things to do in antigua

25 Best Things To Do in Antigua

Many travelers visit the Caribbean paradise of Antigua with the mind of doing absolutely nothing. Antigua is the perfect place for it. This beachy island is known for having 365 beaches – one for each day of the year! – and most travelers look forward to enjoying as many of them as possible.

If you’re looking for a more active vacation, there are plenty of things to do in Antigua to add to your itinerary as well. Don’t get us wrong, beach-hopping is one of the best things to do in Antigua, but this paradise island still holds many surprises to discover.

stingray city antigua
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Things To Do in Antigua

1. Swim at Stingray City

Swim with gentle giants in Antigua for a wildlife encounter you’ll never forget. Located on the eastern side of the island, Stingray City is a famous spot that provides the opportunity to safely swim with and interact with giant stingrays. While these creatures are massive, which can be intimidating, you’ll quickly realize how gentle they are.

Excursions in Stingray City include guides who do spend time explaining how to interact with these creatures safely and get the most out of the experience. Swim and play with stingrays while enjoying one of Antigua’s characteristically beautiful white sand beaches with clear waters. It’s sure to be one of your favorite things to do in Antigua.

If you’re booking an excursion to visit Stingray City, make sure you don’t confuse the Stingray City in Antigua with the Stingray City in Grand Cayman! The experiences are quite similar but unmissable in both of these memorable Caribbean destinations.

2. Snorkel at The Andes Wreck

Even if you don’t have your PADI scuba diving certification, you don’t have to miss out on some of the incredible beauty beneath the waters in Antigua. Located about two hundred yards off the beach in Deep Bay lies the Andes Wreck, a 20th-century shipwreck easily accessible to snorkelers and divers alike.

While the Andes Wreck sits in about 30 feet of water at its deepest point, the top of the wreck is just a few feet below the surface – you can even stand on the ship’s bow and reach out of the water! With just a simple dive mask, you’ll spot everything from tropical fish and corals to spiny sea fans and perhaps the occasional octopus.

Swim to the wreck from Deep Bay Beach near the Royalton Antigua, or make sure to add it to the itinerary of a cruise around the island. As one of the most accessible wrecks for snorkelers in the Caribbean, it’s a popular stop you won’t want to miss.

Read More: 12 Best Beaches in Antigua

villa papillon

3. Stay in a Villa

Are you considering staying in one of Antigua’s many beautiful resorts? Try renting a villa instead. Staying in a private villa in Antigua has many advantages over staying in a resort. Not only will you have plenty of space to spread out with friends or family, but the island’s most impressive villas, like Villa Papillon, offer privacy and world-class service unlike any you’ll find at a resort.

Villa Papillon on enviable Reed’s Point between Jolly Harbour and lively Jolly Beach checks all the boxes for discerning travelers and more, with Caribbean Sea views you’ll have to see to believe. Luxurious accommodations and comfortable furnishing are ready to welcome your entire party. The villa has six bedrooms, each with its own ensuite bathroom.

The house boasts private chef service and the attention of a house manager dedicated to making every moment of your stay a dream. It’s the best place from which to enjoy your vacation in Antigua, whether you plan to spend days by the pool and sea or explore every inch of the island.

Read More: Villa Papillon: A Private Villa Stay in Review

4. Take to the Seas

If you’re looking for something more than just a typical Caribbean resort but don’t think a villa is right for you, consider spending part or all of your trip aboard a yacht. You’d be surprised to learn that when compared to a resort vacation for a number of guests, the cost of a charter can be quite affordable.

Whether you’re an experienced sailor looking to rent a vessel to sail some of the world’s most desirable sailing grounds or are looking for a hands-off sailing experience, Dream Yacht Worldwide has the perfect charter for you in Antigua.

Sailing is most popular in Antigua from December or January through May, when seas are the calmest and the climate around the island tends to be sunny and less oppressive. Dream Yacht Worldwide does a great job of working with clients to create their dream itinerary, no matter what time of the year they’re dreaming of sailing.

pearns point beach

5. Go Beach Hopping

With its famously pristine white sand beaches, Antigua is one of the best Caribbean islands for travelers looking to spend some precious hours enjoying the sun and sand. Antigua is famous for being home to exactly 365 beaches – one for each day of the week – so you’ll want to add a few beaches to your Antigua itinerary.

