The Caribbean island of Antigua has 365 beaches, one for every day of the year. But if you’re like me, you don’t have that many days in paradise to see them all (sigh!). I’ve traveled here for two weeks, and since I can’t see every sandy stretch I’m making a point of discovering the best beaches in Antigua. What I find are 9 beaches that make me fall in love with the island.
Best Beaches in Antigua
One of the reasons I find these beaches is because I’m sailing in Antigua. I’m here with my boyfriend and his family and friends, and we have a catamaran to help us navigate the island from the coast. Sailing in Antigua is one of the best ways to reach the beaches and see the island from a completely different perspective. It also makes it easy to access some beaches that are trickier to get to by car.
Sailing also allows us to experience Antigua at its best. The blue of the sea changes every day, such that by the end of the trip I’m convinced the locals must have as many words for the color of the water as Eskimos supposedly have for snow.
It’s hard not to like a place called Love Beach. And thankfully it’s not just a clever name. This beach on Antigua’s west coast is not only lined with powder white sand, but also lapped by waves of a blue that only the Caribbean Sea can deliver.
I spend three afternoons on Love Beach enjoying fresh seafood lunches at Jacqui O’s, a fun-loving restaurant with tropical cocktails and charismatic staff. In front of the open-air dining room—which has a chalkboard listing the soup of the day as champagne every day (another reason to love Love Beach!)—are luxurious beach pods perfect for soaking up the sun (or shading yourself from it if you’re as pale as I am).
Up the coast from Love Beach is Galley Bay. All beaches on Antigua are public by law, so I don’t let the fact that there’s a resort there stop me from enjoying the place. I spend a few mornings and evenings walking along the fine sand and taking in the sunset views from the water. While I do, I can’t get enough of the palm trees that border the crescent bay.
Just around a point from Galley Bay is Deep Bay. This lovely inlet has a wide, sandy beach perfect for sunbathing and strolling. There are plenty colorful sarongs for sale along the waterfront, but the real treats are the hilltop ruins of historic Fort Barrington and a shipwreck in the bay that intrepid swimmers, snorkelers, and kayakers can visit.
One of the best beaches in Antigua is also one of the most popular. Dickenson Bay is home to a number of big hotels and resorts, so it’s buzzing with people on the sand and in the water. There’s also a pretty little deserted stretch on the south end for those like me that prefer a bit of a calmer experience.
But the things I like best about Dickenson Bay are the quirky red phone box nestled between the palm trees and the lunch I have at Ana’s, a beachfront restaurant with great seafood and sea views.
English Harbour and Nelson’s Dockyard
While technically not beaches, English Harbour and Nelson’s Dockyard are two of the loveliest places in Antigua. That said, Galleon Beach, which sits on Freeman’s Bay at the entrance to the snaking port, offers a welcome bit of sand.
Motoring past the beach in a dinghy, I head deep into the narrowing marina to have a waterside lunch at Pillars Restaurant at The Admiral’s Inn. Afterwards I explore the area of Nelson’s Dockyard, which was built in the 18th and 19th centuries for Lord Nelson and the British navy.
There’s a great sense of history here, from the preserved buildings around the harbor to the memorabilia in the local museum.
Falmouth Harbour and Pigeon Point Beach
Just around a headland from English Harbour is Falmouth Harbour and the pretty Pigeon Point Beach. The long pier offers great views of the sand and sailboats, but the real treat is lunch at Catherine’s Cafe Plage. The upscale restaurant serves delicious seafood and has live music and sun loungers for post-dining entertainment.
Hawksbill Bay and Royal Palm Beach
Back up on the west coast, Hawksbill Bay is famous for the rock formation that juts out from the beach.
At first I think it looks like a frog, but later learn it’s supposed to resemble a hawksbill turtle (hence the name of the bay). Either way, this is definitely one of the best beaches in Antigua.
My friends and I settle in for a seaside barbecue on Royal Palm Beach, which sits at the northern end of the bay. After a game of cricket on the grass, we eat dinner to the sound of the waves and the sight of the sun setting on the sea. It’s pure bliss.
Long Island and Jumby Bay
Long Island is a luxurious private island off the north coast of Antigua. It’s a little tricky to visit unless you’re a guest of someone that has a home on the island (this is my case) or you’re staying at the hotel there. Either way, it’s worth wrangling a trip.
The beach on Long Island’s Jumby Bay is one of the most beautiful I’ve seen in Antigua. The sand seems whiter and the sea clearer here than anywhere else I’ve been. To make it even more spectacular, giant orange starfish hover under the shallow water, and broad-winged pelicans take turns diving for fish.
Like English Harbour, Jolly Harbour isn’t exactly a beach. But this marina on the west coast of the island has some sandy stretches lining its long and winding way. Add to that rows of colorful houses and dockside bars and restaurants, and it’s worth exploring. Plus, travelers can pick up boats here, which I recommend for visiting Antigua’s beaches from the coast.
Have you visited the island? What do you think are the best beaches in Antigua?