Antigua boasts 95 miles of coastline and some of the most diverse beaches in all of the Caribbean. That’s quite the claim to fame. And so, finding a glowing white-sand shoreline and crystal clear waters is easy as key lime pie. But first, you’ll have to narrow down your search. That part can be a little more difficult.
On a recent trip to this tropical treasure, I discovered that Antigua is made up of a whopping 365 beaches. While going to one beach a day for an entire year is certainly ideal, I only had five days to work with. With no way to experience each bountiful beach, my quest became about quality over quantity.
Along with its stunning beaches, Antigua is famed for its friendly and joyful vibe. I started asking any and every local I crossed paths with “What beach do you like the most?”, “Which ones are truly local?” and of course, “Where is the clearest water in Antigua?” The answers proved informative and illuminating.
Equipped with local insight, I made my way to some of the most beautiful, local-approved beaches in all of Antigua. And I highly recommend you do the same.
Located near Saint John’s, Runaway Beach is tourist-friendly, but locals also frequent this laidback hot spot for some easy-going fun in the sun. It’s a great beach to mingle and go for a dip in the glittering turquoise waters. Best of all, it’s usually uncrowded.
I’m also happy to report that adorable dogs also hang here, lounging together beneath beach umbrellas. Check out the charming beachfront bar/restaurant called Mystic. They serve up old-fashioned rum punch (an island staple), freshly-made mango smoothies, and local hospitality every day.
Named for its distinctive red rock formation protruding from the endless blue-green sea, Hawksbill is beloved by locals and visitors alike. Technically, it’s four connected beaches. And each boasts its own charm and set of rules, or lack thereof.
For instance, Eden is the only nudist beach in Antigua. If that’s not your thing, you can also go for a stroll down the shoreline and stumble upon a small cove shaded by palms that only the locals frequent. It has some of the clearest water I’ve ever encountered and an endless expanse of colorful shells to collect. I spent half a day in this local cove and only encountered one couple and one family.
When I asked locals which beach they go to when they’re in the mood for a party, the answer was unanimous: Fort James. This historic fort is at the entrance to the harbor of St. John’s. Frequented by locals and tourists alike, you’ll find ongoing fun in the sun and stunning azure waters.
From water sports to free-for-all celebrations, Fort James is one of the loveliest and liveliest beaches in all of Antigua. And at times, it’s also pretty peaceful.
Looking for a long and calming walk on an expansive beach? This is one of the best places to be. Jolly Beach is covered in white sand and clear blue waters. And even though it’s popular, Jolly Beach is on the quieter side.
There is a large resort nearby and a harbor for those with fancy boats, but there’s enough space for everyone. You’ll be facing westward into the Caribbean Sea. So grab a blanket and settle in for one of the most stunning sunsets of your life.
Half Moon Bay
If pink and white sand with electric blue waters is what you seek, head to Half-Moon Bay. Named for its crescent shape and softly rolling surf, the local consensus is that this is one of the best beaches for those who want to swim and snorkel. Not too far offshore, there’s a magnificent coral reef you absolutely don’t want to overlook. And as the waters get choppier further out, it’s also a sought-after spot for wakeboarders and bodysurfers.
Half-Moon Bay is located on the southeastern coast of the island. Its scenic and easy-to-get-to spot makes it popular with tourists and locals. And finding a quiet spot is always possible, even on its busiest days.
On my quest for snorkeling locales, Long Bay Beach came highly recommended. It boasts some of the most diverse and vibrant reefs on earth. And if you want to swim with tropical fish, Long Bay is the place to dive in.
This Antigua hot spot is also famed for Devil’s Bridge, the easternmost point on the island. In a conch shell, here’s how it was formed. Apparently, millions of years of coral buildup led to a unique rock arch that had blowholes and waterspouts that periodically shoot water high into the sky.
Long Bay might be a little busier, but paradise is still paradise, even in a crowd.
Read More: Get Away From It All at These Hidden Beaches