas.Barbuda
: Antigua’s smaller and simpler counterpart, this island offers a laid-back Antigua and Barbuda holiday, with amazing birdwatching opportunities and famous pink sands.
Cities in Antigua and BarbudaSt. John's
: Bursting with historical and cultural places, as well as some of the best shopping sites (including various markets) in the country, this largest city and capital is a must-see on your Antigua and Barbuda trip.Saint Paul Parish
: Discover the history, maritime atmosphere, and the tucked-away beaches and other scenic natural sites in Saint Paul Parish, a town famous for its pristine diving opportunities. Jolly Harbour
: Best known for its abundance of places to shop, Jolly Harbour also boasts numerous restaurants, resorts, and sports areas for recreation.Bolans
: Although once a heavily agricultural area, Bolans is quickly becoming a popular tourist destination often included in Antigua and Barbuda itinerary, mainly because it attracts tourists to its large marina and a boatyard.Codrington
: Different from most of the country’s sites that offer tropical paradise, Codrington gives an insight into the turbulent past through stories of slavery and rebellions, as well as the remains of an 18th-century fort.
Popular Antigua and Barbuda Tourist AttractionsStingray City
: As the name suggests, this city is abundant with the gliding marine creatures; you can carefully observe, feed, and even pet stingrays as part of a dive or boat ride.Shirley Heights
: One of the best places to meet and engage in the local culture and customs, Shirley Heights features various public music and barbecue events on a weekly basis.Nelson's Dockyard
: Named after Admiral Horatio Nelson, and once a prominent harbor, the site today offers a variety of shopping and dining places, along with a museum, craft shops, and the restored marina.Valley Church Beach
: Providing a contrast to the buzzing sites, this white-and-pink beach together with the transparent shimmering water represents a real sanctuary and a place to experience quiet time under the shade of palm trees.Betty's Hope
: A large sugar plantation established in the 17th century, today this site represents a museum that commemorates the hardships of slaves who worked in difficult conditions.Devil's Bridge
: Although beautiful--a one-of-a-kind natural limestone formation created by the sea--Devil’s Bridge is potentially dangerous, as the name suggests, because there’s nothing stopping the strong winds here.Museum of Antigua and Barbuda
: Learn about the turbulent past of the country in this relatively small, national museum through numerous historical artifacts; you’ll also learn by listening to stories by the guides.Heritage Quay
: An outdoor space that boasts duty-free shops and outlet stores, along with numerous coffee shops and eateries, Heritage Quay also provides you with a view of docked ships and the open sea.Half Moon Bay
: Showcasing the unusual pink sand, this bay offers a calm and secluded stretch of sand and clear, calm water--especially great if you need some time alone on your Antigua and Barbuda holiday.Dickenson Bay
: Offering lots of water sports and other activities, as well as the much-needed beach amenities, the bay is a favorite spot to swim, snorkel, sip on a cold drink, or sunbathe on the clean, soft sand.
Planning a Antigua and Barbuda Vacation with Kids
Places to Visit in Antigua and Barbuda with Kids
Antigua and Barbuda vacation ideas with kids can include a variety of places all over the country, since most of the towns and sites are kid-friendly, so your choice depends on the preferences of your family.
If you’re looking for quiet and secluded beaches where you can relax and take the youngest swimming or some other water activity, head for Barbuda
and its clean sands which are usually not crowded and noisy. Saint Paul Parish is especially tucked away and safe. Antigua
:, on the other hand, is known for its vibrant, lively, larger beaches with a range of amenities that cater to families with babies and small children, such as showers and small shops.
For those who’d like to learn a thing or two about the local history, Codrington
: and other historical sites offer an interesting pastime, as you wander through the old buildings and memorabilia or stop to hear the locals’ stories and legends.
Another favorite family activity, hiking and observing the natural world, is best on Prickly Pear Island, although Antigua’s beaches and waters offer the insight into the underwater creatures as well.
Things to Do in Antigua and Barbuda with Kids
Depending on your kids’ interests, you can plan your Antigua and Barbuda itinerary so that they can engage in a variety of activities in numerous attractions throughout the country.
For a thrilling adventure reminiscent of the Peter Pan story, go for Pirates of Antigua
, where the kids will get the opportunity to dress and talk like pirates, and even go searching for shipwrecks. Visiting Tropical Adventures - Island Safari
and Springhill Riding Club
provides kids with the chance to learn about the plant and animal life on the island, in addition to taking on numerous snorkelling and hiking trips.
Teenagers might find Segway Antigua Tours interesting and challenging, because they’ll have to learn how to control the vehicle and then go exploring the nature of Antigua.
Tips for a Family Vacation in Antigua and Barbuda
If you’re going on an Antigua and Barbuda trip with kids, most of the hotels and resorts offer kids’ areas and playgrounds, and some of them even provide babysitting services. The playgrounds are usually free for the youngest, and you can check in advance to find hotels with a free stay for kids of a certain age.
Travelling with babies and toddlers means you’ll need diapers and other hygiene products you can find in any supermarket. As far as transportation with kids is concerned, decide for yourself whether you want to rent a car or a taxi; keep in mind that you’ll need to use boats for separate islands.
Make sure to use mosquito and bug repellent at all times, especially when spending the day on the beach.
Dining and Shopping on Holiday in Antigua and Barbuda
Cuisine of Antigua and Barbuda
Due to the diversity and variety of styles and cooking techniques, the country’s cuisine is always interesting and tasty to try. Most of the meals in Antigua and Barbuda include lots of vegetables, chicken and pork, fish, pastries, and pasta. If you ask for a traditional meal, you’ll get fungie (made with corn flour and okra), lobster, and all kinds of rice dishes. There are numerous home bakeries throughout the islands where you can buy fresh, warm pastries with cheese, fruit, or some other filling.
