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Antigua And Barbuda Trip Advisor - Hotels, Packages, Beaches...

Antigua Map

"...I have visited probably half of the islands in the West Indies, since I am from the Caribbean myself (Puerto Rico) and I truly believe Antigua is one of the finest. Basically 3 reasons - beaches are amazing, people are friendly and there is some history for sightseeing(not found in many islands)... This trip was my first to Antigua and definitively won't be the last one..."


   Famous for its beaches and its cricket players, tiny Antigua is now one of the Caribbean's most popular destinations. The country has taken full advantage of the publicity gained from its independence in 1981 - and the remarkable success of its cricketers since then - to push its name into the big league of West Indian tourism alongside Barbados and Jamaica.

   After the British settled the island in the 1600s, it was for centuries little more than a giant sugar factory that produced sugar and rum to send home. Around Antigua, the tall brick chimneys of a hundred deserted and decaying sugar mills bear witness to that long colonial era. Today, though, it is tourism that drives the country's economy; dozens of hotels and restaurants have sprung up around the coastline, there's a smart airport, and a number of outfits run boat and catamaran cruises and scuba-diving and snorkelling trips to the island's fabulous coral reefs.

When To Go
   Antigua's tropical climate makes it a year-round destination. The weather is at its best during the high season, from mid-December to mid-April, with rainfall low and the heat tempered by cooling trade winds. As you'd expect, prices and crowds are at their peak during high season.
   Things can get noticeably hotter during the summer and, particularly in September and October, the humidity can be oppressive. September is also the most threatening month for the annual hurricane season, which runs officially from June 1 to October 31

Where To Go
    If all you want to do is crash out on a beach for a week or two, you'll find Antigua hard to beat. The island is dotted with superb patches of sand - look out for Dickenson Bay in the northwest, Half Moon Bay in the east and Rendezvous Beach in the south - and, while the nightlife is generally pretty quiet, there are plenty of great places to eat and drink. But however lazy you're feeling, it's worth making the effort to get out and see some of the country. The superbly restored naval dockyard and the crumbling forts around English Harbour and Shirley Heights are as impressive as any historic site in the West Indies, and there are lots of other little nuggets to explore, including the capital, St John's , with its tiny museum and colourful quayside, and the old sugar estate at Betty's Hope . And, if you're prepared to do a bit of walking, you'll find some superb hikes that will take you out to completely deserted parts of the island.
   Antigua's sister island Barbuda feels a world apart from its increasingly developed neighbour, even though it's just fifteen minutes away by plane. Despite its spectacular beaches and coral reefs, tourism is very low-key. Even if you can only manage a day trip, you'll find it thoroughly repays the effort involved in organizing a tour.

Money Antigua
   The island's unit of currency is the Eastern Caribbean dollar (EC$), divided into 100 cents. It comes in bills of US$100, $50, $20, $10 and $5 and coins of US$1, $0.50, $0.25, $0.10, $0.05 and $0.01. The rate of exchange is fixed at EC$2.70 to US$1.
   In tourist-related business, the US dollar is often used as an unofficial parallel currency, and you'll often find prices for hotels, restaurants and car rental quoted in US dollars (a policy we have adopted in this guide). Bear in mind, though, that you can always insist on paying in EC$ (and the exchange rate usually works out slightly in your favour).
   If you are using US dollars or travellers' cheques to pay a bill, check in advance whether your change will be given in the same currency (it usually won't).
   Banking hours are generally Monday to Thursday 8am-2pm and Friday 8am-4pm. Most of the banks are in St John's and include Antigua Commercial Bank, Barclays, ABIB and Bank of Antigua. (The latter has a branch in Nelson's Dockyard.) Bank of Antigua and ABIB in St John's are also open on Saturday morning.
   Most hotels and restaurants automatically add a service charge of 10 percent and government tax of 7 percent. It's always worth asking if it's included in the quoted price or will be added on later.

   Local time is GMT -4.

