Are the Beaches of Antigua the Prettiest in the Caribbean? They Just Might Be.

August 22, 2021

beaches of antigua

Antigua boasts that it has 365 beaches – one for every day of the year. For a girl who’s happy place is the beach, the opportunity to scour the island from coast to coast to find the most beautiful beaches of Antigua was a dream come true.

With nearly 100 miles of coastline, there is some surprising diversity in the beaches, depending on whether they lie on the tropical Caribbean Sea in the east or the windy and rough Atlantic Ocean on the west. Shimmering warm turquoise water, powdery white sand strewn with swaying palms, and ringed by coral reefs, your paradise awaits…..

You should note that weather and wind may impact your experience and beach visuals. A cloudy day turns the brilliant turquoise to a duller light blue. The season you travel to the beaches of Antigua has some bearing as does the day of the week – beaches can be crowded or nearly deserted. Choose wisely for your own tastes.

For all of my adult life, I’ve been on a quest to find the most beautiful beach in the world. I’ve been blessed to have had the opportunity to visit some out-of-this-world exotic beaches, such as Bora Bora in French Polynesia, Anse Source D’Argent in Seychelles, Ko Phi Phi in Thailand, Zanzibar in Tanzania, and Tulum in Mexico – just to name a few. So of course, I was eager to see how Antigua measures up.

Click here for the ONLY beach packing guide you’ll ever need.

With a week to complete my search, and of course a plethora of other outdoor activities, history, and culture to explore, here are my 13 favorite beaches of Antigua.

13 Half Moon Bay

beaches of antigua

People who have been to Antigua may be shocked by my placement of Half Moon Bay at #13. Well-named for the curvy, 3200-foot crescent shape of the bay, the rugged, brilliant cerulean blue beach has often been named as one of the most beautiful in the world, has the status of a national park, and is a favorite with locals. However, when I visited, there was a seaweed crisis and the beach was barely visible under the tons of seaweed that had built up. It was a sad sight indeed and I hope it is remedied soon and the beach restored to its original beauty.

I still enjoyed my time at Half Moon though. It’s a peaceful and unspoiled place, with no hotels at all along the beach. One tiny restaurant, Beach Bum Bar & Grill sits across from the beach. I decided to try my first locally-caught spiny lobster here. The lobster is cut in half and grilled. The meat is removed and sautéed in a ton of butter and garlic, then stuffed back into the half-shell. Oh, my word! I lived in New England for most of my life, which is known for its excellent lobsters, but this was the most delicious lobster I’ve ever had! I won’t lie; I had to hold myself back from licking the shell! Who knew that this little hole-in-the-wall beach bar with nothing but outdoor picnic tables could serve up something so scrumptious?

12 Jolly Beach

jolly beach

Jolly Beach is arguably the longest and widest of all the beaches in Antigua. Soft white sand, crystal-clear blue water, and palm trees beckon all to take respite. Facing westward into the Caribbean Sea, this is a picturesque spot to watch the blazing sun sink into the sea.

11 Little Ffryes Beach

beaches of antigua

Located adjacent to its better-known sibling (see #1 below), Little Ffryes is a smaller, less-crowded version and a favorite with locals.

10 Carlisle Bay

beaches of antigua

Carlisle Bay is in the southwest of Antigua and is the first beach you come to if you are driving through the rainforest on Fig Tree Drive.

The somewhat secluded beach is long with a backdrop of high slopes and tropical rainforest, overlooking the Caribbean Sea. On one side of the beach, you’ll find the sophistication of the Carlisle Bay Hotel, with the other side being more undeveloped, shaded by swaying coconut palms, with shallow water and rocks.

9 Galleon Bay

galleon bay

If you want the best snorkeling spot, Galleon Bay fits the bill. Ringed with reefs just offshore, sea turtles, stingrays, nurse sharks, and other marine life are often spotted here.

Sheltered between Freeman’s Bay and English Harbour, Galleon Bay is a favorite for visitors that also want to explore Antigua’s rich culture and history at nearby Nelson’s Dockyard.

If you walk to the left end of the beach, you’ll have access to the beginning of three fantastic hikes – Shirley Heights which overlooks the harbor, Mermaid Gardens which are natural pools formed by layers of flat rocks, and the Pillars of Hercules which are spectacular tubular cliff formations of ash rock.

Galleon Beach is the closest beach to English Harbour where British ships were moored during the 18th century. As such, the beach has undergone archaeological excavation, including graves and other artifacts found at the back of the beach. There is also a sunken ship just 15 feet deep that can be explored by scuba divers and snorkelers.

Click here to read about the 10 best outdoor activities in Antigua!

8 Dickenson Beach

dickenson beach

Its location just 15 minutes from the Antiguan capital of St John’s makes Dickenson Beach the most popular and one of the most lively beaches on the island.

