- Coastline White sandy beaches, leafy green hills
- Coast life Steel bands and deck shoes
What sets Antigua apart from other tropical Caribbean islands is its geography: the lush undulating hills promise postcard-perfect panoramas like nowhere else. Barbuda, Antigua’s far less developed little sister, is a petite coral island hemmed with pink-and-white talcum-powder sandy beaches and a swimming-pool-clean sea.
Antigua is small enough not to need street signs (with the exception of its capital, St John’s), but sufficiently big that can easily discover your own private white sandy beaches. Antigua is celebrated for sailing, thanks to safe harbours, coves and trade winds. The largest of the English-speaking Leeward Islands, Antigua also invites you to crash on a sunlounger alongside the calm, come-hither waters of the Caribbean Sea to the south-west and the choppier Atlantic Ocean to the north-east. But it’s not all lazing in the sunshine, and if you want to return home with a little culture under your belt then wander around historic English Harbour and Georgian Nelson's Dockyard – the only of its kind in the world. Indeed, this pretty holiday island is well worth exploring by road and by boat. Drive through villages of brightly painted clapboard houses and pass immaculately turned out schoolchildren on their way to classes. With as much on offer in the water as there is on land, the crystal-clear sea is crying out for watersport shenanigans such as snorkelling and kayaking. And when the sun sets, the fun needn’t stop – night owls can soak up soca and calypso care of Antigua’s vibrant music scene.
Do go/Don’t go
Peak season in the Caribbean is from December until Easter. Often the most pleasant times to travel to Antigua is after the tourists have gone home and there are less cruise ships passing on the horizon, and the island takes things down a gear. May and June are also great times to visit, not least because most of the rooms are half the price. Go in July and August if you like the baking heat and flashes of rainfall.
- Planes Antigua is a main hub for the Caribbean Islands; reach it from the UK with five airlines: British Airways flies from Gatwick. Bmi flies from Manchester. Virgin Atlantic, First Choice and XL all fly from Gatwick. The flight time from the UK is approximately eight hours. LIAT, Caribbean Airlines, Carib Aviation and Caribbean Star Airlines provide inter-island connections to popular holiday destinations such as Barbados, Grenada and St Barths.
- Boats You can’t visit Antigua or Barbuda without a spray-splashed tour of the island – ask at your hotel about a boat trip, or go down to English Harbour and you’ll find a few options, port-side. Private boaters can enter at St John's Harbour, English Harbour, St James' Club or Crabbs Marina.
- Automobiles A car isn’t essential but it is the best way to sample all the sights and get a taste of local culture. Mind you, you will benefit from a decent natural sense of direction as nothing’s properly signposted. Many of the car hire companies are based at Jolly Harbour.
- Taxis Taxis can be flagged in the street but a safer and easier option is to ask the hotel to provide one. Ranks are located at the West Bus Station and at Heritage Quay. If you are going to a more remote restaurant or bar, arrange to call your driver 30 minutes before you want to leave. Chances are they will wait outside while you drink/eat.