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Best day tours, sightseeing and activities on Antigua

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Antigua is known for year round tropical weather, 365 beautiful beaches, turquoise water and some of the best adult only and family friendly resorts in the Caribbean. But even the most devoted beach bum likes to get out and explore on occasion so I’ve sampled some of Antigua’s best day tours and activities as well as resorts and beaches.

My top 5 things to see and do on Antigua would be

  1. Nelson’s Dockyard and English Harbour
  2. Shirley Heights
  3. Snorkeling at Cades Reef, Pillars of Hercules, Paradise Reef or Half Moon Bay
  4. Stingray City
  5. St Johns Saturday Market

Although a map and Google directions will make it look easy to get about with a rental car, my advice is to book excursions through a tour company. Despite having only a few main roads on the island, many streets are unmarked, fewer are on the map, road signs at intersections are unreadable and the town of St John is a maze of one way streets.  Even stopping for directions is fruitless as locals walk so stay close to home.  Did I mention you’d be driving on the left side of the road in a car with steering wheel on the right?  Enough said!

The top sightseeing attractions on Antigua are scattered about the island and may be minutes or an hour from your resort but if you’re staying near Dickenson Bay, one of the best beaches on Antigua, my vote for best day tour would be the Xtreme Circumnavigation. This tour combines 4 of the 5 top experiences in a single action packed day and adds the thrill of high speed boating as you race literally around the island.

The tour departs at 9:40a from the white sand beach in front of adult only Sandals Grande Antigua.  Plan to wear your bathing suit and carry towels, flip flops and camera above your head as you wade toward the 45 foot racing boat and climb aboard. The boat comfortably accommodates 20 adventurers plus a talented and personable 3 man crew but is not appropriate for the physically challenged or those prone to motion sickness. There is also limited shade onboard so sun screen is important.

After a brief safety lecture we headed north toward the Atlantic side of Antigua and a cluster of low lying islands and cays. After a ½ hour speeding across open ocean we stopped at Stingray City, a smaller and less commercialized version of the famous Cayman Island attraction. All but a few onboard donned snorkel masks to swim with dozens of huge stingrays above a shallow sand bar while others watched from a floating platform and the most adventurous held a ray and captured the experience with an optional photo for $15.

A bit more high speed, bouncy cruising took us past Devils’ Bridge to our 2nd stop on Green Island with an opportunity to swim and enjoy a lovely picnic lunch and refreshments on a deserted island beach.

Next we cruised past Shirley Heights into the bustling seaport of English Harbour and Nelson’s Dockyard with an interesting and informative narrative on its rich maritime history.  As we exited the harbor we anchored for a lovely long snorkel near the Pillars of Hercules where the visibility was excellent and we enjoyed hundreds of brightly colored fish and healthy corals.  One of our guides Trevor was an accomplished skindiver and easily touched a large anchor left 35 feet below from a long ago shipwreck and later swam through a rock formation on the ocean bottom.

Rounding the southern tip of Antigua we headed back into the turquoise waters of the Caribbean  and our last stop at Rendezvous Bay.  This is a picture perfect beach accessible only by boat or foot so we were able to float and swim in gently rolling waves, walk on the deserted beach and celebrate our wonderful day with a glass of traditional rum punch before heading back to Sandals and Dickenson’s Bay around 4p.

Overall Xtreme Circumnavigation is an outstanding value and the best bang for the buck on Antigua with 4 of the 5 top island attractions and lunch on a single day tour. I hope you try it and enjoy it as much I did!

Check back for my review of the Millionaire’s Suite at Sandals La Toc  and guideline for tipping a butler at a Sandals Resort.

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