Set in the idyllic waters of the Eastern Caribbean, Antigua will quickly win your heart with its lush beauty and warm and friendly locals. As a cruise stop, it’s hard to compete with Antigua — it’s one of the most popular destinations for many travelers exploring this part of the Caribbean.
Of all the things to do in Antigua aside from relaxing on one of the many beaches (365 to be exact), this island nation also has a lot to offer culturally, culinary and scenically.
Once your cruise ship docks at Heritage and Redcliffe Quay, the capital of St. John’s, just a five-minute walk away, you’ll be spoiled for choice when it comes to shore excursions.
Once docked in the port of St. John’s, lace up a good pair of walking shoes and set out to explore the island nation’s capital.
All of the city’s iconic landmarks are within walking distance from the cruise terminal. If you don’t feel like walking far, head over to Radcliffe Quay, which is linked to the Docking Terminal by a promenade.
Downtown St. John’s, Antigua (Image credit: byvalet / Shutterstock.com)
Otherwise, you can visit the Antigua and Barbuda Museum or choose from an eclectic mix of restaurants where you can have lunch.
Don’t miss a classic photo opportunity while in the cruise ship port with its many colorful walls – perfect for Insta feed!
This is must be in your things to do in Antigua list. It is the highest and most scenic point on the entire island – originally known as Boggy Peak. This is a difficult climb, but both beginners and experienced walkers can easily complete the route.
Mount Obama (Photo Credit: Dance/Creative Communities)
The reward at the top of Mount Obama is an unobstructed, panoramic view of Antigua. Keep in mind that the hike to the summit takes an average of three hours and you will be walking along lush jungle paths.
While you are in Antigua, it only makes sense to explore its incredible underwater life with scuba or snorkeling.
In particular, an underwater tour of the Cayde Reef. Whether you are an experienced diver or prefer snorkeling, this is a family-friendly destination known for its impeccable visibility and a huge variety of marine life.
On a calm day, visibility is around 100 feet (30 meters) and you can expect the coral reef to be full of fish, turtles, the legendary wreck and more.
For yet another place to enjoy the beauty of Antigua, Shirley Heights is a must-see.
Shirley Heights (Photo Credit: David Stanley/Creative Communities)
With panoramic views of the entire island, it’s also one of the best places to mingle with the locals and enjoy the music of steel drums, Caribbean BBQ and cinnamon-spiced rum. It doesn’t get any more authentic!
If you prefer something more discreet, stick to weekday evening events.
Despite the damage caused by Hurricane Irma, this island is still worth a day trip. Just hop on the Barbuda Express, a high-speed catamaran that takes you all day to explore this unspoiled Caribbean habitat.
This is a popular day trip, so be sure to plan your time well and book in advance.
Antiguans love everything hot and savory, so be prepared for your taste buds to light up.
If you want to dive a little deeper into local Caribbean cuisine, why not take a course in local cuisine? One of the most popular options is the Nicole table, located in the capital, St. John’s.
If you want to try local delicacies, add konchurna or goat water (a type of soup) to your list.
It also has Caribbean BBQ and dumplings, usually made with cod or salted fish, Johnny’s local favorite cakes and pastries, and delicious sweet Caribbean mango!
While some of Antigua’s beaches can get a bit crowded and busy, there are a few that aren’t, notably Half Moon Bay.
Half Moon Bay, Antigua (Photo credit: Roger Hiscox / Creative Communities)
Located in a national park, this stretch of beach is pristine and sheltered, perfect for walking off the beaten track. Its big waves also make it ideal for windsurfing. Snorkelers can also enjoy relaxing here with calm waters to explore just off the edge of the bay.
Be sure to visit Half Moon Bay during the day – don’t plan this hike at sunset. The winding route to get there (plus the sandflies come at dusk) might not offer as much of a pleasant experience.
It is definitely a must see when visiting this island nation and is almost a detour ritual when exploring Antigua.
Devil’s Bridge (Photo Credit: Amorian Laporte/Creative Communities)
The Devil’s Bridge is a natural limestone arch located in the east of Antigua – it can be found near the Indian city. The power of the ocean has shaped this natural arch for hundreds of years, giving Devil’s Bridge its mesmerizing shape. It also marks the meeting of the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.
If you are interested in learning a little more about Antigua’s heritage then this is a worthwhile experience. Betty’s Hope is essentially a 17th century sugar plantation. It is named after the daughter of a former plantation owner and is one of the largest plantation properties in Antigua.
Betty’s Hope Sugar Plantation (Photo Credit: Roger Hiscocks / Creative Commons)
No longer a sugar factory but a museum of sorts, a visit to Betty’s Hope gives you a good idea of the role Antigua played in escaping the slavery system. If you are a history buff, then this is the place for you.
If you want to escape to an idyllic beach straight out of a Caribbean postcard, then Valley Church Beach is the way to go. You will find this location south of Merry Harbour, on the west coast of Antigua.
With a palm-lined coastline, a powdery white sand beach and the chance to see dolphins, this is the Caribbean in a nutshell – without the crazy crowds.
One of the best ways to explore any new area is with a local. If you want to break away from the crowd and experience all the best local gems, who better to show you around than someone who actually lives in Antigua?
St. John’s, Antigua (Photo Credit: Adam Reeder/Creative Communities)
There are numerous tours with local guides throughout the island, but it’s important to do your research first and make sure the guide you choose is legit and verified. This is one of the best (and most affordable) ways to get to know Antigua in order to truly feel like you’re in the Caribbean.
