Culture | Lifestyle | Travel | Antigua and Barbuda Antigua and Barbuda Top 10 Miles of pink sand, ziplines through the rainforest, swimming with stingrays... Bridget van Dongen offers a tourist’s to-do list By Bridget van Dongen | Issue 112 (November/December 2011) 0 Comments Barbuda’s incredible pink sand beach. Photograph courtesy Antigua and Barbuda Tourism AuthorityExploring the beach on Segways. Photograph courtesy segwayantigua.comAdventure Antigua’s Xtreme boat. Photograph courtesy Adventure AntiguaSwimming with stingrays. Photograph courtesy Stingray CityZipping through the rainforest. Photograph courtesy Antigua Rainforest CompanyKitesurfing at Jabberwock Beach. Photograph courtesy kiteantigua.comAveda Concept spa at Sugar Ridge. Photograph courtesy Sugar RidgeSushi at Sugar Ridge. Photograph courtesy Sugar RidgeCecilia’s outdoor dining. Photograph courtesy Cecilia NordCoral Gardens dive site. Photograph courtesy Indigo DiversView from Shirley Heights lookout. Photograph courtesy Antigua and Barbuda Tourism AuthorityFryes Beach on the west coast. Photograph courtesy Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority The beaches Antigua and Barbuda boast of having 365 beaches, one for every day of the year. While that statement might be a little exaggerated, the beaches are plentiful, with white sand in Antigua and spectacular pink sand in Barbuda. The best beaches are on the leeward side of the islands, protected by reefs and the Caribbean Sea, which leaves the water calm and shallow and the most incredible turquoise blue. Shirley Heights An institution in Antigua for the past 25 years, the Shirley Heights lookout on a Sunday is still fun, with the best sunset view in Antigua. The steelband’s melodic tunes begin around 4pm and at 7pm a local band performs soca music that gets everyone in a wining mood. Don’t be surprised to see a celebrity or two; a few have vacation homes in Antigua and they’re quite happy to rub shoulders with the hoi polloi. The barbecue dinner is fantastic and the rum punch lethal! Diving and snorkelling Surrounded by reefs populated with brightly coloured corals and fish, both Antigua and Barbuda offer excellent shallow diving and snorkelling. With little to no current on most dive sites, 80°F (25°C) water and visibility up to 140 feet, diving in Antigua is fun and easy. Dive operators Indigo Divers offer PADI certification courses and very personal service; there are never more than six people on a dive. Snorkelling is possible at many of the beaches and most tours around the island offer a snorkel stop. www.indigo-divers.com Eating out and nightlife There are excellent restaurants in Antigua, with many kinds of cuisine offered, and prices ranging from very expensive to inexpensive local eateries. Cecilia’s is conveniently located near the airport and offers an eclectic selection of Swedish dishes. Situated right on the beach, cooled by the constant trade winds, it is a tiny restaurant run out of Cecilia’s home, and is the perfect place to have lunch and chill out over a bottle of wine. www.highpointantigua.com On the west side of the island, Sugar Ridge offers sushi demonstrations with their own signature spin, every afternoon from 3pm. www.sugarridgeantigua.com Dine on the deck at the Bayhouse Restaurant at Tradewinds Hotel and enjoy an unforgettable view over the Caribbean Sea. They serve arguably the best full English breakfast in Antigua; lunch and dinner are also available, with only the freshest local ingredients being used. www.twhantigua.com For a fun evening out, Sports-mon Pub, in the Grand Bay casino next to Sandals, holds ladies’ nights and karaoke. These evenings are very well attended, by both locals and visitors alike. Spas A number of hotels in Antigua offer spa treatments as part of their packages. One of them is Sugar Ridge – a luxury boutique hotel nestled into the hills overlooking Jolly Harbour. Along with restaurants, swimming pools, and a fully equipped gym, the hotel operates the first Aveda Concept spa in the Caribbean with four treatment rooms, including one for couples, mani/pedi stations and a hair salon. Trained professionals offer the latest in pampering treatments. Sailing, windsurfing and kitesurfing The