We had a ridiculously early flight on Friday morning from Dallas to Miami that departed at 5am. Steve and I decided to drive out to the airport the evening before and stay at the attached Hyatt Hotel for a night in order to save ourselves an extra 2-3 hours of sleep. It was worth the $179 for the convenience factor as 5am is insanely early. We also splurged for 1st class tickets on the flight so we also had a decent breakfast and lunch on the plane and were able to relax with a glass of wine on the way there.
Fortunately for us, everything went smoothly and we arrived in Miami ahead of schedule, easily made our connection after a short 1 hour layover and our flight to Antigua landed a good 20 minutes early there as well.
Customs was completely empty and we breezed right through and were out of the airport and in a taxi less than 20 minutes after we landed.
We spent our first 4 nights at the Sugar Ridge hotel which is located on the southwest side of the island. The hotel is located on a hill and is not directly on a beach but offers a shuttle service to three different beaches. The driver of the shuttle will also take you anywhere within a 5 mile radius if you ask. We had a King Deluxe room with plunge pool. Our first day we relaxed on our balcony, used our small plunge pool and had a casual dinner at the hotel.
We found the food there to be so-so for dinner but they did have a delicious and made-to-order breakfast each day that was included. We stayed here on points that I had from buying Aveda products and our free package included 3 nights stay in a Deluxe king room with balcony and plunge pool, made to order full breakfast each day and 2 one-hour massages at the hotel’s Aveda spa. Overall, it was a great deal.
We spent our second day sleeping in, having breakfast and then taking the free shuttle to Turner’s Beach, which was about 5 minutes away.
The loungers and umbrellas at Turner’s Beach are free for guests of Sugar Ridge and there is a small family-owned restaurant on the beach for food and drinks. We stayed here for a few hours to swim and relax and our shuttle driver picked us up at 2:30 and kindly took us to Jolly Harbour marina where we had reservations for a private sunset sail on the Catch the Cat catamaran.
Our sunset sail was such a great way to start the trip. We had the huge catamaran all to ourselves (with the captain and his mate, of course) and the price included free drinks, including their house rum punch, and nibbles for the 3 hour sail. They give you the option of just sailing up the coast and back while the sun slowly sets or they will also stop if you want to swim or snorkel anywhere. Steve and I opted to just chill out and enjoy the sail. We sailed north up the coastline of the island and were treated to a beautiful sunset and a rainbow while we sipped our rum punches. The captain and his mate were there to answer all our questions about different islands and things we spotted on the coastline.
After our sail was over, the captain recommended a casual Italian spot for dinner at the marina so we walked over there and had some wine and a pizza before calling our hotel to come pick us back up. It was a great introduction to the island.
The next day we went to a different beach called Valley Church Bay which is also known as “The Nest” by locals. You do have to pay for your chairs and umbrellas here but it was $10USD for 2 loungers and an umbrella.
The beach here was filled with seashells so if you like shelling, this is your beach! It also has a restaurant on the beach and they offer beach service as well. Between this beach and Turner’s beach, Valley Church had the better food. We enjoyed some of the best conch fritters we had on the island and I had an awesome shrimp curry.
Our third day we had our free massages in the Aveda spa, which were fantastic, and we picked up our rental car that morning so we no longer had to rely on the hotel shuttle to get around. Driving is on the left in Antigua, just like in the UK, so it took a little getting used to for us but Steve did all the driving. Overall, we found driving in Antigua to be easy. We took the car to another beach about 5 minutes away called Darkwood beach. This was my favorite beach that we visited on the whole trip – it was very quiet with maybe 10 or 15 people hanging out.
There is a small restaurant with sandy floor that plays reggae music and makes a delicious jerk chicken sandwich. We stayed here for a few hours until the sun almost set. The beach faces towards the volcanic island of Montserrat and had soft sand and warm, clear water. It was a great place to relax and chill for the afternoon.
I’ll chronicle some of the places we ate in a separate post but needless to say that we had some incredible food on this trip! We really only had one bad meal.