What drew me to Antigua was the turquoise water on it’s 365+ beaches. That’s a lot of beaches for an island that is only 14 miles long and 11 miles wide. Believe it or not, most of the beaches on the island are inaccessible either because they are covered by miles of thorny unruly brush or are blocked by gated communities and resorts. Luckily, locals in Antigua will tell you that all beaches on the island are public. However, I did find that there are some security guards who will turn you away at gated communities because they don’t play by those rules. With the world shut down due to Covid-19, I blissfully had nothing better to do but explore this Leeward Island’s top 9 beaches. So grab your swimsuit and let’s countdown the top beaches of Antigua where you can swim, relax, and play.
*These photos have been totally unedited so that you can pick the best looking beaches, raw and unfiltered, for yourself.*
#9 Bush Bay (Photo above)
A solid hike away from the main road, down a trail with lizards and birds, is a beach off of the beaten trail. I highly suggest hiking early in the morning because the sun is scorchingly unforgiving. Bring your snorkel for marine life—only an arms length away from the sand. Beach scavengers will be delighted at the amount of strange seashells and corals available to examine on the shore here.
#8 Devil’s Bridge National Park
On the less visited east side of the island, you’ll find what looks like Portugal’s Algarve. Here, the ocean has worn away rocks to make interesting formations. This provides some of the most interesting sights on the island: picture me, laying on my stomach with the roaring sea below me. I also found some really adorable succulents and magical dried salt crystals. But swimming shouldn’t be done by the bridge itself. If you’re looking to relax on this side of the island, I would recommend the beach at Hammock Cove.
#7 Darkwood Beach
I’m adding this one to the list because it’s a great place for families. There’s a public inflatable playground. When I went, due to health reasons, obviously there were no crowds and most of the surrounding restaurants and bars were closed. But when life gets back to normal, I’m sure the situation at Darkwood will be much more crowded.
#6 Hodges Bay
Closely located near the airport, I stayed at Northshore ApartHotel on the beach which had a crescent shaped swimming area. The room, which was a typical no frills Caribbean apartment, wasn’t the reason to stay, but the little beach was.
#6 Turners Beach
Actually just around the corner from Darkwood, mentioned above, is this pristine little slice of Turners. This beach offers a clear line of sight all the way up and down the beach.
#5 Runaway Bay
In my opinion, this is the best location to see a sunset on the island. When I was there, there was plenty of room to feel romantic and secluded. I went here several evenings and found local sunset seeking couples and even had the chance to swim with a wild stingray! (Watch your step!)
#4 Long Bay
You’ll feel like a local at Long Bay, an Antiguan sent me here on my quest for the best beach. The clear water has soft sand dotted with underwater boulders. There are also tables with grass thatched umbrellas. Hotels with a local vibe surround this beach. There’s also a vendor’s row with brightly colored houses which will (probably) open back up after Covid.
#3 Dickenson Bay
This is undisputedly Antigua’s most well known and popular beach with locals and tourists alike. The sand is like sugar, so white and fine. (I joked that it probably was brought in from an Arabian desert). There are also tons of tiny fish to swim with on this very manicured beach. Here you can rent jet skis or wave the flag at Sandals to catch a ride to the tiny island bar out in the bay. Dickenson’s Bay is on the west side of the island, so it’s a great place to catch a sunset. Heavily manicured, there is no sea-grass at all and a roped area safe for swimming. The Siboney Beach Club is right next door. Siboney hosts a lost red telephone box, which might be the most Instagramable spot on the island. I should also mention that this is the beach where the Sandal’s Resort is located. If you follow my travels, you know I never pay for all inclusive, but I never said I wouldn’t swim for free!
#2 Pearns Point Public Beach
Pass by a gate and friendly security guard to access Pearn’s Point. This beach is one of those rare gems of perfect water and unobstructed views. From what I can tell, the land has recently been purchased by a developing group who is trying to sell large estates for homes (who will have million dollar views!) Visit quickly if you want to see this unspoiled piece of paradise before it’s gates are closed and only available to the wealthy. I swam here several times– and even found a starfish! There’s no sea-grass. What earned this beach a high spot on this list was the perfect color and pristine condition of the beach. Can you believe that there is unedited water THAT blue?
#1- Pearns Point Secret Beach (See GPS coordinates and gold star below)
While at Pearns Point we noticed that local Antiguans on the weekends hiked down the steep rocky cliffs to lesser known beaches. I went back on a weekday, without a soul in sight. Peel back the trees for access to what feel’s like your own private beach! Spending the day alone at this spot was my favorite day in Antigua. To be honest, it may have ruined all of Earth’s other beaches forever for me. It’s my very own secret spot.
While any day at the beach is a great day, below you will find some honorable mentions. These beaches weren’t up to snuff to make the list. I will give a little description why they didn’t make the cut.
Jabberwock Beach—so windy, interesting to see mongoose and parasailing
Fort James Beach—this beach wasn’t clear and the water was really rough
Carlisle Bay—the drive through the jungle was great but this beach was totally trashed
Half Moon Bay—probably my biggest disappointment, it reeked of sulfur
While you’re in Antigua, make sure to check out the Shirley Height’s Fort for the best overlook of the island!
Last but not least, I will leave you with a photo of what the dry landscape of Antigua typically looks like not at the beach.