21 interesting facts about Antigua and Barbuda that you must know

In this post, I am sharing 21 interesting facts about Antigua & Barbuda, that you should know if you plan to travel to these beautiful Islands. It will help you understand more about the local culture and the highlights of this amazing destination

Antigua & Barbuda is a Caribbean island of unique beauty, with its white-sand beaches, lush tropical vegetation, and rich cultural heritage. It is geographically located within the windward islands in the Lesser Antilles. An ex-British Colony, Antigua and Barbuda became an independent state within the Commonwealth of Nations on 1 November 1981.

Antigua & Barbuda is now one of the most demanded all-inclusive destinations among the Caribbean islands especially preferred by honeymooners and couples for a romantic getaway but also great for families or anyone who loves deserted white-sand beaches and a turquoise calm sea where to swim, snorkel, scuba dive or play.

Antigua is indeed a destination for anyone, not cheap though. There are a few interesting facts about Antigua and Barbuda that are good to know before traveling there.

Deserted beach and turquoise water

Antigua Travel Advisory
Is it safe to travel to Antigua Right now?

Antigua is open to tourism but there are some rules to follow.

“All arriving passengers by air must have a negative COVID-19 RT-PCR (real time polymerase chain reaction) test for SARS-CoV-2 using a nasopharyngeal or oropharyngeal swab taken within seven days of their flight. (This includes transiting passengers). Children below the age of 12 years, entering Antigua, DO NOT REQUIRE a COVID -19 RT-PCR test.

Passengers who knowingly present false declarations of Covid-19 certificates on arrival will be fined according to the laws of Antigua and Barbuda.

Visitors may be required to undergo testing for COVID-19 on arrival or at the hotel or place of lodging as determined by the Health Authorities.

Passengers arriving by sea (private yachts/Ferry Services) are subject to quarantine according to guidelines issued by Port Health.

The wearing of face masks in public spaces is mandatory throughout Antigua and Barbuda and social/physical distancing protocols must be adhered to. Therefore, all passengers arriving in Antigua and Barbuda must wear a face mask on disembarkation, while on the airport compound and in all public places.”

Read more and updated information from the Tourism Authority site.

21 interesting facts about Antigua and Barbuda that you must know

It’s actually more than 2 islands

Antigua and Barbuda territory actually include three islands, being Redonda the third one, although Redonda is actually a tiny rugged, uninhabited rock, the remnant of a volcanic cone of only 0.5 square miles (1.3 square km) in the area and rising to nearly 1,000 feet (305 m) above sea level, with steep cliffs on all sides.

Redonda was actually a kingdom on its own and you can read its interesting story.

Other small islands are part of the Antigua and Barbuda territory, among which, Guiana Island, Bird Island, and Long Island.

nelson dockyard harbor

Antigua it’s tiny

The island of Antigua only, is about 22 kilometers (14 miles) long and 18 kilometers (11 miles) wide, encompassing 281 square kilometers (108 square miles). 

Its sister island Barbuda covers 161 square kilometers (62 square miles).

What does Antigua mean?

“Antigua” means “Old” in Spanish, named by Christopher Columbus, who first discover the island, in honor of the Seville Cathedral of Santa Maria La Antigua.

How do you pronounce Antigua?

Antigua is pronounced “Anti-ga“, by the locals, so basically you drop the “U”, while in the original Spanish word is pronounced “Anti-gwa

There is a never-ending debate on that. If you think about it, though, “Antigua” is a Spanish word, not an English word, so it should be pronounced according to the Spanish language rules.

Makes sense?

However, the local official language is English, because of the British colonization which was the longest in Antigua.

Hence, the English pronunciation of the word Antigua (“Anti-ga“without the “u”).

Conclusion: you are totally free to pronounce it the way you want but I would go with the locals. 🙂

Windmill in a gren field

A tiny country with such a diverse territory

I remember when I joined a tour, way back, the guide was explaining how the island is made of three kinds of territory, Vulcanic rocks, tropical jungle, and limestones. You can see it by yourself while you are touring around. The volcanic rocks while climbing to Boggy peak or at Devil’s bridge, the tropical jungle in the center of the island, on the way from Jolly beach and English Harbour, where the Zipline is. And you can admire limestone rocks at Half-moon beach or on a boat tour to the Pillars of Hercules.

