Family Vacations to Antigua

Family Overview - Antigua
Party with locals and tourists while enjoying the best view on the island of Antigua at Shirley Heights Lookout (Erika Hunter Lloyd)

Antigua Highlights

  • Visit some of Antigua's 365 beaches.
  • Kayak through mangrove lagoons and swim at a secluded beach.
  • Take an eco-adventure boat tour to off-the-beaten path snorkel sites and beaches.
  • Tour historic Nelson's Dockyard National Park.
  • Dance under the stars with the locals and other visitors at Shirley Heights Lookout on Thursday or Sunday evenings.

Among the few things that the sister islands Antigua and Barbuda have in common are spectacular beaches. Antiguans boast that their island features 365 beaches—one for each day of the year. Whether or not that's exactly true, Antigua's irregular coastline has carved hundreds of sandy coves. The calmer Caribbean waters are safer and more desirable for families than the Atlantic sea. Stand-outs include Dickenson Bay and the four crescent beaches at Hawksbill—one of which is a nude beach. Farther south, more developed stretches include Darkwood or Jolly Beach and for a quiet setting visit Rendezvous Bay. Half Moon Bay, on the southeast, with its mile-long crescent of pink-tinged sand, ranks as one of Antigua's prettiest beaches.

Outfitters guide travelers to some of Antigua's off-the-beaten-path beaches for eco-adventures. At South Coast Horizons, an eco-hotel, guests and visitors take kayaks or paddle boats through the mangrove lagoons, swim at a secluded beach, or take boat trips a quarter-mile to Cades Reef for snorkeling. Native Eli Fuller of Adventure Antigua ( offers two boat tours. Both go to lesser-known beaches and snorkeling sites where visitors swim through schools of rainbow-colored fish, past huge boulders of brain coral, and rows of swaying fan formations. The tour ends with a climb of the rocky formation Hell's Gate, where an impressive arch divides the turquoise Caribbean from the dark blue Atlantic. On Fuller's Xtreme Circumnav trip, bump along in a speed boat, pausing at Stingray City for a swim with the velvet-smooth rays who are acclimated to people, and then stop for a tour of Nelson's Dockyard National Park. This historic port—the headquarters of the British Navy for the Leeward Islands—is named after Horatio Nelson, who commanded the station from 1784 to 1787. The Admiral's House has been converted into a small museum and several other buildings contain historic exhibitions and, of course, shops selling souvenirs.

Every Sunday night, tourists and many locals head to Shirley Heights Lookout ( in the hills above Nelson's Dockyard for a barbecue dinner and dancing. The 18th-century stone building, now a restaurant, features steel pan music on Thursdays from 4:00 to 8:00 p.m., and steel pan, reggae , soca, and calypso from 4:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. on Sundays. Here, you and your kids join the party, dancing along with locals, grandmothers with baseball caps, and svelte 20-somethings, as the stars come out and the lights of English Harbour twinkle below, one of the best views on the island.

Tip: If you like deserted pink sand beaches, take a day trip to Barbuda, Antigua's sister island.'s resident family expert Candyce Stapen has written the book on family travel, having authored some 1,400 travel articles and 27 books, 26 of them on family travel. She is the winner of the 2004 "Caribbean Travel Writer of the Year for North America" award and a three-time winner of the Society of American Travel Writers' Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism award. Her articles have appeared in publications including Nick Jr , FamilyFun , Parents , Better Homes & Gardens , Conde Nast Traveler , National Geographic Traveler , and the Family Travel Network , among others. Her book, the National Geographic Guide to Caribbean Family Vacations is available from

Published: 26 Nov 2007 | Last Updated: 8 Aug 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

Best Hotels in Antigua


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