Powder-white beaches and rum punches
‘Antigua has some of the most stunning beaches I’ve seen, soft white sand and that almost-unbelievable aquamarine water that epitomises the Caribbean. You can do a boat trip around the coast, see the neighbouring island of Barbuda, enjoy the markets and local life in the capital St John’s or brave the Antigua Rainforest Canopy Zipline.
The island has some great hotels. I loved the all-suite Carlisle Bay, a boutique property that’s the sister hotel to One Aldwych in London. Every room has a sea view, and there’s a fabulous pool, open-air Pilates and yoga pavilion, a kids’ club and PADI dive. I also rate Curtain Bluff on the south coast between two white-sand beaches; one perfect for swimming, the other is aptly named Surf Beach. Run by the same family for years, it’s a friendly all-inclusive with oceanview rooms and suites, championship tennis centre, beachside pool and a 25,000-bottle wine cellar…
Other favourites are Jumby Bay, a Rosewood resort on a 300-acre, car-free island with super-luxurious rondavel rooms, suites and villas, open-air rainshowers and private garden. At the spa, you can book a ‘floating’ massage in one of their handmade hammocks. If you want adults-only, then all-inclusive Cocobay Resort on the sunset-facing west coast is another top pick with Caribbean-style cottages, all with verandahs and hammocks; most have sea views, and some have plunge pools.
On weekends, don’t miss the Sunday Barbecue parties at Shirley Heights Lookout restaurant, with steel bands and Antigua’s best party bands. If you ask their bartenders if it’s every Sunday, they’ll invariably reply, “Yes, just like church!” You can’t beat this spot for a rum punch, local food and views over the English Harbour and Nelson’s Dockyard – Admiral Horatio Nelson sailed into Antigua in 1784 and the island became Britian’s most important Caribbean base.’
Flight time: 8 hours
Capital: St John’s
Currency: Eastern Caribbean dollar; US dollar accepted
Time difference: GMT -4