Favorite beaches in Antigua include lively Jolly Beach, pristine Ffryes Beaches, and the stunning Half Moon Bay on the south of the island. While many of the island’s best beaches are anchored by Antigua’s most impressive hotels and resorts, every beach in Antigua is public for locals and visitors alike, meaning you can enjoy the best of the island no matter where you stay the night.

If you’re able to go beach hopping by boat, you’re in for a particular treat. Head along the island’s calmer western coast to visit the empty beaches on Pearns Point, difficult-to-access Picking Beach, and the impressive Andes Wreck in Deep Bay. Ask your charter guide to take you to some of the more hidden beaches and you’ll feel like you have your own slide of paradise.

Read More: 12 Best Beaches in Antigua

6. Go Scuba Diving

You don’t have to be PADI certified to enjoy the reefs that surround the Caribbean island paradise of Antigua, though it certainly helps! With everything from the colorful barrier reef known as Cades Reef to miles-long walls and drop-offs under the sea, there are plenty of places to enjoy scuba diving in Antigua.

Favorite dive shops include DiveCarib in English Harbor near Cades Reef and Indigo Divers in lovely Jolly Harbor, easily accessible to many of the best resorts in Antigua. Even if you’re a newer diver or have never tried scuba diving in your life, you can take lessons or even become fully PADI certified while visiting Antigua.

Best Places to Stay in Antigua

antigua sail
chrisukphoto / Depositphotos

7. Take a Catamaran Ride Around Antigua

There’s no better way to see Antigua than by water. Sailing from cove to cove, you’ll have the most beautiful views of the island, accessing hidden beaches and snorkeling spots. No matter how much time you have on the island, taking a catamaran ride around the island is one of the best things to do in Antigua.

Whether you have time for a full-day sail or just a few hours on the water, you’ll find plenty of options for sailing excursions, which usually depart from Jolly Harbor near many of the island’s most popular resorts or from English Harbor on the south of the island.

These excursions usually include food and drinks as well as all the gear you’ll need for snorkeling, swimming, and exploring the beaches along the way. It’s the best way to explore Antigua!

8. Eat at Turner’s Beach Bar

If you’re looking for that perfectly laid-back, toes-in-the-sand Caribbean beach bar experience on Antigua, head to Turner’s Beach Bar for a spot beloved by locals and visitors alike. A dining room and expansive covered patio are the ideal spots for a break from the white sand of Turner’s Beach.

While Turner’s Beach Bar has plenty of international favorites on the menu, this is a great place to taste some of the best of Antiguan cooking. Whole creole snapper, goat curry, the restaurant’s famous pineapple lobster, and the best fish cakes and crab cakes on the island are the highlights of the menu.

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9. Hit the Water in a Clear-Bottom Kayak

If you’re interested in spotting some of Antigua’s beautiful landscapes below the waves without jumping straight in, consider trying kayaking in Antigua with a clear-bottom kayak.

Kayaking excursions with clear-bottom kayaks are available around the island, though some of the most popular kayaking excursions are available around Pearns Point.

I can’t think of a better place to explore Antigua by kayak! This still-undeveloped peninsula is surrounded by perfect white sand cove beaches and dramatic rock formations while remaining relatively protected from waves.

Since most of these beaches are inaccessible from the shore, you’re likely to have them all to yourself. Fish swarm near the coastline where corals and sponges thrive for a particularly fascinating view through your clear-bottom kayak.

Whether you’re scared of the seas or just looking for some unique and interesting things to do in Antigua, hitting the seas with a clear-bottom kayak will be something you won’t forget.

ffryes beach
IndustryAndTravel / Depositphotos

10. Visit Ffryes Beach

Considered among the most beautiful beaches in the Caribbean, Ffryes Beach is one of the most beloved beaches on the island. Rent a beach chair and umbrella to spend the day at this pristine white sand spot with tranquil water or while away the day at any of the beach’s restaurants and bars on the sand. It’s a destination that is almost too beautiful to believe until you see it in person.

Sunsets at Ffryes Beach are particularly gorgeous, so make sure to plan to stick around for a cocktail on the sand to enjoy the colors of the sky at the end of the day. While the Sunday fiestas at Shirley Heights around sunset are unmissable, Ffryes Beach makes a great alternative sunset spot for the rest of the week

If you’re visiting during the height of cruise ship season in the winter, you may want to consider choosing a different beach, as Ffryes Beach can get quite busy. Nearby white sand beaches like Darkwood Beach and Turner’s Beach also draw larger crowds than the island’s tinier cove beaches but can be great nearby alternatives if Ffryes is too busy when you arrive.