Communications Antigua
   Most hotels provide a telephone in each room and local calls are normally inexpensive. You'll also see phone booths all over the island, and these can be used for local and international calls. Most of the booths take phonecards only, available at hotels, post offices and some shops and supermarkets.
   The country code for Antigua is 268.
Post offices are located in English Harbour (Mon-Fri 8.30am-4pm), St John's on Long Street (Mon-Fri 8.15am-4pm) and in Woods Centre (Mon-Thurs 8.30am-4pm, Fri 8.30am-5pm).
   For fire, ambulance or police emergencies, dial 911 or 999

   In restaurants it's customary to leave 5% beyond the regular service charge added to your bill if you're pleased with the service. Taxi drivers expect a 10% tip, porters and bellmen about $1 per bag. Maids are rarely tipped, but if you think the service exemplary, figure $2 to $3 per night. Staff at all-inclusives aren't supposed to be tipped unless they've truly gone out of their way.

    Throughout the Caribbean, incidents of petty theft are increasing. Leave your valuables in the hotel safe-deposit box; don't leave them unattended in your room, on a beach, or in a rental car. Also, the streets of St. John's are fairly deserted at night, so it's not a good idea to wander about alone.

Ambulance Fire

Ambulance (PHONE: 268/462-0251). Fire (PHONE:268/462-0044).


Holberton Hospital (Hospital Rd., St. John's, Antigua. PHONE: 268/462-0251).


City Pharmacy (St. Mary's St., St. John's, Antigua. PHONE: 268/480-3314). Woods Pharmacy (Woods Centre, Friar's Hill Rd., St. John's, Antigua. PHONE: 268/462-9287).


Police assistance (PHONE: 268/462-0125).


Antigua runs on 110 volts, allowing use of most small North American appliances. Outlets are both two- and three-pronged, so bring an adapter.

Getting There Antigua
    There are plenty of flights from the US and Canada. American Airlines generally offers the best fares and has the most comprehensive schedule from the US to Antigua; all of its flights connect either through Miami or San Juan, Puerto Rico. BWIA flies nonstop to Antigua from New York City, Miami and Toronto, while Continental has nonstop flights from Miami and Newark, New Jersey. Air Canada offers the best fares out of Toronto.
    Most British and Irish visitors to Antigua are on some form of package tour that includes a charter flight direct to the island. Alternatively British Airways, Virgin and BWIA fly from London, and you can find similar fares with other carriers that require a stopover in the US. There are no direct flights from Ireland to Antigua, but there are good connections via London or via New York and Miami.
   Visitors from Australia and New Zealand will need to take a flight to one of the main US gateway airports and pick up onward connections from there. Generally the least expensive and most straightforward routes are via Miami, from where there are regular flights to St John's.
    For international flights the departure tax is US$20 (EC$50), payable at the airport when you leave.


   The main events in Antigua are the summertime Carnival and the April Sailling Week , but there are other events to distract you from the beach, including international cricket and windsurfing tournaments, and a jazz festival. The tourist boards have full details of all activities.
   The main public holidays celebrated throughout the Caribbean, during which virtually all shops and offices close, are:

January 1 New Year's Day

Good Friday

Easter Monday

May 1 Labour Day

Whit Monday

Dec 25 Christmas Day

Dec 26 Boxing Day

Antigua also celebrates Caricom Day in early July, Carnival on the first Monday and Tuesday of August, Independence Day on November 1 and United Nations Day in October.