constant trade winds lend themselves to many types of wind-propelled sports and Antigua has produced a number of Olympic sailors and windsurfers. Antigua Sailing Week, held each year in April, is a premier regatta, attracting many of the fastest yachts in the world. Kitesurfing has taken off internationally and both pros and amateurs alike ride the waves at Jabberwock Beach on the North Coast. www.kiteantigua.com Ziplining The Antigua Rainforest Canopy Tour is an adrenaline-filled trip through Antigua’s rainforest. Zip along steel cables, clamber over suspension bridges and hike down short trails, all through lush greenery. The rush is incredible, especially taking the “Leap of Faith” – a controlled 36-foot vertical descent; stepping off that platform is electrifying! To complete the entire course, a measure of physical fitness is required and you must wear proper shoes. The staircase at the end of the course is a killer. www.antiguarainforest.com Tours With so many tours available in Antigua, ranging from round-the-island catamaran cruises to land-based tours, it’s hard to know which ones are the best. Certainly Eli Fuller’s Adventure Antigua Company has become one of the leading tour companies on the island, garnering positive reviews all round. Their Xtreme Circumnav tour makes a circuit of Antigua on a very fast 45-foot offshore racing boat, which allows for more stops than most other excursions. Included is a stop at Stingray City, where southern rays allow themselves to be handled and fed by everyone – an exhilarating experience. The boat then stops at a picturesque offshore island for lunch and a swim in the clear, warm water. With animated commentary from the guides, the tour continues, taking in Nelson’s Dockyard (named after Admiral Horatio Nelson, who was stationed there in the eighteenth century) and snorkelling just outside the harbour. The final stop is at Rendezvous Bay. A beautiful, untouched beach reachable only by 4×4 or boat, this pristine stretch of sand is now, sadly, being developed into another boutique hotel. www.adventureantigua.com Segway tour For a completely different experience, the Segway tour is a unique and eco-friendly sightseeing tour. www.segwayantigua.com Barbuda To the north, a short plane or ferry ride away, is Barbuda, Antigua’s sister island. A truly undiscovered gem, this sparsely populated island has many attractions and is well worth a day trip. A couple of the highlights are the frigate bird sanctuary, which hosts one of the largest populations of nesting frigate birds in the world, and the dramatic 17-mile stretch of pink sand beach that separates the Barbuda lagoon from the Caribbean Sea. Visitor’s guide If you are looking for a place to stay in Antigua, you have many options, ranging from high-end, luxury five-star hotels to guest houses and bed-and-breakfasts. The Antigua Tourism Authority is making an effort to help the smaller operators to get the word out that they are worthwhile alternatives to the large all-inclusive resorts. There are great advantages to staying at a smaller venue, besides the price. You have the opportunity to really experience the island, meeting locals and making friends – Antiguans are some of the friendliest people you’ll meet. The Tourism Authority has listed some of the alternative accommodations and their contact information below: Property Location Telephone E-mail Website The Villas at Sunset Lane McKinnon’s 1 (268) 785 3269 email@example.com www.villasatsunsetlane.com Blue Haven Villas Long Bay 1 (268) 463 2438 www.wheretostay.com Indian Creek Executive Suites Indian Creek Piccadilly 1 (268) 561 2832 firstname.lastname@example.org www.caribbeanislandproperties.ag Fort Shelley Villas Old Road 1 (268) 481 1544 email@example.com Buccaneer Beach Club Dickenson Bay 1 (268) 562 6785 firstname.lastname@example.org www.buccaneerbeach.com Paige Pond Country Inn Buckley’s 1 (268) 562 7663 email@example.com www.paigepondcountryinn.com While in Antigua, Bridget was graciously hosted at the Trade Winds Hotel. For more information: www.twhantigua.com. Many thanks also to the Antigua & Barbuda Tourism Authority for their help and advice. Visit www.antigua-barbuda.org for more information on the twin-island state.