Antigua and Barbuda: the old-school islands drawing the cool crowd (2022)

Robert De Niro is well known for taking method acting to the brink of madness. To get into character for his role as the psychopath Max Cady in Cape Fear, for example, he had a dentist grind down his teeth (spending $20,000 to have them fixed post-shoot). He is no less of a perfectionist in his hospitality ventures. At the Greenwich, his hotel in New York, he had every brick handcrafted to one of 20 specifications to create precisely the crumbling patina he had in mind. Right now his laser focus is on the Caribbean island of Barbuda, Antigua’s twin sister and neighbour.

Until now, Barbuda’s claim to fame has been that it was Princess Diana’s favourite hideaway — images of her on the golden crescent of Access Beach in the Nineties put the island on the radar to such an extent that it renamed the powder-fine stretch Princess Diana Beach in 2011. Six years later disaster struck when Hurricane Irma ripped through the island.

Now De Niro is part of the vanguard aiming to transform Barbuda into the Caribbean’s hottest spot.

Antigua and Barbuda: the old-school islands drawing the cool crowd (1)

Tamarind Hills

Nobu Barbuda — De Niro’s latest restaurant-cum-beach club, which opens in November (noburestaurants. com) — occupies a prime position on Princess Diana Beach, where its sleek zen style brings urban sophistication to the West Indies. There’s every chance that Giorgio Armani, Oprah Winfrey or Lionel Messi — all regulars on Antigua — will be in the next cabana along, tucking into signature Nobu dishes such as miso black cod or Barbudan lobster.

The restaurant is the first salvo of a ten-year masterplan from Charles Fernandez, the minister for tourism, to turn Barbuda into “St Barts on steroids”. His blueprint also features luxury resorts including the Nobu Beach Inn, a boutique hotel, wellness retreat and organic farm next to the restaurant that will break ground soon.

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If you’re not interested in star-spotting, there’s always birdwatching, because the enduring appeal of Barbuda is its natural assets. It has the world’s largest colony of frigate birds, the avian answer to a Red Arrows display, and a ring of reefs where you can tick off turtles, rays and the rest of the cast of Finding Nemo. It also has some of the region’s most beautiful palm-fringed pink and white beaches, including one called 11 Mile (take a wild guess why).

While Antigua is more developed, it is no less appealing, with beaches so spectacular that St Lucians honeymoon there, along with exceptional sailing and minimal crime. It is the closest Caribbean island to the UK and, consequently, has always been popular with British families and silver-haired winter-sun warriors. But over the past two years a new travel tribe has arrived: the digital nomads — Antigua’s relatively good pandemic (it registered 145 deaths and lifted restrictions quite quickly) put it firmly on the millennial map as somewhere lovely to sit out lockdowns.

Antigua and Barbuda: the old-school islands drawing the cool crowd (2)

(Video) Tuesday Afternoon “Good Time” Parade | Antigua and Barbuda Carnival 2nd August 2022

This younger market sparked a sharp rise in the number of Airbnb properties — up 50 per cent last year, making the island more affordable for visitors. The presence of self-caterers has also encouraged chefs to open restaurants beyond the all-inclusive resorts, the traditional mainstay of the Antiguan tourism industry.

One of the best is the Asian-inspired Rokuni, perched over Nonsuch Bay, so that diners can look down on eagle rays in the turquoise waters as they tuck into delicious truffle-laced gyoza, or look up to see the palatial villa of Silvio Berlusconi (mains from £17; rokuni-antigua.com).

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For something more authentic, dishes such as black pineapple-marinated pork and West Indian fish curry are getting rave reviews for the new Fox House, a Creole farm-to-table experience in St Mary’s (mains from £17; thefox houseantigua.com).

Antigua is also capitalising on the global trend for upmarket holiday villas. Construction is under way at the Pearns Point, a lush west-coast peninsula with a pristine beach and reef. Homes cost skyward of £1.8 million, with the likes of the Rothschild banking dynasty and the Thomson family, billionaire owners of Thomson Reuters news agency, having snapped up plots (pearnspoint.com).

The hotel scene is also buoyant. The international brand Nikki Beach, famed for its ultra-hip beach properties in St Tropez and Marbella, is building a resort, and high-profile chains such as One&Only are scouting sites.

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Meanwhile, existing properties are upgrading. Next month Tamarind Hills — which straddles Darkwood and Ffryes, two of Antigua’s best beaches — unveils 46 one-bedroom villas that have a whitewashed minimalist mood board; in sharp contrast to its existing 57 rooms, which have colourful Caribbean decor. It is also adding a contemporary beachfront restaurant and a pool with a swim-up bar.

