Antigua went on to England’s Green Travel List on Thursday 24th June, and I booked flights the very next day (luckily I already had 4 days off work booked). After originally trying to plan last minute trips to Ibiza, Mallorca and Malta, it became clear that I wasn’t the only one with that idea and flight prices were rising rapidly. After being out-priced on the flights to Ibiza, I chanced a look at the Antigua flights – and using some airmiles was able to find a return trip for under £300. The flight is about 8 hours each way, we flew direct from London Gatwick on British Airways.
When it came to the hotel, I used Booking.com (I’ve been hopefully booking hotels with full cancellations policies throughout the last 6 months) to find a deal on a beachside hotel. We ended up choosing Pineapple Beach Club, an all-inclusive hotel on the east side of the island. Normally I wouldn’t go for all-inclusive as we’ve found we don’t drink or eat enough to make it worth it, but the deal was great and it was lovely to have paid upfront and not have to keep thinking about payment at each meal and activity!
Covid Safety Travel Requirements for Antigua
- Negative PCR test within 72 hours prior to travel to Antigua
- You must book to stay at a Government approved facility (there’s a long list) but you are allowed to travel around the island if visiting for tourist purposes
- Take a pre flight Covid Test before leaving Antigua (UK Govt requirement) This does NOT have to be a PCR test. We ordered Lateral Flow tests from Qured that were sent prior to departure, we then did our swabs whilst on video call to a medic and they confirmed the negative results with a certificate. You could also do this through our resort for $80 each.
- Complete a passenger locator form prior to leaving Antigua – you need a PCR test reference number for your Day 2 Covid test – we were given this when doing our first PCR test which we did at Heathrow Sofitel.
Overall we spent £154 on Covid swabs each using BA discounts to save on both the PCR and lateral flow test – they have a list of discounts on their website.
Pineapple Beach Club
As mentioned above, you have to book a Government approved hotel to comply with Covid safety protocols currently. I read a number of reviews online before booking the hotel, many of which raved about the food quality. I have to say, I’m a bit skeptical about food at an all inclusive hotel (self-confessed food snob right here), but was thrilled with both the breakfast buffet, where you’re served rather than help-yourself currently, and the two in-resort evening restaurants, Pineapple Grill and Chef Pietro’s. However we were disappointed by the lunch options and serious lack of veggie options. There were plenty of drink options, however we only discovered the non-alcoholic cocktail list on the last day! We loved the on-site coffee shop where we’d order iced coffees every morning from opening, and ice-creams just before closing.
All of the activities were included, and although the Red Flag on the beach during our last few days meant it wasn’t safe for us to take advantage of the water sports, usually you can use the Hobie Cats, paddleboards, kayaks and snorkelling equipment free of charge. We did enjoy the Aqua Aerobics, beach volleyball and crafting activities, and were impressed by the very well stocked, newly refurbished gym. We spent our days sitting by one of the three pools, or at the gorgeous white sand beach, enjoying the sunshine (avoiding the bursts of rain) and feeling very grateful for the continuous breeze. The hotel is situated on Long Beach, one of the most beautiful of the 365 beaches on the island, and apparently one of the few you can snorkel from.
I booked the most basic room, and it was clean, quiet and had a powerful shower. I don’t need much more than that on a beach holiday! (there was also wifi in room and around the resort which I was grateful for!)
The Devil’s Bridge
The Devil’s Bridge National Park sits at the end of undulating gravel road, just 1.5 miles from Pineapple Beach Club. We ran there one morning and were afforded with gorgeous views of the site with no-one else around. We felt very safe running just after sunrise, around 6.30am, and it was very easy to navigate there!
The Devil’s Bridge is a natural limestone rock bridge formed from thousands of years of erosion by the Atlantic waves. It is said to have got its name due to the belief that the Devil lived there due to a large number of suicides that used to take place there by enslaved Africans. The place is tragically beautiful, with a serene peacefulness to it despite the howling winds and sea spray.
There was just one local with a stall who explained where to take the best picture and advised us not to even attempt to walk on the slippery rock especially with the high winds and tides.
Pillars of Hercules Hike
I want to write a whole blog about our favourite activity on the island! This was the only activity I’d pre-booked before arriving in Antigua after reading about it on this blog and thinking it looked incredible (although our hike ended up being 3 miles rather than her 5.4 mile trip so maybe things have changed since then!). We signed up for the Pillars of Hercules Hike with Rodney from Adventurous Hikers, he picked us up from the hotel and took us to English Harbour on the south side of the island.
We started with a short, steep 0.5 mile to Shirley Heights with spectacular views across English Harbour and Nelson’s dockyard, before heading along the Carpenter’s Trail that took us through an old English graveyard and along the coastline. The trail was rugged with a few scrambling boulder sections, and our feet did get a little wet as we shimmied along the water’s edge at the Pillars of Hercules. Sadly we weren’t able to go as far as usual due to high winds and strong waves but we were able to see the rock pillars. We finished our hike along Galleon Beach just as the rain started. A brilliant morning activity before an afternoon spent relaxing on the beach.
Bike, Hike, Kayak Tour
We signed up to this local tour on a whim during dinner on our last night, we wanted to do something active before our 8 hour overnight flight home, and after seeing this tour on Trip Advisor, we were sold. We met in St John the capital city at 9.00am ready to ride along the bustling city streets. Luckily with it being Saturday it was quieter than usual and our guides, Giles and Mark, led us safely through the streets to the Mangroves where we jumped into the kayaks. Whilst the water was shallow, the kayaking was easy and we were able to spot a number of different birds and jellyfish in the area. From there it was back on the bikes, and a short ride out to Fort James and St James Beach. Normally the tour includes a short walk from the beach to the fort, but we rode up there before being given a brief history of Fort James.
The 3 hour tour included about an hour stop at the beautiful St James beach – this is the Caribbean side of the island so brighter blue than the water at Long Beach. We bought a beer at the beach bar and went for a swim. With such a short stay on the island, it was fun to see a different beach and cool off in the sparkling waters.
We would have liked there to be a bit more ‘hike’ in our ‘Bike, Hike, Kayak’ tour, however it did mean that the tour was suitable for all levels, and I would say that children over age of 8 would be fine too.
Overall, my friend Cortney and I loved our 5 day trip to Antigua and found a great balance of relaxation and adventure. Given that timing (and budget) was tight-ish there are plenty of things we’d love to go back to do in Antigua including a sunset boat tour, a trip to Sting City to see the natural Sting Ray feeding ground, snorkelling, and dinner & party up at Shirley Heights.
Have you been to Antigua? Or the Caribbean? Let me know if you have any other questions about the place!