Caribbean / Mexico

Antigua: A beach a day for a year!

Photo credit: Antigua & Barbuda Tourist Office/Geoff Howes

You’ve heard the old adage: Life’s a beach? Well then, you should visit Antigua. It may seem like a cliché, but this improbably shaped splotch of land is ringed with beaches of the finest white sand, made all the more dramatic by the azure waters, which are so clear they’ll bring a tear to your eye or redefine Life.

Two little dots of paradise in the Caribbean, the charms of Antigua and Barbuda are immediately obvious. Antigua is a place where you go to enjoy the beach, the water and the reef.

On Barbuda, an island slightly smaller than Antigua, the attractions are a little less clichéd: Barbuda is best known for its bird sanctuary, renowned among bird watchers everywhere. Others may simply be drawn to the opportunity to enjoy solitude amongst nature’s beauty – Barbuda is not nearly as populated as Antigua.

Antigua is the larger of the two main islands that make up Antigua and Barbuda. It is a beautiful getaway and many visitors enjoy the really energetic island culture but also the peace and tranquility that the surrounding seas bring.

Antigua (an-TEE-gə) is an island in the West Indies, in the Leeward Islands in the Caribbean region. Antigua means “ancient” in Spanish and was named by Christopher Columbus after an icon in Seville, Santa Maria de la Antigua – St. Mary of the Old Cathedral. Over the years, Antigua has become very important as the hub of the Eastern Caribbean. With its exquisite beaches and spectacular diving, variety of activities and adventures to interest the adventurous, this should be your next Caribbean island to visit.

Saint John’s is the capital of Antigua and Barbuda and is located on the north coast of Antigua. The town has around 32,000 inhabitants and apart from being the administrative centre, Saint John’s is also a major port town.

English Harbour on the south-eastern coast is famed for its protected shelter during violent storms. It is the site of a restored British colonial naval station called “Nelson’s Dockyard” after Captain Horatio Nelson. Today English Harbour and the neighbouring village of Falmouth are internationally famous as yachting and sailing destinations and a provisioning centre. During Antigua Sailing Week, at the end of April and beginning of May, the annual world-class regatta attracts many sailing vessels and sailors to the island to play.

There are 365 beaches on Antigua, one for each day of the year. The great majority rest inside the calm, protected waters of the island’s Caribbean side. All are open to the public, and so the challenge posed to a visitor is not how to gain access to the best of them but simply how to locate the beach that suits one’s taste.

And chances are, while you are here, you will be attending some kind of festival. Often, the twin-island state is referred to as the festival capital of the Caribbean. If you are going to be here during the summer, try and arrange your dates to attend Antigua’s Carnival. It is a ten-day festival of colorful costumes, beauty pageants, talent shows, and especially good music. The festivities, which celebrate emancipation, are exciting and extensive, ranging from the Party Monarch and Calypso Monarch competitions of Calypsonians, the Panorama steel band competition, and the spectacular Parade of Bands to the Miss Antigua Pageant and the Caribbean Queen’s Competition. The annual Carnival is often referred to as the Caribbean’s greatest summer festival!

Photo credit: Antigua & Barbuda Tourist Office/Geoff Howes

Sailing, yachting, snorkeling and scuba diving, and just plain enjoying yourself are key elements of tourism in Antigua and Barbuda.

Other exciting activities include boating, cricket, tennis, windsurfing, hiking and bird watching, golfing, fishing and hunting, horseback riding and more – all part of the thriving, but wonderfully relaxed industry for tourism in Antigua and Barbuda.

The other major Antiguan sport, aside from sailing is cricket. Sir Vivian (“Viv”) Richards is one of the most famous Antiguans, who played for, and captained, the West Indies team. Richards scored the fastest Test century at the Antigua Recreation Ground. Antigua was the location of a 2007 Cricket World Cup site, on a new Recreation Ground constructed on an old cane field in the north of the island. Both soccer and basketball are becoming popular among the island youth. And of course, there are several golf courses in Antigua.

Barbuda is one of those very few islands in the Caribbean that remains – and probably will remain for some time – so undeveloped as to seem positively deserted at times.

With the exception of the guests of the island’s small number of hotels, the population seems largely to consist of the graceful Fregata magnificens, or frigate bird. As the birds possess a marked preference for the northwest lagoon, Barbuda’s seemingly endless white and pink sand beaches are left to the peaceful wanderings of those lucky enough to sojourn here.

Activities on Barbuda are appropriately relaxed, including beachcombing (on the northeastern Atlantic coast), fishing and hunting and, at the island’s resorts, golf, tennis, snorkeling, diving, or simply soaking up the sun and the calm.

Points of interest include the Frigate Bird Sanctuary, the truly noteworthy pink and white sand beaches, and an abundance of shipwrecks and beautiful reefs. Barbuda can be reached easily from Antigua, either by air (a 20-minute flight, twice daily) or by boat (in three hours).

Barbuda’s Frigate Bird Sanctuary is located in the island’s northwestern lagoon and is accessible only by boat. The sanctuary contains over 170 species of birds and is home to over 5,000 frigate birds. Fregata magnificens, the most aerial of water birds, possesses the largest wingspan (four to five feet) in proportion to its body size of any bird in the world. It is also known as the man o’ war bird, and the comparison to warships is a particularly apt one – with its superior size and flight capabilities, the frigate bird harasses less agile flyers like pelicans, egrets, and cormorants until they drop their catch. The male frigate is marked by its red throat pouch, which it can inflates as part of its courtship behaviour and as a defensive display. Courting takes place in the fall, and chicks hatch late in the year.

Antigua and Barbuda is more than just sun, azure-blue waters and an astounding 365 white and pink beaches. Here, the beach is just the beginning. The twin-island nation of Antigua and Barbuda provides an ultimate escape (There are many well-known personalities that have homes here) with its rich colonial heritage, first class hotels and resorts, sporting and leisure activities, captivating culture and epicurean delights.

Here, on these two beautiful dots of Caribbean paradise, the beach is just the beginning.

Sandals Grand Antigua

Sandals Resorts

Of all the most beautiful places on earth, only Sandals Grande Antigua has earned the title of “The World’s Most Romantic Resort”.

Filled with the authentic charm of the islands in its lush garden oasis known as The Caribbean Grove‚ and resplendent with European grandeur amidst its palatial retreat known as The Mediterranean Village, this spectacular resort offers the best of both worlds. This resort boasts unique “rondovals”, exotic suites in the round, and one-bedroom suites with private plunge pools.

And with 11 world-class restaurants for gourmet dining, and any time snacking, Sandals Grande Antigua has your mood-of-the moment covered.

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