Antigua and Barbuda: the old-school islands drawing the cool crowd (3)

(Video) Pernah Mendengar Negara Antigua dan Barbuda? Inilah Sejarah & Faktanya!

Tamarind Hills on Antigua

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For De Niro, the decision to choose this corner for his first Caribbean hotel was simple: “I went to Barbuda on a day trip and never forgot it. It’s a wonderful spot like you can’t find any more. The location and the people are special.”

Susan d’Arcy was a guest of the Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority (visitantigua barbuda.com). Room-only doubles from £335 (tamarind hills.com). Transfers between Antigua and Barbuda take 90 minutes by ferry, from £87pp return (barbuda express.com). Fly to Antigua

What’s new in the Caribbean ?

By Nigel Tisdall

St Lucia

Adults-only retreat
A 50-minute lesson in the art of Swedish massage is one of many ways couples can enrich their relationship at the new adults-only StolenTime by Rendezvous resort. Set beside a two-mile beach near Castries, the 100-room property focuses on reconnecting experiences from date nights and wine tasting to guidance on how to really switch off. Expect also watersports, diving, tennis, archery, cookery classes and mixology competitions.
Details Seven nights’ all-inclusive from £2,499pp, including flights and transfers, departing on November 13 (tropicalsky.co.uk)

Yacht adventure
For the first time in two years, VentureSail Holidays has a complete winter season of Caribbean voyages by luxury sailing yacht and tall ship. Departing from Soufrière just after Christmas, the two-masted ketch Chronos, which is fully crewed with 13 en suite double cabins, will make an eight-day voyage south to Grenada with stops in Carriacou, Bequia and the Tobago Cays. No sailing experience is required, just a lust for adventure.
Details Seven nights’ full board on the Luxury New Year Sailing itinerary from £2,670pp, including most meals, departing on December 28 (venturesailholidays.com). Fly to St Lucia

Kayak the east coast
Beyond the popular beach resorts is Praslin Bay, on St Lucia’s less developed east coast. Kayak on the Bay is a new company offering small boat tours, kayaking and hikes with the option of a beach barbecue. Surrounded by mangroves with a two-mile sandbar, it’s a prime spot for birdwatching and learning about sea moss farms: the red seaweed is harvested for use in health and food products.
Details Three-hour boat trip from £26pp (book via Instagram @kayakonthebay)

(Video) Barbuda Documentary 1982

Antigua and Barbuda: the old-school islands drawing the cool crowd (5)

Tui will home-port Marella Discovery and Marella Explorer 2 in Barbados

Barbados

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Sail now on
Tui will home-port two of its cruise ships, Marella Discovery and Marella Explorer 2, in Barbados this winter — the operator’s biggest programme yet to the island. In addition to time on Barbados, the cruises call at the British Virgin Islands, Guadeloupe and the Grenadines. Departures run from November 20 to April 13, with charter flights available from Gatwick, Birmingham, Manchester and some other regional airports.
Details Seven nights’ all-inclusive sailing the Caribbean Dreams itinerary from £1,362pp, including flights, departing on January 26, 2023 (tui.co.uk)

Going underground
Harrison’s Cave is a dramatic natural attraction running for two miles at the heart of this limestone island. It’s best viewed on an hour-long subterranean tram tour, and for added fun there’s a new eco-adventure park. Highlights include a zip line 100ft up in the air and a 14-test Gully Challenge course (minimum age six). Allow four hours for both, including hotel transfers. For the less brave there are nature trails and rum tastings.
Details Combined experiences £120pp (chukka.com)

Bee is for Barbados
Walkers Reserve is a huge, now-depleted sand quarry on the northeast coast that is being transformed into an organic, self-sustaining ecosystem. The aim is to provide food and employment for the island. There are guided walking and driving tours if you’d like to explore the site. You can also try a two-hour visit to its professional beekeepers, which includes a jar of the sweet, sticky stuff.
Details Beekeeping tours from £87pp; minimum two guests (wirred.org)

Jamaica

Let’s go Downtown
Planning to start or end your beach break with a stop in Kingston? While most luxury hotels in the Jamaican capital tend to be found in the New Kingston neighbourhood, the 168-room ROK Hotel — a first Caribbean venue for Hilton’s Tapestry Collection — opened in July overlooking the waterfront of its Downtown area. That puts guests mere steps from the National Gallery and provides access to open-air craft markets, reggae history, stellar street art and landmarks such as Kingston City Hall.
Details B&B doubles from £200 (hilton.com). Fly to Kingston

