In mid-March, Ali Pulver and John Bassett spent four days on the beautiful Eastern Caribbean island of Antigua. Once an important military base for Great Britain, this little piece of paradise is now better known as a popular stop on the sailing circuit and for having an abundance of idyllic beaches — one for every day of the year. With the help of the New York Times article “36 Hours in Antigua“, Ali and John set out to explore all the island has to offer. Here, Ali shares her thoughts on where to stay, the best way to get around the island and whether there really are 365 beaches.
A Hotel With History: We stayed at the Copper and Lumber Store Hotel (pictured right), which seemed to offer the most charm for the buck. It’s in Nelson’s Dockyard, in one of the original buildings built in the late 1700’s. We really loved the hotel but it was very quiet — we felt like we were the only ones staying there. That might have been because of the economy or because things don’t really pick up until Sailing Week in April.
Antigua has a lot of all-inclusive beachfront hotels, the type of places that we generally try to shy away from. If you want to spend lots of time at the beach, then that may be the way to go. Also, that would probably be cost effective because taxis, food, etc., are all really expensive and quickly add up.
Favorite Meals: The Inn at English Harbuor is a very plush hotel whose room rates are a bit beyond our means but we could afford to eat a a couple of really nice meals there. I’d say breakfast was my favorite — we ate right on the water, and the inn picked us up by boat from our hotel for free. After the meal we got to sit on their beach and enjoy the sun a little. We also had some nice lunches at Bumpkins, a casual restaurant right on Pigeon Point Beach. There is nothing like a good Wadadli (the local beer) after a day at the beach.
Most Memorable Activity: That would probably be the Sunday night reggae/steel drum party up on Shirley Heights (pictured left), which we learned about from the NYT article. Everyone on the island seems to gather there for it.
Beachcombing and Beach Counting: Antigua is purported to be the island of 365 beaches but we seem to have different definitions of “beach” because I really didn’t see that many. One of the problems is that although all of the beaches are public, a lot (particularly on northwest coast) have big hotels on them. Legally, you’re free to enjoy those beaches too, but you feel weird trying to access them.
Also it was a haul to get to the beaches from our hotel, except for Pigeon beach (pictured right), which luckily turned out to be quite nice and have good snorkeling. Half Moon Bay, which we had read about in the NYT, is a wonderful beach that’s was definitely worth the long ride. It offers white sand as well as some exciting exploring over rocky turf to a connecting beach (with a hotel on it), which is just beautiful. Be sure to get a burger and beer at the little beach shack restaurant on your way out or in.
Taxi vs. Rental Car: Taxis are expensive. Basically, I thought everything on the island would be walkable — beaches, restaurants, etc. — and that is just not the case. I was a little disappointed at how inaccessible everything seemed to be — the island is much bigger than you think. So, we’d end up taking a $30 taxi ride wherever we needed to go and it got really expensive. You should really rent a car from the get go, which we finally did for the last couple of days. (Although that certainly wasn’t cheap either.)
One Last Thing: It’s pronounced Antig-a, not Antig-wah.