Festivals and events January

Red Stripe Cricket Competition tel 268/462-9090


Valentine's Day Regatta, Jolly Harbour tel 268/461-6324


Test cricket tel 268/462-9090


Classic Regatta tel 268/460-1799

Sailing Week tel 268/460-8872


Pro-Am Tennis Classic, Curtain Bluff Hotel tel 268/462-8400


Carnival tel 268/462-4707


Bridge Championship tel 268/462-1459


National Warri Championship tel 268/462-6317


Antiguan Craft Fair, Harmony Hall tel 268/460-4120


Nicholson's Annual Charter Yacht Show tel 268/460-153

Food and Drink
   There are plenty of good eating options on Antigua and, though prices are generally on the high side, there's usually something to suit most budgets. Around most of the island, hotel and restaurant menus aimed at tourists tend to offer familiar variations on Euro-American style food, shunning local specialities - a real shame, as the latter are invariably excellent and well worth trying if you get the chance. Antigua lapanga scallops
    Antiguan specialities include the fabulous ducana (a solid hunk of grated sweet potato mixed with coconut and spices and steamed in a banana leaf), pepperpot stew with salt beef, pumpkin and okra, often served with a cornmeal pudding known as fungi , various types of curry, salted codfish , and souse - cuts of pork marinated in lime juice, onions, hot and sweet peppers and spices.
    During the winter season (Dec-April) it's best to make reservations at many of the places recommended - and, if you've got your heart set on a special place, arrange it a couple of days in advance if you can. As for prices , some restaurants quote their prices in EC$, others in US$, others in both. We've followed their practice, using whichever currency a particular restaurant quotes. Government tax of 8.5 percent is always added to the bill and, particularly at the pricier places, a 10 percent service charge is also automatic.
    On Barbuda , restaurants are low-key places with quiet trade. If you're coming on a day-trip package your meal will normally be arranged for you, but if you're making your own arrangements give as much advance notice as you can so that they can get the ingredients in.

History antigua history
    Antigua's first people were the nomadic Ciboney, originally from present-day Venezuela, whose earliest traces on the island date from around 3100 BC. By the early years AD the Ciboney had been replaced by Arawak-speaking Amerindians from the same region.
   The first European sighting of Antigua came in 1493 when Columbus sailed close by, naming the island Santa Maria la Antigua. The island remained uninhabited for over a century until, in 1624, the first British settlement in the West Indies was established on the island of St Kitts, and the British laid claim to nearby Antigua and Barbuda. Within a decade, settlers at Falmouth on the south coast had experimented with a number of crops before settling on sugar , which was to guarantee the island its future wealth. For the next two hundred years, sugar was to remain the country's dominant industry, bringing enormous wealth to the planters .
   Unlike most of Britain's West Indian colonies, Antigua remained British throughout the colonial era. This was due, in large part, to the massive fortifications built around it, the major ones at places like Shirley Heights on the south coast.
   As the centuries passed, conditions for the slaves who worked the plantations improved very slowly. Even after the abolition of slavery in 1834, many were obliged to continue to labour at the sugar estates, for wages that were insufficient to provide even the miserly levels of food, housing and care formerly offered under slavery.
   Gradually, though, free villages began to emerge at places like Liberta, Jennings and Bendals, often based around Moravian or Methodist churches or on land reluctantly sold by the planters to a group of former slaves. Slowly a few Antiguans scratched together sufficient money to set up their own businesses - shops, taverns and tiny cottage industries. An embryonic black middle class was in the making. Nonetheless, economic progress on the island was extremely slow. By World War II, life for the vast majority of Antiguans was still extremely tough, with widespread poverty across the island.
   After the war, Antigua continued to be administered by Britain, but gradually the island's politicians were given authority for the running of their country. Slowly, the national economy began to take strides forward, assisted by the development of tourism. By the elections of 1980 all parties considered that, politically and economically, the country was sufficiently mature for full independence and the flag of an independent Antigua and Barbuda was finally raised in November 1981.

Best Of Antigua
   Long Bay
An appealing stretch of white sand with good snorkelling around the reef just offshore.

Nelson's Dockyard
Once a busy Georgian dockyard, now an intriguing living museum.

Long Street, St John's
The place to view some colourful old buildings and catch an entertaining game of cricket too.

Spectacular Palm Beach is just one of the highlights of this delightfully secluded island.

St John's
You'll find great West Indian food at local places like Home and Papa Zouk .

Ten raucous days full of colourful costumes, steel-drum bands and lots of dancing.

Getting Around
   Speedy and inexpensive buses and minibuses run to certain parts of the island, particularly between St John's and English Harbour on the south coast and along the west coast between St John's and Old Road, although none goes to the big tourist area of Dickenson Bay and Runaway Bay.

   By car

   If you want to tour around, you're invariably better off renting a car for a couple of days, though rental prices are fairly high, starting at around US$40 per day, US$250 per week. You'll have to buy a local driving licence for US$20 (valid for three months and sold by all of the car hire firms). Reliable firms include: Avis (tel 268/462-2840), Budget (tel 268/462-3009), Dollar (tel 268/462-0362), Hertz (tel 268/462-4114), Oakland (tel 268/462-3021) and Thrifty (tel 268/462-9532).
   We recommend renting a car and just driving around the island. Signs are not very helpful, but try using restaurant signs to move around, for example to get to English Harbor area follow Colombo signs.

