“Back can wait, but not belly” is a well-known Antiguan saying. With an abundance of fresh fruit and '‘catch of the day’ fish appearing on most menus, Antigua and her sister island Barbuda, are must-visit foodie destinations.
Some of the foods that are found here can be traced back to the islands as early as the slave trade era. These include Eddo, a largish potato and Ochra, a tropical mallow. There’s also Dukuna, a small pudding dish made of varying mixtures of grated sweet potatoes, coconut, cornmeal plantain-flour.
One of the foods that you'll find in abundance here are mangos, which come in different varieties such as Julie, Early Gold and Sensation. Every road stall offers them along with ‘Black Pineapple’ the national fruit of Barbuda. They were definitely my favourite way to start the day! To get a real taste of the island, I visited a variety of resorts to discover their culinary offerings first-hand.
Barbuda North Beach
My first stop was Barbuda North Beach. Their talented chef, Zeek, had been headhunted from the Sandals hotel in Antigua. While here, I enjoyed a selection of meals including Zeek’s special Sunday breakfast, which consisted of ‘chop-chop’, a blend of aubergine and spinach, and codfish and boiled eggs. For lunch, Zeek was confident enough not to have a menu, and he offered me his signature soup of pumpkin, ginger and spring onion, which was very cooling after a long day in the sun. To follow I had the lobster, which is typically seen as a luxury food item, but they are ‘two a penny’ on Barbuda (well almost!) and enjoyed them with the simple side dishes of sweet potato and a salad.
Indigo on the Beach restaurant
Carlisle Bay is a luxurious all-suite, beachfront resort located 16 km from the historic Nelson's Dockyard marina. The hotel has four restaurants: Indigo on the Beach, Ottimo!, East and Jetty Grill. Indigo has an interior-exterior setting next to the beach with the lapping waves. The colonial style beach restaurant has been cleverly designed to hide the sunbathers and their chairs and has a soothing palette of muted colours and natural textures.
The menu here caters for the health conscious. My most delicious lunch consisted of a starter of snapper ceviche and a Caprese salad, followed by the ‘catch of the day’, a Mahi-Mahi (local fish) beetroot, feta and pine nut slider. Rather decadently (but then what’s a holiday for?) it was all washed down with ‘Five Year Old English Harbour’, a popular rum brand. Michael, the sommelier, informed me with pride that no ice is needed with the ‘10 Year Old’ version. He said, “The sharper the better, after all it comes from sugar cane, which is comparable to the grape of a Louis X111 Cognac”!
Their second restaurant, Ottimo!, is set overlooking a swimming pool, built with stone specially delivered from Bali. The family-orientated restaurant offers a standard Italian menu including pizzas and pasta. To accompany your food, I recommend enjoying a glass of Wadadli, the local beer named after the island’s origins before the arrival of Columbus, which goes well with the Italian dishes.
East, the third of Carlisle Bay’s four restaurant options, has a Far Eastern menu, where I had a thoroughly enjoyable Pad Thai.
This authentically Antiguan restaurant has great fish. I enjoyed the grilled marlin (a first for me), which was accompanied by a mix of salads and washed down with yet another rum concoction. The food was truly delicious, but the experience was damped a bit by a steel drum band who played a set of predictable covers from Michael Jackson and Bob Marley.
Keyonna Beach Resort
Over on the west coast and looking right out at Montserrat, I enjoyed the food at Keyonna Beach. Lunch was enjoyed under the shade of an old grape tree with roots and branches in all directions. In keeping with the typically Antiguan menu, I sampled the ‘catch of the day’ - the Butterfish and Banga Mary, which were fresh and delicious.
Nonsuch Bay Resort
For my final stop, I headed to the East Coast to the restaurant at Nonsuch Bay Resort, an intimate restaurant set atop a rock precipice, with a small menu that changes every few days. During my visit, I had the seafood crepe with local fish and mushrooms in a creamy, white wine sauce with Parmesan cheese and the lightly blackened swordfish with spinach and crab risotto.
