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Is Antigua Worth Visiting?

Is Antigua Worth Visiting?

When I landed in Antigua, the local officials meeting me—this was back during the days when I regularly got invited on media trips—were surprised. “No one ever talks about her anymore,” they laughed, referring to Jamaica Kincaid, the island’s most famous author, at least internationally. “Or that book.”

The tome in question was A Small Place, which I had become mildly obsessed with during my last year of college. Not so much for the subject matter (although it did necessarily affect me), but for the unique, second-person narration, which made the admittedly short novella pass as quickly as a short story.

To be sure, I had no business attempting to invoke the venom Kincaid spews at foreign visitors like myself within minutes of arriving to her native island. But I am definitely qualified to answer the question you’re asking: Is Antigua worth visiting?

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How to Get to Antigua

Since my Antigua trip was paid for, I flew. You’d think this would be convenient, but at the time, there were only two flights a day from Miami, the US airport with the most Caribbean connections. These days, there are a few more flights (a non-stop from Atlanta on Delta; ones from New York-JFK on JetBlue and American), but it’s still inconvenient (and, if you don’t book in advance, expensive).

Another option, depending on your flexibility (and again, ability to book in advance) would be to take a short weekend cruise, whether from Tampa, Miami or some other east coast port. The advantage of this? You typically get to see many other islands along the way, including the jewels of the Bahamas. The disadvantage, of course, is that you likely won’t get very long in Antigua itself.


What to Do in Antigua

Enjoy the view from Shirley Heights Lookout

To me, the most beautiful place in Antigua is Shirley Heights Lookout, which provides a panorama of gorgeous Galleon Beach and the emerald hills rising around it. It’s easiest to get here if you have your own transport—I thankfully did—but if not, many local tours do stop here.

Explore Old Town St. John’s

Given its reputation as a “beach” destination, you might not assume that an old town is part of what makes Antigua worth visiting. However, whether we’re talking about specific buildings like St. John’s Cathedral, or various merchants and seafood mongers, colorful St. John’s is definitely one of my favorite spots in Antigua.

Pick a beach, any beach

Did you know that Antigua has 365 beaches—literally one for every day of the year? The aforementioned Galleon Beach notwithstanding, some of my other favorites include virgin Rendezvous Bay Beach on the southern coast, and the unique Pig’s Paradise (which literally lives up to its name) in the center-west.

Chat with locals

The bad news? As I explained in the intro, my attempt to use a literary figure to relate to my Antigua hosts was a massive fail. The good news? Once we started talking about less contentious topics, local hospitality ended up being one of the main reasons I now believe that Antigua is worth visiting.

Take a day trip to Barbuda

People often forget that the country is officially called Antigua—and—Barbuda. In spite of this, it’s easy to miss Barbuda, given that it is a separate island entirely. I unfortunately didn’t get a chance to go there; a massive hurricane was on track to hit Antigua three days into my planned five-day trip. But you should go!


Where to Stay in Antigua

As you might imagine, you really have only a couple major choices when deciding where to stay in Antigua. The most convenient option, in terms of restaurants and other creature comforts, is to stay somewhere St. John’s. I personally prefer this, if I’m honest, as these days I’d rather wake up in a city (even if I could do without the bells of St. John’s Cathedral!) than on the beach. Isn’t that un-romantic?

Of course, many Antigua hotels and resorts are on various beaches around the island. The advantage of this is that you can easily watch sunrise over the beach, and swim anytime you want, even before the day-trippers arrive, and long after they’ve left. The disadvantage? Well, cost. You’re going to pay several hundred US dollars per night to stay on Antigua beach, at least in a place that isn’t a total dump.


Other FAQ About Visiting Antigua

Is Antigua good for tourists?

Antigua has a lot of the ingredients that make for a good tourism destination, with amazing beaches, great hotels, delicious locally-caught seafood and friendly residents. It’s not the most convenient island to reach, however, and you’ll definitely need to pay for the privilege of being there.

When not to visit Antigua?

A hurricane cut my trip to Antigua short, so I can personally advise against visiting during the summer months, and especially not after August. Like many islands in the eastern Caribbean, Antigua is unfortunately right in the path of Atlantic hurricanes. Locals are resilient, but as a tourist you might not enjoy having to be so strong.

Is Antigua a luxury destination?

Antigua certainly has plenty of luxury hotels, but to me the real “luxury” of being here is that the island literally has 365 beaches. You could stay an entire year and go to a different beach every day! On the other hand, given that even “normal” accommodation is pricey in Antigua, you shouldn’t seek out luxury unless money is no object.

The Bottom Line

Is Antigua worth visiting? If I’m honest, I wouldn’t have made my own trip there had I not been invited, in spite of my history with the work of the island’s most famous author. Antigua is undeniably beautiful; I experienced little there that transcended beauty I’ve seen in any of the other ~100 countries I’ve visited. At the same time, I greatly enjoyed my short sojourn, even if it ended up being cut short by a hurricane. Need help choosing a destination that won’t leave you with any trepidation upon arriving, or regrets once you get home? Consider hiring me as your Travel Coach!


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