Antigua: A guide to the most romantic Caribbean destination
Words by Kelly Topping
Powering through the ocean aboard a speedboat for a glimpse of the 365 beaches that make up Antigua’s coastline, it is easy to see why this island destination along with its twin Barbuda held its crown of ‘most romantic Caribbean destination’ once more at the World Travel Awards. Yes, Antigua has some of the best beaches and hotels in the Caribbean but with a double whammy of celebrations on the island in 2017, plus plenty of attractions and activities, there’s a lot more on offer too!
This summer, July 28th to August 8th, sees the 60th anniversary of the Antigua Carnival, 12 days devoted to steelpan music, calypso and parades. Urging you to ‘experience greatness’ and billed as The Caribbean’s Greatest Summer Festival, the riot of sound and energy is immense building up to the grand finale in capital St. Johns for carnival Monday. St John’s itself is packed with colourful markets and even more colourful buildings, abundant places to shop and eat plus the Museum of Antigua and Barbuda and the impressive St John’s Cathedral.
Around 30 minutes from St. Johns in the south west of the island, the lush rainforest prevails and what better way to see the Antiguan landscape than by zip wire? With over 16 zip lines some 300 ft. in the air with aerial bridges, tree house and ‘leap of faith’ vertical descents, Antigua Zip Line Tours can put you up there with the fig trees (banana trees to you and me!) plus rope challenge courses too.
The second big celebration in 2017 is Antigua Sailing Week which celebrates its 50th between April 29th and May 5th. Based at English Harbour on the south coast, you can ‘chase the race’ or indulge in sailing week’s shore side and party schedule, from beach parties to reggae in the park, all culminating in Dockyard Day at historic Nelson’s Dockyard with live music and a family friendly atmosphere. Never one to miss out on a party, each November Antigua celebrates its independence with Independence Day activities taking place all over the island.
Nearby at Shirley Heights you can wander through the ruins of the old military buildings and take in some pretty stunning views out over English Harbour. But don’t head for home too early, Shirley Heights Lookout hosts a Sunday barbecue party from 4pm with Caribbean steelpan music. Around 7pm, as the sun begins to set, the vibe gets more intense as the party music ramps up!
To keep the party going, you could venture onto the D-boat, an oil tanker turned restaurant moored by Maiden Island in the north east, one of Antigua and Barbuda’s many little offshore islands. Complete with waterslide, trampoline to launch you into the ocean and swings and ropes aplenty, the D-boat can also be your base for snorkelling or trips to Maiden Island itself.
One of the top attractions in Antigua is also found in the east at ‘Stingray City’. Head out by speedboat to a shallow pool where, with white sand underfoot, you can glimpse the friendly stingrays gliding gracefully through the perfectly clear water in their natural habitat, free to come and go as they please. But with the promise of food, they generally come!
As for places to stay, the 30 cottages that make the Cocos Hotel is a tranquil, adults- only, ultra-luxurious option. Located in Valley Church on the western coast, each little wooden cottage is nestled into the hillside and surrounded by the verdant greenery that characterises this part of the island, overlooking the crystalline waters. The Cocos makes a wonderful wedding venue, with ceremonies able to take place right on the beach or even on the couples’ own cottage balcony.
For a family friendly yet luxurious option, the 5 star Carlisle Bay on the southern coast gives families and couples their own dedicated areas, with accommodation in 82 modern suites that still manage a Caribbean flavour. Garden Suite rooms look out over the garden (but with a glimpse of the ocean too). There’s a big focus on wellness here, with a yoga pavilion set in the tropical gardens, alongside gym, spa and tennis courts.
Antigua packs a lot into its 108 miles. So whether you’re heading to Antigua for a blissfully romantic break, an exhilarating escape or in search of a family friendly cocoon of luxury, Antigua will undoubtedly deliver.
Your Caribbean (www.yourcaribbeantravel.com) is a bespoke Caribbean and honeymoon specialist, and is offering 7 nights in a Garden Suite at Carlisle Bay, Antigua from £3280pp, bed and breakfast.