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13 Things To Remember When Visiting Antigua
Antigua, like Anguilla, is one of those sun-soaked Caribbean islands offering plenty to do for such a small place. Before it was colonized, it had the Arawak name of Yarumaqui. Some locals today refer to it as Wadadli, a variation of what the Carib people called it, Waladi, many moons ago.
Antigua’s immediate neighbors are Barbuda and the rock island of Redonda, and a little further away are St. Kitts and Nevis, Guadeloupe and Dominica.
American Airlines, Jet Blue, United Airlines and Delta offer direct flights to Antigua from select US cities including New York, Newark and Miami.
Planning to add it to your travel list? Here are 13 things to remember when visiting this lovely island.
1. The Possessive "S" At The End Of The Capital Is Deliberate
It may look like a typo, but it isn’t. The capital of Antigua is St. John’s, which is where most of the inhabitants live.
It’s the commercial center, and cruises pull into its waters. If you walk along Redcliffe Quay, you’ll find many restaurants, shops and even some art galleries.
The beautiful St. John’s Cathedral was constructed in 1845, and it is recognizable for its white and gray facade.
The church that preceded it was destroyed in an earthquake.
2. Antigua Has A Sister
Antigua’s less developed sister, Barbuda, is surrounded by protective reefs and is home to a lagoon and the Frigate Bird Sanctuary. Most take a ferry to get there, but you can also fly from Antigua.
Some travelers will spend a night or two in humble accommodations before returning to Antigua, which offers more action.
3. Actually, There's A Second Sister
Redonda, the even less developed sibling, is made of rock. There’s no human presence, but you’ll find various birds and lizards which call it home.
In April 2021, the BBC reported that Redonda went from being an unsightly wasteland overrun by rats to an “eco-haven.”
Unlike its sisters, there’s no place to safely dock a boat, so if you want to see Redonda, you’d have to arrive by helicopter.
4. There's A Festival For Mango Lovers
If you have a mango passion, there’s the Antigua and Barbuda Mango Festival in July, which last two days.
You can purchase fresh mangoes, as well as jams, candles, ice cream and a number of other products.
5. It's Good for Active Travelers
When relaxing on the beach has lost its appeal, there are hiking, snorkeling, kayaking, horseback riding and ziplining opportunities which you can arrange on site, or in advance.
You can rent dune buggies from 268 Buggies, which specializes in exciting off-road tours. Zip through beaches, over hills and rugged paths with an experienced guide. It’s a fun, fast-paced way to experience Antigua.
6. Cricket Is Popular
Residents of Antigua love cricket, which they got from Britain.
If you’d like to watch a match, you can go to the Antigua Recreation Grounds. Cricket is typically in season between January and June.
Antigua has produced several heavyweights in the sport, but devoted fans would agree that Vic Richards is the greatest of all.
7. The Cuisine Is Versatile and Delicious
No matter what you have a hankering for, what you’re willing to spend, or what the occasion is, Antigua’s culinary diversity may surprise you.
According to Visit Antigua and Barbuda, “there are over 100 restaurants in Antigua offering delicious cuisine from exotic, local dishes to West Indian, Italian, French, Chinese and Swiss-German fare.”
Head over to Barbuda for fresh and delicious seafood.
8. There Are Almost 400 Beaches
365 to be exact, so you have a beach to go to for each day of the year.
All the beaches are open to the public. Along the northeast coast there’s Dickenson Bay, with white sands, restaurants and water sports. Fort James Beach, which is close to the capital, is a good choice, too.
Along the south coast, there’s Rendezvous Bay, Darkwood Beach and Ffryes Bay.
Half Moon Bay and Long Bay occupy the East Coast. Here, you’ll also find a naturally occurring arch made of limestone called Devil’s Bridge. It’s great for Instagram photos, for sure.
9. Carnival Time Runs From July to August
Antigua’s first Carnival took place in 1957 and the purpose was to attract tourists. Over the decades, it has blossomed into a large scale event bursting with color and life.
It starts at the end of July and runs into August. Expect 13 fun-filled days of dancing, steel-drums, competitions and more for all age groups.
Many participants and spectators come from other islands, but there are also revelers from the US and Europe.
10. The Accent Is Similar to Jamaican Patois
If you understand Jamaican Patois, you should have no trouble understanding Antiguans. The accents are very similar; mixing standard English, Creole and African languages.
11. It Has A Natural Feature Named For A Former US President
The highest mountain peak in Antigua used to be called Boggy Peak but was renamed Mount Obama in 2009.
The prime minister at the time, Baldwin Spencer, unveiled a plaque at the foot of the mountain in the newly elected president’s honor.
Spencer said, “this great political achievement by Barack Obama resonated with me in a way that I felt compelled to do something symbolic and inspiring. As an emancipated people linked to our common ancestral heritage and a history of dehumanizing enslavement, we need to at all times celebrate our heroes who inspire us to do great and noble things.”
12. The National Dish is Fungee And Pepperpot
Fungee (pronounced foon-jee) and pepperpot is available all over Antigua and Barbuda.
According to Big Seven Travel, “fungee is a zesty toss up between porridge and pasta and typically made with saltfish. Enslaved Africans likely brought it over to the Caribbean under colonial rule. It’s usually served like rice, pasta or porridge, but you might also find it rolled into balls.”
13. Serious Sailors Love It
Antigua is home to one of the most followed regattas in the Caribbean.
Sailors from across the Caribbean and around the world gather to take part.
This year’s regatta is set to take place April 30 to May 6.