The people of this country pay special attention to preparing and eating sweets, namely homemade caramels and brittles, along with other soft and hard candies. You’ll surely hear about the famous Antiguan pineapple, which is allegedly the sweetest and tastiest in the world. Due to the geography and climate, the area is rich with many other tropical fruits as well.
As far as drinks are concerned, the most famous one here is the Christmas liquor, very strong and sweet. Some other common beverages include seamoss, and a wide variety of fresh pressed fruit juices, such as lemonade, mango, cranberry, guava, hibiscus juice, and coconut milk.
Shopping in Antigua and Barbuda
An Antigua and Barbuda holiday promises to deliver a diverse and fruitful shopping experience, wherever you’re staying and going. The streets of both the capital city and smaller towns are sprinkled with small vendors who sell arts and crafts. This way you can find affordable pieces of jewelry, textiles, shawls, footwear, and souvenirs. Local shopping allows you to support the people by purchasing a unique, handmade item.
On the other hand, there are a lot of high-end shopping stores in the capital, such as duty-free and outlet places. A large number of international brands can be found here, as well, for lower prices than usual. You can also find jewelry stores with quality gems, and perfume stores that sell famous brands, as well.
Know Before You Go on a Trip to Antigua and Barbuda
Interesting Facts About Antigua and Barbuda
Some of the world’s most famous cricket players come from this country, such as Andy Roberts.
The country is known for the sport of crab racing, a very popular activity; be sure to add it to your list of Antigua and Barbuda things to do.
The famed Antiguan black pineapple is used for a variety of purposes, such as making rope.
The V on the flag symbolizes the victory over slavery, and the red color represents the blood of the slaves.
Things You Should NOT Do in Antigua and Barbuda
When on your Antigua and Barbuda holiday, keep an eye on your personal belongings at all times, since pickpocketing is a common thing in some areas. Also, never photograph buildings, signs, or people without asking, otherwise you may be asked for money or perhaps even verbally assaulted. As far as dress code is concerned, there aren’t strict rules, but if you can, avoid wearing camouflage fabric, as you can stand out, and in some parts it’s even forbidden.
Since Antigua and Barbuda is a country with high temperature and humidity, it’s natural that insects are everywhere. Therefore, wear a lot of sunscreen and insect repellent to stay safe. Wearing shoes in the sea is also advisable, especially for kids, due to the sea urchins and sharp sea shells in the sand.
Holidays & Festivals in Antigua and Barbuda
Most of the events and festivals take place in Antigua, since it’s a larger and more populated island. Depending on your time of arrival, you can attend a variety of public festivals during the year.
One of the most famous and popular is Wadadli Day, in St. John’s in February, celebrating the nation’s history and culture. Another one is Independence Day, on November 1, which commemorates the separation of the United Kingdom and is followed by large public celebrations and street performances. On this day all schools and public institutions are closed.
Antigua has its own carnival every year in early August, when the streets of all towns are filled with costumed people, music, dance events, food stalls, and an overall cheerful atmosphere.
Useful Antigua and Barbuda Travel Tips
Common Greetings in Antigua and Barbuda
Although you won’t have problems with language on your Antigua and Barbuda holiday due to the fact that the official language is English, there are dialects you might find a bit odd and different. They all sound like English, but some words and expressions are different, as is the spelling.
That’s why it’s a good idea to learn some of the words in native dialects. To begin with, you’ll need to know “Marning. Ah wa g’wan?" (Good morning. What’s up?), “Eh tase good" (Tastes good), “Me yah" (I’m feeling okay).
It’s the same language, just a bit simplified, as usually happens with the dialects of Caribbean islands. Even if you can’t use it, everyone will understand English, so you needn’t worry.
Climate of Antigua and Barbuda
The position of the country dictates its temperatures and overall climate, so when you’re planning your Antigua and Barbuda vacation, you’ll want to check the numbers before you go.
The climate is tropical overall. The warmest season lasts from October to January, with the average temperatures ranging from 30-35 C (86-95 F). The highest temperatures are around 40 C (104 F), and the lowest 22 C (72 F).
The period from June to November is characterized by frequent rains, and even hurricanes, so if you decide to go during this time, make sure to take all the needed precautions.
Transportation in Antigua and Barbuda
As far as public transportation is concerned, Antigua has the most options, with its public bus system. Most of the buses go through all the towns except for the tiniest and most distant villages. However, take care on your Antigua and Barbuda trip, since most of the buses drive only during the day, so you’ll have to stay somewhere for the night if you miss the last bus.
Barbuda, although it offers numerous delights, has no public buses, so you’ll need to either walk or take a taxi. The taxis are owned by people, and they can charge you a great deal, so the best thing to do is agree on the price before embarking on your journey.
As far as going from one island to another is concerned, you’ll want to take a boat, which is the most affordable option.
Tipping in Antigua and Barbuda
Similar to a large number of dining places around the world, the restaurants you’ll eat at on your Antigua and Barbuda holiday charge the usual 10 percent tip onto your bill. However, it’s a customary to give your waiter an additional 5 percent, but it’s not mandatory.
If you’re staying in a hotel, the carriers will expect a $1 tip per bag. Be prepared to give your taxi driver a 10-15 percent tip, depending on the cost of the drive. This may seem like a lot of money, but bear in mind that tips may be their only income.