11. Go Ziplining

Antigua is much more than just its beaches and coastline. In fact, parts of the island are even home to rainforests where tropical fruit trees and pineapple plants thrive.

Looking for a unique way to get acquainted with the beautiful interior of the island? Try ziplining in Antigua. Antigua’s ziplining course on the island is an impressive one, with ten ziplines along the zipline course, including suspension bridges and sections of rope courses for an amazing experience that you’ll enjoy even if you’ve already crossed ziplining off your bucket list.

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nelsons dockyard

12. Explore Nelson’s Dockyard

One of the most impressive and historic areas of Antigua is Nelson’s Dockyard, named after Admiral Horatio Nelson, who lived here for a number of years in the 18th century when the island was part of the British colonies. While the dockyard and its numerous historic building was abandoned for a number of years, a restoration in the 1950s has converted it into a popular destination.

The dockyard is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site designation on the island, which includes nearby Shirley Heights as well as Clarence House, which overlooks English Harbor.

The area is also home to two historic boutique hotels, the Copper and Lumber Store Inn and The Inn at English Harbor, which are a perfect choice for travelers looking for a taste of the charming and historic side of the island. Their location also allows for popping into the nearby cafes, restaurants, and bars, which is much more challenging if you stay in a more isolated beach resort in Antigua.

Nelson’s Dockyard is also a center of sailing in Antigua, with everything from mega yachts to sailboats pulling in to harbor. At the height of the sailing season in the winter months, the harbor also plays host to the annual Antigua Sailing Week.

13. Learn About Antigua’s Past

Antigua’s history runs much deeper than just what you’ll find at Nelson’s Dockyard, so if you’re interested in learning more about the island’s history, make sure to add some additional destinations to your itinerary.

One favorite historic destination in Antigua is Betty’s Hope. This restored sugar mill and accompanying museum exhibits give an overview of the role of sugar cane plantations on the island, as well as their impact on the island today and their role in the Transatlantic Slave Trade.

You’ll find hundreds of sugar mills on Antigua, many abandoned and peaking through forest foliage in the center of the island, with about one hundred remaining today. While others have been converted into shops, restaurants, or cafes, Betty’s Hope is the best example to visit if you’re looking for a true taste of history.

If you can’t make it to Betty’s Hope, make sure to add some of the island’s historic forts to your itinerary. Fort Barrington and Fort James are impressive spots, both with great views over the island.

shirley heights

14. Take in the View at Shirley Heights at Sunset

Perched on a hillside overlooking English Harbor and Falmouth Harbor, Shirley Heights is a historic military lookout turned must-visit destination in Antigua. With one of the most iconic and expansive views of the island and an unmissable weekend party, it’s no wonder that visiting Shirley Heights is almost universally considered one of the best things to do in Antigua.

Every Sunday, locals and visitors alike gather for an incredible sunset celebration at the lookout. If you’re in Antigua on a Sunday, this is an absolute must! Not only are the views impressive, but the party is a blast, kicking off around 4:00 PM and lasting well into the evening. The historic buildings at the lookout have been converted into a lively bar and restaurant that feeds the party all night long.

Even if your Antigua itinerary doesn’t allow you to visit Shirley Heights on a Sunday for its famous fiesta, the views overlooking both harbors make the trip well worth it any time of the week. Thursday nights, the venue also hosts reggae nights, giving travelers another opportunity to enjoy one of the most infectious party atmospheres on the island.

15. Hit the Spa

With so many incredible resorts and hotels in Antigua, many with their own spas, fitness centers, yoga pavilions, and more, adding a spa treatment to the itinerary is one of the best things to do in Antigua.

You’ll have no lack of options to choose from when it comes to where to enjoy a massage or treatment in Antigua. However, consider visiting the spas at Hermitage Bay or Curtain Bluff, both on the island’s west coast, if you’re traveling off of resort property for the spa. These beautiful resorts are known for having some of the best spas on the island.

Jumby Bay Island is also home to an incredible spa, complete with luxe beauty products from Tata Harper and other well-known beauty brands. Though the spa at Jumby Bay Island is not quite accessible for travelers staying in other parts of Antigua as the resort is located on a private island off the coast, its legendary treatments alone are enough to convince wellness-minded travelers to visit.

Even if you’re not staying at one of Antigua’s resorts with a spa onsite, a luxe treatment is a great way to enjoy a relaxing afternoon in Antigua. If you’re staying at Villa Papillon, though not a resort, you can also request a massage therapist to visit the house for a massage with the best view on the island.