It doesn’t hurt that Dickenson is one of Antigua’s most beautiful beaches, with a mile of white sugar sand sloping gently into sparkling turquoise waters, protected by an offshore reef. Swaying palm trees and cooling trade winds top off the allure.

See if you can find the popular Instagram shot – a British red telephone booth – near the Sandals Resort.

Because of the many hotels and resorts, the beach can easily get overcrowded, but if you walk for a bit in either direction, you should be able to find a stretch of beach that’s less developed or unoccupied water for a swim.

7 Green Island Beach

beaches of antigua

Just off the eastern coast of Antigua, Green Island Beach belongs to the category of private beaches. If you want to explore the white sand or snorkel in the clear water emerald water, you can only do so with either the permission of the Mill Reef Club members or as part of a boating tour.

I docked on Green Island for two hours as part of an island circumnavigation tour. It was beautiful, but I would advise you if you are planning to go on a boat tour, check to see how many people will be on your boat as well as how many other boats will be docking at the same time. There were way too many people when I was there – wall-to-wall bodies all vying for a spot in the warm shallow water, but I know I would have loved it without the hordes.

6 Hermitage Bay

beaches of antigua

Secluded Hermitage Bay Beach, at the most western end of the island, is not easy to find… unless you know where to look. It’s also not easy to access – I got there with a local guide while I was driving a 4×4 mud buggy. The effort to get to this pristine 1250-foot stretch of sand is well worth it. You’ll likely have the beach mostly to yourself and the calm, clear water is ideal for swimming. You won’t want to leave this isolated paradise.

5 Pigeon Point

pigeon point

Pigeon is an idyllic and calm beach at the mouth of Falmouth Harbour, fringed with sea grape trees and a view of yachts mooring in the bay.

Pigeon Point’s biggest draw is its proximity to the incredible UNESCO World Heritage Site, the 18th-century nautical complex of Nelson’s Dockyard. Dating back to 1745, the site is arguably the world’s oldest continually-used dockyard, used as the British Navy’s base during Antigua’s time as a colony. Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson, widely considered to be one of the greatest all-time maritime commanders, lived here between 1784 and 1787.

If you enjoy walking, this is a good place to take the Middle Ground Trail up to English Harbour. The hike takes about an hour and offers fantastic views of the old fort along the way.

4 Curtin Bluff

beaches of antigua

“Stop! Pull over!” I said to Joy, my Pink Panther tour guide during my cultural tour of the island. We’d been driving along an incline on Old Road along the southern coast when suddenly, like a mirage, an absolutely stunning brilliant turquoise beach appeared below the cliffs. Joy did not have time to pull over, but she turned around and pulled to the top of the cliff so that I could get out for a better view of the magnificent seascape below.

Adjacent to Morris Bay, you can only access Curtain Bluff Beach through the hotel of the same name. I didn’t get to walk on the beach, but the even better photo opp is from the high ground above the beach. If you want to go to the beach, because all beaches are public, just drove a little bit further to Morris Bay then walk to Curtain Bluff.

3 Valley Church Beach

valley church beah

From my 2016 cruise

Back in 2016, I visited Antigua for one day, as part of a cruise. I spent several hours on one spectacular beach, but unfortunately, my photos were not labeled as to what beach it was.

I was determined to find it! At every beach I visited, I looked for the craggy rocks and the specific building at the end. I didn’t find it in real-time, and I was ready to give up; while reviewing my photos in my hotel, I zoomed in at a photo of Valley Church Beach and found the exact spot I’d been standing in my cruise photo!

The powdery white sand and impossibly iridescent, crystal clear blue water of Valley Church rightly credential it as one of the best beaches in Antigua. This popular beach can get very crowded, but it stretches to over a mile in length so you can find some separation, especially if you walk to the right towards the rocks as I did. There is also a small shack that rents every manner of water sports equipment.

2 Darkwood Beach

darkwood beach

Darkwood Beach is one of the “Pinch me, am I really here?” tropical utopias. Less developed than the north coast beaches, the coast slopes gently down into the sea and is largely protected by the rocks and the reef.

Darkwood Beach is one of the most beautiful and largest beaches on the southwest coast of Antigua. On a clear day, you can get beautiful panoramic views across to the neighboring islands – Montserrat and Guadeloupe.

The waters here are immaculate and the marine life abundant, making it a snorkelers’ and scuba divers’ paradise.

If there’s a downside to Darkwood, it’s the huge inflatable water park on the far left of the beach. While this makes it a fantastic place to take kids for a day of fun water activities, for me, it took away from the natural beauty. Not to worry, though… I simply walked to the far right of the beach where there were no people and the natural rocks in the water enabled me to get my #1 Antigua Instagram moment.

1 Ffryes Beach

ffryes beach

Can you say, “Paradise?” Adjacent to Darkwood Beach is Ffrey’s Beach. I first spotted the sparkling turquoise beach while eating at Dennis Restaurant which overlooks this alluring nirvana.  “Eureka!” I knew I’d found the prettiest beach on Antigua, and perhaps in the whole Caribbean.