   By taxi

   If you just want to make the odd excursion or short trip, it can be cheaper to hire taxis , identifiable by the H on their number plates and easy to find in St John's, Nelson's Dockyard or at the airport. Elsewhere you'll often need to call or ask your hotel to arrange for one. Try West Bus Station Taxis (tel 268/462-5190) or Antigua Reliable (tel 268/460-5353). Fares are regulated but there are no meters, so be sure to agree on a price before you get into the car.

   By bike and motorcycle

   Since Antigua is so small, and there are few steep inclines, it is ideal cycling territory, and bikes can be rented for around US$15 per day, US$70 a week. Hiring a scooter or motorcycle is just as much fun - prices normally start at around US$30 per day, US$150 a week (plus US$20 for the local driving permit) - and can be a fantastic way of touring around, though you'll need to watch out for madcap drivers on the main roads. Rental agents for both bikes and motorcycles include Cycle Krazy, St Mary's Street in St John's (tel 268/462-9253), Paradise Boat Sales at Jolly Harbour (tel 268/460-7125) and Shipwreck in Parham (tel 268/464-7771; they deliver to your hotel, so cost a little more).

Exploring Antigua

    With its magnificent and often deserted beaches, its spectacular coral reefs and its rare colony of frigate birds, the nation's other inhabited island, Barbuda - 48km to the north of Antigua - is a definite highlight of any visit to Antigua. Don't expect the same facilities as on Antigua; accommodation options are limited, you'll need to bring your own snorkelling or diving gear, and you'll find that schedules - whether for taxis, boats or meals - tend to drift. This is all, of course, very much part of the island's attraction.
   Half the size of its better-known neighbour, Barbuda developed quite separately from Antigua and was only reluctantly coerced into joining the nation during the run-up to independence in 1981. The island is very much the poor neighbour in terms of financial resources, and its development has been slow; tourism has had only a minor impact, and fishing and farming remain the principal occupations of the tiny population of 1500, most of whom live in the small capital, Codrington .
   Away from the beaches, the island is less fetching, mostly low-level scrub of cacti, bush, small trees and the distinctive century plants; for most of the year it is extremely arid and unwelcoming. There are a couple of exceptions: in the southwest the island suddenly bursts to life, with a fabulous grove of coconut palms springing out of the sandy soil (and providing a useful source of export revenue), while in parts of the interior, government projects are reclaiming land from the bush to grow peanuts and sweet potatoes, also for the export market. For the most part, though, the island is left to the scrub, the elusive wild boar and deer and a multitude of birds - 170 species at last count.
   The tiny and now uninhabited volcanic rock known as Redonda , some 56km to the southwest of Barbuda, is occasionally visited by yachters - though with no sheltered anchorage, the landing is a difficult one. There is no regular service to the island, nor anywhere to stay save for a few ruined mining buildings. ANTIGUA beach
   The only scheduled flights to Barbuda are from Antigua on Carib Aviation (tel 268/462-3147 or 3452; UK tel 01895/450710, US tel 646/336-7600). They offer four flights a day from the main airport in Antigua (leaving at 7am, 8am, 9am and 5pm, returning thirty minutes later in each case) and charge US$50 round-trip. The planes take twenty minutes. More excitingly, the journey can be made by boat , although the cost of the four-hour crossing from St John's to River Landing on Barbuda's south coast tends to be pretty exorbitant at around US$150 one-way. A handful of local boat operators run occasional trips (try Foster Hopkins on 268/460-0212 or Byron Askie on 268/460-0065).
   Taking a day tour to the island is the best way to guarantee getting both a driver and a boat operator to take you to the bird sanctuary. Both DJ Forwarders (tel 268/464-3228 or 773-9766) and Jenny's Tours (tel 268/461-9361) will organize a carefully packaged day tour for US$150, including flights, pick-up at Barbuda airport, a jeep tour of the island, lunch and a boat visit to the bird sanctuary. Your driver will also leave you on the beach for as long as you want - just remember to take a bottle of water. Occasional day tours by boat are run by Ecoseatours (tel 268/463-0275) and Adventure Antigua (tel 268/560-4672 or 727-3261), both of which run fast boats to the Barbudan beaches in an hour and a half for snorkelling and beach cruising. Costs are around US$120 per person.