After visiting four wonderful resort restaurants, each featuring fantastic cuisine, I left belly full!
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Located on the sheltered west coast of Saint Lucia, Capella Marigot Bay Resort and Marina sits proudly on the hillside of Marigot Bay, a Caribbean icon surrounded by local rainforest and native wildlife.
Thanks to unique dining experiences and local touches this luxury resort is the place to be for fantastic food and beverage experiences. It even has its own Rum Cave where guests can enjoy sampling some of the finest regional rums.
With native stone and wood design the setting is inspired by the Caribbean’s colonial era rum distilleries and makes for the most ideal setting to enjoy the essential island tipple. Special rum tasting and blending sessions are available for novices and connoisseurs alike to expand their knowledge and enjoy the flavours in this intimate and sophisticated setting. Tucked neatly underneath the resort, this is a perfect place to enjoy appetisers and light bites from day to night.
Rum Infusing Tour: Guests seeking to learn more about the rum making process can enjoy a half day Rum Infusing tour with a local guide. Visitors will head to the bustling Castries Market to shop for indigenous spices before joining the experts at Saint Lucia Rum Distillery. After meeting the team of distillers and blenders to learn the history and secrets of rum making, guests return to the Rum Cave where the master infuser will assist in the creation of their very own infused bottle of rum.
Unique eateries: Food lovers will delight at the exquisite dining options available at the resort with emphasis on the freshest, locally sourced produce and inventive seasonal menus that fuse traditional Saint Lucian flavours with contemporary American and European influences.
The signature restaurant, The Grill at 14⁰61⁰, is located at the resort's highest point, offering breath-taking views of the Marina and bay. The swim-up Brut Bar is an ideal spot to enjoy tropical cocktails and a tantalising menu of local fruits, seafood and sushi dishes. Bayside Café, located on the water’s edge is a great location for a sundowner or two. Private dining can be arranged on guests’ very own terrace and for those seeking something extra special the Tree House, tucked away under lush foliage, offers a fairy-tale setting for intimate dining.
A not-to-be-missed Caribbean gem with a laid-back atmosphere
and some of the friendliest locals on earth...
Nestled in the heart of the Caribbean, the state of Antigua and Barbuda is comprised of two main islands as well as Redona, which is uninhabited. Antigua has 365 beaches (one to enjoy every day of the year), 280km of lush hills, rainforest and agricultural flatlands, making it the perfect destination for those looking for a perfect warm weather destination holiday.
Once you visit Antigua, it will become apparent why seriously wealthy celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey, Eric Clapton and Giorgio Armani, who can have their pick of any global destination to invest in when it comes to expanding their property profile, decided to buy holiday homes on this stunning island.
Getting there – Fly direct from London Gatwick to VC Bird International Airport in St. John’s
For our escape to Antigua, we flew with British Airways (in the World Traveller Economy Class) direct from London Gatwick to VC Bird International Airport in St. John’s, the capital city of Antigua. We love flying with British Airways whenever possible, as it provides its passengers with a generous baggage allowance (inclusive 23kg checked baggage allowance), which means that I needn’t feel guilty for packing six bikinis for a week-long holiday - variety is key, after all). It even meant I had room to bring my snorkel and flippers so I could indulge in snorkelling every day.
The 8 hr 50 min flight flew by quickly, although it could have also been down to our excitement for our paradise jaunt!
The friendly locals - Smiles guaranteed everywhere you go...
Taxis in Antigua
If you’re looking for a reputable taxi company to transfer you from the airport to your hotel, we’d recommend JJ’s Taxi (723-8753), which is run by Joseph Jacobs Sr., an eccentric local who guarantees satisfaction with every ride. In his words ‘If you don’t like my tour, you don’t pay me no money’. During our journey to the hotel, Joseph gave us a quick rundown of facts about the island – including the fact that there only 14 traffic lights on the whole island. I suppose he would know better than anyone, having been a local taxi driver for most of his life!
