Favorite thing: Our favorite thing to do after dinner was to take a swim in the pool. The pool is open 24 hours but most guests don't take adavntage of this. We loved having the pool to ourselves and enjoying a swim without worry of sunburn. It was great fun and we so looked forward to it every night.
Favorite thing: There is something to be said about staying at an all inclusive resort; the free drinks. My wife and I take advatage of this and try as many new cocktails we can. It's often that many cocktails get just one sip before we decide we don't like it. We have found some new favorites over the years: the Chocolate Monkey, The Reggae Top, The BBC and the Strawberry BBC. When you are not paying for drinks; you don't hesitate to try something new.
My wife and I love animals. Here on the island there are large quantities of strays;in particular cats. The Humane Society does their best to spay and neuter the animals but they are still without homes. The resort in which we have stayed twice has many cats on their grounds which is nice since they keep the rodent population at bay.
My wife likes to bring cat food with her to feed the cats and spends some time petting them and playing with them. On this visit in particular the cats seemed to remember her feeding them from last year and sought her out. One black and white cat from last year came right up to our pool chair before my wife even got the food out of her bag....the cat network must have broadcast a pic of my wife and a sign this one gives out free food.
We felt good seeing other guests feeding and petting the cats during our stay. My wife was sad to leave fearing they wouldn't have enough food but was reassured when her favorite cat tried to bring her a dead bird it just caught before eating it (she was happy for the cat but sicked at the sight).
One of the best places for information on what to do in various ports is
Cruise Critic. The Cruise Critic Antigua forum board was very useful in planning shore excursions, whether the ones offered by the ship or independent, and there is also Antigua port information with hints on where to go, what to do, where the ships dock, where to eat and how to get around.
To find out how many other cruise ships will be in town along with you, check
Cruisett.com. The more ships in town, the more competition for independent guides and tours and the more crowded the main attractions will be.
The ships dock at Heritage Quay in St. John's, the island's capital. You can find shopping, restaurants, bank machines and local transportation within a few blocks of the Quay.
Antigua uses the Eastern Caribbean Dollar but most vendors will take US dollars. We didn't have any need to use a credit card or ATM but you should be able to use your credit card or ATM card with no problem. Cruise Critic says that ATMs are available across from Heritage Quay.
I always like to bring small bills with me when we go to the Caribbean, that way you can hand the taxi drivers exact change, have money for tips for guides or buy things at the market without having to get change. If you are coming in by cruise ship, the passenger services desk can break larger bills for you.
At Nelson's Dockyard as you walk in, there are some gift shops and boutiques in which to shop for souvenirs as well as some stylish items of clothing. In addition there are also banking facilities, and a bakery. The gift shop next to the museum in the Naval Officer's House is one of the best in Antigua (although I didn't buy anything there.
It carries old maps, plans and charts of Antigua as well as a quantity of local handicrafts.
Fondest memory: There also was a post office which, when I saw it, I took these photos. You could mail your souvenirs home to yourself. I liked the red metal post box.
When I took the picture of the church "of the parish of St. Paul with St. Barnabas, on the island of Antigua, in the Anglican Diocese of North Eastern Caribbean and Aruba - Province of the West Indies", I didn't know that it is one of the most photographed churches in Antigua or that it was the oldest church on Antigua at over 250 years old. I had to do a good bit of searching of photos on the internet before I even found the name of the church in my photo. Confirmation of the church identity is photo 3.
One source says that the bricks that were used to build this church were brought from England on HMS Royal Navy Ships but I'm pretty sure that the green stone originated on the island. This church is still in use to this day.
The book "The Birth of the Village of Liberta, Antigua" says
As you enter Liberta from the north on the main road that runs through the village is Barnabas Hill.... as you climb to the summit, you find a quaint little chappel called St. Barnabas Church, better known to the people of the village as Barnabas Hill Church..
It was built of indigenous green limestone in the late seventeenth or early eighteenth century, long before Anglican Communion started to accept Afro-Antiguans as members, several years after the emancipation of slaves. According to Ms. Flannigan, an English writer who wrote extensively on the lives of the island's people, regarding the 1842 earthquake that pummeled the island and caused widespread damage, St. Barnabas Chapel, which was not only used as a church sanctuary, but also a kindergarten school, was among the buildings destroyed. The structure was rebuilt.
