Located in the idyllic waters of the Eastern Caribbean, Antigua will quickly steal your heart with its lush beauty, and warm and friendly locals. As a cruise stop, it’s hard to rival Antigua — it’s one of the most popular for many travelers exploring this side of the Caribbean.
Of all the things to do in Antigua, aside from lounging on any one of its many beaches (365 of them to be exact), this island nation has so much to offer in terms of culture, cuisine, and diverse landscapes.
Once your cruise ship docks at Heritage and Redcliffe Quay, the capital of St, John’s is just a five minutes’ walk away and you’ll be spoiled-for-choice when it comes to on-shore excursions…
1. Explore St. Johns, Antigua’s Capital, and Port
Once you dock at the port of St. John’s, lace-up with a good pair of walking shoes and take to the streets to explore the island nation’s capital for the day.
All of the city’s iconic landmarks are within walking distance of the cruise terminal. If you don’t feel like straying very far, pop across to Radcliffe Quay, connected to the docking terminal by a boardwalk.
Otherwise, explore the Museum of Antigua and Barbuda or take your pick from an eclectic mix of restaurants to refuel for lunch.
Don’t miss out on a classic photo opportunity while you’re at the cruise ship port with its many colorful walls — ideal for the Insta feed!
2. Hike to the Summit of Mount Obama
This is the highest and most scenic point on the entire island — originally known as Boggy Peak. It’s a challenging climb, but both beginners and experienced hikers can easily complete the track.
The reward at the summit of Mount Obama is unhindered, panoramic views across Antigua. Bear in mind that the hike takes an average of three hours to the summit, and you’ll be hiking through lush jungle trails.
3. Meet Antigua’s Local Wildlife
While you’re in Antigua, it only makes sense to explore its incredible underwater sea life with a scuba or snorkeling tour.
In specific, the Cades Reef scuba tour. Whether you’re a seasoned scuba diver or prefer snorkeling, this is a family-friendly spot known for its impeccable visibility and a huge diversity of sea creatures.
On a calm day, visibility is about 100-feet (30 meters) and you can expect to see plenty of fish swimming on the coral reef, turtles, the iconic sunken yacht wreck, and more.
4. Mingle Like a Local at Shirley Heights
For yet another spot to take in the beauty of Antigua, Shirley Heights is a must-visit location.
With a panoramic lookout across the island, this is also one of the best spots to mingle with the locals and enjoy steel drum music, Caribbean barbeque, and cinnamon-spiced rum. It doesn’t get more authentic than that!
If you prefer things a little more low-key, stick to weekday evening events.
5. Hop Over to the Island of Barbuda
Despite damage by Hurricane Irma, this island is still worth a day-trip. Simply hop on the Barbuda Express which is a high-speed catamaran that will carry you over for a day of exploration of this very untouched Caribbean habitat.
This is a popular day excursion, so make sure to plan your time well and book in advance.
6. Explore Antigua’s Local Cuisine
The Antiguans love all things hot and spicy, so be prepared to have your taste buds fired up.
If you want to delve a little deeper into the local Caribbean cuisine, why not take a local cooking class? One of the most popular options is with Nicole’s Table, based in the capital, St. Johns.
If you’re interested in sampling local delicacies, add conch water or goat water to your list (it’s a type of soup).
There’s also Caribbean barbeque and dumplings, usually made with cod or salt fish, the local favorite Johnny’s Cakes and Bakes, and deliciously sweet Caribbean mango!
7. Discover off-the-Beaten Track Paradise at Half Moon Bay
While some of Antigua’s beaches may be a little overcrowded and busy, there are a few that aren’t, specifically, Half Moon Bay.
Located in a national park, this swath of beach is untouched and protected and sits perfectly off-the-beaten-track. Its sizable waves also make it ideal for windsurfers. Snorkelers can also enjoy their time here with calm waters to explore near the edge of the bay.
Top Tip: Make sure you visit Half Moon Bay in the day — don’t plan this outing for sunset. The winding route to get there (plus the sandflies come dusk) may not offer an equally pleasant experience.
8. Take In the Natural Wonder of Devil’s Bridge
This is a definite must-see when visiting this island nation and is almost a rite-of-passage when exploring Antigua.
Devil’s Bridge is a natural limestone arch located in eastern Antigua — you can find it near Indian Town. The ocean’s power has shaped this natural arch over hundreds of years, giving Devil’s Bridge its fascinating shape. It also marks out the meeting of the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.
9. Step Back in Time at Betty’s Hope
If you’re 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 sites in Antigua.
No longer a working sugar mill, but a museum of sorts, a visit to Betty’s Hope gives you a good idea of the role Antigua played in escaping the system of slavery. If you’re a history buff, this spot is for you.
10. Escape the Crowds at Valley Church Beach
If you’re looking to escape to an idyllic beach straight out of a Caribbean postcard, then Valley Church Beach is your go-to. You’ll find this spot south of Jolly Harbour, on the west coast of Antigua.
With its palm-tree-lined coastline, powdery, white sand beach, and a chance of spotting dolphins, this is the Caribbean in a nutshell — without the madding crowds.
11. Get To Know Antigua From a Local Perspective
One of the best ways to explore any new area is with a local. If you want to break away from the crowds and get to know all of the best local gems, who better to show you than someone who actually lives in Antigua?
There are numerous locally guided tours operating across the island, but it’s important to do your research first and ensure the tour guide you choose is legitimate and verified. For a truly authentic Caribbean experience, this is one of the best (and most affordable) ways to discover Antigua.
