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If it’s beaches, water sports and laid-back, beachfront leisure you want, then the island nation of Antigua is the quintessential Caribbean destination for you. Its inhabitants boast “365 beaches” (one for every day of the year, as they like to say), and there are endless sandy coves to discover.

Because of the cragged coastline of Antigua, the many coves are perfect for yachties and rum-swilling sailors who want to enjoy the splendors at sea off the Leeward island. The island is known for its sailing heritage, formerly the port to Royal British Naval commander and rum connoisseur Horatio Nelson.

Sailing

Antigua treasures its heritage on the high seas and hosts an international regatta, Antigua Sailing Week, every year. The relatively calm waters off the beaches are the perfect place for beginners to try out sailing, and the island is host to many sailboat charter companies if you want to take a longer excursion.

For a variety of day sails and excursions aboard catamarans, Catch The Cat offers highly rated private tours, day sails, and cruises. For longer bareboat and crewed charters, Dream Yacht Charter and Horizon Yacht Charters offer fleets on the island.

Sunsets and a Legendary Bar

To experience an island sunset, head to Sheer Rocks, the restaurant and lounge perched high above Ffryes Bay. The dramatic westward-facing cliff-side setting makes for the ideal dinner location, particularly during sundown. With an emphasis on local ingredients, the inventive cuisine at Sheer Rocks will keep you there even after the spectacular sunsets.

No rum lover, beach bum or sailor can make the trip to Antigua without stopping at Papa Zouk, the legendary rum bar that carries over 200 varieties of the local spirit. Just outside of the town of St. John’s, Papa Zouk has been dubbed the best rum bar in the Caribbean many times over, and it’s is worth a trip for the atmosphere alone. The spirit of local and artisan rum at Papa Zouk is a nod to the heritage of the island as a British naval stronghold, sailing destination and sugar producer.

Resorts

The beaches house some of the Caribbean’s top luxury resorts and boutique hotels alike. The Inn at English Harbour combines the serenity of the natural island landscape with the historic charm of the area’s past. Though it’s situated on the beach, it is also just a short distance from English Harbour and Nelson’s Dockyard, a historical site dating back to the colonial era when Nelson commanded the British Navy from the same shores now filled with yachts and leisure boats.

Curtain Bluff is one of the landmark resorts on the island. The luxury all-inclusive resort is set between two beaches that abound with water sports such as sailing, water skiing, and snorkeling. The property, which has been under the same ownership and management since it first opened in 1962, offers 72 stunning beachfront accommodations, all with ocean views.

For the most private and intimate resort experience Antigua offers, Jumby Bay is the ultimate luxury resort. It lies just off the main isle of Antigua on a 300-acre private island only accessible by boat. The villa-style property is renowned for its superior service and amenities. The resort offers a world-class spa, activities like tennis and golf, and a variety of dining options. And if being on a private island resort isn’t enough for you, Jumby Bay just announced that the entirety of the island on which the resort sits can be rented out for private events such as weddings.

The Estate House at Jumby Bay

antigua jumby estate house

The resort also recently completed a $6 million renovation of the on-site restaurant and bar, The Estate House, which is located in a building dating back to the early 1800s. The Estate House offers fine dining following the culinary tradition of the West Indies as well as craft cocktails like the Antigua Black Daiquiri and the Half a Gill, which is crafted from a secret blend of 10 isle-aged rums, orange zest, and bitters.

Jumby Bay Resort Signature Antigua Black Daiquiri recipe

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The Pool Grille Bar at Jumby Bay
  • 1/2 ounce honey
  • 1 ounce fresh lime juice
  • 1 ounce pineapple puree
  • 1/2 ounce limoncello
  • 1 1/2 ounces English Harbour 5 Year Aged Rum

Combine all ingredients in cocktail shaker. After shaking for 10 seconds, use a fine strain to pour contents of shaker into a chilled champagne coupe. Garnish with a thin, floating lime wheel and serve.

Getting there

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Though they require a passport from the U.S., the islands of the Caribbean are well worth the flight and the typically quick trip through customs. No special visas are required for U.S. citizens for a short-term trip or vacation, but some Caribbean commonwealths require that your U.S. issued passport is valid for up to at least another year in order to enter the island.

The islands of Antigua and Barbuda are relatively easy to get to from the U.S., with frequent direct flights from a variety of U.S. cities like New York, Miami, Philadelphia and Atlanta. Most major U.S. airlines operate directly to the main airport on Antigua, V.C. Bird International Airport (ANU), including American Airlines, Delta, United and JetBlue. V.C. Bird International Airport is just 5 miles outside of Antigua’s capital, St. John’s.

For more of Ebbie’s tips, check out her guide to St. Barts, and for golfing stateside, check out Hilton Head Island


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