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.
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.