What to see and do in Antigua
With so many options of things to see and do in Antigua, the most difficult decision you’ll have is deciding how to spend your time! Whether you want to spend all of your days flopped on a sun lounger on the beach or near your hotel pool or whether you’re seeking something a bit more adventurous, the sky’s the limit.
From zip lining in the rainforest to snorkelling amongst the barrier reefs, to island boat tours, to water sports such as sailing, kayaking, diving or kite surfing, you’ll be spoilt for choice. Gourmands can also sign up for private cooking lessons to learn first-hand how to master cooking delectable Caribbean cuisine.
Key places to visit in Antigua
While there are many places to visit in Antigua, you can’t miss English Harbour, Nelson’s Dockyard, Devil's Bridge and Shirley Heights. Religious or not, it's also worth visiting St. Barnabus Church, the oldest church on the island, dating back to 1676. Anything else that you manage to see is an added bonus. I would also recommend hiring a car for at least one day of your holiday so you can drive around the island to visit a variety of beaches. We used Sunny Rentals, near the Sugar Ridge Resort, which had reasonable rates and friendly staff.
Best Beaches in Antigua
One of the highlights of visiting Antigua is its wealth of spectacular beaches. During our visit, we managed to see six beaches – Jolly Harbour Beach, Turner’s Beach, Jolly Church Beach, Ffryes Beach, Little Ffryes Beach and Half Moon Bay, all of which were fabulous and unique.
Where to stay in Antigua
Antigua has a plethora of gorgeous properties to choose from whether you’re looking for more reasonable self-catering accommodation or an ultra-luxe resort. Recommended hotels and resorts include: Sugar Ridge, Cocos Hotel, Keyonna Beach and Tranquillity Bay.
Not sure when you’d like to visit Antigua? Here’s an overview of key 2016 diary dates for upcoming events
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Settle in with a rum punch…
Upon our arrival at Keyonna Beach Hotel, we were presented with a glass of tropical rum punch to sip while we completed our check in forms - the perfect tonic to help ease us into the island spirit.
Once we were checked in, the friendly hotel porter showed us to our cottage (number 27), which consisted of a large room with a 4-poster bed (adorned with mosquito netting), a small desk, a large dresser, two night stands, a bathroom with his and her sinks and a toilet, and an outdoor shower.
Our cottage also had a small wooden deck with an outdoor sofa and chairs, which was ideal for enjoying our morning coffee, while gazing at the sea.
The perfect place for an intimate escape, Keyonna Beach Hotel offers a selection of 24 rooms and cottages including,Beach Front Cottages with Plunge Pools, which come with their own privately assigned Bali beds and beach loungers,Cottages with Sea Views, or Beach House Rooms, which are located in the main building (positioned either with a view of the beach and sea or directly overlooking the beach). There is also a small but perfectly formed communal pool for all guests to use, which is set back away from the beach.
The accommodation – Rustic, beach-side rooms and cottages designed for relaxation
The accommodations at Keyonna Beach Hotel have a weathered, rustic charm to them (think dark brown painted floors and furnishings and simple, no frills décor). All rooms and cottages are only a short stroll away from the shimmering Caribbean Sea.
Regardless of what property you choose, you’ll enjoy ideally positioned verandas with stunning views of the beach and sea, four-poster king size beds, air-conditioning, a shower (an indoor shower for the Beach House Rooms or outdoor showers for either of the cottage options), free Wi-Fi, an in-room mini fridge (stocked daily with local beers, soft drinks and water) and tea and coffee making facilities. To ensure your focus is solely on your companion during your stay, you won’t find a TV in your room, leaving you with more time to cuddle!
We loved showering in the great outdoors, as we felt it really helped to create a ‘castaway’ feel.
Luckily, you don’t need to worry about snakes joining you for a shower (something that we’ve been warned of during our travels in Thailand), so you can relax and enjoy the view of the sun or the stars, whatever time of the day!