12. Try Your Hand at Sailing
If the Caribbean is renowned for anything, it’s the 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 over to the National Sailing Academy in Falmouth Harbour, where they offer short sailing courses. Or, you can hire a dinghy for the day and take it out to Pigeon Point Beach if you already know what you’re doing!
13. Soar Across Antiguan Rainforest
This may be one of the more tourist-driven attractions in Antigua, but it’s ideal if you love a dash of adrenaline and want to explore the island’s lush rainforest, too.
With Antigua Rainforest Zipline Tours, you can soar across and through the dense rainforest, and choose from a short 45-minute tour, or one that spans 2.5 hours.
The full tour also includes an adventure obstacle course set up within the jungle, including rope swings, bridges, and the 328-foot zipline for the ultimate rush.
14. Get a Taste of Antiguan Heritage at Fort Berkeley
This is another fantastic tour if you’re interested in learning more about Antigua’s naval history. Fort Berkeley was integral to the defense of Antigua during the reign of the British Empire.
Complete with 25 canons across the site, you can hike a trail that starts at the superyacht dock, near Nelson’s dockyard. It’s a relatively quiet and picturesque trail that winds its way along English Harbour.
Don’t miss out on the 200-year old bomb-proof magazine that was capable of holding 300 barrels of gunpowder!
15. Take in the View at Island Beach Bar
For an amazing island dining experience, you want to schedule a visit to the Island Beach Bar. Also known as Turner’s Beach Bar, located on Turner’s beach, it’s the perfect spot for delicious island cuisine. You will get incredible views of the island of Montserrat.
If you can only visit during the day due to your cruise schedule, be sure to indulge in the locally caught lobster which is caught, split and grilled right on the beach.
If you visit at night, however, you can catch a glimpse of the active lava glow from the Soufrière Hills volcano on Montserrat Island.
16. Shop Til’ You Drop at Heritage Quay
You may not think that there would be much high-end or duty-free shopping on an island such as Antigua, but au contraire. If you’re keen on a spot of luxury shopping, then add a visit to Heritage Quay to your bucket list. This is one of the best areas to find the best prices on luxury items, too.
You can find a plethora of stores selling everything from diamond jewelry to Rolex watches, cigars, liquor, designer clothing, cosmetics, and more.
17. Indulge in a Lobster Lunch Cruise
If you’re feeling particularly indulgent after a spot of luxury shopping, why not embark on a yacht cruise around the island of Antigua? There are several independent cruise charters that operate from the island, but one that is worth mentioning is the family-owned and operated Creole Antigua Tours.
You can expect a beautiful lobster lunch, a spot of island hopping, snorkeling, and plenty of sun, sea, and relaxation.
18. Trek To the Pillars of Hercules
This is a brilliant day out if you’re keen on exploring the natural landscape of Antigua, other than the beach. The Pillars of Hercules are a stunning natural wonder carved by the power of the ocean over thousands of years. From the pillars, you can explore private beaches, plenty of snorkeling opportunities, with sightings of rare fish species.
You can only reach this site from a hiking trail from Galleon Beach, which is beautiful in itself, littered with cactus and agave.
19. Explore Antigua’s Mangrove System
If you’re a nature lover and want to get your outdoor fix, then a great to do just that is by hiring a kayak for a few hours and exploring the island’s mangroves. During a mangrove kayak tour, you may even get a chance to spot a jellyfish species unique to Antigua — the upside-down jellyfish (Cassiopea).
20. Spend the Day on Prickly Pear Island
Island hopping is another great way to get to know Antigua and its gorgeous surroundings — because there’s plenty to see just a short boat ride away on the uninhabited Prickly Pear Island.
Set off the northeast corner of Antigua, it’s the ideal day-trip spot for idyllic, quiet beaches, shallow reefs, tropical fish, and plenty of freshly made rum cocktails!
Bonus: Antigua Cruise Port
Since this is a very popular cruise destination. Most major cruise lines such as Carnival, the Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises, and Princess Cruises, cruise to the island regularly.
The cruise port is found in St. John which is the capital city of Antigua. The dock there is large enough to accommodate four ships and soon to be more with the construction of a new pier that’s underway.
Your ship is likely to dock at either Heritage or Radcliffe quay. The first thing that greets you once you disembark from your ship is the beautiful metallic island tunes, played tirelessly by an island band at the piers exit.
Entering into the beautiful port area one is greeted by a burst of colorful buildings featuring lively outlets. The outlet host eateries, duty-free shopping malls, bars, and gift shops. This neatly organized port area with clean streets and plenty of amenities serves as a nice introduction to Antigua.
Top Traveler’s Tip:
If you want to experience an authentic taste of Caribbean culture, be sure to plan your cruise towards the end of July as this falls right in the middle of Carnival!
We hope this list of some of the best things to do in Antigua has you intrigued. In order to plan your shore excursions well, it’s best to know a few things about Antigua itself, first:
Your cruise ship will dock at Heritage Quay, which is one of two quays perpendicular to St. Johns.
The exit gates to the city are less than 500-feet from the ship. Basically, it will take you just a few minutes on foot until you enter the city center.
Peak season in Antigua falls between the periods of mid-December to mid-April. But if you prefer to visit during the quieter, shoulder season, you may want to consider scheduling a cruise for May or June.
Both of these seasons are the best time to visit the Eastern Caribbean.
The Caribbean has a humid, tropical climate, so you can expect Antigua to be relatively warm, year-round. Generally, the temperature hovers around the mid-80s. The rainy season is between July-November.
Discover These Things to Do in Antigua With Cruise Hive
These are just a few of the many things to do in Antigua that will capture your heart and spirit and make you fall in love with the Caribbean. A crucial part of your cruise experience is preparing and booking your trip well in advance.