In my pre-trip research, I’d seen a photo of driftwood on an Antiguan beach, but after days of searching the beaches, I disappointedly had not found it. I spied some driftwood from my restaurant perch, scarfed down the rest of my creole red snapper, and scurried down to the expansive beach, tripod in hand.

ffryes beach

I set my equipment up on the balmy shore and admired the view across the sea to Monserrat, a neighboring island. Then I began to snap away, remote timer in hand, switching between my new Samsung S21+ smartphone (supposedly the best phone for photos and videos) and my Gear 360.

I was not disappointed in the results and had to (mostly) refrain from doing a happy dance on the beach.

Where to Stay

tamarind hills

Because it overlooks BOTH my #1 (Ffryes) and #2 (Darkwood) best beaches in Antigua, I highly recommend Tamarind Hills. Set on a sunset-facing bluff above the beaches, the views are infinitely gorgeous at any time of day. The luxury villas are available from studios to five bedrooms, each with a full kitchen, private terrace, panoramic views, and some with private infinity plunge pools.

Conclusion

beaches of antigua

From remote and secluded to wildly undiscovered to world-famous, trying to decide on what beach is right for your vacation can be daunting. I still have some beaches in Antigua that I did not get to…but would like to.

Question: Since Antigua has 365 beaches, one for every day of the year, what do you do in a leap year?

Answer: Why, go back to your favorite, of course!

I’ve visited some twenty Caribbean Islands… are the beaches of Antigua the prettiest? Well, there are a lot of pretty beaches throughout the Caribbean, but I do believe Antigua has the largest number of stunning beaches. And while it may be subject, Ffryes Beach is a strong contender for most beautiful in the Caribbean.

You may be interested in Girls’ Getaway in Antigua.

Click below to PIN so you can find the best beaches of Antigua again:

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Disclosure:  The author was honored to be the guest of Antigua & Barbuda Tourism during her stay, but as always, the opinions, reviews, and experiences are her own.

About the Author

Patti MorrowPatti Morrow is a freelance travel writer and founder of the award-winning international blog Luggage and Lipstick and southern travel blog Gone to Carolinas. TripAdvisor called her one of “20 Baby Boomer Travel Bloggers Having More Fun Than Millennials” and she was named one of the “Top 35 Travel Blogs” in the world.

Patti is the author of the book “Girls Go Solo: Tips for Women Traveling Alone,” and has over 150 bylines in 40 print and online publications, including The Huffington Post, International Living Magazine, Washington Post Sunday Travel, Travel Girl, Travel Play Live Magazine, and Ladies Home Journal. She has traveled extensively through six continents looking for fabulous destinations, exotic beaches, and adventure activities for her Baby Boomer tribe.

10 comments

  1. Comment by Jeff & Crystal Bryant

    Jeff & Crystal Bryant Reply September 9, 2021 at 8:41 am

    You left us with the difficult decision of picking which would be our favorite Antigua beach. Fortunately, there are a slew to choose from, so it looks like some in-person research would be required. Thanks for the pointers to get us started on our own visit.

    • Comment by luggageandlipstick

      luggageandlipstick Reply September 9, 2021 at 9:00 am

      Whichever you end up choosing, you can’t go wrong!

  2. Comment by Carol Colborn

    Carol Colborn Reply September 9, 2021 at 8:52 am

    Great beaches…and one for every day of the year but Ffryes is a must then!

    • Comment by luggageandlipstick

      luggageandlipstick Reply September 9, 2021 at 9:00 am

      Difficult choice, but Ffryes was my favorite!

  3. Comment by Tom Bartel

    Tom Bartel Reply September 12, 2021 at 9:24 am

    Antigua is now officially on our winter destination list. Thanks for the primer.

    • Comment by luggageandlipstick

      luggageandlipstick Reply September 13, 2021 at 9:19 am

      Great choice for a winter escape!

  4. Comment by Catherine Sweeney

    Catherine Sweeney Reply September 12, 2021 at 12:56 pm

    What a great tour of those beautiful beaches. I got a chance to spend time on just a few of them, but loved every minute. Ffrye’s Beach was definitely a highlight.

    • Comment by luggageandlipstick

      luggageandlipstick Reply September 13, 2021 at 9:19 am

      They are all so gorgeous! Ffrye’s was my favorite, too!

  5. Comment by Josh Torres

    Josh Torres Reply September 24, 2021 at 5:35 am

    Beautiful beaches, I prefer the number 3 – Valley Church beach. Thanks for sharing this article. Mauritius – a beautiful island in the Indian Ocean got beautiful beaches too.

    • Comment by luggageandlipstick

      luggageandlipstick Reply September 24, 2021 at 10:32 am

      Hi Josh – I’m glad you liked this article. Yes, I have been to Mauritius, a beautiful island indeed. You can find my article on this site.

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