Why Go To Antigua

Historic sites, tasty cuisine and a lively cultural scene can all be found on Antigua. But most often it's the beauty and versatility of the island's 365 beaches that draw travelers from afar. Do you like to party in the sand? Are you looking for safe, shallow waters where your kids can play? Would you be interested in exploring the ocean deep? This paradise in the Leeward Islands has you covered with one beach for every day of the year.

Save your breaks from the sand and sun for the go-to sights of Antigua; its sleepy sister island, Barbuda, has a more relaxed, less touristy feel. If you do venture to Antigua's attractions, you'll find that the panoramic view from Shirley Heights or the fascinating history of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine are largely overlooked by the sun worshippers who have set up camp along the shores. That will just make your sightseeing trips all the more pleasant – you'll have fewer people to wrestle with as you uncover some of this island's hidden charm.

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Best of Antigua

Antigua Travel Tips

Best Months to Visit

The best time to visit Antigua is from May to November, the island's offseason. Rates are cheapest at this time, and although there is a slight threat of hurricanes, the weather rarely escapes 80 degrees. You'll encounter less rain between December and April, but rates are more expensive and crowds are abundant.

Weather in Antigua

Switch to Celsius/MM
Average Temperature (°F)
82.8
72.1
82.9
71.8
83.5
72.5
84.6
73.9
85.6
75.7
86.9
77.5
87.3
77.7
87.6
77.7
87.3
76.6
86.7
75.7
85.1
74.7
83.5
73
Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
Nov
Dec
Average Precipitation (in)
2.24
1.48
1.84
2.66
4.43
1.95
3.41
3.96
5.53
5.15
5.31
3.44
Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
Nov
Dec
See details for When to Visit Antigua

Data sourced from the National Climatic Data Center

What You Need to Know

  • Taxi or bust Don't plan on exploring Antigua on foot; the off-resort attractions are quite far apart. If you don't have your own set of wheels, take a cab instead, but make sure to agree on a price in advance.
  • Go green The twin islands enacted a ban on plastics and Styrofoam starting in 2017. Plan to bring a reusable tote if you're doing any shopping.
  • Consider a daytrip Most visitors stick to Antigua, but Barbuda is just a 90-minute ferry ride from Antigua and makes for a great daytrip if you need an escape from the tourist crowds.

How to Save Money in Antigua

  • Book in the offseason Hotel rates drop significantly between May and November. However, there is also a threat of hurricanes, so travel insurance or refundable bookings may be a good idea.
  • Rent a car If you plan on staying for more than a few days, this could be a better investment than taking numerous taxis. However, you'll be required to obtain an Antiguan driving permit, which costs $20.
  • Pack the bug spray Mosquitoes are a notorious pain during the wet season, so if you'll be visiting between July and November, don't forget to pack your bug spray.

Culture & Customs

Antigua's residents are descendants of African slaves who were forced to come to Antigua at the hand of British slave trade. Today, Antiguan culture – the language, customs, music and even Carnival celebration – is heavily influenced by African tradition. English is the official language, but many Antiguans speak Creole in several different dialects.

Many restaurants and hotels add a 10% service charge to the bill. If they don't, be sure to leave a 10 to 15% tip. Use those guidelines to tip bartenders and taxi drivers as well.

The currency of Antigua and Barbuda is the East Caribbean dollar (XCD) but United States dollars are widely accepted. One U.S. dollar is equal to about 2.70 East Caribbean dollars.

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What to Eat

Similar to neighboring Caribbean destinations, Antigua offers a wide variety of cuisine styles and restaurant settings, ranging from beachfront bars to fine dining eateries found at most of the island's top resorts. There are more than 100 restaurants on Antigua offering an eclectic mix of West Indian, Italian, French, Chinese and Swiss-German dishes. No matter where you decide to dine, you'll want to look for a few distinctly Antiguan foods on the menu.

Conch is a popular shellfish ingredient used found in chowders, curries, ceviches and fritters. Since its sourced right from the waters surrounding Antigua, you can bet the conch here is fresh and best enjoyed as a ceviche. Ducana, which is typically served as a side dish, has the appearance of a tamale since it's wrapped in a banana leaf. The dish is made from grated sweet potatoes and coconuts and seasoned with a variety of spices before being steamed. Fungee, Antigua's national dish, is similar to polenta or grits in that it's made from combining cornmeal and okra paste into balls. It's usually served with stews or meats and frequently plated alongside saltfish, a salt-cured and flaked white fish.

And, of course, no visit to Antigua would be complete with a sample of its rum. Popular rum punch doesn't usually include high-quality rums as these are traditionally enjoyed straight, so if you're hoping to indulge in the island's most famous variety, ask for the Cavalier Rum or English Harbour Rum from Antigua Distillery Limited.

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Safety

Crime is relatively low on Antigua, but robberies targeting visitors do occur. Be sure to stay alert and exercise common sense. Your valuables should be kept in the hotel safe, not resting unattended on a beach blanket.

And speaking of the beach, take it easy on your first day on the island. The Caribbean sun can take it out of you, especially in summer, and there are not many beaches with lifeguards to assist you should you feel unwell. Drink plenty of water while outside, wear a hat and apply sunscreen at regular intervals.

Don't attempt scuba diving until you've received proper training, and even then, never dive alone. Decompression sickness is a potential risk with deeper dives. Also known as "the bends," decompression sickness' symptoms include joint pain, itchy and swelling skin, loss of balance, and shortness of breath, all of which could occur from rising to the surface too quickly. To avoid illness, make sure to ascend at no more than 30 feet per minute. Should you feel ill, experts recommend that you seek immediate medical attention.

Getting Around Antigua

The best way to get around Antigua is by car or taxi. Having a car can save you money, especially on longer visits, but the island can be difficult to navigate due to bumpy dirt roads and hilly areas that flood easily. A handful of rental agencies, including Alamo, Avis and Hertz, have locations in the arrival hall of Antigua's V.C. Bird International Airport (ANU), located on the northern part of the island just outside of the town of Osbourn. Travel to neighboring islands by air on LIAT charter planes or by sea aboard a cruise or a ferry, such as the Barbuda Express.

Learn about Neighborhoods in Antigua

Entry & Exit Requirements

A valid passport is required for citizens of the United States traveling in and out of Antigua. Immigration officials might ask for proof of accommodations while in Antigua or Barbuda, as well as proof of a return trip and proof of commensurate funds for the trip. For more information on entry and exit requirements, visit the U.S. Department of State's website.

Photos

Antigua1 of 31
Antigua2 of 31

The windswept Devil's Bridge is the point at which the Atlantic Ocean meets the Caribbean Sea.

by Marc Guitard/Getty Images

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