48 hours in Antigua

Its orientation makes it the perfect kitesurfing spot for beginners and experienced athletes.

A tropical vacation doesn’t have to mean lying on the sand, rum cocktail in hand. Antigua, a leeward Island in the Caribbean, does offer miles of secluded beaches for lounging, but its prime position in the path of the Caribbean trade winds, make it a world-class destination for kitesurfing and sailing. The island is also home to the start of the annual Antigua Bermuda, a 935-mile ocean race that finishes in Bermuda.

Where to Stay

Blue Waters, a posh 17-acre retreat just 15 minutes from the airport, reinvents the idea of what a Caribbean all-inclusive is. Tropical gardens abutt the resort’s private beaches and your stay includes the use of non-motorized water vehicles. Take out a Hobie Cat, a small, easily-maneuverable sailing catamaran for an afternoon on the water.

On the opposite side of the island, Carlisle Bay has 82 rooms situated on a broad, white-sand beach. The resort is divided between couples and families traveling with children; if you do have kids in tow, there's a well-organized kids’ club. Sunset yoga, pilates, and dance classes are on-site as well.

Day 1

With a large number of British tourists flocking to the island (Antigua was a British colony), breakfast at Blue Waters is a decidedly English affair. While staples like baked beans and bacon are on offer, they also serve up healthy options such as sautéed mushrooms and eggs prepared to order.

Spend your morning with Kitesurf Antigua, located on Jabberwock Beach. If you’re entirely new to the sport, their four-hour beginner package covers everything you’ll need to know: rigging, launching and landing, kite control, and body dragging. For those more experienced or looking for extra time on the water, a two- or three-day intensive is also available.

For lunch, Hemingway’s in St. John has local seafood prepared with a lighter touch. Deep-frying and cream sauces are prevalent throughout the Caribbean, but the catch of the day at Hemingway’s can be served grilled or blackened, either on top of salad or alongside rice and beans.

Back at the Blue Waters spa, try the Musclease Aroma Spa Ocean Wrap and Massage, which works to soothe sore muscles through a seaweed wrap.

It’s a quick-but-challenging hike to dinner at Shirley Heights, and it’s worth every bit of effort. This restored artillery has some of the island’s best views and erupts in a party every Sunday night when Antigua’s best steel bands set up shop, and the grills are fired up, serving jerk chicken and ribs (and a lighter option of grilled fish—undoubtedly some of the best on the whole island), while the rum punch flows freely.

Day 2

Venture outside of your hotel for morning sustenance (fresh fruit and eggs) at the beachfront Coconut Grove. Afterwards, meet your boat captain from UnderSea Odyssey at your hotel’s dock for a snorkeling day trip and visit to nearby Great Bird Island. Aptly named, the island provides shelter for many of Antigua’s avifauna, including frigatebirds, terns, egrets, and herons. It’s also home to the Antiguan racer, a harmless snake that is among the rarest in the world.

On your way, stop and enjoy snorkeling at Five Paradise Reef before spending the rest of the afternoon exploring the island. You can scramble up a rocky trail to the island’s summit, which offers expansive views of the surrounding islands and the Atlantic Ocean. Your boat captain and crew will serve a fresh seafood lunch on the island, accompanied by a bottle of bubbly if you so desire.

Head back to the hotel to freshen up before your last dinner on the island, which is sure to be a special one. You’ll want to arrive at Sheer Rocks on the earlier side—the restaurant is perched on the edge of a bluff on Ffryes Bay, meaning that there’s virtually no better place on the island to watch the sunset.

It’s not all about views though. Since opening in 2010, Sheer Rocks has quickly become known as one of the best restaurants in the Caribbean, and the varied menu includes traditional French-inspired favorites, but also inventive lighter takes, such as a king scallop ceviche with cucumber “spaghetti,” avocado, lime, and cilantro, or a seafood risotto made with pearled barley instead of the typical arborio rice.