20 Things To Do In Antigua

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Antigua, one-half of Antigua and Barbuda, is one of the most spectacular islands in the Caribbean famous for its tropical, postcard-perfect beaches and there are supposed 365 of them – one for every day of the year. Its capital has the history and charm of many other Caribbean islands, featuring colonial architecture and delicious local cuisine. The rest of Antigua is covered in lush rainforests, unique wildlife, various unusual natural landscapes and plenty of great beach bars.

Popular with all kinds of visitors, from families to couples, Antigua’s reputation as an expensive island getaway is only partially true. Visitors can splash out on a luxe charter yachts and cruises, shop at boutiques and stay at fine resorts or kick back island style at local guesthouses, enjoy fresh cocktails and seafood at the beach bars, and explore authentic Antiguan culture. Here are the best things to do in Antigua.

Antigua, Caribbean

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20 Things To Do In Antigua

1- Swim And Snorkel In Half Moon Bay

Tropical Deserted Beach In Half Moon Bay Antigua
Swimming and snorkelling at Half Moon Bay are top things to do in Antigua.

It’s a little bit of a trek to reach (arguably) Antigua’s most stunning beach, but Half Moon Bay in the island’s far east.

The sand is as white and the sea as blue as anywhere else in Antigua, which means it’s pretty much perfect, and the waves often get high enough for surfing.

That’s not to say the water is rough however; in fact, it’s one of the best places for swimming and snorkelling.

Although the beach gets great sunsets, the hike to get there and slight remoteness means it’s advised to visit during the day.

Recommended tours:

2- Explore Nelson’s Dockyard National Park

English Harbour And Nelsons Dockyard aerial view
Exploring Nelson’s Dockyard is one of the top things to do in Antigua and Barbuda.

A 350-year-old marina brimming with history, Nelson’s Dockyard is a former British naval base turned busy marina and museum.

The site was also previously the headquarters of Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson.

You can learn about the site’s history here, or just take a stroll – the dockyard has been transformed to include shops, restaurants, cafes and hotels and the area is one of the most popular spots to go shopping or enjoy a quick bite.

The whole area is a UNESCO site so the historic buildings remain the same, except nowadays you’re more likely to spot a millionaire’s super yacht than an old warship.

Recommended tour: Antigua Shore Excursion: Round Island Tour

3- Relax At Dickenson Bay

Beautiful Landscape With A Classic Phone Booth On The White Sandy Beach
Visiting Dickenson’s Bay is one of the best things to do in Antigua.

A visit to Dickenson’s Bay is unmissable while in Antigua for one of the best beaches on the island.

It’s in the northwest in St. John’s Parish.

As soon as you arrive, you’ll spot the sapphire waters and swaying palm trees that make the bay so popular.

It’s ideal for swimming as the water is warm and calm, and best of all, there are often dolphins who come and play in the shallows too.

It’s also one of the best-equipped beaches, with almost all watersports available such as kayaking, paddleboarding and snorkelling.

The beach is completely free, easy to reach and there are dozens of deck chairs and umbrellas scattered around – pull one up and settle in for the day or have a cocktail at Dickinson Bay Beach Bar

4- Catch Some Waves At Galley Bay Beach

Yes, another beach but this one is specifically for those who want to catch some waves while in Antigua.

The island has some of the best surfing beaches in the world, and Gallery Bay gets high waves perfect for breaking out a board.

If you want to learn, there are plenty of places that offer lessons and rentals, and for those with no balance, the snorkelling here is also fantastic.

In the right season, Galley Bay also sees sea turtles laying eggs which hatch adorable baby turtles on the beach – nesting season is between June to October and babies hatch after two months at nighttime, so this is the best time to visit.

5- Visit The Museum of Antigua and Barbuda

Although Antigua is all beautiful beaches and relaxing in the sun, finding out more about the island’s history is the best way to get to grips with the culture and architecture of the place.

The building dates back to 1750 and has exhibits covering everything from when the island was first discovered to gaining independence.

You can also see artefacts relating to local culture, such as a true-to-size Arawakan home, a group of natives hailing from South America.

If the weather isn’t on your side, which is rare, this is also a good option while you wait it out.

The museum is one of the historic sights to explore in St John’s.

6- Step Back In History At Betty’s Hope

The Caribbean is full of with sugar plantations and the one you can’t miss in Antigua is Betty’s Hope.

There are more than 100 on the island, but Betty’s Hope remains intact and is both a fascinating insight into the sugar-making process as well as an insightful palace to learn about the slave trade.

The plantation had almost 30 slaves when it was functioning, and now has an open-air museum where you can learn more about them, along with Betty, the daughter of the plantation owner, after whom it was named.

