Caribbean

10 Unique Things to do in Antigua & Barbuda

by Paul Joseph  |  Published November 1, 2016

Positioned where the Atlantic and Caribbean oceans meet, the twin islands of Antigua and Barbuda are awash with reef-lined beaches, sheltered bays, rainforests and luxury resorts, not to mention candy-coloured villages and fascinating historic sights.

A pretty harbour town lined with shops in Antigua & Barbuda (Photo: Roman Melnichuk via Flickr)

Of course, it is for its sheer, jaw-dropping natural beauty that so many visitors are drawn here. But if you can tear yourself away from your beach towel for long enough, you’ll soon discover that there’s a diverse choice of unique things to see and do. Here are 10 of the best.

1. Barbuda Express

If you can’t afford to charter a superyacht in Antigua & Barbuda – and few of us can – then the next best thing is the Barbuda Express. This innovative, wave-piercing catamaran propels you across the water at high speeds, providing a thrilling way to enjoy the awe-inspiring natural beauty of the region. As well as providing transport for tourists and businessfolk needing to traverse the twin islands, it also offers a great choice of tours, including excursions to the Frigate Bird Sanctuary and Princess Diana Beach.

Barbuda Express

Beautiful birds of prey viewed during a Barbuda Express day tour (Photo: Barbuda Express)

2. Antigua Chiama Italia

For anyone seeking accommodation in Antigua & Barbuda, this is about as good as it gets. Antigua Chiama Italia features a vast guesthouse containing three separate villas, all of which offer stunning views as well as direct access to Jolly Beach, the biggest beach on the islands. Guests can rent individual villas, or even single rooms within them, depending on availability, if preferred. They also organise land tours around the islands, with multi-lingual guides available. This is a superb spot for a lavish stay in the Caribbean, perhaps even for a Honeymoon.

Antigua Chiama Italia

The kind of stunning vista you can enjoy from Antigua Chiama Italia (Photo: Antigua Chiama Italia)

3. Antigua Forest Zip Line Tours

The award-winning Antigua Canopy Zip Line and Challenge Course is an adventurer’s delight, offering adrenaline junkies a unique eco-tour through Antigua’s lush rainforest. Participants will be taken on an exhilarating journey through the verdant forest, high above the trees, via a double wire and state of the art harness that will help you along ziplines measuring anywhere up to 328 feet in length. You’ll get to traverse a tree house and two suspension bridges along the way, offering a stunning bird’s eye view of the flora and fauna in the rainforest while listening to the numerous bird species found here.

Antigua Forest Zip Line Tours

An adventure seeker enjoying a zip line tour (Photo: Antigua Forest Zip Line Tours)

4. D-Boat Water Entertainment Center

What do you do with a retired oil tanker? In the case of D-Boat Antigua, the answer was to convert it into an all-singing, all-dancing water park and party boat that can be enjoyed by kids and adults alike. Permanently moored by Maiden Island, just off the coast of Antigua, the boat offers an array of family-friendly activities and attractions including a huge water slide, a trampoline and a rope that swings you out to sea. There’ an open bar serving lunches, snacks and a selection of drinks. The boat also offers a range of excursions including snorkelling tours and the chance to pet and feed stingrays.

D-Boat Antigua

A view of the D-Boat Water Entertainment Center across the ocean (Photo: D-Boat Antigua)

5. Heritage Quay

For anyone used to shopping in characterless malls and jam-packed high streets, Heritage Quay is about as different as it gets – and not just because of the duty and tax free goods. The large outdoor waterside complex is a picturesque and serene place to indulge in some retail therapy, with a huge choice of stores selling everything from electronics, local music, liquors, fine crystals and china, designer clothing, swimwear, fragrances, fine jewellery, high end watches and more. There’s also numerous sports bars and specialty restaurants to grab a tropical drink or a delicious meal when you’re all shopped out, while nocturnal attractions include several nightclubs and a casino.

Heritage Quay

Bright lights bring Heritage Quay to life at night-time (Photo: Heritage Quay)

6. Stingray City

Swimming with stingrays may sound like a hazardous pursuit but despite their venomous potential they are actually some of the friendliest creatures in the ocean. Antigua & Barbuda is particularly famous for its rays, which are said to be the brightest in the Caribbean, and Stingray City offer the chance to get up close and personal by embarking on an exciting snorkel adventure tour. A short speedboat ride whisks you to a shallow pool with a white sand bottom surrounded by beautiful coral reef where you’re invited to snorkel (or stand, if you prefer) with the rays, and even get some pictures taken with your new friends.

Stingray City

One of Antigua’s supersized stingrays (Photo: Stingray City)

7. Shirley Heights Lookout

A restored military lookout and gun battery, Shirley Heights is one of the most well-visited landmarks on the islands thanks in large part to its spectacular 360 degree views. It is a particularly popular spot to enjoy sunsets, with a unique natural phenomenon known as the Green Flash creating a green jet of light that covers the horizon as the sun sets behind the ocean. The walk to the top is relatively steep but shouldn’t be beyond most visitors. The buildings themselves house a restaurant and a bar, and every Sunday night a party featuring a barbecue and local bands playing Caribbean flavoured music is held here.

8. Antigua Reef Riders

Antigua Reef Riders run tours where participants are given a 10-foot inflatable ‘reef rider’ to explore the West Coast and its jaw-droppingly beautiful coral reef that is filled with marine life. The size and mobility of the craft means that it is possible to moor at a reef lagoon, put on a snorkel and explore the aquatic life down below. Visitors can expect to see parrot fish, surgeon fish, stingrays, among other species.

9. Jolly Harbour

Antigua & Barbuda is home to many excellent, well equipped harbours and among the finest is Jolly Harbour, a bustling hub dotted with eating, shopping and leisure activities. Jolly Harbour sits on the southwest of the island, close to the larger Five Islands Harbour. Visitors can take a boat out on the crystal clear waters, make use of the tennis courts, or enjoy a round of golf at the 18-hole championship golf course. The harbour also contains plenty of options for a great night out, including several lively bars.

Jolly Harbour

A bird’s-eye view over Jolly Harbour (Photo: Jolly Harbour)

10. Pelican Safari

Pelican Safari tours pack everything that makes Antigua & Barbuda famous into a one-day-tour, taking you on a journey through the twin islands’ most scenic areas, including the rugged off-road terrain of inner Wadadli’s, lush tropical forests and picturesque seaside villages. Their guides are also well versed in the history of the islands, so those who choose this tour company will gain an extra layer of insight into one of the world’s most beautiful places.