Tips on Traveling to Antigua

by  Jim Sherman | Feb 19, 2010
The Inn at English Harbour
The Inn at English Harbour / Photo courtesy of the property

is perfect for a relaxation island vacation – especially during winter. With 365 perfectly un-crowded beaches, sparkling Caribbean blue waters, and a bevy of lovely beachside restaurants, it's no wonder many visitors just stay put at their resorts. Some worthwhile lodging options besides the Inn at English Harbour include Curtain Bluff and the St. James Club. Located on 100-acres just one bay over from the Inn, St. James is a great kid-friendly value option (not all of the island hotels are) and runs occasional specials – so it’s wise to check before booking.

For those willing to get beyond their resort and explore, I recommend several activities in addition to Nelson’s Dockyard and Falmouth Bay. The charming, all-stone bar at Shirley Heights offers stellar views of English Harbour at sunset and features live Reggae band, dancing, and a BBQ bash on Sundays. I’m not normally into public BBQ’s, but Shirley Heights’ offers good food, famous rum punch, and a stylish crowd, all overlooking stunning views of the island and marina below. Come early (around 5 p.m.) to secure a spot at one of the tables. Otherwise, there’s plenty of space to stand or sit comfortably on the grass. 

It’s also worth spending a day exploring Green Island (an uninhabited isle just off the coast) and Harmony Hall. The latter has an excellent restaurant (great for lunch an views), plus it’s easy to catch a boat to pristine Green Island from here.

Finally, from Jolly Harbour one can hire a boat and skipper for the day, or take a public tour out to nearby beaches (like Dickenson) and coral reefs. So many beautiful natural areas are definitely worth a day away from one’s hotel.

When arriving in the Antigua airport, remember these useful tips:
-- Fill out the "departure" portion of the immigration form. I assumed this was to be filled out upon departing at the end of my trip. Wrong. Save time and fill it out correctly before deplaning.
-- Ask your hotel to send a taxi for pick up. Regular airport taxis are available, but hotel taxis are nicer. Note that taxis on island are pricey.
-- Go to the airport ATM outside and get 100 ECD (Eastern Caribbean dollars), or about 40 U.S. dollars, to have on hand. Most establishments take U.S. currency, and I suggest bringing dollars from home, since ATMs don’t dispense USD.
--Upon departure, be sure to have $20 USD (or 50 ECD) per person to pay the “departure tax.” Yes, it’s annoying, but you have to pay it!

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