Fondest memory: Our guide pointed out to us that some of the stones on the island have a high copper content which makes them turn green. I have been unable to find out if the copper content is actually the reason for the color although I do see that green limestone is quarried in the hills of the south coast. Some of the stones used in the paving in Nelson's Dockyard (photo 2) were green in tint.
The official Currency in Antigua and Barbuda is the East Caribbean Dollar, which is also the official currency of Dominica, Grenada, St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Vincent and the Grenadines as well as the british overseas territories of Anguilla and Montserrat. It is the successor of the British West Indies Dollar, which it replaced between 1965 and 1983. Since 1976, it is pegged to the US$ at a rate of 1:2,70.
East Caribbean Dollars are quite hard to get outside of the Caribbean and it is recommended to pre-order them at the bank. Even at places where you would expect to get this currency (Heathrow Airport), it is hard to find some EC$ notes.
The US$ is widely accepted too, especially at places frequently visited by tourists. Although pegged, it is possible that the US$ is accepted at a less favourable rate. If a price is not clearly marked as “US” or “EC”, ask before you buy or it may get expensive for you.
Fondest memory: P.S.: If you want a special souvenir, have a look through your change. Although not an official currency anymore, some old British West Indies Dollar coins are still in circulation. I got two 25 cents coins from 1955 as change, showing all the old designations and young Queen Elizabeth.
The tourist information office is not a really well-kept place in Antigua – more a well-kept secret. It was in a cottage in Heritage Quay, now it is hidden in the 1st floor of a small shopping center called “Vendor’s Mall”. You’ll find that at the eastern end of heritage quay. Staff is very friendly and will do the best to answer the questions you have around your stay in Antigua. The office is open during usual opening times, which means it is closed in Sundays and opens somewhen around 9:00 a.m.
Their homepage will answer many FAQs, but keep in mind that also this page is focused on cruise ship tourists and wealthier people. A good example is found among the 25 tips when travelling to Antigua and Barbuda:
13. Best shopping deals are found at Heritage and Redcliffe Quays
“Best” is a good description for “Most expensive” in this case, as these places are among the most touristy ones on the island. Here, you’ll find a high concentration of souvenir shops as well as shops of luxury brands like Gucci. Sounds not like a bargain…
There are several maps for Antigua and Barbuda, many of them are available for free. The most common one is a pocket map from Skyview (in 2008 it had a canopy tour advertising on the front page). The map is good to get an overview of the island and is sufficient for walks around St. John’s. However, hiking with that map is like trying to sail around Britain with a road atlas. Roads are sometimes not where they are supposed to be and distances may be shorter or larger than they appear on the map. But the worst error on the map is the scale of Barbuda. They just forgot the zeros – for the miles as well as for the kilometers. That made me believe that Barbuda had a size of around 5 square kilometers – which proved to be an error….
Free maps (Skyview and others) are available almost everywhere where tourists are found: Airport, shops, hotels etc.
If you do not want to rely completely on the advice given you by a travel agency (which is the most expensive option), a lot of research is necessary. Internet research is the obvious method, but is focused on high-fare tourists. But what is even worse is the reliability of antiguan websites and e-mail adresses. Many pages weren’t updated for a long time and e-mail adresses do not work. On the other hand, phone calls may just rocket up your bill without bringing you closer to the information you wanted. Nevertheless, I still opt for the internet, but beware that a lot of patience is needed until you get the information you need.
The websites below are a good point to start the search through Antigua’s tourist information websites. The museum site is the best when it comes to get facts about all the sites on the island.
Fondest memory: I was forced to book a new hotel for a date in the beginning of the high season – and that was “only” two months before departure. E-mailing several hotels found on the web brought only a limited result: From around twelve e-mails sent out two were returned due to an unknown sender, three were replied and the rest disappeared somewhere in the virtual Atlantic Ocean. Research for local sights and activities led to a similar result, with the only difference being in three less replies for a total of zero. Fortunately, Among the three hotels e-mails was an acceptable offer (another was fine too, but that e-mail arrived with a delay of a week…).
