Antigua - An Island With Something for Everyone
Some say all Caribbean islands offer much the same things. While this is partly true, Antigua has, by actual count, 365 beaches, one for every day of the year. But that's not all. It also offers some of the finest sporting facilities in the Caribbean and a fine selection of cozy hotels and inns.
Christopher Columbus discovered Antigua, like so many other Caribbean islands, on his second voyage to the New World in 1493. Unfortunately, he stopped only long enough to name it in honor of Santa Maria la Antigua de Seville. If he would have stayed, he would have found what so many visitors have since then, that the island offers an array of dazzling landscapes edged by some of the softest sand beaches in the world.
Whenever you choose to go to Antigua, you can count on cool, steady breezes off the Atlantic, and even in summer Antigua is much less humid than most places in the United States. However, stay away during September and October, the rainy season.
Antigua is divided into four areas — the north, the east, the south, and the central plains. Each has its own unique environment and offers something the others don't. While most of the hotels in Antigua lie on the north and east coasts which are rock-bound and barren, the north and northwest coastline is fairly rugged but with more foliage than the east.
The tropical part of the island lies to the south and southwest, with mountainous terrain and rain forest-like atmosphere. Flat, agricultural lands, with roads crisscrossing mile after mile of sugar cane fields, make up the central part of the island.
Antigua's only city and capital, St. John's, hugs the northwest coast. If you arrive by cruise ship, you'll dock here. But no matter how you arrive, you'll end up here if you plan on doing any shopping. Of course, you probably won't go to Antigua to shop, at least, not primarily. You go to collapse. Where you choose to do that depends entirely on what you plan to do and what you can afford to spend.
Low-rise, beachfront hotels and inns are more the norm here and each one is different. You'll find some with a swinging life and others specializing in golf and tennis.
If golf is your bag, the north side of the island offers two courses — Cedar Valley Golf Club near St. John's and Gambles at Hodges Bay. Both are easily accessible to all hotels on the northern, eastern and western sides of the island.
If you've dreamed of riding a firey steed down a vast stretch of beach, you'll find a couple of hotels on Antigua which offer oceanside horseback riding. A dozen or so cater to families, especially those with younger children, with a full array of beach and sports facilities.
Of all of Antigua's beaches, its longest and most scenic overlooks Runaway Bay. You can walk along its length for several miles, and most of it is often empty and private enough for an intimate beach picnic. But to really enjoy the beaches on the island, you may want to rent a car for the day. Prices are reasonable, and many of the rental companies will come to your hotel to pick you up and drop you back there after you drop the car.
You should spend at least one day in St. John's. Since the city is really no larger than a small town, you can easily get around on foot. Most shops in town are small and specialize in several different items. Many of the larger hotels provide daily shuttle service to town, though you must take a taxi back to your hotel to spend a relaxing afternoon dozing on the beach in the afternoon sun.