Spa of the moment
Ever wondered how the herbs, plants, spices and fruits used in spa treatments are sourced? Jamaica Inn — a sophisticated beach resort in Ocho Rios that will celebrate its 65th anniversary next year — has introduced a complimentary, therapist-led tour of its tropical gardens showing you how to make beauty products using ingredients such as papaya, pineapple, lemongrass and coffee.
Details Seven nights’ B&B from £2,840pp, including flights and transfers, departing on November 14 (elegantresorts.co.uk)

Small is beautiful
Explore’s small group tours of this charismatic island now include a visit to Charles Town, a semi-autonomous community in Buff Bay where the Maroons — descendants of freed and escaped enslaved people — maintain their distinctive culture. The trip also visits the excellent Bob Marley Museum in Kingston and includes forest hikes, river-rafting and insights into the Rastafarian lifestyle.
Details Nine nights’ B&B from £1,860pp, departing on October 31 (explore.co.uk). Fly to Kingston

Antigua and Barbuda: the old-school islands drawing the cool crowd (7)

Calabash Grenada

Grenada

Flight club
British Airways is increasing its flight quota from Gatwick to the Spice Isle to three times a week from October 30. With new luxury resorts from the top names Silversands and Six Senses some way off, bag the freshly designed two-bedroom penthouse with private pool at the family-run Calabash Grenada, available from October 1.
Details Seven nights’ B&B from £3,749pp, including flights and transfers, departing on November 6 (caribtours.co.uk)

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Keep it simple
Looking for a low-key place to lay your hat? Simple Stays is a new collection of small, government-approved hotels, cottages and apartments on Grenada and Carriacou, its smaller sibling. Top picks include the leafy Mount Edgecombe cocoa plantation and the three cottages of Bogles Round House. Trawl the website for ideas on river-tubing, kayaking, hiking and chocolate tours.
Details B&B doubles at Bogles Round House from £74 and at Mount Edgecombe from £130 (simplestays.puregrenada.com)

Villa thrillers
Kuoni has added Grenada to its collection of Caribbean holidays. Where to head? Try the little-known 473 Boutique Resort, on a private peninsula, with one to three-bedroom villas, two tranquil beaches and a shared pool. You’ll need a car to see the rest of Grenada, but the local beaches in this part of the island’s south are almost certain to be deserted.
Details Seven nights’ B&B from £3,499pp, including flights and transfers, departing on March 8 (kuoni.co.uk)

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FAQs

Who were the original people of Antigua? ›

The original inhabitants of the islands of Antigua and Barbuda were indigenous Taino (Arawak) - Kalinago (Carib) groups. Christopher Columbus landed in 1493 and named it Antigua.

What food is Antigua known for? ›

The national dish is fungie (pronounced "foon-jee") and pepperpot. Fungie is a dish similar to Italian Polenta, made mostly with cornmeal. Other local dishes include ducana, seasoned rice, saltfish and lobster (from Barbuda).

Why a villa holiday in Antigua is the ultimate luxury? ›

Antigua's beautiful beaches and constant temperatures make it a great luxury villa holiday destination with Elegant Resorts' clients. Stunning scenery, a carefree attitude and a love of the sea – yachting is huge here – make the island one of the most popular in the Caribbean.

Why is it called Antigua and Barbuda? ›

Christopher Columbus, while sailing by in 1493, may have named it Santa Maria la Antigua, after an icon in the Spanish Seville Cathedral. The "bearded" of Barbuda is thought to refer either to the male inhabitants of the island, or the bearded fig trees present there.

Where did slaves in Antigua come from? ›

Origins. Most of the enslaved Africans brought to Antigua and Barbuda disembarked from the Bight of Biafra (22,000 Africans) and the Gold Coast (16,000 Africans).

What language do they speak in Antigua? ›

The island nation has a population of 89,000 (2016 est.), most people live on Antigua, while Barbuda is sparsely populated. Capital and largest city is St. John's on Antigua. Spoken languages is English (official) and Antiguan Creole.

What drink is Antigua known for? ›

Rum Punch. The Caribbean and rum punch go hand in hand, and Antigua is one of the islands where a well-made rum punch may very well become your best friend. You can find rum punch at most restaurants and bars, which isn't surprising since it's so easy to make.

Can I drink tap water in Antigua? ›

While exploring around Antigua it is recommended that you only drink water that is bottled and avoid tap water and unfiltered ice.

Can I use US dollars in Antigua? ›

US dollars are widely accepted on the island, though you will usually be given change in EC dollars, and at a less favourable exchange rate.

