Escape the ordinary at this intriguing two-island nation in the Eastern Caribbean

Antigua and Barbuda

Get up close to wild stingrays at Stingray City
Photo: Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority

“Stingrays don’t have very good eyesight,” explains our guide as a stingray nudges me with its broad wings. “They sense by electrical impulse.” I’m chest deep in turquoise blue water off the north coast of Antigua in the eastern Caribbean. In front of me is a wild stingray as wide as a yoga mat and weighing in at around 90 kilos. It’s impatiently waiting for me to feed it.

“Avoid the stinger and be sure to keep your thumb tucked inside your fist,” says the guide as he hands me a slippery piece of squid. I extend my hand and the stingray strikes. The squid disappears in one Shop Vac-worthy slurp, leaving me with my hand intact and a new admiration for underwater sea creatures.

This encounter at the Stingray City sandbar is just one of several unique things to do in Antigua and Barbuda. The dual island nation is the perfect place for luxury travellers seeking a Caribbean beach vacation that’s beyond the ordinary.

Outdoor Natural Attractions

Antigua and Barbuda is crammed with natural attractions. While it might be tempting to simply bask on one of its more than 365 beaches, it’s well worth going exploring. Begin by slipping beneath the waves for some snorkeling or diving. While Antigua’s offshore reefs teem with tropical fish, sea turtles and other marine life, you can also explore the more than 100 shipwrecks recorded around its shores. The most famous (and accessible) is the wreck of the Andes, an 1874 sailing ship that sunk in Deep Bay, near St. John’s, the capital city.


Soak up some history at the Antigua Naval Dockyard UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Credit Michele Peterson

If you time your visit right, you can see marine life without even getting wet. During the sea turtle nesting season (March to November), hawksbill, green and leatherback turtles come ashore to lay their eggs. The Environmental Awareness Group, Antigua & Barbuda’s oldest environmental NGO, offers guided tours to select nesting beaches where you can witness this spectacular phenomenon.

Another remarkable sight is Devil’s Bridge National Park in eastern Antigua. Carved over thousands of years by the force of the powerful waves of the Atlantic, this limestone arch features blowholes that shoot water upwards in a dramatic show of sea spray.

Rich History


Tamarind Hills is set on a headland on the
west coast of Antigua
Photo: Michele Peterson

Antigua’s scalloped coastline of natural harbours both shaped its history and makes it a favourite among today’s yachting crowd. It’s famous for its Antigua Sailing Week, Classic Yacht Regatta and international championship events many of which take place at Nelson’s Dockyard. Even non-sailors can soak up the nautical history and seafaring spirit at this UNESCO World Heritage Site. Set within a protected natural harbour, the world’s only working Georgian dockyard was once home to the most important of the Caribbean’s navy fleets.

Highlights include the museum housed in the former commandant’s house, the ruins of an 18th century fort, a collection of shops housed in period buildings constructed of ballast brick as well as Shirley Heights, a hilltop lookout that was once an army outpost, with its spectacular views.

Luxury Villas and Suites at Tamarind Hills

Tamarind Hills

Relax with a four-poster king size bed, wrap around deck and a contemporary driftwood style decor at Tamarind Hills
Photo: Michele Peterson

In addition to its outdoor attractions and a rich history, Antigua is also home to a wide selection of posh villas, hotels and luxury resorts. Tamarind Hills is one of the newest additions to the island’s upscale accommodations.

Set on a bluff with a wrap-around boardwalk allowing access to Darkwood and Ffryes beaches, Tamarind Hills features a unique collection of oceanfront and beachfront villas and suites. The sophisticated interiors are contemporary with architectural details of local hard wood, stone and natural texture. Soaring ceiling and panoramic windows flood the units with natural light so guests feel connected to nature even when indoors.

Fully equipped kitchens make Tamarind Hills an ideal choice for long stays. A private chef can also be arranged. During my visit, I enjoyed creative meals featuring local ingredients skillfully prepared by Chef Kahyeme Benjamin of The Perfect Chef Catering Service.

Antigua’s cuisine is diverse and delicious. So don’t miss sampling local fare such as chop-up (vegetable mash), saltfish and fungie (the savoury national dish featuring cornmeal), ducana (sweet potato wrapped in banana leaf) as well as conch prepared a variety of ways.

