Warning: If you dislike natural beauty, friendly people, relaxation, and rum, steer clear of Antigua. Located in the Caribbean West Indies, this beguiling island will seduce you with all of these things, and then some. During my time there I perfected the art of “liming,” which I learned from some native Antiguan buddies to mean straight up “chillin’ out and enjoying life,” a pastime that is greatly valued in their culture. One local I met upon arrival set the tone for my trip and frankly gave me a swift kick in the pants (pun intended) to reset my attitude towards life. I asked what he liked best about his country and he said simply, “We in Antigua don’t allow anything to take our joy.”
…where to chow down and then unbutton the top button
Dennis’ Cocktail Bar & Restaurant
When I pulled up to Dennis’ Bar & Restaurant, a cheerful lime-colored cottage situated smack dab on Antigua’s stunning Ffryes Bay, my jaw dropped. Sitting on Dennis’ large veranda while eating coconut shrimp and sipping rum punch is the stuff dreams are made of.
Visiting Sheer Rocks, aptly named because you sit posted up on a cliff high above the calm turquoise water, is truly a magnificent retreat. I felt like royalty (i.e. Khaleesi or Beyoncé) at this glamorous beach haven where the service is impeccable, as are the Caribbean-meets-Mediterranean tapas and cocktails. You can even take a dip in between bites and sips in one of their plunge pools.
Carmichael’s at Sugar Ridge Hotel offers a unique fine dining experience on a lush hilltop overlooking picturesque Jolly Harbour. Specializing in local cuisine made with the freshest market-driven, sustainable ingredients, this open-air restaurant boasts spectacular views, excellent service, and a great little bar in a luxe, contemporary setting.
The Captain’s Table
This is truly a locals’ spot, and a favorite one at that. The Captain’s Table is well-known for their incredible menu of local seafood as well as Antiguan Roti (a popular Caribbean dish typically made with curry). There’s a steel drum group that plays live music in the low-key outdoor area where you sit and eat, adding to the authenticity of the experience.
… where to drink up and get down
This is a casual, but lively spot on historic Fort James beach that boasts stiff drinks and a variety of local entertainment. They have a rotating line-up that includes jazz, reggae, calypso music, and even stand-up comedy.
Sugar Ridge Sunday Chill
Sugar Ridge Hotel’s infinity pool area, located on a bluff with killer ocean views, is home to “Sunday Chill” starting at 3pm every Sunday. Drinks and small plate specials are offered and there’s a DJ spinning lounge-y summer tunes.
Ana’s on The Beach
If I had to pick a favorite party destination on Antigua, Ana’s would get my vote. This charming, stylish bar & restaurant has it all — chic pink décor that screams “Instagram” me, prime real estate on gorgeous Dickenson Bay, award-winning food and cocktails, and world-class entertainment.
Shirley Heights Sunset Party
Shirley Heights Lookout, located on a hilltop in a National Park, is home to one of Antigua’s most beloved events – the Sunday Sunset Party. For over 30 years now, locals and visitors have gathered here to enjoy panoramic views of English Harbour, watch the sunset, drink, eat BBQ, and listen to live steel drum performances as well as other local party bands. This is not to be missed!
OJ’s Beach Bar
Guests who visit OJ’s savor the grilled red snapper, while drinking rum punch and sitting on their cozy, shabby chic terrace with their toes in the sand. Live jazz happens Friday and Saturday evenings.
…where to crash and get some R&R
Sugar Ridge Hotel
If you’re looking for exclusive, luxury lodging in an intimate boutique setting, Sugar Ridge is just the place for you. With two beautiful restaurants, two pools, gym, spa, and 60 spacious rooms each with their own uber-luxe veranda overlooking the Caribbean Sea, you won’t want to leave this plush hillside resort. The super friendly service staff truly goes out of their way to accommodate your every need, and they offer free shuttle service to and from their partner beaches (which are each just minutes away from the hotel).
High Roller alert. Certainly for the more discerning traveler, Jumby Bay Resort, a Rosewood Property (always amazing), is located on a private island 2 miles off the coast of Antigua. Oprah vacations here on the regular. Enough said.
Coco Bay Resort
The dreamy Coco Bay Resort sits nestled between two pristine beaches in Valley Church and offers accommodations that are secluded and comfortable. They’ve got relaxed luxury on lock. Picture open-air rooms with balconies practically touching the turquoise sea and it’s home to Sheer Rocks, the fabulous bar/restaurant we mention in Fat Pants.
The Inn at English Harbour
Providing privacy and peace on 19 acres of seaside land, The Inn at English Harbour is quaint and charming. The property exudes a classic British colonial style mixed with casual Caribbean vibes.
ANTS IN YOUR PANTS
…what to do when you can’t sit still
Boasting 365 stunning beaches (one for each day of the year!), Antigua is an ideal destination if you’re looking for some quality time in the surf and sand. We were truly impressed with the caliber of beaches the island has to offer. The water is bright blue, calm, and crystal clear and the sand is soft and snowy white. Our picks: Turner’s Beach, Half Moon Bay, Long Bay, Dickenson Bay, Ffryes, and The Nest/Valley Church.
Nicole’s Table Cooking Class
A trip to Antigua isn’t complete without sampling local cuisine and taking it one step further by making it yourself is even better. Nicole Arthurton of Nicole’s Table, a personable longtime local, offers Caribbean cooking classes in the comfort of her beautiful hillside home, where you’ll prepare and sample a variety of delectable dishes including, but certainly not limited to, Jerk Chicken, Bacon Wrapped Plantains, and Coconut Tarts.
Antigua’s Carnival is a 10-day festival each summer that ignites the country with excitement and local pride. The festivities, which celebrate emancipation, involve food fairs, parades, pageants, colorful costumes, talent shows, and lots and lots of music.
Swimming with wildlife is always pretty high on our list of fun things to do, and the Southern stingrays of Antigua (known as “the puppies of the sea” because they’re friendly and attention-seeking) are just as good as snorkel buddy as any. This experience includes a short boat ride to an area where coral and stingrays are abundant.