Is Antigua British owned? ›

Antigua and Barbuda became officially independent on 1 November 1981, ending over 350 years of British rule.

Is Antigua a poor country? ›

Antigua and Barbuda is one of the Caribbean's most prosperous nations, thanks to its tourism industry and offshore financial services.

When did Antigua stop slavery? ›

Uniquely among the isles of the West Indies, Antigua emancipated all its slaves at the first opportunity; the entire plantation workforce of 32,000 souls was freed at midnight on August 1, 1834 the earliest date mandated by Britain's act of emancipation.

What's it like to live in Antigua? ›

Is Antigua a good place to live? Yes, the rate of crime is very low, the weather is good and the country has plenty of natural beauty. According to the Global Quality of Life Index by GCS, it has a very high quality of life.

What do you call someone from Antigua? ›

Antiguan may refer to: Antigua, the main island of Antigua and Barbuda. Antigua and Barbuda, a sovereign state in the West Indies. A person from Antigua.

What is the main religion in Antigua? ›

The majority of the population of Antigua and Barbuda is Christian, and religious freedom is generally respected in the country, although Rastafarians face some obstacles to religious practice.

What is an interesting fact about Antigua? ›

One of the smallest countries on earth

Antigua is only around 14 miles long and just 11 miles wide. With an area of 442 km² the islands are 550 times smaller than the UK. In fact, you could fit Antigua in the area of London three-and-a-half times.

What's the best currency to take to Antigua? ›

Credit cards and currency

Many establishments will accept payments in US Dollars with change being given in local currency. However please note that smaller establishments, especially in country areas, may only accept EC Dollars. We suggest you take US$ or £GB and exchange them for local currency.

Which is the best side of Antigua to stay? ›

The best coast to stay in Antigua is the west coast, starting from St. John's all the way along via Jolly beach to the English Harbour. This is because the Caribbean sea is calmer and it's very easy to access the water.

Is there any crime in Antigua? ›

Antigua is a safe place to visit. There is less crime than in other areas in the region. Tourists are not normally targeted by criminals. If you're aware of your surroundings and keep your common sense, you'll be fine.

What's Antigua national dish? ›

One of the most popular pairings is Fungee and Pepperpot, which is the national dish of Antigua and Barbuda.

Is the food in Antigua good? ›

Today's Antigua is a foodie destination because of its fresh seafood, top-notch rum, and flavorful dishes. Although Caribbean islands have similar dishes, they all differ and have their own unique spin on cuisine.

Are mosquitoes a problem in Antigua? ›

The mosquito's are most prevalent at sunrise and sunset and into the evening, as are sand flies, and fire ants are around all day and night.

Is ice safe in Antigua? ›

The tap water on the island is relatively safe and if often used for ice cubes. That being said it can still cause upset stomachs due to the difference in composition to the water you would normally drink.

Does Antigua have a rainy season? ›

December to April is Antigua's high season and the coolest, driest time of year, with an average daily maximum temperature of around 28.5°C. The wet season runs from mid-June to mid-November and can have short spells of heavy rainfall and nighttime thunderstorms.

How much cash should I take to Antigua? ›

How much money will you need for your trip to Antigua and Barbuda? You should plan to spend around EC$762 ($282) per day on your vacation in Antigua and Barbuda, which is the average daily price based on the expenses of other visitors.

Is it safe to walk around Antigua? ›

Antigua is one of the safest Caribbean islands, but there are some parts of it that are less so. Certain areas of St. John's can be dicey; if you feel uncomfortable anywhere, simply leave that area. But for the most part, you can have a safe vacation in Antigua, especially if you follow our tips below.

How much cash can you take to Antigua? ›

Currency restrictions

There are no limits on the import of local and foreign currency, provided it is declared upon arrival. Amounts exceeding the equivalent of US$10,000 need to be declared.

Is there a US military base in Antigua? ›

The United States maintains no official presence in Antigua.

Do I need a passport to go to Antigua? ›

Entry, Exit and Visa Requirements

NOTE: Generally, all U.S. citizens are required to present a valid U.S. passport when traveling to Antigua and Barbuda, as well as proof of anticipated departure from the country.

Is Antigua a nice place to visit? ›

Antigua, a wonderfully accessible island from Europe and the US, was our first ever experience of the Caribbean together - and it gave us everything we hoped to have from rum and reggae to great seafood, amazing beaches and an indulgent few days of relaxation.

