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I visited Antigua as part of the Traverse Events elite influencer conference. Press trips like these enable me to visit new places and share my opinions and experiences to help you plan your own travels.
A trip to Antigua is an escape. The turquoise waters, white sand beaches and laid-back Caribbean vibes are the perfect recipe for a relaxing break. And with the island’s many all inclusive resorts geared up to make unwinding as effortless as possible, it would be easy to find a spot on the beach and set up base for a week.
There’s a good chance you came to Antigua for a chilled out break, but whatever your reason for travelling to Antigua – and however luxurious your resort – I urge you to get out and explore. Antigua may be a small island, but it’s irresistibly full of character. And with everything less than 45 minutes away, you don’t need to set aside an entire day of your getaway to get a taste of the island.
Planning your Antigua excursions
From colourful towns and postcard-worthy beaches to water adventures and sailing classes, there’s something for everyone to enjoy in Antigua. Whatever it is you’re into, the island has a whole lot more to it than all inclusive resorts – you just need to get out and see for yourself.
Here are the best Antigua excursions and day trips I’d recommend if you’re ready to see what this island has to offer.
#1 Make a new friend at Antigua’s Donkey Sanctuary
Best for: Animal lovers! And anybody who wants to support a good cause.
As you drive around Antigua, you might notice some familiar four-legged friends at the sides of the road. Yes, I’m talking about donkeys!
Antigua is home to hundreds of feral donkeys that roam around freely enjoying the island life. There’s a good chance you’ll spot one or two before you even arrive at your hotel, so keep your eyes peeled during your transfer.
The donkey sanctuary is a small non-profit run by the Antigua and Barbuda Humane Society and supported by the RSPCA. It provides a safe home for donkeys that are victims or car accidents or other abuse.
Visiting the sanctuary and its 100+ rescued residents is completely free, and a great way to spend an hour or two on a sunny Antigua day. The sanctuary has brushes so you can groom the donkeys while learning about their stories.
Just be warned, they get jealous easily! Don’t be surprised if you quickly find yourself surrounded by donkeys demanding your attention, even if you’ve just spent a long time brushing them.
Planning your trip:
The donkey sanctuary is nestled away in a quiet part of the island. Although it’s the perfect location for the rescued donkeys that live there, it can make visiting a little tricky.
If you plan on renting a car, the sanctuary is an easy drive from almost anywhere on the island. If you’re not planning on renting your vehicle, you can take a taxi or join one of the sightseeing tours that stop there. The full day Island Safari Historical Tour includes a stop at the donkey sanctuary as well as many of Antigua’s other top spots, so you can see the best of the island in a day.
#2 Visit the colourful capital of St John’s
Best for: Culture seekers and colour lovers.
St John’s is the capital of Antigua and Barbuda, and may be the most chilled out capital city I’ve ever been to.
That’s not to say it’s boring, though. Far from it, it’s a colourful hub waiting to be explored. You could easily spend an entire day exploring the city’s colourful streets and bustling markets, but even a couple of hours will help you get a feel for the capital.
If you love picking up souvenirs during your travels, you’ll want to make time to visit St John’s. It’s cobbled streets are full of little boutiques and market stalls that are perfect for picking up gifts to take home.
Visiting St John’s:
As a the capital city, St John’s may just be the easiest place in Antigua to get to. It’s less than a 45 minute drive from every resort on the island, and a round-trip taxi will cost a maximum of $90. For a more authentic experience, hop on the local bus for less than $1 each way.
If you want to learn about Antigua’s history and culture while visiting St John’s, though, nothing will beat a guided tour.
#3 Watch the sky turn pink on a sunset cruise
Best for: Luxury lovers who can’t resist a good sunset.
When you’re in the Caribbean, beautiful sunsets that make the sky turn pink are pretty much guaranteed. But nothing beats watching from above the turquoise sea.
Planning your trip:
Book your sunset cruise online in advance to guarantee your spot. This one includes hotel pickup, so you don’t need to worry about anything. Once on-board, sip on rum punch or your cocktail of choice from the open bar and watch the sun set to the sound of Caribbean tunes. It also includes appetisers – which, in my experience, is more like a full buffet.
If you’re celebrating a special occasion or just want to treat yourself, you can also hire an entire catamaran to yourself.
#4 Find a new beach every day
Best for: Beach fiends and sea swimmers.
Why it should be on your list:
One of the first things you’ll learn about Antigua is that it supposedly has 365 – one for every day of the year. And while you probably aren’t planning on spending an entire year there, why not try a new beach every day?
All of Antigua’s beaches are public, but that doesn’t mean they’re easy to get to. While many are accessible from the road, others can only be reached via resorts or private land.
If you want to experience some of the best beaches, the best way to do so is on a guided tour or day trip. This half-day tour includes stops at several of Antigua’s best beaches and includes time for swimming, snorkelling or lazing around on the white sand shores.
Alternatively, enjoy an ultra relaxing day at one of the most famous beaches in Antigua, with entry to the resort included, on this half-day excursion.
#5 Dance and drink at Shirley Heights
Best for: Anyone who can’t resist a party (or a view!)
Why you can’t miss it:
If you ask any local what one thing you shouldn’t miss on the island, they’ll almost definitely say Shirley Heights.
Shirley Heights is the most iconic view in Antigua. It also happens to be the number one spot on the island to drink, dance and watch the Caribbean sun turn the sky all shades of orange and pink.
Every Sunday, a steel drum band plays while rum punch flows, ending the week in true Caribbean style. If you’re in Antigua on a Sunday night, don’t make any other plans.
Entrance to Shirley Heights costs $10 and can be paid on the door and food and drinks can be bought inside.
The only thing you’ll want to arrange in advance is transport. You can book a round-trip transfer from St John’s here or arrange a private taxi from your hotel.
#6 Tuck into fresh mahi mahi at Seafood Fridays
Best for: Foodies and seafood fanatics.
Why it’s a must:
It can be hard to justify eating out when you’re staying at an all inclusive resort, but this one will be worth it.
As you’d expect from an island destination, there’s no shortage of fresh seafood in Antigua. But if you want to taste the best mahi mahi, head to Seafood Fridays at The Copper and Lumber Restaurant in English Harbour. Both locals and visitors mingle here every Friday night to enjoy great seafood to the sounds of the Caribbean.
The Copper and Lumber Restaurant is situated in English Harbour, an area that’s well worth visiting in its own right. Head there a little earlier than the 6:30pm start time to take a look around and see a different side of Antigua.
You can take the public bus or a private taxi there from your hotel in less than an hour. You might want to book a return taxi in advance to make sure you can get back.
#7 Take sailing lessons
Best for: Anyone who wants to try something new.
Why do it:
Antigua Sailing Week is one of the biggest sailing events in the world, but you don’t need to time your visit to coincide with Sailing Week to enjoy the waters.
If you fancy trying your own hand at sailing, you can sign up for sailing lessons at the National Sailing Academy near English Harbour. I took a 2-hour lesson and loved every second – even when I wasn’t quite sure what I was doing!
The instructors are friendly, patient and let you take full control. That can be a little bit scary at times, but it’s a great way to get a feel for it and build confidence.
How to book:
If you fancy trying your hand at sailing, there aren’t many better places to do so! You can book a one-off lesson or an entire course – get in touch with the National Sailing Academy on their website to book your spot.
Have you got insurance?
Even though you hope you’ll never need to use it, travelling with insurance will make sure you’re covered if anything goes wrong. I use World Nomads because it’s the most comprehensive cover I’ve found – they even cover the more adventurous activities that other insurers won’t. Find out more about them in this post or get a quote right here:
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