Photo: Courtesy of Antigua and Barbuda via INstagram
Antigua and Barbuda are a pair of Eastern Caribbean islands that are fairly unknown to many—but not for lack of postcard-perfect natural beauty, plentiful activities, and delicious local cuisine. Rumor has it there are 365 powdery beaches between them, each one more secluded and paradisiacal than the last. A long weekend in the British-meets-West Indies isles isn't really enough, of course, but you'll get the gist with our 3-day itinerary perfect for your mini-moon or girls' getaway.
Antigua is the bigger, more populated island, and the place several airlines fly into nonstop. After arriving in the capital city of St. John, eat your way through the array of colorful and exotic produce, fish and spices at the Public Market, which operates on Fridays and Saturdays. Be sure to try the island's national fruit: black pineapple.
Indulge in the prime photo ops at Devil's Bridge, an impressive limestone formation created over centuries by crashing waves—plus sea-spewing blowholes—and then take a swim at the nearby white-sand beach at Long Bay.
Before sundown, head to Redcliffe Quay, full of charming and restored pastel-colored 19th century buildings that now house shops, galleries, and restaurants, such as C&C Wine Bar (try the coconut shrimp and South African wines) and local favorite Quay Bar & Grill, where dinner consists of seafood dishes like conch salad. Retire to the plush king size bed in your beachside suite at the all-inclusive five-star Jumby Bay-A Rosewood Resort on a neighboring private island.
Take the 90-minute ferry from Bryson Wharf to Barbuda, the flat coral island full of deserted beaches, and then spend the day hopping from one to the next, soaking in the sunshine, snorkeling, and scuba diving over the many shipwrecks. (The island was once known as a scavenger's haven.) Or hop on a catamaran cruise to Barbuda and take in the wonders of Antigua's rugged coastline as you indulge in local food and music and sail your way to paradise.
Lunch just steps from with the turquoise water on grilled seafood, plantains, and cold local Wadadli beer at Uncle Roddy's. Visit the nesting areas of the massive, regal birds at the Frigate Bird Sanctuary before returning to Antigua. (Or stay the night at Coco Point Lodge or the new eco-friendly 10 room bungalow resort at Barbuda Belle nestled on one of the most pristine beaches in the world.)
Try a gastronomic cooking class at the Jumby Bay Culinary Experiences cooking school, or a sunset cocktail cruise from the resort, before dining on sautéed shrimp with local farm veggies at the romantic Estate House restaurant, surrounded by hibiscus and wild orchids.
Adventurous types can rent 4x4s to climb the island's highest peak, Mount Obama, for stunning 360 degree views of the azure sea before visiting the Georgian-era Nelson's Dockyard and noshing on freshly baked guava or pineapple turnovers at the historic Dockyard Bakery.
Explore the beaches on the Southern coast, like Pigeon Point, or wrap up the long weekend by chartering a yacht (with Adventure Caribbean Yacht Charter) for a spin around the island—after all, Antigua was a former British naval base and sailing is one of the biggest draws.
Make sure to stay through Sunday night to experience the most iconic Antigua ritual—a party at Shirley Heights Lookout complete with barbecue, plenty of rum punch, and a live steel band. Arrive early to check out the 18th-century ruins and for panoramic sunset views over neighboring Monserrat and Guadalupe islands.
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