What happened to slaves in Antigua? ›

Uniquely among the isles of the West Indies, Antigua emancipated all its slaves at the first opportunity; the entire plantation workforce of 32,000 souls was freed at midnight on August 1, 1834 the earliest date mandated by Britain's act of emancipation.

Who is the most famous person from Antigua and Barbuda? ›

Famous people from Antigua and Barbuda
  • Viv Richards. Cricket Bowler. ...
  • Jamaica Kincaid. Novelist. ...
  • Daniel Bailey. Track and field athlete. ...
  • Richie Richardson. Cricket Bowler. ...
  • Baldwin Spencer. Politician. ...
  • Winston Benjamin. Cricket Bowler. ...
  • S.D. Jones. ...
  • Peter Byers. Footballer.

When was Antigua founded? ›

What is the main religion in Antigua? ›

The majority of the population of Antigua and Barbuda is Christian, and religious freedom is generally respected in the country, although Rastafarians face some obstacles to religious practice.

What do you call someone from Antigua? ›

Antiguan may refer to: Antigua, the main island of Antigua and Barbuda. Antigua and Barbuda, a sovereign state in the West Indies. A person from Antigua.

What did England do to Antigua? ›

Antigua formally became a British colony in 1667. Britain annexed Barbuda in 1628; while in 1680, Charles II granted the island to the Codrington family, who held it until 1860, in which year it was annexed to Antigua.

When did slavery stop in Antigua? ›

Although slavery was abolished in 1834, Antigua's sugar production remained an economic mainstay until the 1960s when it was replaced by tourism.

What celebs live in Antigua? ›

People who own homes in Antigua
  • Oprah Winfrey, American television/entertainment icon and entrepreneur, owns a home near Jumby Bay.
  • Eric Clapton, established an Antiguan drug treatment centre; has a home in the south of the island.
  • Giorgio Armani, Italian fashion designer, owns a home near Galley Bay.

Does Oprah have a House in Antigua? ›

Oprah's House in Jumby Bay, Antigua.

What is the name of the flag of Antigua and Barbuda? ›

Describing about Antigua and Barbuda Flag, the Sun represents a new era, the red indicates the energy of the citizens, blue is for hope, and black depicts its African ancestry. The 'V' shape in the flag is said to symbolize victory.
...
Antigua and Barbuda Time Zones.
CETUTC-11:00
CESTUTC-11:00

What's it like to live in Antigua? ›

Is Antigua a good place to live? Yes, the rate of crime is very low, the weather is good and the country has plenty of natural beauty. According to the Global Quality of Life Index by GCS, it has a very high quality of life.

What is Antigua culture? ›

The culture of Antigua and Barbuda (local creole pronunciation, Antiga and Barbueda) is a classic example of a creole culture. It emerged from the mixing of Amerindian (Carib and Arawak), West African, and European (primarily British) cultural traditions.

How old is Antigua? ›

Antigua, the capital of the Captaincy-General of Guatemala, was founded in the early 16th century. Built 1,500 m above sea-level, in an earthquake-prone region, it was largely destroyed by an earthquake in 1773 but its principal monuments are still preserved as ruins.

What is an interesting fact about Antigua? ›

One of the smallest countries on earth

Antigua is only around 14 miles long and just 11 miles wide. With an area of 442 km² the islands are 550 times smaller than the UK. In fact, you could fit Antigua in the area of London three-and-a-half times.

Are there Muslims in Antigua and Barbuda? ›

The census categorizes an additional 12.2 percent of the population as belonging to other religious groups, including Rastafarians, Muslims, Hindus, and Baha'is, without providing percentages for each group.

Is Antigua a Catholic country? ›

Religions: Protestant 68.3% (Anglican 17.6%, Seventh Day Adventist 12.4%, Pentecostal 12.2%, Moravian 8.3%, Methodist 5.6%, Wesleyan Holiness 4.5%, Church of God 4.1%, Baptist 3.6%), Roman Catholic 8.2%, other 12.2%, unspecified 5.5%, none 5.9% (2011 est.)

Videos

1. Five Oceans Song
(Hopscotch)
2. Music Voyager: Antigua Barbuda (aired in 2016)
(AntiguaBarbuda)
3. Jamaica, Antigua & Barbuda May Cut Ties to British Monarch; Renew Call for Reparations for Slavery
(Democracy Now!)
4. What does the latest IPCC report mean for vulnerable countries?
(Climate Analytics)
5. Saturday Morning Market Antigua and Barbuda | MyTown 18th June 2022
(Hensley Isaac)
6. African Slavery Memorial Society of Antigua & Barbuda - A reflection on Culture and History.
(DDX Channel)

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