You will definitely want to check out what are the most exciting things to do in Antigua

Antigua Official Language is English

One of the reasons why I have fallen in love with Antigua is the local accent and dialect, the English patois. Although I don’t speak it, but I could manage to understand quite a bit because I was coming from Jamaica whose dialect is very similar.

So even if English is your native language, you might be struggling to understand at first. But once you do, it’s just like a funny melody. It sounds like they are always mad at you even when they are complementing you. But maybe it’s just my impression.

Oh! how I miss it.

Hels gate - rock formation

Antigua has its own currency

Although USD is commonly accepted anywhere, the local currency is the Eastern Caribbean Dollar (1 USD=2.70 ECD) But you don’t have to exchange it.

The highest peak is named after President Obama

I remember at the time when President Obama was elected for the first time I was living in Antigua. It was a huge thing, so much heartfelt by the Antiguans. So they decided to named their highest peak, formerly Boggy peak, after President Obama.

Mount Obama is the the remnant of a volcanic crater rising 402 meters (1319 feet).

boat in trasparent water

The national sport is cricket

And it’s worshipped like a religion. And even with such a small population, some of the world’s best cricket players are Antiguans, among which Sir. Viv Richards, regarded as one of the greatest batsmen of all time. Sir. Viv Richards is one of Antigua national heroes.

Unfortunately, I never managed to understand this game, although I went to see a match of the popular cricket tournament Twenty20, that took place in Antigua when I was there. I have to say the excitement was contagious and even if I didn’t understand what I was watching, I had a blast!

Antigua Carnival is one of the main events of the year

Carnival is celebrated in Antigua on the dates of its emancipation from slavery which occurred at the end of July to early August. It is a ten-day celebration filled with colorful costumes, live music, and parades. The most important day is “j’ouvert” when steel and brass bands play all over the island.

As I am writing in this post on July 30th, 2020 the Carnival celebrations were supposed to be on, but it was sadly suspended due to the COVID-19. It is certainly a year that we will all remember.

Frigate bird male with red breast inflated

Barbuda is home to the largest Frigate Bird Colony in the western hemisphere.

Located at the Codrington Lagoon, in Barbuda, this amazing birdwatchers paradise, is only accessible by a short boat trip with a knowledgeable tour guide. Tours to Barbuda are organized from Antigua include a visit to the Frigate Bird Colony.

Bermuda has a pink beach for real

pink beach in barbuda

It’s not surprising. The tiny island of Barbuda is a coral island and so is its beach. From Spanish point to Palmetto point, you can walk 8 uninterrupted miles of deserted oceanfront where the champagne color of the sand is mixed with crushed corals, which is what gives the rose glows.

You can see and enjoy it either by going to Barbuda on your own or by joining a tour. Definitely not to be missed

All-inclusive is king

Pool Suite Privacy Hermitage Bay
Pool Suite @ Hermitage Bay – Photo courtesy of Hermitage bay

Although you can find nice bed and breakfasts and now many Airbnbs in Antigua, the all-inclusive resorts are very popular in Antigua and, with some usual exceptions, all of them are 5 stars properties with amazing views of the turquoise ocean. Although I am not a fan of All-inclusive I can honestly say that the all-inclusive hotels in Antigua take this concept to a whole different level.

However, please keep in mind there are many delicious restaurants to enjoy and many things to do in Antigua that even if you are tempted to stay in your amazing hotel and get pampered, I invite you to go out and explore the island as well.

Renting a car is the best way to explore the island

Antigua is tiny and there aren’t many roads, so, if you are not me, the chances to get lost are very little, considering that you now have the gps on your phones.

Don’t laugh, but when I was living in Antigua there was no google map, just regular road maps and I spent the first week driving around trying to familiarize myself with the island roads and getting lost all the time. I remember once I stopped at a gas station to ask for information and the guy bluntly said, in a strong Antiguan accent (which I love, by the way), “Don’t you know how to read a map?” I was so embarrassed but I had a good laugh!