If the Caribbean is known for anything, it’s pristine sailing conditions, making it one of the best places in the world to learn how to sail. If this has always been on your bucket list, then there’s no better time to spend a day learning how it’s done while in Antigua.
Head to the National Sailing Academy in Falmouth Harbor where they offer short sailing courses. Or you can hire a dinghy for the day and take it to Pigeon Point Beach if you already know what you’re doing!
It may be one of Antigua’s most tourist attractions, but it’s the perfect option if you love an adrenaline rush and want to explore the island’s lush rainforests.
Zipline on the island (Photo Credit: Trevor Clearingbold/Creative Communities)
With Antigua Rainforest Zipline Tours, you can soar through the dense rainforest and choose from a short 45-minute tour or a tour that lasts 2.5 hours.
The full tour also includes an adventurous jungle obstacle course including rope swings, bridges and a 328-foot zip line for maximum acceleration.
This is another fantastic tour if you are interested in learning more about Antigua’s maritime history. Fort Berkeley was an integral part of the defense of Antigua during the reign of the British Empire.
Complete with 25 canons throughout the site, you can hike the trail that starts at the Superyacht Dock, close to the Nelson Shipyard. This is a relatively quiet and scenic trail that leads along English Harbour.
Fort Berkeley (Photo credit: David Stanley / Creative Communities)
Don’t miss the 200-year-old bombproof magazine that can hold 300 barrels of gunpowder!
For an amazing island dining experience, you’ll want to schedule a visit to the Island Beach Bar. Also known as Turner’s Beach Bar, located on Turner’s Beach, this is the perfect place for delicious island cuisine. You will get an incredible view of the island of Montserrat.
Turner’s Beach Bar & Grill (Photo Credit: Crazy / Creative Communities)
If you can only visit during the day due to your cruise schedule, don’t forget to treat yourself to locally caught lobster that is caught, split and grilled right on the beach.
However, if you arrive at night, you will be able to see the active lava glow from the Soufriere Hills volcano on the island of Montserrat.
You may not think that there will be many high-end and duty-free shops on islands like Antigua, but the opposite is true. If you’re into luxury shopping, add a visit to Heritage Waterfront to your list. This is one of the best areas to find the best prices for luxury items as well.
Heritage Waterfront, Downtown St. John’s (Photo Credit: Reinhard Link/Creative Commons)
You can find many stores selling everything from diamond jewelry to Rolex watches, cigars, liquors, designer clothes, cosmetics and more.
If you’re feeling especially indulgent after a luxury shopping trip, why not take a yacht cruise around the island of Antigua? Several independent cruise charters operate from the island, but the family-run and company-operated Creole Antigua Tours is worth mentioning.
You can look forward to a great lobster lunch, island hopping, snorkeling, and lots of sun, sea and relaxation.
This is a brilliant day out if you want to explore Antigua’s natural scenery other than the beach. The Pillars of Hercules are a stunning natural wonder carved by the force of the ocean over millennia. From the pillars you can explore private beaches, plenty of snorkeling opportunities where you can see rare fish species.
Pillars of Hercules (Photo Credit: Vanessa Hall/Creative Communities)
The only way to get to this place is along the hiking trail from Galleon Beach, which is beautiful in itself, littered with cactus and agave.
If you’re a nature lover and want to get your outdoor fix, then it’s great to do just that by hiring a kayak for a few hours and exploring the island’s mangroves. During a kayak tour through the mangroves, you can even see a species of jellyfish unique to Antigua (Cassiopeia).
Island hopping is another great way to get to know Antigua and its gorgeous surroundings, because the uninhabited island of Opuntia has plenty to see from a boat ride.
Plum Pear Island (Photo credit: Pirate_J / Creative Commons)
Located in the northeast corner of Antigua, this is the perfect day trip destination to enjoy idyllic tranquil beaches, shallow reefs, tropical fish and plenty of freshly made rum cocktails!
Since it is a very popular place for cruises. Most major cruise lines such as Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises and Princess Cruises offer regular cruises to the island.
The cruise port is in Saint John, which is the capital of Antigua. The dock there is big enough to hold four ships, and there will be more soon when construction on the new pier begins.
Antigua Cruise Port (Photo Credit: Günter Hentschel / Creative Communities)
Your ship will most likely dock at either Legacy Pier or Radcliffe Pier. The first thing that greets you as soon as you step off the ship are the beautiful melodies of the metal island, played tirelessly by the island band as you leave the docks.
Upon entering the beautiful port area, you are greeted by colorful buildings with busy rosettes. In shopping centers, bars, souvenir shops and duty-free cafes. With clean streets and plenty of amenities.
This neatly organized waterfront serves as a good introduction to Antigua.
If you want an authentic taste of Caribbean culture, be sure to plan your cruise for the end of July as it falls in the middle of Carnival!
We hope this list of the best things to do in Antigua has intrigued you. In order to plan your excursions along the coast well, it is best to first learn a few things about Antigua itself:
How close is the port to the city of St. John’s?
Your cruise ship will dock at Heritage Quay, which is one of two quays that run perpendicular to St. John’s.
The exit gate to the city is less than 500 feet from the ship. Basically, you only need a few minutes on foot to get to the city center.
What is the best month to go to Antigua?
Peak season in Antigua is between mid-December and mid-April. But if you’d rather come during the quieter, shoulder season, you might want to consider planning your cruise for May or June.
Both of these seasons are the best times to visit the Eastern Caribbean.
What to do in Antigua on a sunny day?
The Caribbean has a humid tropical climate, so you can expect Antigua to be relatively warm all year round. Temperatures typically hover around the mid-80s. The rainy season lasts from July to November.