How do you choose which beach to visit on an island that has one for every day of the year? Well, this post is going to make it all a lot easier for you to find the best beaches in Antigua.
During our week on this beautiful Caribbean island - through visits with friends, chats with locals in the know, and our own two day road trip - we found some absolute gems; the type of picture postcard Antigua beaches which we all dream about when planning our holiday. We also found a few which we didn’t think were worth a visit, so we haven’t included them here as we know how precious your time is on vacation.
If you want to get out of your hotel or resort and find your own slice of paradise, then any beach on this list should be on your Antigua itinerary. Some are a little off the beaten path, some are a little difficult to access and some will be a lot busier than others, but each will satisfy your beach-lust whether you’re an independent traveller, day-tripper, honeymooner, or sun seeker.
As we explain in more detail in our 'Things to Know before You Visit Antigua' post, all beaches are public in Antigua but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are easy for the public to access.
The four intimate crescent beaches - Hawksbill Bay, Landing Bay, Pinching Bay and Eden Beach - which can be found just down the road from Five Islands Village in the north west of Antigua, definitely fall under this category.
The beautiful Landing Bay, just off a public road, poses no problems with access and has parking right by the beach. However the other three in this pretty chain of beaches are really only accessible by walking through the private resort grounds (Hawksbill Resort, if you feel like basing yourself here), so you do feel slightly awkward.
However, you can feel reassured that passing through the resort is completely legal, and once you have informed security of your plans, you will not be denied entry (of course though, do respect the paying residents' privacy and space).
Note that Eden Beach is the only nudist beach in Antigua. We were told it could be accessed by a path around the back of the resort, but we couldn’t find it (if you do, let us know how and we’ll update the instructions).
You’ll be happy to know that the other Antigua beaches featured on this list offer no issues with accessibility of this nature.
It's a little nicer here than its English namesake; in fact, this spot in the south of the island was one of our absolute favourite Antigua beaches and we wish we could have stayed here a little longer.
With the occasional wild goat on the sand, a palm tree lined border and exceptionally clear water, the half moon-shaped Carlisle Bay weds the sense of a rustic undiscovered beach with all the facilities you'd hope for right next to it.
Although the very fancy Carlisle Bay Resort shares this beach, it is very easy for members of the public to access it and enjoy their time on the sand.
It’s particularly beautiful for sunset.
We asked our rental car lady which was her favourite beach on the island, and she unhesitatingly told us Darkwood.
For us, Darkwood's long stretch of perfect white sand and clean clear water, is the most accessible and best set-up beach for visitors looking for a beautiful beach to chill out on for the whole the day, without an attachment to a resort crowd.
There are a few colourful shacks which we imagine become impromptu bars come the busy season or weekend (we visited in low season), but there’s also an excellent permanent bar & restaurant offering simple meals, cold beers and cocktails, deckchairs / umbrellas for rent and wi-fi for customers. The restaurant owner did tell us that cruise ship groups can turn up on occasion, but we think the beach would still be big enough for everyone!
A short walk, and even shorter drive, from Darkwood Beach, you will find the very pretty Turners Beach and Love Beach.
We put this little cluster of relatively undeveloped beaches in the island's south-west top of the list for independent travellers in Antigua.
Although the wonderful Coco Bay is attached to the exclusive Coco Bay Resort (where one of Andrew's siblings got married many moons ago), it is actually easy to access and park. The bay isn’t sign-posted - or they're intentionally well hidden - so you may want to use your GPS and off-line Google Maps here, but it’s still quite straight forward to find.
The first section of beach has the majority of resort guests and facilities, so we recommend that you continue up the beach to a quieter section where you can happily lay your towel down out of the way and without feeling awkward.
Half Moon Bay
We had high hopes for Half Moon (which is a national park), but were massively disappointed.
After going out to beat the crowds in the early morning, we found a beach that was covered in seaweed and smelled a little rank.
Over a rum punch at the bar in Verandah Resort later that evening however, Kerry-Anne swore to us that we had simply visited in the wrong season (May) and that Half Moon was without doubt one of the best beaches in Antigua. As it’s a little out of the way and undeveloped, it’s also certain to be less busy than many others throughout the year.
Given her ability to make the best rum punches ever, we do not doubt Kerry-Anne. The pictures we’ve since seen of a seaweed free and sun-soaked Half Moon, make us confident that it's worthy of the list - let us know if we’re wrong!
There were a couple of colourful beach shacks which looked like they would operate as bars / restaurants, but we'd recommend you bring your own drinks & snacks just incase. There's a small car park right by the beach.
Tip | Want to taste some of the best food in Antigua? Then take the excellent 'From the Sea' cooking class
An alternative to Coco Bay is the nearby Ffryes, which is a lovely long stretch without (as far as we could tell) any resorts attached to it.
It’s easy to access down a dusty road (just how we like it) and with plenty of parking, but we recommend you bring your own drinks & food if you’re planning on spending more than a couple of hours here.
We visited Pigeon Point during May Day and Sailing Week parties, so there was lots going on. With beach restaurants offering up barbecue meals, pop-up bars keeping the mood going on, and lots of people learning to sail on the water, this was a really nice spot with a chilled-out vibe.
Its tree lined backdrop reminded us both of a few beaches we visited in Costa Rica.
Due to its proximity to English Harbour, it’s one of the island’s more popular places; it’s only a 10-15 minute walk up and down a hill to get there from the centre. If you’re visiting Nelson’s Dockyard and then want to head to a nearby beach, then this is your spot.
There is a large free parking lot right next to the beach.
Tip | Given its home to yacht week, Antigua is a fantastic place for anybody to test out their sea legs and charter a sailing boat for the day, with several options leaving English Harbour. They're not cheap, but become significantly better value if you can get together a group of six - eight people together. Check out this half-day tour, or this full-day one. Naturally, they both come with rum included!
Curtain Bluff Beach
On our little road trip around the island, this stunning beach was the first we saw - and it takes some beating as the most photogenic viewpoint on the island.
The beach attached to Curtain Bluff Resort, and we didn’t discover an access point (although we know there must be one) - let us know if you find it!
Although it’s attached to the excellent Pineapple Beach Club (a good resort choice for young couples and groups), Long Bay is easily accessible to the public and has a few shops, bars and restaurants on its stretch (Mama Pasta and La Tartaruga are recommended), so you don’t have to worry too much about bringing your lunch or drinks with you.
The snorkelling is good, the water is divine, and there is plenty space for everyone on this white sand beach.
Parking is available if you drive past the Verandah entrance on your right hand side, and the Pineapple entrance on your left, until you reach the end of the road.
During our time in Antigua, we stayed at Verandah Resort, which is an excellent, peaceful and expansive 'all-inclusive plus'. It has two private beaches on site, which are both very nice, and absolutely deserves its position as one of the best resorts in Antigua.
This one mile stretch of beach is one of Antigua’s most popular due to its size, accessibility and range of activities / services offered. As it has a number of hotels attached to it, we imagine it becomes quite crowded at peak season.
It certainly didn't feel as special as the other beaches we visited, but that's because Antigua puts one's standards quite high.
However, if you like your beaches to have more action, be more commercially developed, fancy a jet-ski, or want to hang out at a bar or two when taking a break from the sun, then this will be a great choice for you. If you like a quieter time on the beach, head to the southern section.
We found free parking and access easiest on the small road that leads off of Anchorage Road, which takes you towards the beach and Halcyon Resort.
Think we missed one of the best beaches in Antigua? Let us know in the comments!