7- Explore St. John’s

Young Couple Walking On Tropical Beach With White Sand
Spending time on the beach is one of the relaxing things to do in Antigua.

Like many in the Caribbean, Antigua’s capital of St. John is fairly small, quaint and colourful, but it’s also full of great things to see and do and should be one of the first places you visit.

A few of the best things to see are St. John’s Cathedral, which is one of the city’s landmarks.

Redcliffe Quay is where you can shop in local boutiques and Heritage Quay, which is similarly lined with some great shops and restaurants, although it’s worth avoiding on days when a cruise ship is in as it can get very busy.

Save your feet and join an e-bike tour.

Recommended tours:

8- Go On A Sunset Cruise

Beautiful Pictures Of Antigua And Barbuda
Snap beautiful pictures of Antigua and Barbuda to remember your vacation.

Antigua is one of the world’s most beautiful islands, so naturally one of the best ways to see it properly is from the water, which happens to be crystal clear and perfect for sailing.

Cruises are readily available from companies in St John’s or at hotels.

You can opt for wildlife cruises, island hopping, sunset cruises or dinner cruises.

All are spectacular options and are a novel way to see Antigua’s surroundings, particularly if you choose cruises that include excursions for snorkelling or exploring other islands.

9- Drink Rum At The Antigua Distillery

Barman Prepare Fresh Coctail Drink
Drinking rum cocktails is one of the fun things to do in Antigua and you can also visit a rum distillery.

You’re in the Caribbean, so it’s almost a given that you should try some rum and while there are a couple of distilleries, try Antigua Distillery Ltd first.

This is because although you can tour the distillery, it’s still completely functional so it doesn’t cater to tourists – instead, you’ll see it up close and fully working.

Learn about the distillation process and where rum comes from, and of course do a few tastings.

It’s advised to get a taxi here, as you won’t be able to drive after you’ve had any of Antigua’s overproof rum.

By joining this cooking class, you may also like to learn how to cook with rum.

10- Admire The View From Shirley Heights

Woman admiring the View Of English Harbor From Shirley Heights, Antigua
Admiring the view of English Harbor from Shirley Heights is one of the things to do in Antigua.

Shirley Heights is perched 492 feet above sea level and offers an awe-inspiring panoramic view of English and Falmouth Harbors, as well as Guadeloupe to the south of Antigua.

To fully appreciate this vista, visit at sunset or in the early morning.

This area will appeal to active types, as you’ll need to take an easy hike to the summit or join an e-bike tour.

Visit on a Sunday if you can, as when you reach the area, you’ll find barbecues, rum being served and steel band music from 4 pm to 10 pm, although the party usually goes on later.

It also happens to have fantastic sunsets – it’s simply a must-see spot.

Recommended hiking tours:

11- Learn To Sail

With strong winds, beautiful waters and an array of surrounding islands, sailing is one of the top activities in Antigua – as you’ll see from the expensive sailing boats that are moored almost everywhere you look.

Antigua hosts a Sailing Week from the last Sunday in April into May, drawing numerous boats for the races, parties and celebrations.

The island has hundreds of yachts for charter, sailing schools and more, so if you’re a pro or keen to learn, this is the spot to do it.

You can even do professional training, from month-long programs to skippered day trips, depending on how long you’ve got.

12- Visit Barbuda

It wouldn’t be a list about Antigua without mentioning the country’s counterpart of Barbuda, which could have a list all on its own.

On Barbuda, you can find pink sand beaches, including the famous Princess Diana Beach, and enjoy equally delicious seafood at beachside shacks – conch soup is a local speciality.

Codrington Lagoon National Park is home to diverse wildlife and mangrove forests, while the waters around Barbuda are on par with Antigua for marine life, coral reefs and water sports.

If you have time to visit both islands, then do, as they both have their own unique attractions and charm.

13- Escape From The Crowds To Prickly Pear Island

All of Antigua promises relaxation in paradise, but to get away from any crowds, consider heading to Prickly Pear Island.

You’ll need to book an excursion, but it’s only around five minutes by boat from Hodge’s Island and has nothing but virgin sand, sparkling water and space to chill out.

Excursions here normally have limited numbers, meaning you’ll have the island all to yourself and usually provide a seafood buffet.

What could be better than enjoying lunch and drinks on a deserted island in the Caribbean?

14- Have An Underwater Adventure

Iaqua Adventures Underwater Jetski
An underwater jetski adventure is one of the fun things to do in Antigua.

Antigua’s calm, clear waters offer virtually unrivalled visibility, marine life and brightly coloured coral reefs, making it one of the most incredible places on Earth to explore beneath the waves.