For some more info:
In Antigua, you won’t find a supermarket chain like Wal-Mart or Tesco. All supermarkets I saw had a somewhat archaic interior and surely most of them were family-owned. It’s the kind of shop you’ll also find in the more rural regions of South America. As there are no chains, every supermarket is different, with some even offering warm meals inside. Also, some round up or down to the next 10 (or 25) cents, elminiating the smaller coins. One some, you have to leave your bag at the front desk or cashier, no matter how small it is. Anyway, going shopping in one of these supermarkets is something many tourists miss. But it’s another simple way to get in touch with everyday culture.
Fondest memory: In St. John’s you’ll find many supermarkets, a couple fo them are located around the market hall. Perhaps the best known and one of the largest is Miami Supermarket (for some reasons, called in the spanish manner “Mi-uh-mee”). Another larger one is found close to the eastern bus station and is run by an asian family. I heard of one supermarket with a larger choice, located a little outside of St. John’s, called Epicurean. However, I was told that that one was quite expensive. But if you are looking for a special imported product, it may be the right cjoice for you.
A day-tour by taxi is a popular way to explore the island and a good choice, if you are arriving on a cruise ship with only little time to see the island. That and the fact that it is a very important income source for the locals are the reasons why I don’t have this tip under tourist traps. However, it is also one of the most expensive ways to get around in Antigua: Most-basic day-tours start from 70 US$, haggling down your driver is possible, but may result in a more “limited” version. Extensive day-tours with more stops may go up to 300 US$.
If you are on the island for more than a single day, rental cars may be a good alternative. I prefer to explore the island via public transport. How to do that? Check out my tip about the bus system in Antigua.
There are public phones quite everywhere in Antigua. However, it is not that easy to call home. First, Antigua deviates a little from international standard: Here, you have to dial 011 and then your country code (for example, 01131 for the Netherlands). Most public phones accept credit cards, but no fare is indicated – so a short call may end up in an expensive experience. As coins are not accepted, the only other possibility is to buy a prepaid phone card. The easiest card to get is the one from Cable and Wireless, the company which operates most of the public phones. Cards for the state-run phones or international calling cards are harder to find.
Fondest memory: If you want to get a phonecard on a Sunday in St. John’s, try out a supermarket called “Shopper’s Paradise”, located at Fort Road, 15-20 walking minutes away from Heritage Quay. I don’t know, if there’s probably a better choice, but that was the only place after a 4-hour odyssey through St. John’s where I got a phonecard.
To describe Antigua is simple. Peaceful, clean, and charming. The island itself is quite small and very easy to get around. You will find all of the locals to be accomodating and pretty well spoken. The activities on the island are limitless and are geared towards many different types of individuals. The weather is some of the best in the caribbean. With an average of 340 days of sunshine a year, the island offers an appeal any time of year. Since they haven't taken a direct hit by a hurricane in over 50 years, however not being out of the hurricane belt, you can travel safely between the months of July and November without much worry.
The sand is as white as can be, the water crystal clear, and the reef off the island is lively with sea life to discover under water.
Antigua has 365 beaches on the island. One for each day of the year. Many smaller properties offer wonderful accomodations but like any caribbean destination, you might want to think about the few all inclusives since eating out can be pricey. If you do however, feel free to stay in one with a kitchen as the local market has a lot of food to choose from and is easy to get to. The town is clean, simple, and easy to get around. Since it is a small island, taking a taxi to the downtown area is easy to do.
A note to tourists, stay out of the port town of St. Johns on a cruise ship arrival day. The locals will raise the prices and will not let you bargain for lower prices. Any other day, you are safe. They will even offer you a beer to walk around with so you can shop.
The casino is actually good size if you are into that. And, air conditioned if it's extremely hot.
Some bars and restaurants offer some great live music a few nights a week and are very safe.
Go out, have fun. Antigua is a great place to be!
Fondest memory: I will miss the weather, the people, and the beaches!
The Yepton Beach Resort is where we were married in July 1994 and was a small privately owned hotel...more
Five Islands P.O. Box. 305, Antigua Island, ag
Good for: Business
Indian Town Rd, Saint Philip, Caribbean
Good for: Couples