Dining at Keyonna Beach
One of our favourite experiences during our stay was indulging in the fresh, wonderfully prepared cuisine at The Beach House Restaurant. We consider ourselves to be foodies and we couldn't fault the quality or the preparation of every dish we enjoyed during our stay.
Unlike many all-inclusive resorts, Keyonna Beach Hotel doesn’t offer a buffet service, but instead provides an a la carte menu with table service.
For breakfast, lunch and dinner, guests will find several meal options to choose from. We were able to find something that we liked at every meal, however, picky guests or those with allergies may find the menu a bit limiting, so if you have any concerns, we recommend mentioning this at the time of booking.
All meals are served at the on-site beach-side restaurant, which boasts a fabulous multi-tiered, wooden terrace, which facilitates open-air dining beneath a canopy of seaside grape trees. During each meal we marvelled at the joy of beach-side dining. There’s nothing more relaxing than listening to the waves lapping at the beach as you indulge in sensational cuisine!
Fitness at Keyonna Beach Hotel
Keyonna Beach Hotel offers free yoga sessions for its guests two times per week.Our class was led by Charlotte, a lovely English girl who worked with each participant individually to ensure that we worked within our own fitness abilities to avoid injury.
After the session, we definitely felt more relaxed (and limber), which was definitely a great way to start the day and feel a bit smug for ticking the 'fitness box' for the day!
Activities at Keyonna Beach Hotel
Live entertainment is available two nights per week, however, we didn’t experience this during our stay. Other activities such as snorkelling, zip-lining, kayaking and other outdoor pursuits can be booked at reception for an additional fee.
We'll be back!
Overall, we had an amazing time at Keyonna Beach and would certainly recommend it for anyone looking for a peaceful holiday in Antigua.
Prices start from US$288 (£187) per night for a Beach House Room; a Cottage from US$356 (£231), or Beachfront Plunge Pool Cottage US$488 (£317). All prices are based on double occupancy and include all meals and alcoholic beverages per night.
For further details on the property or for a breakdown of what's included in the all-inclusive package, visit www.keyonnabeach.com.
Top tips for your stay at Keyonna Beach...
Book in a yoga session with Charlotte, the yoga instructor
She’s a lovely English woman who’s skilled at working with people of varying abilities from beginners to more advanced yogis. To book, simply provide your name and room number at reception and they’ll sort the rest. The yoga sessions are held on the platform near the beach and mats are provided for all participants.
While crickets provide an air of exoticism to the overall experience by reminding you that you’re in a tropical destination, they can be a bit noisy for light sleepers.
Watch out for hungry mosquitoes
As we learned the hard way, the mosquito netting isn’t just an exotic style feature. The pesky mosquitoes will nibble away at you while you’re sleeping if you don’t take precautions to use bug spray and keep the netting closed.
To help keep mosquitoes at bay, Keyonna Beach Hotel fumigates twice per week, so don’ t be alarmed if you see a man roaming the beach with a large plume of smoke trailing behind him!
Most suited for: Couples seeking a chilled out holiday; this isn’t the place for adventure seekers or those looking for a party atmosphere
Best bits: The peaceful, beachside location with comfy Bali beds and the beachside restaurant and bar with its stunning views of the azure sea, can’t be beat. The slow pace of Keyonna Beach Hotel helps you to feel immediately relaxed, meaning that jet lag will soon be a thing of the past. It’s amazing what a golden beach and turquoise waters can do to soothe the soul.
Worst bits: Patchy Wi-Fi and pesky mosquitos (to be fair, we experienced both of these issues all over the island at various properties, so these issues aren’t unique to Keyonna Beach Hotel)
*During my stay I was hosted by the lovely team at Keyonna Beach Hotel. All opinions and photos are my own.
Our experience overall
The property: ★★★★
Food and drink: ★★★★★
Staff attentiveness/friendliness: ★★★★★
When we first arrived at Sugar Ridge, the reception manager gave us a warm welcome and knowing that we had stayed at several properties before Sugar Ridge, asked how our experience was at the other hotels we’d visited during our trip to Antigua.
