Escape to the West Indies: Antigua Caribbean Island Vacation

Located in the heart of the Caribbean, Antigua beckons with its beautiful beaches, blue waters, and rich history. This enchanting island, discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1493, has a captivating blend of colonial charm and vibrant culture.

Once a bustling hub of sugar cane production and a strategic naval base, Antigua’s past is woven into its cobblestone streets and historic landmarks.

Today, vacationers can explore its centuries-old forts, enjoy water sports, or simply unwind on its sun-kissed shores, making Antigua a timeless destination for relaxation and exploration.

Best Time to Visit Antigua

Antigua and Barbuda Map
Photo Credit: [@Furian/]
December to May are the best months to visit Antigua. Winter and spring are the drier months on the island, making it a perfect time to visit because you’re less likely to see rain showers, and it’s still beautifully sunny. The average temperature is 72-74 degrees Fahrenheit.

Visitors usually choose not to visit between May and November because it is wet, humid, and stormy.  It is also the Atlantic hurricane season, when there is roughly a 33% chance of a hurricane happening – something you may want to avoid experiencing!

Things to Do in Antigua

Carlisle Bay Beach in Antigua
Photo Credit: [@viendomundo/DepositPhotos]
Antigua is proudly known as the Caribbean island with 365 beaches, giving you a beach for every day of the year. But it’s also a lot more than that. It’s a lush green island with zip lines and hiking trails.  And a naval history still prevalent in its reputation as one of the best yacht sailing islands in the world, culminating in its famous Antigua Sailing Week each April.

Beaches in Antigua

Galleon Beach in Anitgua
Photo Credit: [@SimonDannhauer/DepositPhotos]
Antigua has 365 beaches with soft golden sand and clear blue waters. The fun part is deciding which to visit! To help whittle it down for you, we’ve selected three of our favorites to kick-start your exploration:

Galleon Beach: Close to Nelson’s Dockyard, this beach has a great variety on offer, from paddleboard hire to snorkeling and a workshop running a rum masterclass. It has something for everyone, plus a very cool restaurant in the middle called Loose Cannon.

Coco Beach:  With soft white sands, clear blue waters, and a very chilled-out vibe, this is the ultimate in perfect Caribbean beach.  It’s never too busy, and there aren’t many facilities, which is ideal if you are looking for quiet.

Dickenson Bay:  if you’re looking for a buzzing Caribbean beach with everything on tap.  You can mix it up with water sports, such as scuba diving or paddleboarding, with great food and beach bar vibes.

Naval History at Nelson’s Dockyard

Nelson's Dockyard in Anitgua
Photo Credit: [@alfotokunst/DepositPhotos]
Nelson’s Dockyard, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is well worth visiting as it’s possibly the best historical destination in Antigua. During his stay at the Antigua Naval Dockyard, a young Horatio Nelson infamously declared English Harbour an “infernal hellhole.”  Today, it is a stunningly restored dockyard showcasing what it would have looked like at its peak in the 1740s.

When you arrive, you can either take a tour from the front desk or just pay for your entry and wander around at your own pace. Inside it is well signposted and has a very well-put-together museum with lots to interest you.

If you enjoy hiking, then Fort Berkley at the entrance to English Harbour is great for photo opportunities of Nelson’s Dockyard. If you’re feeling energetic, you can hike the Middle Ground Trail and swim at Pigeon Beach.

Stingray City

Stingray City Antigua
Photo Credit: [@BigAdventuresWithLittleFeet]
Antigua is one of the only places in the world where you can head out into the sea and swim with stingrays – an incredible experience not to be missed!

During the tour, a boat ride takes you to a sandbar in the middle of the sea, where you can snorkel and swim with the stingrays. What is remarkable is that there is no need to be a confident swimmer as the water is only chest-high, and you can see the stingrays swimming through the clear water without the need to snorkel.

As well as snorkeling with the stingrays, you’ll also get a chance to hold and feed them, all under the careful supervision of their guides.

Zipline Through the Rainforest

Ziplining in Antigua
Photo Credit: [@BigAdventuresWithLittleFeet]
If you enjoy heights and adrenaline, this activity is for you! The zipline is halfway along Fig Tree Drive, which is worth driving as it is the most beautiful road in Antigua.

Antigua Rainforest Zipline is a small group tour, so you’ll zip through the rainforest together. There are various packages to choose from depending on the number of zip lines you try. At the end of the tour, there is a high-wire assault course that you can also do.

At various points along the course, their professional photographers can catch you mid-flight, making a wonderful souvenir to take home!

If you’ve not done a zip line before, this is an excellent opportunity to try one, as the lines are medium length and height for beginners. You’ll have great adrenaline, and it shouldn’t be too intimidating.

