“Land of 365 Beaches“
After such a little piece of paradise that was Tortola, although anywhere in this trip and all the islands we are visiting are pieces or paradise, we dock in the capital city of a new country in the list of countries visited so far to date, Antigua and Barbuda. That’s 97 as of today, exactly the half of the world’s currently independent nations (it’s 195), and still 2 new ones to come in the next few days to rise to an astonishing 99.
The country name was, likewise almost all other islands in the region, given by Christopher Columbus in 1493 in his second voyage in honor of the Virgin of La Antigua in the Seville Cathedral. It was nevertheless not a priority island to form a settlement, and has been for majority of the history part of the British Empire and Kingdom, until gaining sovereignty on the 1st of November 1981. Since that date, it remains a member of the Commonwealth, where Queen Elizabeth II is the head of state.
The twin islands country, an other islets in between has some of the finest beaches in the Caribbean, hence why its fame, especially the island of Antigua. Barbuda, while smaller and more secluded, is by far less visited, rarely included in any cruise trip, and as of today is still recovering from the almost total destruction that caused Hurricane Irma in 2017.
Visiting the island is entirely depending on what sort of holidays you are doing. Obviously anyone can come here and spend, say, two fabulous weeks from beach to beach relaxing. But majority of tourism comes on a cruise, and this means arriving early in the morning, and departing late at evening, so pretty much from 8.00am until 18.00pm. That’s well enough for even circling the entire island if you rent a car or get a driver doing this, time for the capital city, some shopping and of course a nice rest at a beach or two. But other than this it’s not much more you can do in any case. Of course aside of the plenty other activities your cruise might offer as extra activities and excursions, but don’t worry, the day on your own will be great, easy and straightforward.
Now adding here an important and possible valuable note considering the massive experience from the countless countries and places I’ve been, and the many paradise beaches across the world. Antigua ranks right now among the very top of the list! It was simply spectacular to see and enjoy, even if this was for a very short time. Just remember the name of Coco Beach, that’s where you want to aim for, a dream, including the astonishing Coco Beach Resort. Plus hearing once there that Barbuda is even better in this sense, then for sure I shall return for a much longer break.
For more information about Saint John’s and Antigua island itself check Wikipedia sites. Antigua and Barbuda currency is the Eastern Caribbean Dollar (XCD). Please note that any price reference is true as from when this guide was created, therefore check prices in advance as with the time they change.
What to see and do in Antigua Island:
- Dickenson Bay Near the capital city and the airport, along the north coast, one of the nicest beaches and so the easier to access for the cruise ship tourists. The major resorts are located here.
- Fort James One of two forts than once guarded the harbor. It offers nice views towards the bay and the city.
- Saint John’s The capital city of the country and main island, Antigua.
-Saint John’s Cathedral Originally consecrated in 1683, the current building is the 3rd reincarnation from 1848 in Baroque style after earthquakes destroyed the others.
-Rum Distillery In the commercial harbor, along Dickenson Bay Street. Unfortunately there are NO tours available, but good to know for a rum lover to buy at a shop. Their products are English Harbour and Cavalier.
- Valley Church Bay Towards the south-westernmost point of the island, a beautiful beach secluded in great landscape settings and homes.
- Coco Beach Possibly the most beautiful in the island. Very small, fine white sand and a spectacular resort perched from a little hill, the Coco Resort. A must visit, and of course the most recommended to stay on holidays.
- Ffryes Beach The next after Coco Beach, right next to it (you can walk between them two even barefoot), another great white sand paradise.
V. C. Bird International Airport is located just to the east of Saint John’s itself, at the north of the island. With distances here being that small, it is merely matter of few minutes towards the city centre and elsewhere in Antigua. Flights are available to the UK, US, Canada and other Caribbean destinations. The main cruise terminal in the twin island country is located here in Saint John’s, directly accessible to the city centre via the Heritage Quay shopping mall.
The island of Antigua is actually very small, and while there are public buses (small vans) covering most of the corners, villages and beaches along the coast, it will be easier to get a driver to be with you for the entire day, going to the major sights or wherever you have planned to visit. As an idea of what cost to expect, set aside around $US 30 per person if you are 2 people, and around $US 20 per person or even a bit less if your negotiation skills are good if you are 4 people.
Since this was a cruise holidays and we slept always on-board, there is little I can say about accommodation here in Antigua other than the usual, checking some of our preferred affiliate hotel search engine such as Hotels.com, Booking.com, Expedia, Otel.com, Agoda, Opodo, LateRooms or Ebookers. In any case this is a paradise destination with amazing beaches at the north, west and south, and so are the up-scale luxurious hotels and resorts. Finding your desired choice won’t be difficult, however it won’t come cheap nor even within a medium range.