‘It has been fabulous’, I replied enthusiastically, to which she responded, ‘Great, because you’re going to like this one even better!’ Now how could I argue with such a big claim and her ridiculously positive attitude?!
While we were waiting to check in, the reception staff provided us with a strong glass of rum punch (an island favourite) and we knew that we were on to a winner from the get go.
Sugar Ridge is a stylish boutique hotel on the west coast of Antigua, which is nestled into a natural hillside bordered with sugar cane. All 60 rooms are wrapped around the hillside, with a natural landscape providing seclusion and offering spectacular views.
While Sugar Ridge isn’t located near a beach, guests have the option of taking a complimentary shuttle to nearby beaches and beach bars including The Nest at Valley Church Beach and Turner’s Beach Bar & Restaurant. Alternatively, guests can pay for a beach picnic, prepared by the hotel, to be delivered to your beach of choice.
Guests have a variety of room options to choose from including: 4 Premium King Rooms with Plunge Pool, 28 Deluxe King with Plunge Pool, 24 Deluxe King and 4 Deluxe Twin. Upper floor rooms feature a daybed, while ground floor rooms have day beds and plunge pools.
Based on guests’ interests, there are four ways for guests to stay including bed and breakfast, all inclusive, body inclusive, and spa. Each option is available to be enjoyed in the room of your choice.
During our stay, we were in Room 50. While our room wasn’t very large, it had a lovely 4-poster bed (bedecked with mosquito netting), a plasma screen TV, a closet, a small desk/dressing table and a bathroom with a power shower. The décor was modern and tasteful with a nod to Antigua’s sugar heritage featured in the sugar cane and sugar cube paintings displayed in the room.
Our room also had a private deck with a comfortable sun bed and a small (and very cold) plunge pool, that’s great on a hot summer’s day (or for the very brave if it isn’t sweltering outside)! We loved the incredible views from our patio overlooking Jolly Harbour Marina, which were even more spectacular at sunset.
For larger groups or those who want to indulge, Palm Villa is the latest addition to the accommodation available at Sugar Ridge. Sleeping up to six people in three King bedroom suites, this chic, contemporary villa boasts huge glass pocket doors and picture windows, which are perfect for framing the stunning Sugar Ridge views. The villa’s covered terrace with a private infinity pool is ideal for alfresco dining or relaxing in style.
Sugar Ridge Homes
For Antigua lovers who have cash to splash, Sugar Ridge also has a portfolio of luxury homes for sale, which provides the owners with full use of the resort’s facilities.
Sugar Ridge has two beautiful swimming pools including the infinity pool at Carmichael's restaurant and The Sugar Club pool (located near the reception), complete with a poolside bar. Our favourite experience during our stay at Sugar Ridge was gazing out at the verdant green hills from within the infinity pool at Carmichael’s. At sunset, guests gather on the patio around 5:30pm to watch the sun drop below the hills, which was truly breath-taking.
For guests who like a bit of pampering during their holidays, the on-site AVEDA spa, which boasts a wealth of treatments to please even the most discerning spa goer, can’t be missed. After a treatment, you’ll leave feeling relaxed and revitalised.
The Cybex gym at Sugar Ridge
The Cybex gym has a wealth of modern equipment to appease guests of all fitness levels – even hard-core fitness fanatics. Personal training sessions are available for those who really want to whip themselves into shape during their stay to ensure they’re looking their best when reclining by the pool.
The gift shop at Sugar Ridge
There is a small gift shop near the reception for any travel necessities (sunscreen, etc.) or souvenirs.
Sugar Ridge Hotel has two onsite restaurants - Sugar Club and Carmichael’s, both of which produce exceptional cuisine for Sugar Ridge Hotel’s guests.
