This trip to Antigua was pretty spur of the moment. Every year in late winter in New York, I’m kind of itching to get into some warm weather. Going into this trip, I didn’t know that much about Antigua, aside from it being a pretty affordable, direct 5 hour flight from JFK.
The condo I rented looked amazing online and was reasonably priced for what it showed, but I didn’t really know what the surrounding area was like. Very luckily as I arrived and checked in, the condo was beautiful and overlooked both the English Harbour and the yacht club that housed some unbelievable super yachts.
English Harbour is a fairly small area, but has a variety of restaurants ranging from higher-end (where the clientele is mostly yachties), to authentic local cuisine, to good shopping and site seeing. For restaurants, my favorites for breakfast were Jackie’s, which is very affordable and has amenities such as Wi-Fi, decent coffee, and both local and American style breakfasts. For straight local flavors, Katie’s food stand is the most popular place; I highly recommend their breakfast sandwich. For a higher-end, more resort-like breakfast, Admiral’s Inn is your spot, located directly next door to the only bank/ATM in English Harbour.
Some other great spots for either lunch or dinner are South Point Restaurant that just opened this year and is considered the highest-end restaurant on the island. It has beautiful décor and is situated directly across from the yacht slips. The menu is very diverse; I really enjoyed the Antiguan Lobster and Baby Octopus in Red Sauce. The cocktails are great too – I had a local mango and scotch bonnet infused rum cocktail, my favorite drink of all trip. Cloggy’s is another cool spot that overlooks the water; I had a very good prawn curry dish there. For local Antiguan dishes in this area, Grace’s is the place. I highly recommend her roti - the dough was extremely light and flaky, as well as her seasoned rice with oxtails and chicken thighs. Her house-made hot sauce was actually the best on the island – a must try.
On the day where you explore the city of St. John’s, Roti King is the most famous local restaurant in Antigua. You should try as many dishes as possible here. I tried three kinds, prawn, chicken and pork. Arriving in the late afternoon, I was pretty upset to have missed the lunch specials which were one special roti, as well as a conch curry. For being a restaurant that deals with mostly locals, their staff was extremely friendly to tourists.
Antigua is packed with beautiful sites to see. Although some of them are almost an hour away from each other, there’s not much traffic here and you should plan your days accordingly to see as many as possible. You’ll definitely want to rent a car, but know that the drivers’ seat is on the right side of the car and that they drive on the left side of the road. Half Moon Bay is about a 45 minute drive from English Harbour. It’s a pretty desolate beach, named "half moon" because of its shape. As you’re driving through the mountains on your way in, you can see its shape from above miles away. There’s only two restaurants that are along the way and you must have cash with you (local currency or US dollars). The water can be a little rough where you enter the beach, but if you want calmer waters – walk all the way to the left where the waves crash on the rocks before hitting the shore.
On the other side of the island, my all around favorite beach was Darkwood, which had a very chill tourist crowd and friendly locals. If you’re interested in water sports, definitely take a jet ski out from this beach and head out to Five Island.
The most touristy beach is Jolly Harbour. The food and bars on this beach are good, but the locals aren’t as friendly, probably because the types of tourists they attract. While on this side of the island after a day of hitting the beaches, definitely stop at Jaqui’s for drinks and a very animated bar staff. Stick around for the breath taking sunset while the live band plays cheesy music.
If you’re in Antigua for a Sunday afternoon, hit up Shirley Heights located at the top of the mountain overlooking the English Harbour. The restaurant at the top grills up local food and serves drinks on a patio that is the perfect place for another beautiful sunset.
Antigua has its fun share of nightlife – mostly located in English Harbour. The crowd is a mixture of tourists, yachties and yacht staff from all over the world.
So far throughout all my travels in the Caribbean, surprisingly this spur of the moment trip to Antigua may just take the spot of my favorite Caribbean Island so far.