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Antigua Travel Tips: Attractions, Weather, When to Go

Credit: Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority
We enjoyed touring Antigua (pronounced An-tig-ah) despite residents who were less friendly than most other islands.

It has one of the nicer shopping districts and downtowns of any of the eastern Caribbean islands we have visited.

The other reason why we liked it is because we love beaches. Antigua brags about having 365 beaches -- one for each day of the year.

We went to one called Fort James Beach about 10 minutes from downtown and the cruise port. A taxi driver found us leaving the ship, guessed we needed a ride and gave us a price that we accepted.

We found out later that if we had walked farther out to the taxi stand, we could have negotiated a lower price. Fort James Beach turned out to be a nice, quiet expanse of white sand with many jet skis crisscrossing over the cove in front of us. And the ruins of Fort James is a short walking distance away.

Antigua and its much smaller nearby neighbor of Barbuda rank 15th among the top 25 islands in total tourist visits. About twice as many people visit the island via cruise compared to stopovers, which is the average for the entire Caribbean.

See more Antigua travel information below to plan your trip.

Antigua Attractions

English Harbour
English Harbour. Credit: Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority
The cruise port of St. John’s is the biggest attraction on the island simply because so many people visit there by cruise. Besides the shopping district, other attractions in the city are St. John’s Cathedral, Heritage Quay and the Public Markets.

Fort James on the northern tip of the bay has historic ruins and views of the sea and the city. It is right by the aptly named Fort James Beach.

Antigua has one of the largest and most well-known historical attractions in the Caribbean at English Harbour. This former naval base, built for the British navy in the 1700s, is now part of of Nelson's Dockyard National Park.

The park covers 15 square miles and is the only Georgian dockyard left in the world. It still supports visiting yachts and other ships today. A nearby attraction is Shirley Heights, a former military fort that overlooks English Harbour.

The historical Sea View Farm Village has displays of folk pottery available for purchase. Harmony Hall Art Gallery is the showplace of island art. The Museum of Antigua and Barbuda displays the island’s historical past.

Tourism / When to Go

U.S. and Canadian stopover tourists require passports. Cruise visitors simply need to have their ship ID cards available when leaving the ship and returning.

The most popular times to visit are March followed by April, according to the Caribbean Tourism Organization. The least popular times are September and then October during the peak of the Caribbean hurricane season.

Antigua Weather

Average summer temperatures are in the mid to upper 80s while average winter temperatures are in the mid 70s.

The island averages about two inches of rain per month from January through April and again in June, according to the Antigua and Barbuda Meteorological Services.

It has a brief rainy season in May that averages four inches of rain. It averages more than five inches from September through November.

Currency / Tipping

Official currency is the Eastern Caribbean Dollar, but U.S. currency and most major credit cards are accepted everywhere. We never had a problem paying with U.S. currency during any shopping.

The suggested tipping amount is 10-15 percent, including taxi drivers. Some hotels and restaurants automatically add a service charge. Give 50 cents to $1 per bag for bellhops. The standard hotel tax on rooms is 8.5 percent.

Culture / Geography

The official language is English because of the island’s former status as an English territory.

Tourism accounts for more than half of the total economy. The geography struck us as bare and dry, but we never gave it another thought after we reached the beach. The landscape is mostly low-lying limestone and coral islands, with some higher volcanic areas.

Sources / More information

Scott S. Bateman is a professional journalist who has traveled widely throughout the Caribbean and the Americas.

 > Category: Travel Tips   

August 30, 2017

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