    An essential stop on any visit to Antigua, the picturesque area around Falmouth and English Harbour on the island's south coast holds some of the most important and interesting historical remains in the Caribbean and is now the region's leading yachting centre. The chief attraction is the eighteenth-century Nelson's Dockyard , which was the key facility for the British navy that once ruled the waves in the area. Today it's a living museum where visiting yachts are still cleaned, supplied and chartered. Nearby are several ruined forts as well as an abundance of attractive colonial buildings on the waterfront, several converted into hotels and restaurants.
   Across the harbour from the dockyard, there is further evidence of the colonial past at Shirley Heights , where more ruined forts, gun batteries and an old cemetery hold a commanding position over the water.
   The area also has a handful of spots off the beaten path that repay a trip, including the massive military complex at Great Fort George , high in the hills above Falmouth , and the wonderful Rendezvous Bay - outstanding in an area with a paucity of good beaches - a short boat ride or less than an hour's hike from Falmouth.
   A car is invaluable for touring around this area of the south coast. There are frequent buses between St John's and English Harbour, handy if you just want to explore Nelson's Dockyard, but to get up to Shirley Heights you'll certainly need your own transport or a taxi.

   North of St John's, Runaway Bay and adjoining Dickenson Bay constitute the island's main tourist strip, with a couple of excellent beaches, a host of good hotels and restaurants, and plenty of action. Continuing clockwise round the island brings you to its Atlantic side, where the jagged coastline offers plenty of inlets, bays and swamps but, with a couple of noteworthy exceptions, rather less impressive beaches. Tourist facilities on this side of the island are much less developed, but there are several places of interest. Betty's Hope is a restored sugar plantation; Devil's Bridge offers one of the most dramatic landscapes on the island; at picturesque Half Moon Bay you can scramble along a vertiginous clifftop path above the pounding Atlantic; and at the delightful Harmony Hall you can relax from your exertions with an excellent lunch and a boat ride to Green Island.

   ST JOHN'S Antigua St. John's
   With a population of around 30,000 - nearly half the island's total - bustling ST JOHN'S is Antigua's capital and only city. No one could accuse it of being the prettiest city in the West Indies, but it does have a certain immediate charm and, in the centre, there are plenty of attractive old wooden and stone buildings - some of them superbly renovated, others in a perilous state of near-collapse - among the less appealing modern development. It'll only take you a couple of hours to see everything, but you'll probably want to come back for at least one evening to take advantage of some excellent restaurants and bars.

The City
   As all of the main places of interest in St John's are close together, the easiest way to see the place is on foot. You should certainly make your way to Redcliffe Quay - where the waterfront and its colonial buildings have been attractively restored - as well as the tiny National Museum , which offers a well-presented rundown on the country's history and culture. If you've got time, take a stroll through some of the old streets, and check out the city's twin-towered cathedral perched on top of Newgate Street. Redcliffe Quay and nearby Heritage Quay are the best places to eat, drink and shop for souvenirs, though you'll probably want to avoid them if the cruise ships are in, when the steel drums come out to play "Hot, Hot, Hot" and the area almost disappears beneath a scrum of duty-free shoppers.

   Tourism makes a firm impression on Antigua's west coast , with hotels dotted at regular intervals between the little fishing village of Old Road in the south and the capital, St John's. Two features dominate the area: a series of lovely beaches, with Darkwood probably the pick of the bunch for swimming, snorkelling and beachcombing, and a glowering range of hills known as the Shekerley Mountains in the southwest, offering the chance for a climb and some panoramic views. The lush and thickly wooded Fig Tree Hill on the edge of the range is as scenic a spot as you'll find, and you can take a variety of hikes inland to see a side of Antigua overlooked by the vast majority of tourists. Due west of St John's, the Five Islands peninsula holds several hotels, some good beaches and the substantial ruins of the eighteenth-century Fort Barrington .

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