The Sugar Club restaurant
The Sugar Club restaurant overlooks either the chic pool area or the reception area, depending on where you’re seated. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner or tapas, sushi and afternoon cocktails, it is a popular gathering spot for Sugar Ridge Hotel’s guests. Highlights include themed nights with special menus and live entertainment most evenings.
Breakfast at Sugar Club restaurant
A special shout out is in order for the breakfast buffet at Sugar Club. Guests can indulge in everything from French toast to freshly made omelettes and eggs, cheeses, pastries, fresh fruits, yoghurt, bacon, sausages, grilled vegetables, and salad, among many other options. Each day during our stay, we ensured that we saved room for the sensational breakfast, which was so hearty it left us feeling satiated until dinnertime.
Carmichael’s is Sugar Ridge’s on-site fine dining restaurant. Given that it is one of the most popular fine dining restaurants on the island, it’s recommended that you book to avoid disappointment.
Click here for the full review
Activities and excursions - Shirley Heights Lookout
During our stay, the helpful staff at Sugar Ridge Hotel organised an excursion to take us to Shirley Heights Lookout, one of the most popular tourist activities on the island, which is home to a BBQ party complete with a live steel drum band and arguably some of the best views on the island. Located only 45 mins away (by taxi) from Sugar Ridge, it’s an easy jaunt and definitely worth seeing.
Top tips for your visit at Sugar Ridge
Most suited for:
The infinity pool at Carmichael’s with its breath-taking views of the hills
The private plunge pools are stylish but freezing, so we only dipped a toe in
*During my stay I was hosted by the lovely team at Sugar Ridge. All opinions and photos are my own.
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Our experience overall
The property: ★★★★★
Food and drink: ★★★★★
Staff attentiveness/friendliness: ★★★★★
Looking for accommodation in Antigua? We recommend Sugar Ridge and Keyonna Beach Hotel - two gorgeous luxury resorts that boast impressive locations and superb service.
Ready to book your escape to Antigua? Check out the offers below from Booking.com.
No trip to Antigua is complete without at trip to Shirley Heights Lookout, one of the most popular tourist activities on the island. Home to a BBQ party complete with a live steel drum band and arguably some of the best views on the island, it isn't to be missed.
Every Sunday at around 4pm, throngs of tourists descend upon Shirley Heights to catch the sun setting over the postcard perfect English Harbour, which is dotted with sleek yachts and stylish sail boats .
Food and drink options at Shirley Heights Lookout
Shirley Heights Lookout has an onsite restaurant and bar, serving up strong rum punch cocktails and a BBQ feast including a variety of meat options such as grilled pork, chicken, cheeseburgers and ribs served with potato salad and garden salad. There’s not really anything for vegetarians to enjoy, so do keep that in mind if you’re a veggie! While the food here is steeply priced (and only OK quality wise), we felt it added to the overall experience.
Dance to the steel drum band at Shirley Heights Lookout
We were amazed by the 14-member steel drum band, which had everyone on their feet dancing to popular songs. The charasmatic drummers never missed a beat as they performed song after song, making their performance seem almost effortless.
After the steel drum band had finished playing, a live band took over the entertainment, playing top pop songs to keep the party atmosphere alive.
The party tends to wind down around 7:30pm when local taxis start to arrive to collect visitors. At around 8pm, we left Shirley Heights with smiles on our faces, still buzzing from the performances. Overall, we'd definitely recommend it to anyone visiting Antigua.
Top tips for visiting Shirley Heights
Our experience overall
The location: ★★★★★
Food and drink: ★★
Staff attentiveness/friendliness: ★★★
We would definitely recommend Carmichael's for anyone seeking great cuisine in a stunning location. As Carmichael's is one of the most popular restaurants on the island (and is frequented by the guests staying at Sugar Ridge resort), bookings are recommended. For booking details, visit the Sugar Ridge website.
Our experience overall
Food and drink: ★★★★
Staff attentiveness/friendliness: ★★★
Tottenham Park, St. Mary’s
Antigua & Barbuda
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