There are beach vacations, and then there are beach vacations on Antigua—you can lounge on powdery beaches surrounded by water, snorkel with majestic green sea turtles, watch golden-hour sunsets as the salt air breeze wafts by, get the Tata Harper facial of your life, and stargaze by a cozy bonfire on the beach. The food is incredible, whether it’s at fancy restaurants (see below) or local roadside stands and markets (I’m still dreaming about the candy-like Antigua black pineapple, guava jelly, and Susie’s Hot Sauce).
On Sundays it seems like everyone on the island—locals and tourists alike, everyone’s invited—celebrates with steel drum music, food, and rum punches. Below, where to stay, eat, and explore—and what to pack.
WHAT TO PACK
You won’t want to spend a single second inside—so pack accordingly. Bring more sunscreen than you think you’ll need, meltproof makeup, breezy dresses that double as cover-ups, and swimsuits.
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DAYS 1 TO 3: Jolly Harbour
Tucked into a cliff on the southwest side of the island, Villa Papillon has breathtaking views. Owned and beautifully decorated by mother-daughter designers Sarah and Rosie Ward, the villa has six luxe super colorful king bedrooms. There’s an infinity pool overlooking the beach, a cozy in-home theater, and a sweet pathway leading right down to the beach. The staff is incredible, whether they’re whipping up a delicious dinner alfresco or setting up umbrellas on the beach for an afternoon picnic.
HIKE TO HALF MOON BAY AND SHIRLEY HEIGHTS LOOKOUT
The hiking is incredible in Antigua, with tons of lush tropical foliage and hidden beaches to explore. Half Moon Bay has to be one of the most serene spots on the planet, and Shirley Heights has the best views on the island (go at sunset if you can).
SNORKEL AT DEEP BAY BEACH
Wake up early, slather on sunscreen, and spend the entire day in the water snorkeling. Visit Great Bird Island, Galleon Beach, and Deep Bay, where you can see the Andes shipwreck (it sank in 1905). No matter where you stop, you see parrotfish, jellyfish, octopuses, barracuda, stingrays, sea turtles, and more.
Tip: To protect my hair, I always load my hair up with lots of oil before jumping in the ocean (advice I once got from LA colorist Tracey Cunningham). I love this one from ROZ because it’s made with hair-loving ingredients like frizz-smoothing macadamia oil and softening kukai, and it doubles as a sort of everything oil (body, cuticle, perfume, etc.)—which means more room in my suitcase.
VISIT NELSON’S DOCKYARD
A UNESCO World Heritage site and marina in English Harbour, the Dockyard was once an 18th-century naval post, built by generations of enslaved Africans, now restored as a museum and historic site.
Eat and Drink
I spent an entire day relaxing at Catherine’s Café. Both luxurious and laid-back, it’s a dreamy beachside space right on the shores of Pigeon Beach. Wear your swimsuit under your clothes so you can go for a refreshing dip in between orders of rosé, oyster towers, and fish carpaccio. Plus, they often have live music.
Casual and no-frills, Turner’s is a beachfront spot, locally owned and operated. It’s busiest on Sundays—try the pineapple lobster or curry goat, and the fish cakes are the best on the island.
Also known as Auntie Cavell’s, this low-key spot opposite Darkwood Beach is a favorite for authentic homemade Caribbean food. Get the snapper, curried conch, or oxtail (it’s all incredibly fresh and delicious). Try the fungi, too—it’s a classic Caribbean dish of cornmeal sprinkled with okra and finished with butter—and don’t leave without a rum punch or a cup of the homemade coconut ice cream.
Go here for drinks at sunset. Set within the Cocobay Resort, it’s cozily nestled atop a cliff and at the end of a secret winding path. There are daybeds and pools to lounge around in, along with incredible views of the ocean. Order some small bites and drinks—my favorite drink was a mocktail, the Rah-Rah: an icy whip of passion fruit, pineapple, lemon, and mint.
What started as a craft market in 1949 is now a chic outpost for easy cotton clothing with beautiful prints and breezy silhouettes. (There’s also a second store in the island’s airport if you miss your chance to go.)
DAYS 4 TO 5: Jumby Bay Island
Set on a private island two miles off mainland Antigua (you take the resort’s ferry to get there), Jumby Bay has 4.5 miles of pristine shoreline. Everything about the resort is luxurious—the suites (with private plunge pools, large soaking tubs, and cloudlike beds), the beautiful winding bike paths (the whole resort is brilliantly carless), the impressive spa (there are facials, meditation and sunrise yoga sessions, and more), and the turndown service where housekeepers leave little hand-painted shells (the resort commissions them from local artists) in your room each day.
Tata Harper Facial at Jumby Bay Spa
The spa is just fantastic—I did a head-clearing breathwork class outdoors, relaxed by the trickling waters in the garden, and had the most life-changing facial of my life. The treatment rooms look out onto the ocean (you can hear the waves crashing). Tata Harper designed all the treatments at the spa, so you can’t go wrong, but the Nature Balancing Facial is divine—there’s face-mapping therapy, exfoliation, and massage supercharged with Harper’s signature skin-reviving botanicals and deep moisture. I had this facial right at the end of the vacation—it cleared away all the sweat, salt, and grime of my trip and left my skin with an otherworldly glow.
Do the Facial at Home
WATERSKIING, TUBING, AND SAILING
You can choose your own adventure at Jumby. Book ahead to take a sailing class, waterski, tube, or go out on a boat for a day of swimming and snorkeling.
Eat and Drink
Get a martini here—or ask the bartender to craft you something frothy and fruity. The foliage-print wallpaper is cool and chic.
Built as a plantation in 1830, the Estate House is now a fabulous dinner spot with a glamorous, old-Hollywood feel. Local art and vintage maps hang on the walls, and the grilled snapper, tuna Rossini, and Antiguan chicken are delicious.
An open-air bungalow right on the beach, Genny’s has fantastic drinks and crudités. Bonus: In the evenings, there are beach bonfires.