16. Take an ATV Tour

If you’re looking for a more adventurous way to explore the island of Antigua, taking a guided ATV trip around the island with Salty Dogs should be at the top of your list.

These group tours on ATV with a guide are a blast, taking travelers a bit off the beaten path to see some of the island’s less-visited spots, smaller villages, hidden beaches, and more. It’s a highlight whether you’re looking for an excuse to escape your resort or a way to pass the time at a day in port.

While ATV tours depart from the centrally-located Jolly Harbor area, Salty Dogs can also arrange for pickups around the island, making it an easy addition to your itinerary no matter where you’re staying in Antigua.

devils bridge antigua
scheriton / Depositphotos

17. Visit the Devil’s Bridge

While the waters of the Caribbean Sea on Antigua’s western coast couldn’t be more clear and calm, Antigua’s eastern coast facing the Atlantic Ocean is a different story. Located on a peninsula where ocean waves crash, Devil’s Bridge is a natural limestone and reef formation that forms a perilous natural arch over the waves.

While it’s not recommended to actually attempt to cross over the bridge, Devil’s Arch is a great place to witness the power of the Atlantic Ocean creating blowholes and geysers as the waves strike the shores. You can take in the view of the arch from above or below.

18. Climb Mount Obama

If you’re looking to ditch the beach for a couple of hours to explore the interior of the island, consider climbing Antigua’s Mount Obama as one of the best things to do in Antigua.

This out-and-back trail generally takes about 3 hours in total to complete and is generally considered moderately challenging but accessible even for those without much hiking experience. The expansive views of the ocean and surrounding peaks are well worth the effort.

While visitors can access the trail without a guide, you’ll need a key to access the very top of the mountain, where radio transmitters at the summit are encircled by a fence for security reasons. A guide can also help make identifying the trailhead easier, as the entrance can be a bit tricky to find if you don’t know where to look.

Yes, the mountain is named after that Obama. The Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda formally renamed the peak in honor of then-U.S. President Barack Obama in 2009. While the name officially reverted to its former name, Boggy Peak, in 2016, a plaque on the mountain still identifies the spot in honor of Obama.

19. Party During Carnival

For an up close and personal look at the cultural traditions of Antigua and Barbuda, there is no better time to visit the islands than during Carnival. While many Caribbean islands hold their own Carnival celebrations throughout the year, Antigua’s celebration holds the distinction of being the Caribbean’s Greatest Summer Festival.

Thirteen days of celebrations include colorful costumes, parades, musical and theatre performances, and plenty of delicious local food and drink. Attend as many of the festivities as you can, or just pop in for a few events – the choice is yours.

The celebration generally runs from late July through early August every day, though exact dates vary from year to year. It’s easily one of the best things to do in Antigua, though you’ll need to plan your trip around attending!

best things to do in antigua
Chiara Magi / Shutterstock

20. Sail to Barbuda

While most travelers to the nation of Antigua and Barbuda stick to the larger, more populous Antigua, Barbuda has plenty to offer the travelers that make it there. Known for its miles-long beaches that seem to stretch on forever, Barbuda is much more untouched than Antigua, perfect for those looking to escape Antigua’s high-season crowds and busy resorts.

If you’re looking to explore Antigua’s little sister island, take the highspeed ferry that operates six days a week between Antigua and Barbuda. The journey lasts about 90 minutes, or hop on a quick flight to the island, which usually takes around just 15 minutes. While you won’t find much here in the way of things to do, you’ll fall in love with the island’s slow pace and unparalleled natural beauty.

Make sure to visit Barbuda’s famous pink-sand beaches and bird sanctuary before winding down with a cocktail at Barbuda Belle Luxury Beach Hotel for the evening.

21. Taste-Test Your Way Through the Academy of Rum

From Cuba to Puerto Rico and everything in between, the Caribbean is known for its rum, and the island of Antigua is no exception. If you’re looking for the best rum-tasting experience on the island, head to the Academy of Rum in Antigua’s English Harbor to enjoy some samples of the island’s best as you learn about how rum is made and its history on the island.

Offering much more than just simple taste testing, the Academy of Rum is a fascinating destination and visiting is one of the best things to do in Antigua. Plus, its location on one of the island’s nicest beaches makes it an easy addition to your beach day itinerary.

