Antigua & Barbuda: The Epitome Of Caribbean Cool
On Location with Karen Dahdah
I realize it sounds sacrilegious, but for this Open Jaw’er, Pina Coladas in the sand under the Caribbean sun is not a major draw.
Until I visited Antigua and Barbuda.
The islands blew away my notions of what a beach destination is.
My first impression of Antigua was “Wow! This is an easy sell!” It checks off all the right boxes. Stunning vistas. Safe. Friendly. Amazing beaches. Beautiful accommodations. And, most importantly, lots to do!
View of English Harbour from Shirley Heights
I almost immediately felt a genuine connection with the people and the destination.
Being an active vacationer, spending half the day on a powdery beach then travelling in time to a historic sugar plantation was
right up my alley. It’s that juxtaposition of history and culture along with the modern amenities of a sun holiday that creates a unique experience.
My impressions are obviously not uncommon as the islands are seeing record numbers of Canadians discovering their unique qualities.
Let’s cover some of the basics of the destination.
What Cool Looks Like
Antigua & Barbuda’s latest campaign is a reference to the islands being perfect for not only winter getaways, but summer as well.
The summer temperatures only vary by 3 or 4 degrees with slightly overcast skies to bring a welcome trade wind, making this a great year-round destination for Canadian travellers.
The #WhatCoolLooksLike campaign aims to increase awareness and highlight some of the cool deals on accommodations and attractions in Antigua and Barbuda.
Yes, the islands boast 365 spectacular beaches – one for every day of the year, but as their tagline suggests “the beach is just the beginning”!
History And Culture
Courtesy of the Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority, I experienced firsthand what the island of Antigua has to offer.
We toured the heart of the island, rich with colonial history, a diverse landscape of rainforests with trees approaching 80 feet high and countryside where 17th Century sugar mills still stand. Production of sugar cane, tobacco and rum was the economic driver for centuries before Antigua and Barbuda underwent a transformation, claiming independence from Britain in 1981. Since then tourism has dominated the economy, and it’s stronger than ever -- just this April the islands welcomed a record number of visitors, 17% higher than last year.
Betty’s Hope Sugar Plantation Sugar Mill Towers
The United States brings in the highest amount of visitors to the islands year after year, with the United Kingdom and Canada a close second and third.
Increased Capacity And Airlift
It’s easy to travel to ANU with non-stop service from two major Canadian gateways on WestJet, Air Canada, and Sunwing.
- Non-stop service:
- WS Operates YYZ-ANU Sunday Summer Service/Winter season twice a week Wednesday & Sunday
- AC Operates YYZ-ANU Saturday Summer Service/Peak Winter service three to four times a week Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday
- WG Operates YYZ-ANU Friday & Saturday & YUL-ANU Friday
Three of the latest luxury resort offerings in Antigua.
Hodge’s Bay by Elegant Hotels opened its doors in November 2018.
You feel a sense of calm from the moment you arrive at reception, due in part to the attractive neutral colour palette. This 5-Star property is great for couples, families, multi-generational and groups to enjoy their home away from home. Guests have the choice of All Inclusive, EP or MAP plans and all of the villas and apartments are equipped with full size modern kitchens. All 79 units have a guaranteed waterfront view and come with butler service and dedicated concierge. Guests also have the option of a private chef or grocery delivery service prior to arrival.
Hodge’s Bay Villa
Royalton Antigua opened 1MAY, 2019 with 294 luxury suites, including Diamond Club ground level swim out suites. Still to come, the highly anticipated opening of six overwater bungalows in July 2019, the first-ever for Antigua and part of the Diamond Club exclusive experience. An on-site casino will open later this year. Family friendly amenities, kid’s club and splash pool and a choice of all-inclusive dining at six restaurants and a café are all part of the package. For a surcharge, guests may take part in a 3-hour private dinner at C/X Culinary Experience where the Chef prepares a seven-course meal, with a guest-chosen musical playlist.
Royalton Swim Out Suites
Hammock Cove, an Elite Island Resorts hotel, is currently under construction and set to open in DEC 2019. The property will be made up of standalone villas across the bay from the Verandah Resort & Spa. Hammock Cove will be an Adult Only All Inclusive property with a choice of water-view and waterfront villas, complete with luxurious furnishings, spa-like bathrooms, plunge pool and butler service.
Hammock Cove Waterfront Villa Terrace With Plunge Pool
An Eco-Conscious Destination
Antigua and Barbuda were the first islands in the region to ban single-use plastic bags in 2016 and continue efforts to protect the environment, eco-system and marine life. In addition to eliminating bags, plastic straws have been replaced by paper ones and the government is working toward the elimination of polystyrene products and replacing them with biodegradable food and drink containers.
Earlier this month, Blue Waters Resort began issuing reusable non-BPA water bottles to each guest in a welcome package and installed filtered water stations throughout the resort, to reduce plastic use.
Blue Waters Non BPA Reusable Guest Water Bottle
Many properties we visited are also doing their part to conserve, such as solar panels on the rooftops of Verandah Resort units; a farm-to-table cuisine approach at Hermitage Bay where they conduct garden tours of the fruits, vegetables and herbs grown on the property, and later served up to guests.
- There are six Green Globe Certified resorts in Antigua and Barbuda.
- Curtain Bluff Resort
- Galley Bay Resort
- Hermitage Bay
- St. James’s Club Resort & Villas
- Sugar Ridge Hotel
- The Verandah Resort & Spa
Above all, I would say Antigua and Barbuda’s claim to fame is true hospitality and the warmth of the people. At every establishment, resort or local market, you are greeted with a genuine smile and friendly hello. That’s an attribute that can’t be built or created, and it’s my best memory of a great trip.
Karen Dahdah Columnist
An avid traveller, adventure seeker and travel expert for over 15 years, Karen has toured over 35 countries around the world. She shares her first-hand knowledge of unique and off the beaten path destinations including hidden gems in Asia, adrenaline-rushing African safaris, and the fascinating culture of French Polynesia.