Visiting Antigua, Antigua and Barbuda

Latest Visit: December 2020

Tips for visiting Antigua:

  • Where to stay in Antigua: This is a tricky answer because we booked our hotel really last minute during the Holidays so a lot of hotels were booked or outrageously expensive. I also hear the wealthy rent yachts and simply dock them to explore the island and sleep on the boat as they sail around. IF you have the budget for it- do it!
    • We ended up staying at the Royalton Antigua, which I wouldn’t necessarily recommend because:
      • Although it’s the newest hotel on the island, it has a lot of issues such as only 1 out of the 2 elevators for the whole hotel worked. The AC in my room didn’t work well leaving my room very damp and sticky. The rooms were new and pretty clean and the balcony was very nice.
      • it’s an all-inclusive, which means it attracts party crowds and noisy families with a bunch of kids. not the most peaceful place to stay.
      • the restaurant food was outrageously disgusting. We waited hours to get served at most places and the food that ended up showing up was disappointing. The only place with decent food was the steakhouse. The coffee shop was very good though and they had daily pastries and made smoothies. The breakfast buffet was limited due to COVID19 protocols but still had a nice spread.
      • wearing a mask on the property was not imposed so it didn’t feel that safe ALTHOUGH every person entering the island had to have a negative test and the hotel checked your temperature every time you entered the premises (as did all shops, grocery stores and restaurants).
      • it was far from St. Johns town or any town for that matter. We had a car so we could go explore but without one this hotel could feel remote and get boring.
      • 3 major pluses: the gym was incredible, the beach and pool were very nice and there was a nice hike from the beach to the Fort Barrington ruin that offered the best sunset views!
    • Cocobay resort: expensive, adults only all-inclusive that came highly recommended.
    • If you can afford the Blue Waters resort and spa – then that’s where I’d go!
  • Driving on the left side: that was a nice surprise and challenge. Needless to say the wipers came on a few times when trying to signal that we were turning. Beware of huge potholes, very high speed bumps, narrow roads, pedestrians, goats, donkeys and fast driving cars.
  • Communicating: most people on the island communicate via WhatsApp.
  • Beaches in Antigua:
    • Half Moon Bay : Absolutely stunning, very long and mostly empty beach, can be windy and choppy at times and a lot of seaweed in some areas.
    • Galleon beach: Beautiful ‘busy’ beach near English Harbor. Clear and calm waters
    • Deep Bay Beach: it’s the one that’s attached to the resort although the public can also access it from the other end of the beach. There are barely any waves or seaweed.
    • Galley Bay Beach: Tranquil beach & bay featuring clear blue waters and a wide sandy expanse. Unclear if this is a private beach for guests or not.
    • Jabberwock Beach: very narrow, long, wild beach mostly filled with kitesurfers
    • Dickenson Bay Beach: Long narrow white sand beach with clear waters and a lot of hotels and restaurants along it.
  •  Restaurants:
    • Garden Grill for brunch- and absolute MUST. It’s further from the busy towns of the island and well hidden behind some trees but worth the detour. The vibe is amazing and the food and drinks were fantastic. They also do lunch and sometimes dinner- their hours are a little bit funky, so check it out before you venture that way. I highly recommend the :
      • Beignets
      • Churro Beignets
      • Nutella Stuffed pancakes
      • Southwestern Benedict
      • Drinks: Garden Grill Lemonade Mojito, Sparkling summer sangria, house sangria
    • La Bussola– another absolute must and guess what- it’s right next to The Garden Grill! This restaurant serves incredible Italian food by the sweetest Italian man (and owner), Dante. The outdoor patio offers cute views of Dutchman Bay. Here are some items I strongly recommend:
      • Frittura di Calamari
      • Carpaccio di Tonno
      • Caprese All’Italiana
      • Insalata di Tonno
      • Gnocchi  alla Bolognese
      • Tortellini All’ Aragosta
      • Lasagna Romagnola
      • Risotto Arborio alla Aragosta
      • Must try dessert: Tortino al cioccolato fondente, (they were out of the Tiramisu)
    • The Cove at Blue Waters resort and spa: exceptional food in a fine dining setting. The service was extraordinary – the best we had on the island- and the view seemed amazing (we went at night but we could see that we were on a cliff overlooking the water). I recommend:
      • Wild mushroom soup
      • seared scallops
      • Pan seared lobster & shrimp
    • Bayhouse at the Trade Winds Hotel for the vibe, the food and views. We went for dinner  and I recommend the Local Goats Cheese Salad, Crispy Fried Calamari and the lobster risotto.
    • Catherines café for the vibe, the beachfront view (you can actually be served on the beach) of Pigeon Beach and the quality of the food, service was very slow though. The food is French inspired and was excellent.
    • C & C wine house: service was slow and a lot of mosquitos but the food was amazing and the vibe was cute. It’s located in downtown St. Johns and it’s the only restaurant we explores in the town. I recommend the Coconut Shrimps, Salt fish fritters and the Seared Tuna salad (to die for).