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The best beaches are only reachable by car or by taxi, but consider that taxis are way more expensive and not so flexible as having a car and being able to drive around at your own pace.

Driving a car in Antigua is not dangerous but please consider that there are many path-holes and animals can suddenly cross the street. So just be mindful and drive slow.

jungle road

The national dish is…

fungie (pronounced “foon-jee”) and pepperpot.

The fungie is very similar to Italian Polenta, but different (I am Italian). The pepperpot, which I loved when I wasn’t vegan, is a sort of stewed veggies with meat cooked with spices and in a very specific way. Very tasty! Here is the recipe.

Sailing is big in Antigua

With its winding coast line and many different ports and docking facilities, Antigua has become one of the ideal destinations for sailing. Not only many sailors choose Antigua as their docking hubs for their boats but it has also become a huge touristic activity. You will find many sailing options to explore the beautiful shore by boat. Or if you decide to learn how to sail, you have great options for sailing classes.

In fact…

Rainbow over a harbor

Don’t miss Antigua Sailing week

Antigua sailing week is a premier annual event that attracts professional sailors from all over the world to participate in yacht racing, but it’s also an occasion to party and enjoy the island vibes. An amazing atmosphere that marks the end of the high season in Antigua.

A Hollywood stars’ retreat

Antigua charm cast a spell on anyone who visits, including many famous people of the international Jet-set, that chose this island as one of their luxury retreats. The list includes Oprah Winfrey, author Jamaica Kincaid, the fashion designer Giorgio Armani, Richard Branson of Virgin Atlantic, and Eric Clapton who built Crossroads, an exclusive drug and rehabilitation center on the island.

The majority of those Hollywood owned luxury villas are located on Jumby Bay island, within the premises of the homonymous hotel, obviously as spectacular and exclusive as its villas.

A major Caribbean cruise hub

I am not a fan of those gigantic cruises and I will never be, but they bring a lot of business to the island, so well, what can I say?

It’s a fact that St. John Harbor is one of the most important and demanded Caribbean cruise hubs, or it was before the pandemic. So if cruise ships are your thing, make sure you chose one that includes Antigua in the itinerary. Then you will realize that one day to visit Antigua is not enough and you’ll be back for a week or two. 🙂

The island with 365 beaches

Antigua has been nicknamed the land of 365 beaches because of its many spectacular white-sand bays along its coastline. I am not sure if the number is correct, but there are indeed many immaculate beach spots whose beauty will make you speechless.

In Antigua there are no rivers

In Antigua, there are no rivers and no lakes…and no snakes except for the Antiguan racer a harmless and one of the rarest snakes in the world that has been found only in Bird Island off the coast of Antigua.

Traveling alone in Antigua

Antigua is not exactly a destination for solo travelers, especially if you are interested in meeting other people and parties. It’s a tranquil island where you can find random parties every now and then, there are no hostels, and the majority of tourists are couples or families. It’s a very romantic place. However, if you love peace and tranquility, and you are not interested in meeting other people, it’s perfect for you to travel alone and enjoy one of the exquisite boutique resorts on the island. It is pretty safe, but make sure you are not on isolated beaches by yourself. As a solo female traveler, I wouldn’t recommend it, but that’s everywhere not only in Antigua, obviously.

It’s not budget travelers

For the above-mentioned reasons, Antigua & Barbuda is not exactly a destination for those how to travel on a budget. Even the cheapest hotels are still above the average of what you usually pay for a cheap hotel anywhere else. Also, there is practically no reliable public transportation. I believe the best way to travel to Antigua on a budget would be to stay in one of the small guests’ houses or a home rentals and rent a car. However, you should be able to include in your budget a couple of boat tours, to have the best Antigua experience.

All in all, the way I see it if you really want to have the full Antigua experience, I would plan a 2-week stay, of which you can splurge in one of the spectacular all-inclusive resorts, for at least 3 or 4 days and then rent a home and a car and enjoy exploring all the beautiful secret beaches in Antigua.

I hope this list was useful, but I suggest you check out all my other Antigua Travel Guides for more information so that you can travel prepared and make the most of your vacation in one of the most beautiful Caribbean Islands.

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