Take a Sunset Boat Tour

Sunset in Antigua
Photo Credit: [@BigAdventuresWithLittleFeet]
Enjoying a boat tour around Antigua is a brilliant way to see the island, as it gives you a different perspective and access to the more remote snorkeling sites.  One of the popular spots to visit on a boat tour is Great Bird Island, which has some of the best snorkeling.

Alternatively, if you fancy setting off under sail, a beautiful way to finish your day is watching the sunset from a sailing yacht. Several sunset cruises leave from Jolly Harbour.

Watch a Cricket Match

Cricket Match in Antigua
Photo Credit: [@BigAdventuresWithLittleFeet]
Even if you’re not a cricket fan, going to watch a cricket match in Antigua is incredibly fun. The atmosphere is like a mini carnival with people in costumes, steel drums playing, and mini-games of cricket being played by spectators on the mounds. You might spend more time looking around than watching the actual cricket match!!

The best tickets are the ones in the mounds, as you’re in the middle of the party atmosphere.  Plenty of food and drink are served at the stadium at the catering tents that can be found along the edge of the mounds.

Blend Your Own Rum

rum cocktail
Photo Credit: [@bhofack2/DepositPhotos]
An exciting and fun way to spend half a day is to join the Rum Masterclass workshop based at Galleon Beach.

This workshop starts with a rum tasting, and then, after you have decided which rums you like the most, you’ll get to the fun part of blending your rum.  You will get to use a pot still to distill your rum in the traditional West Indian way.  By the end of the class, you will have your bespoke rum bottle labeled and finished with a beautiful wax seal.

Shirley Heights Lookout Party

Antigua and Barbuda from Shirley Heights
Photo Credit: [@sepavone/DepositPhotos]
No visit to Antigua would be complete without a visit to Shirley Heights Lookout for their party night. The lookout has an incredible view over Nelson’s Dockyard in English Harbour and beyond to the island of Montserrat.

Every Thursday and Sunday, they host a fantastic evening combining music, food, and rum punch while watching the sunset.

A wonderful atmosphere starts when everyone arrives to watch the sunset, and the local steel band is playing. After the sunset, a local band plays popular cover songs, and once the rum has kicked in, the dancefloor gets lively!

Restaurants in Antigua

jerk chicken and rice
Photo Credit: [@ezumeimages/DepositPhotos]
Like most other Caribbean islands, you will find plenty of fresh fish on the menu in Antigua. You’ll also get to taste plenty of hot and spicy flavors found in some of their famous dishes, such as jerk chicken and goat curry.

Beach Bum Cafe at Half Moon Bay: This is a popular cafe at Half Moon Bay with both visitors and locals alike. It has a simple menu with dishes served with loads of flavor!  It has one of the fish burgers on the island.  You can relax, enjoy Half Moon Bay beach in the morning, and book lunch at the cafe afterward.

Casa Roots at Runway Beach: This beautiful restaurant on Runway Beach near Dickenson Bay serves a wonderful combination of French and West Indian cuisine.

Trappas in English Harbour: In the center of English Harbour, Trappas offers a selection of local meals, such as jerk chicken and goat curry. Just keep a little space for dessert, as they are some of the best on the island.

Sheer Rocks: If you are looking for a luxury dining experience with fantastic sunset views, then this is the place for you.  This award-winning restaurant combines local flavors with a Mediterranean inspiration.

Day Trips From Antigua

Photo Credit: [@dbriyul/DepositPhotos]
Circumnavigate Antigua on a Boat: Seeing Antigua from the sea gives a fantastic perspective of how beautiful the island is. It’s also a brilliant way to explore beaches and reefs. This particular tour includes a stop at the stunning off-the-beaten-track Rendezvous Beach, which can only be reached by boat or 4×4.

Boat Tour to Barbuda: Barbuda is the exclusive little sister to Antigua, where royalty and celebrities go to relax. A tour of the island from Antigua allows you to explore the unique pink sand beaches, visit ancient Arawak caves, and eat freshly caught lobster.

Off-road Dune Buggy Tour of Antigua: This is an alternative way to explore the island as you’ll ride off-road on dune buggies. You’ll also get to speed through the rainforest too!

Vacationing in Antigua

St. Johns in Antigua
Photo Credit: [@stetsik/DepositPhotos]
Whether you spend your days exploring historic sites, lounging on sandy beaches, or diving into its vibrant underwater world, Antigua promises an unforgettable escape that lingers in the memory long after the vacation ends.


Escape to the West Indies: Antigua Caribbean Island Vacation
Sara Young

Sara Young is the author of Big Adventures With Little Feet, a family travel blog aiming to inspire parents to travel with their kids. She loves exploring the world with her sons and giving them big adventures, whether hiking, skiing, sailing, or surfing. She and her family spend the winters in Antigua in the Caribbean, where her boyfriend works as a yacht captain. They spend their summers traveling the world to find adventures.