    • Sheer rocks for the view: I was recommended this place on multiple occasions so we had high expectations for it. We made reservations and were very excited to eat our Christmas Eve dinner here. The service and food were HORRIFIC. I would NEVER recommend this place to anyone for the food. Maybe go for drinks because the view and the outdoor design is fabulous but that’s as far as I would go. It’s hard to believe that they are connected to Catherine’s Café.
  • Bars:
    • Kon Tiki Bar and Grill: it’s a floating bar and it’s a must! You walk on the Dickenson bay beach until you see a floating barge with a little bar on it and then you wave down the boat to come pick you up. Their Rum punch is deadly! Cash only and there’s no food or snacks so beware!
    • Beach Bum Bar and café at Half Moon Bay : very chill beach bar with delicious Rum Punch that you can sip on the outdoor patio or take to go on the beach!
    • Cheeky Marlin beach bar: on Galleon beach, serving refreshing drinks.
  • Service in Antigua: let’s just say service in restaurants is on island time. The only restaurant we were served and ate in less than 2 hours was at La Bussola. The Cove is also worth mentioning as the BEST SERVICE I had in those 9 days on the island. All other places took forever to order and eat. Don’t show up hangry anywhere!
  • Rum punch: it’s their signature drink, or so it seems. Very tasty but also very high in alcohol at most places- 🙂
  • Rent a boat and tour the island: A MUST! The water is so clear and turquoise and there are so many hidden beaches that you can only access by boat, as well as little remote small islands around. Our Boat day was one of my favorites. The crew was amazing and the food they catered was incredible by Here to serve Chefs ([email protected]). I strongly recommend doing a private charter- it’s much more enjoyable. Captain Will toured us on the Palmetto Moon and we had a blast!
  • Grocery stores in Antigua:
    • Perry Bay Supermarket: The best stocked grocery store with fresh produce is Perry Bay in Saint John’s.
    • Colesome farmers market : doesn’t get much more organic and farm to table than this. Delrie Cole, owner of the store, or his staff will go and pick the produce himself for you if it’s not on the shelves of his open-air market. Expect to be there for a while and bring mosquito spray. If you want to skip the wait, call or email them ([email protected]) and they will prepare the order for you and you’ll have better chances of getting everything you need.
    • Epicurean Fine Foods: I was told this place was like a Whole Foods but I was extremely disappointed with the fresh produce section. The rest of the store was okay but it was more a mix of Wallmart, Smart and Final and Vons.
    • XPZ: is the local grocery store. You’ll find everything from underwear to beer.
  • Mosquitos: BRING MOSQUITO SPRAY and after bite. I was eaten ALIVE in the evenings and at night.
  • Rain: We got rained on almost every day. Sometimes it was just a sprinkle but we also got torrential downpours. Be ready for it all!
  • Hikes:
    • Jones Valley/ Carpenter’s trail : This hike was short but very scenic. We started  close to Galleon Beach and followed signs for Jones valley trail. We walked through an old cemetery in the middle of a hill and then ended up very close to Shirley Heights. Then we crossed the road and hiked down towards the cliff and walked along it down to some beautiful tide pools which is apparently called the mermaid garden. There was no one around and the tide pool is like a little kiddie pool- it’s amazing! Watch out for the sear urchins !! From there we walked back towards Galleon beach and hung out here for a little while.
  • On my to do list for next time:
    • Explore Barbuda : fly into this small island by seaplane with Fly Tropic, check out the pink-sand beach.
    • Scuba diving in Antigua
    • Wallings Damn to Signal hill hike
    • Explore Jolly Harbor
    • Spend more time at English Harbor shopping and walking around
    • Shirley Heights Lookout : we missed it on our hike. I want to go back and check it out- the views of English Harbor are supposed to be amazing.
    • Visit Nelson’s Dockyard
    • Spend more time in the cute areas of St Johns. I was recommended Heritage Quay for shopping and if it wasn’t during the COVI19 pandemic, I would have loved to try the street food and more local spots.
    • Rum tasting: due to COVID19 all the tasting rooms and tours were closed.

Impressions of Antigua:

I feel very lucky to have been able to go to Antigua for a work trip. Would I go back on my own dime? Not sure. Full disclosure: I’m not a huge fan of the Caribbean. I don’t like the big gap between beautiful tourist hotels and the poverty of the locals (just like in the Bahamas or Barbados). I don’t like how humid and hot it gets. This being said, I did enjoy exploring the island !

Expect the unexpected and venture outside of the all-inclusive. I think I would have been extremely bored and disappointed if I’d stayed at the hotel the whole time. Renting a car is worth it if you’re comfortable driving on the left side of the road. You can also find reliable drivers on the island that will take you anywhere.

Top 3 favorite activities: Day at Half Moon Bay beach, Boat Day, Kon Tiki Bar.

Top 3 favorite restaurants: The Cove, La Bussola, Garden Grill.

Until next time (maybe) Antigua!

 

Royalton Hotel and surroundings:

Hike Day around Galleon Beach and Shirley Heights:

Boat Day around Antigua:

Half Moon bay Beach day:

Restaurants around Antigua:

Others fun pictures of Antigua:

 

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