Love is in the air: Antigua
As the warm trade winds blow across the secluded white sand beach, and the aquamarine seas beckon, you know you are in paradise, a world away from the everyday and a truly romantic location in which to start your new lives together. If this sounds like paradise, then an Antigua honeymoon may be your ideal choice. Antigua is an exhilarating island in the Eastern Caribbean known for its secluded harbors, the virtually unbroken wall of reef that surrounds it, and its boast of being the sunniest island in the land, with temperatures between 75-85F in the summer months, and an average ocean temperature of 80F. Swaying palm trees, private beaches and plenty of marine history to explore all make this island and its world famous Dickenson Bay a magical place to visit, whether it is a honeymoon or just a romantic getaway to the sun.
Antigua is located on the eastern side of the Leeward Islands of the Lesser Antilles, separating the Northern Atlantic and Caribbean Sea, and her 440 sq. km. of real estate is sprinkled with 365 beaches and secluded coves. Her sister island, Barbuda is located approximately 30 miles to the north and is considered one of the best places for scuba diving and snorkeling in the Caribbean. Just a short flight or boat ride to this rocky outcropping that has maintained a non-commercial, natural feel for centuries allows you to truly get away from it all and enjoy the natural beauty both on land and in the sea.
Before You Go
Antigua is a gorgeous island year round, but the best time to go is in the dry season, mid-December to mid-April where the average temperature hovers around a balmy 80F. The low humidity levels and continuous breezes make this island comfortable whether you take to a zip line through the lush canopy or laze on a hammock on the beach while the warm, inviting ocean beckons with its lapping waves.
The island was settled by the British back in 1632 and the majority of residents still speak English as their mother tongue. The currency is East Caribbean Dollars, while the capital and largest city is St. John’s.
Antigua was prominent in the sugar cane trade centuries ago, and today there are many sugar plantations and mills to visit. It is also a place that attracts sailors from all over the world each April for the popular yacht race and festivities that surround it. Antigua prides itself on being more of an adult vacation destination; it is not as commercial as some of the other islands in the Caribbean so the charms and tranquility that she offers is second to none.
Where to Stay
Villas, guest houses, cozy bed and breakfasts, they can all be found on the island of Antigua. But for a luxurious, pampering honeymoon, where only the best will do, the following four resorts will have you wishing you never had to go back to reality.
Sandals Grande is located on Dickerson Bay and offers honeymooners two distinctively different accommodation locations; Caribbean Cove or Mediterranean Village. Both are luxurious places to stay and both offer the same amenities like the world class spa, multiple pools, swim up bars, private cabanas, entertainment, and all the water and land sports you can handle. Caribbean Cove is billed as a seaside garden oasis, replete with palm trees and exotic flowers and the rooms are nestled in a private grove complete with handmade furniture and hand knotted rugs. Over at the Mediterranean Village, the private villas with plunge pool offer secluded spots for just the two of you amid the sophistication reminiscent of the fanciest of European hotels. This all suite option has rooms that overlook the sea or the gardens and makes viewing magnificent sunsets a breeze, right from the privacy of your room.
Simple and elegant is what Cocobay Resort is all about. It is styled after the Caribbean plantations of yore with quaint cottages dotting the landscape, allowing your honeymoon to be private, secluded and oh so romantic. If quiet relaxation is what you are looking for with hammocks in palm tree shaded corners, fabulous sea views and private plunge pools just outside your door, then Cocobay is tailor made for you.
The Galley Bay Resort is an exclusive, adults only, all-inclusive resort that features intimate hideaways and palm lined beaches. Pools, live entertainment and the chance to get away from it all is what this dream destination has in store for you, and if you so desire, honeymooners can receive his and hers massages and a champagne picnic on the beach.
Hermitage Bay’s small and reclusive resort boasts just 25 cottages set in sixteen acres of lush tropical gardens. Private plunge pools, watersports and food custom prepared to order each day are just some of the perks afforded its guests. Imagine a honeymoon in your own quaint little cottage with all the amenities of a fabulous resort without any of the hustle and bustle of a large hotel, steps from the tranquil ocean and amid the colorful flora of the islands.
What to Do
Antigua has a rich marine history and shows off its many pretty harbors and forts year round. Nelson’s Dockyard, the largest National Park on the island is a must see, not only because it was named after the famous Lord Nelson, who was sent to the islands in 1784 to uphold the British laws, but because to this day it is a working dockyard for many ships. Located in English Harbour, the Dockyard is fully restored to its 18th century style with buildings, museums and art galleries. The harbor used to be home to many ships that used it to escape from hurricanes in the early 18th century because of its surrounding reef system that keeps the harbor waters relatively calm. It is also home to the archeological history of the island and a place to capture the picture postcard views of the harbor and beyond.
Shirley Heights is part of the dockyard and is a restored military lookout that offers spectacular 360 degree views from its vantage point high above the harbor. Every Sunday evening there is a party under the stars and it is well-known as one of the best places in the Caribbean to watch a romantic sunset as another day draws to a close. Also within the National Park are many forts, most notably Fort Charlotte that was built on top of the towering Pillars of Hercules, rock formations carved over thousands of years by the harbor waves. The ruins of the fort and the amazing scuba and snorkel opportunities found at the foot of the pillars make this a place to definitely put on your list.
At Stingray City you can learn about, swim with and even feed the graceful stingrays off of a short pier set amid the crystal clear waters. A short boat ride to the pier and back, refreshments and a short presentation on these majestic creatures is all included in the tour. If you prefer to leave your snorkelling gear on the beach and walk out to reefs and colorful fish, Long Bay is for you. The corals are in shallow water just a few steps from the beautiful beach where you can while away the hours under the Caribbean sun.
Hell’s Gate is another must see on the island, as sprawling rock formations have been carving the landscape for centuries. Hell’s Gate has caves and tunnels, and the gate itself that you can hike over and around, or snorkel below. Several small islands are also in the area to explore for an afternoon adventure like no other.
Of course, lots of visitors to Antigua take the short plane ride or boat trip over to the sister island of Barbuda where they take in the longest beach in the Caribbean, the aptly named 17 Mile Beach, and the frigate bird sanctuary. Palaster Reef allows visitors to the island plenty of shipwrecks and reefs in which to scuba dive, while The Caves at Two Foot Bay with their ancient petroglyphs intermingled with the stalactites and stalagmites make for a truly inspirational tour.
Antigua prides itself on its friendly locals and beautiful location in the Eastern Caribbean. It still has an English feel with cricket matches and afternoon tea amid the beautiful scenery and it is a welcoming and pristine slice of heaven that makes it a perfect honeymoon destination.
You can get to Antigua by air or as a port of call on a Caribbean cruise offered by a multitude of lines. Antigua is serviced by 18 different air carriers and they have an average of 364 international flights departing each week. Major cruise lines like Princess, Royal Caribbean, Carnival and Celebrity also make the island stop on some itineraries, bringing you the best of many islands on one vacation.
Antigua and Barbuda are surrounded by reefs that once kept enemies away, but today make for spectacular scuba and snorkeling opportunities. The romantic ambiance is everywhere from the lush gardens to the secluded beaches, so whether you go for the many activities or to just relax in the sun, the island and its charms will seduce you time and time again.