When it comes to having the most exotic beaches on the earth, there are no prizes for guessing who wins. And while all the Caribbean islands are fabled for their sandy beaches, Antigua and Barbuda beat all other nations by a fair margin. If you spent only one day at a beach, you’d still need a year to do the round trip.
Simply put, this island nation has a beach for each day of the year. No other island in the region (or outside it, for that matter) can boast of such a diversity of accessible strands, and Antigua’s small size also means it is impossible to be more than a few miles from a tantalizing tract of white-gold shoreline.
Naturally, it was not an easy task to compile this list, as it meant looking for five golden needles in a golden haystack. But what we came up with, is something we hope you will agree with. Read on…
1. Dickenson Bay
For the quintessential full-on, full-facility island beach, come 5km north of the cruise terminal to Dickenson Bay. Antigua does not provide a more developed beach package than this, where jam-packed resorts jostle with some of the island’s best restaurants, bars, cafes, food trucks and watersports for a bit of beachfront prime time.
It is certainly the most crowded strip of sand, especially when the fun-seekers from the biggest of the Sandals Antigua resorts descend. But because the bay stretches to over a mile in length there is invariably space to separate yourself from the masses, and the trade-off for the crowdedness is the excellent array of activities when you tire of sliding between your beach towel and the azure ocean. You could select from some distinguished restaurants such as the dignified French-Caribbean Coconut Grove, or elect to try the likes of jet skiing, wakeboarding, parasailing, or tubing.
It is a much-frequented spot by locals, however, who add colour to the scene with their spirited games of volleyball and beach cricket, and there are a couple of low-key but very good eateries near the fort. West beyond the St John sprawl, the peninsula containing Five Islands villages into the ocean in a shape resembling a goat’s head.
It is an especially beach-rich place even by Antigua’s exemplary standards, and the Hawksbill Bay quartet of strands at the western end is simply stunning. Their attractiveness is largely in their niche appeal. The Hawksbill by Rex resort complex straddles much of the shore here, and for beaches two, three and four you have to pass through the resort entrance, which security permits but which does deter many.
3. Caribbean Beach
This tract of sand is also Antigua’s only clothing-optional beach. But for those seeking a quiet beach experience close to St John, it is ideal. The first sands are just before the resort and the second and third are mostly for resort guests, which is fine because the fourth, Eden Beach, is the most spectacular of all provided you don’t mind sharing it with nudists. A long slice of banana cream coloured sand, it is from here that you can enjoy exquisite views out to the craggy Hawksbill Rock from which the beaches get their name.
4. Fryes Beach
Partly cut-off from the rest of Antigua by a lagoon, the serene sea grape-shaded Ffryes Beach is a happy compromise between busyness and balminess. This low-key locale attracts families but seldom becomes overly crowded, whilst barbecue facilities and one of the greatest places for Antiguan food on the island, Dennis Beach Bar & Restaurant, give you plenty of reasons to linger.
This is the west coast’s best-known beach, but if you have come out here for snorkelling then Darkwood Bay, lapped by alluringly iridescent waters and secreting a section of reef, is just south.
5. Rendezvous Bay Beach
Which side of Antigua has the best beaches? The south side, if Robinson Crusoe-Esque remoteness is what you crave. The thrill is in the act of arrival with the flaxen arc of Rendezvous Bay: it is among Antigua’s most isolated beaches, stashed along with a delightfully undeveloped chunk of coast, and the way in is only by private yacht or, for most, by foot along rough track or trail.
The easiest land approach is from Falmouth Bay: follow signs for Spring Hill Riding Club, near where you must park up to follow the track through scrub and forest for a couple of miles. If you want to be even more hard-core with your approach, try coming on the longer trail through the rainforest from Wallings Nature Reserve. Either is the perfect rugged build-up to the lonesome rainforest-backed beach itself, spreading either side of a deep lagoon in blonde beauty intensified by the lack of other beach-goers.