A Wealth of Luxury Resorts

Sandals Grande Antigua

Panoramic view of the lush gardens at Mediterranean Village section at
Sandals Grande Antigua.
Photo: Michele Peterson

Also popular among foodies is Sandals Grande Antigua Resort & Spa, set on Dickenson Bay. This all-inclusive, adults-only resort features 11 restaurants spread across two sections, the Mediterranean Oceanview Village and the Caribbean Beachfront Village, each offering its own unique charms and amenities. Some of the most memorable guest rooms at Sandals Antigua are the aptly-named Love Nest Butler Suites, rondovals with soaring ceilings, decked out with private pool sanctuaries just steps to the powder-soft sand of Dickenson Beach.

Sandals Grande Antigua

Sandals Grande Antigua’s main swimming pool
Photo: Michele Peterson

In addition to its dining options, sprawling main pool, hideaway pools set amid gardens and activities (including PADI Certified Scuba Diving), Sandals Grande Antigua offers plenty opportunities to recharge thanks to a bevy of health, wellness and spa resources.

Another resort option for those who want to fully unplug is Blue Waters Resort & Spa. Set on a private bay on Antigua’s northwestern shore, this family-owned property offers a serene, timeless vibe. It also happens to be home to the acclaimed fine-dining restaurant The Cove, known for its French-Caribbean cuisine.

And don’t miss Hodges Bay Resort, a Caribbean-chic hideaway that’s especially popular with celebrities. This boutique-sized property bursts with contemporary art including the incredible Boonji Spaceman, a 7-metre high sculpture created by the artist Brendan Murphy.

Beautiful Barbuda

Nobu Barbuda

Outdoor dining area at Robert de Niro’s Nobu Barbuda
Photo: Michele Peterson

Immerse yourself in even more wonders on neighbouring Barbuda, a short trip by ferry, flight, private yacht or helicopter charter from Antigua. Here, the main draws are rose-hued Pink Sand Beach, a network of caves with ancient petroglyphs created by the Arawak indigenous peoples and Codrington Lagoon National Park, a protected zone on the western coast of the island.

This diverse ecosystem supports the largest magnificent frigatebird colony in the Caribbean. During mating season, male frigatebirds inflate their throat pouches into brilliant red balloons to attract the attention of females in a spectacular courtship display.


Princess Diana Beach on Barbuda was a favourite of the Princess and the young Princes
Photo: Michele Peterson

Culinary travellers should plan to spend a relaxed afternoon at Robert de Niro’s Nobu Barbuda. This new addition to the Nobu brand offers classic signature dishes such as Miso-Marinated Black Cod along with locally-inspired specialties such as Island Rum Roasted Pineapple Sorbet.

The restaurant’s tables are set directly on Princess Diana Beach, a ribbon of crystal-white sand that was a favourite of Diana, Princess of Wales and the young princes in the 1990s.

Barbuda Belle

Club House Great Room at Barbuda Belle
Photo: Michele Peterson

Celebrities continue to be drawn to Antigua and Barbuda. During my inter-island helicopter flight with CalvinAir, I spotted sprawling estates owned by Eric Clapton, Oprah Winfrey and Giorgio Armani to name a few.

I also noted what appeared to be a giant manta ray hovering above the waters on Antigua’s western shore. We veered in for a closer look and discovered it was Tamarind Hills. The architect had designed the clifftop development so the villas’ rooftops appear like a manta ray with its wings spread gliding towards the ocean. It was a reminder of my own manta ray encounter, a remarkable memory to take home from extraordinary Antigua and Barbuda.

Barbuda Belle

French-inspired island cuisine at Barbuda Belle
Photo: Michele Peterson


Take a scenic transfer to Barbuda via helicopter on CalvinAir
Photo: Michele Peterson

Travel Planner

Antigua & Barbuda Tourism Authority:

Tamarind Hills:

Sandals Grande Antigua:

Barbuda: Barbuda is accessible by ferry, direct scheduled flights on SVG Airlines ( and CalvinAir helicopter charter ( from Antigua.

Barbuda Belle: This secluded luxury boutique resort is set on the western shores of Barbuda.

Michele Peterson is an award-winning writer who specializes in sun destinations and culinary travel. Get travel tips, destination guides and global recipes at

Antigua & Barbuda

A pink sand beach on Barbuda
Photo: Antigua & Barbuda Tourism Authority