Snorkelling is an option off many local beaches and rentals are easily available or join a snorkelling cruise.

For those looking to progress to diving, diving schools are abundant and there are dozens of dive sites.

Advanced divers can also enjoy everything from shallow reefs to wrecks and drift dives, while spotting rare creatures and larger species.

A popular site for both diving and snorkelling is the Pillars of Hercules, while Barracuda Reef and the Wreck of the Montserrat are great for experienced divers.

For something different, you may like to try an underwater jetski adventure.

15- Drink Cocktails At Dennis’ Beach Bar

It’s hard to recommend just one beach bar because there are hundreds across Antigua, but Dennis’ Beach Bar, which sits by Ffryes Beach, is widely known as one of the best.

Aside from the beautiful ocean views, framed by swaying palm trees, they also serve some of the best local Antiguan food around.

Curried conch is a big favourite, but all of the seafood is super fresh and delicious, especially paired with a cold cocktail or some rum punch.

Come early in case it gets crowded, which is likely.

16- Visit Devil’s Bridge

Rocky Coastline Near Devil's Bridge Antigua
Visiting Devil’s Bridge is one of the things to do in Antigua.

Devil’s Bridge is a dramatic, craggy limestone arch that is deeply rooted in Antiguan history.

The bridge is a natural arch in the weathered limestone rock, shaped over the ages.

The Atlantic’s turbulent waves rush underneath, occasionally spurting out through blowholes.

If you visit, approach with care and avoid taking children here, as sea spray from the blowholes can be surprising and the limestone bridge can be slippery.

Accessing Devil’s Bridge is an adventure itself, down a mile-long potholed road, but that’s half the fun.

Its sombre name and history comes from the rumours that slaves once came here to take their own lives.

For more adventures on land see:

17- Visit Redcliffe Quay

Situated right along the waterfront in one of the city’s oldest sections, Redcliffe Quay is perfect for some retail therapy or picking up souvenirs.

Whether you’re hunting for a bikini, handcrafted jewellery, or classic souvenirs, you’re going to find them here.

There are restaurants, cafes and bars for when you need a snack or refreshment break, so you can sit overlooking the blue water and many sleek, beautiful yachts sitting nearby with a cold drink.

It’s right on the cruise port so when a ship is in, it can be overwhelmingly busy.

18- See The Pillars of Hercules

The Pillars of Hercules are incredible limestone rock formations that remain one of the most famous natural attractions in Antigua.

The dramatically shaped pillars are a stunning backdrop for sailing and snorkelling, which is why many tours include this on their itineraries.

The Pillars are accessible via a hike from Galleon Beach, and if you head here towards the end of the day, the sunsets are usually unforgettable.

The best way to see them is definitely from the water however, so opting for a sunset cruise or chartering a yacht to tour the island is the way to go if you can.

19- Wallings Nature Reserve

There’s more than one place to get lost in nature in Antigua, and Wallings Nature Reserve is perfect for sporty types, outdoor lovers or wildlife watchers.

The reserve has a range of hiking trails winding through it which allow you to explore the rainforest and all its flora and fauna.

You can have a guide to lead your hikes, who can share more about the surroundings, and it also makes a perfect spot for a picnic if you bring some local snacks.

If you like birds, don’t forget a pair of binoculars as there are a few unique species in this area.

20- Go Island Hopping

Young couple on white beach during summer vacation.
Looking for things to do in Antigua on your next Caribbean vacation? Check out this top 20 list.

There are so many islands around Antigua (and Barbuda) that it can feel impossible to choose, so to make it easy, here are some of the best.

Laviscount Island is an uninhabited paradise with pristine waters where dozens of stingrays live, plus, it’s home to the Western Hemisphere’s largest Aldabra Giant Tortoise sanctuary.

There’s also Great Bird Island, which is a 20-acre bird-watching haven, while Green Island is surrounded by coral reefs and clear waters that unsurprisingly attract sailing and mega-yachts.

There are so many more that if you can rent a boat to explore, finding one to yourself will be like discovering a desert island.

Alternatively, jump on an island-hopping cruise to get a few under your belt before you leave.

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India Jayne trainor
India-Jayne Trainor is a British/Australian freelance writer, photographer and contributor to various online blogs and travel websites. She has travelled to almost 30 countries, most recently Cuba and Sri Lanka. Her work focuses on solo female travel, having spent two months backpacking alone through South East Asia as well as living in Germany for a year. Her favourite country to date has been Hong Kong, but she is happy in any country by the ocean. Her next destinations are Uzbekistan and a road trip through the American Mid-West. India is currently based in London, UK.