The academy offers sessions at 11:00 AM, 2:30 PM, and 5:00 PM every day of the week. Just make sure to sign up for a session online in advance of your visit, as spots tend to fill up fast, especially during the high season of travel and when cruise ships are in port.

saint johns antigua
sepavone / Depositphotos

22. Explore Redcliffe Quay

One of the oldest areas of Antigua’s capital city of St. John’s, charming Redcliffe Quay is a quaint section of this bustling city that you won’t want to miss. Much of the area maintains its historic architectural touches with colorful buildings painting an iconic Caribbean scene it’s hard not to love.

The entire area is filled with shops selling everything from jewelry and clothing to souvenirs and local handicrafts, as well as a number of bars, restaurants, and cafes. You’ll also find plenty of tour operators waiting to whisk you around the island or taxi drivers offering affordable rides to some of Antigua’s best beaches.

As Redcliffe Quay is quite close to the cruise ship berths in St. John’s, it can get crowded when there are multiple cruise ships docked on the island. However, there’s plenty to see and do here, and if you visit in the morning or evening you’ll have much of the area to yourself.

Keep in mind that this lively port also has the dark distinction of being one of the main areas of Antigua where enslaved peoples were bought and sold after arriving from Africa. It’s something to be aware of as you visit, though there aren’t too many indications of it unless you go looking for them. For more on this part of Antigua’s history and more, head to the Museum of Antigua and Barbuda just a few blocks north.

23. Spot the Pillars of Hercules

The shores of Antigua are surrounded by unique natural features, though few are as famous or as distinct as the Pillars of Hercules. Located near the historic Fort Charlotte at the entrance to English Harbor, these massive limestone column-like formations are carved into the stone by years of waves.

There are a number of ways to visit the Pillars of Hercules, though undoubtedly taking a boat or kayak is the easiest way to access them. Many boat tours and charters stop for snorkeling near the pillars, as there are a great number of tropical fish that congregate along the nearby reefs.

If you’re not interested in a boat tour, you can also visit the Pillars of Hercules by walking south from Galleon Beach along the shoreline. The path isn’t very well defined and requires sturdy shoes and at least a moderate level of physical fitness to access.

Make sure to time your visit for low tide; not only will the journey be less treacherous, but you’ll get to see even more of these unique formations above the waves.

Sheer Rocks

24. Get Sunset Drinks at Sheer Rocks

Ditch the basic bar at your resort and head to Sheer Rocks for the ultimate drink with a view at the end of a dreamy day in Antigua. Perched on the hillside between white sand Ffryes Beach and the luxurious Cocobay Resort, Sheer Rocks is a favorite spot on Antigua’s southwestern coast for delicious mixed drinks with gorgeous views.

Come just for sunset drinks, or come earlier in the day to lounge by the pool for lunch. Lunch, dinner, and tapas menus are inventive and fresh, mixing local flavors with international favorites. If you visit early enough in your trip to Antigua you’re bound to be a return visitor.

25. Take a Caribbean Cooking Class

The flavors of Antigua are unforgettable, but if you’re looking for a way to take a bit of Antigua’s local favorites home with you, there’s no better way to do it than taking a cooking class in Antigua.

One of the best Caribbean cooking classes on the island is available for booking on Get Your Guide. Host Nicole is an incredible local guide and cook who does a wonderful job bringing flavors to life, whether you’re an experienced cook or a beginner. The experience includes cooking together and enjoying a meal overlooking the sea for the perfect end to the class.

Add this class or a similar food tour or cooking experience to the beginning of your Antigua itinerary; it’s a great way to learn more about local favorites and help you decipher menus throughout the rest of your time on the island, and easily one of the best things to do in Antigua.

Highlights of Antigua

Whether you’re looking for the best beach-hopping in the Caribbean, thrilling adventure travel experiences above and below the waves, or just a relaxing trip to an island paradise, you’ll love all that Antigua has to offer visitors. Add some of these memorable things to do in Antigua to your itinerary for the perfect Caribbean getaway you’ve been dreaming of.

carley rojas avila

Carley Rojas Avila is a bilingual New York-based travel writer, editor, content marketer, and the founder of the digital travel publications Explorers Away and Home to Havana. Carley is an expert on all things Latin America, the Caribbean, and Cuba, having lived and worked in four different countries in the region. Her writing has appeared on the Associated Press wires and in Travel + Leisure, Yahoo, MSN, Euronews, The Weather Channel, and more. When she's not writing about her travels, find her front row at a Bad Bunny concert, befriending street cats, and taste-testing every pizza in Havana.