Imagine, saying “I do” in one of the most beautiful places on earth! The soft sandy beaches, crystal clear waters and relaxed atmosphere of Antigua and Barbuda are only just a sample of what these two sister islands have to offer. We got a first hand look at all the amazing things to do and see on the larger of the two islands, Antigua, and it may be the prettiest place we never knew existed.
We were beyond excited to experience the beauty of Antigua first hand. We only had a short time to explore, eat and drink (rum punch!) to our hearts content. With a packed itinerary and a gorgeous host resort, Sandals Grande Antigua in St. Johns, we couldn’t wait to experience what island life in the Caribbean is all about.
Beach Life in Antigua
Located off the beaten path in the Caribbean, Antigua is situated in the Leeward Islands of the West Indies, where the Atlantic and Caribbean meet. Antigua is known for its reef-lined beaches, turquoise waters and laid-back carib vibe. Most of all though, it's known for it’s endless expanse of public beaches. With an area of only 170 sq. miles, you wouldn’t expect there to be 365 pristine, white sand beaches within reach. That’s one beach for every day of the year, with most of them situated inside the calm and protected waters of the island’s Caribbean side.
The warm turquoise waters beckon you to take a dip, and you can easily walk right in. The surf is calm, the sand is warm and the weather is perfection with the average temp at around 82 F degrees (28 C degrees) Antigua’s warm and steady trade winds offer a cool ocean breeze all day long, and something else you might not expect: sand. Sand travels all the way from the Sahara desert to the Amazon Rainforest via the trade winds, where it then fertilizes and replenishes the ground soil. You can get a glimpse of it off the coast, and once you learn what it is, you’ll come to appreciate the occasional hazy horizon.
Who's ready to take a stroll on this dreamy beach? The water was so clear and warm, we could walk right in.
As soon as we arrived at our host resort for the trip I was already planning out my 5 year vow renewal. The Sandals Grande Antigua is a beautiful all-inclusive resort that beckons you to stay and play. Getting married here would be a total dream!
Sandals is located on the Caribbean side of the island on one of the softest white sand beaches. We stayed in one of the private bungalows right off the beach with our own mini pool and jacuzzi in the backyard. We couldn't believe how lucky we were to score such a suite place to stay.
Just a few of the amenities that come included with this bungalow suite are a personal butler, and a fully stocked mini bar compliments of the resort. We later heard that guests often ask, “what happens if I drink ALL bottles in the mini bar?” Their reply, “We’ll just keep replacing them”.
One of the major perks of an all-inclusive resort is the FOOD, and Sandals did not disappoint! They have an amazing selection of restaurants and grab-and-go eateries to choose from. Including a cute little hot dog stand by the pool, which is a must-stop for a quick bite. For dinner options, you can eat on the beach with your toes in the sand, or head on down to the sushi restaurant for some tasty rolls and saki. After dinner, you can swing by the local pub, the Drunken Duck for some mixed cocktails, karaoke and dancing.
There's all sorts of fun things to do at the Sandals Grande Antigua. Take a stroll on the beach, play a giant game of chess, or grab some rum punch at the swim-up pool bar.
WEDDINGS + HONEYMOON
Planning a destination wedding can seem a little overwhelming, but the friendly and helpful staff at Sandals Grande Antigua are more than happy to help plan your dream wedding, vow renewal or honeymoon at their gorgeous resort.
Want to get married on the beach? No problem. What about a quaint reception in the garden? Done. They even offer weddingmoon packages, so after you've exchanged your vows, you can begin your happily ever after.
The options they offer in terms of ceremony sites are truly limitless. With an expert team of wedding planners on site, they'll take care of all the details so you can enjoy you relax and enjoy your Sandals wedding, honeymoon or weddingmoon. Start planning today. If you're nervous about planning a destination wedding, don't worry! Here is a list everything you need to know (including fees and documents needed) about planning your blissful "I do's" in Antigua.
Want to release some doves into the wind to celebrate your union? You can do that too! This lovely couple won a romantic wedding package and had a beautiful ceremony at the Blue Waters Resort & Spa.
Exploring the island of Antigua
Once you’ve settled into your all-inclusive resort it’s hard to leave, but you won't regret venturing out on your own! We were excited to experience just a few of the many adventures Antigua has to offer. So whether you're planning to get married, honeymoon or just visit Antigua, you'll definitely want to add these couple-friendly activities to your itinerary.
One of our first stops was Stingray City. Yep, we were going to jump in the water with a bunch of wild stingrays. Is it terrible that the first thing that came to mind was the late great Steve Irwin? It certainly wasn't inspiring much confidence.... but as we went through our pre-trip orientation, I was assured I had nothing to worry about.
The stingrays were insanely HUGE but also gentle, and would often brush up along you when you got close to the feeding area. Buckets of squid were brought along to feed the rays, and for those brave enough to try, we learned how to hand-feed them as they swam past. It was a totally surreal and humbling experience to say the least.
After our stingray experience, we were treated to tasty rum punch on the beach. Antigua is known for their locally made English Harbour Rum and for good reason, it's insanely good!
Betty's Hope Sugarcane Plantation & Devil's Bridge
One thing you'll noticed when you cruise around Antigua are the old sugarcane mills that dot the landscape. We got a chance to visit one for ourselves and learn a little about the agricultural industry and history of slavery on the island. Betty's Hope was one of the largest plantations on the island and had a distillery used for manufacturing rum. What's left of the buildings have been restored and preserved as an open-air museum and visitors center.
Our next stop was Devil's Bridge, a natural rock archway along the Atlantic side of the island with a sinister past. Slaves would commit suicide by jumping from the bridge into the crashing waves below in hopes of returning home. The mass suicides at this one location led the locals to believe that the devil himself resided there. Despite the grim and dark past, this place is truly beautiful and worth the stop.
Circumnavigation Island tour
There's no better way to see the entire island of Antigua then by a cruising around the coast on a catamaran! We boarded the Excellence for our full day tour right off the beach at our resort. It was really exciting to be out on the water and we had a blast exploring the coast. The crew and Captain pointed out picturesque spots including; Bird Island, Green Island and on the Atlantic side... well known "Devil's Bridge".
We stopped at Green Island to do some snorkeling with sea turtles and each lunch. The crew grilled up some fresh fish and jerk chicken right on the boat and it was delicious. We highly recommend booking a catamaran tour when you visit Antigua.
Horseback riding on the beach
If you haven't done this yet, add it to your Antigua itinerary ASAP. Sunfire Horseback Riding academy took us on a fun and easy trek through the countryside before hitting the beach, and it was stunning. Just look at that water!
Hurricane Irma update
Hurricane Irma left behind a path of destruction in the Caribbean. One of the hardest hit places was the beautiful and tiny island of Barbuda. 95% of the structures on the island were destroyed, including schools, businesses and medical facilities. The people of Barbuda had no other choice but to leave their island home and take refuge in Antigua. For the first time in 300 years, the island has been completely abandoned.
Despite everything they've lost, they haven't lost hope! A GoFundMe page has been set up to raise the funds needed to begin rebuilding Barbuda from the ground up. If you would like to help those impacted by this devastating hurricane and help Barbuda rebuild their beautiful community, feel free to make a donation here.
A special, heartfelt thank you to the Antigua Barbuda Tourism Authority for taking us on this amazing adventure, and to Sandals Grande Antigua for hosting us at their beautiful resort. We hope to be back again soon!