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Holiday showdown: Antigua versus Barbados

  • Inspiration
  • By Ashleigh Simmons
  • Published 17 July 2018
  • Revised 28 February 2024
  • Published 17 July 2018
  • Revised 28 February 2024

Which Caribbean superpower is the one for you?

What to do you envision when you think of paradise? If it’s sparkling sapphire waters, golden sands stretching as far as the eye can see and all-year-round sunshine then you’re in luck – Barbados and Antigua have all of this and so much more. The birthplace of superstar Rihanna, home to arguably the best rum in the world and a west coast fit for royalty, Barbados is perfect in every way. Antigua – often underrated – is ideal for every kind of traveller, boasts exactly 365 beaches and an infectious atmosphere that’ll have you smiling from ear-to-ear as soon as you touch-down at V.C Bird International. But which Caribbean superpower is the one for you? Will it be Barbados for the endless good times and the beautiful landscapes? Or does the delicious cuisine and thriving carnival scene in Antigua tickle your fancy? We’ve weighed up the options to make the decision of where to go on your Caribbean getaway that little bit easier. 

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Beachy Resting Face

Antigua beach
Barbados beach with palm trees

You know when an island’s slogan is “the beach is just the beginning”, the sand and sea are going to be something truly spectacular. It’s no secret that the beaches in the Caribbean are amongst the best in the world so expecting sheer perfection when you step foot on the powder-soft Antiguan sands is the norm. Famous for having no less than 365 beaches – one for every day of the year – no matter where you’re staying in this Caribbean gem, you’ll be no less than a stone’s throw away from pure paradise. The likes of Turner’s Beach in Johnson’s Point is the ideal family spot due to the safe and shallow waters and the beachfront restaurant serving a whole host of delicious fare should you get peckish in-between swims. If you’re more in the mood for thrills and spills on the Caribbean Sea, head to Jolly Beach for some brilliant watersports. Hire out a jet-ski for an hour or two or take a relaxing ride on a banana boat if you want a lower dose of adrenaline. Speaking of Jolly Beach, the iconic Wadadli Cats catamaran departs from here, a day-trip around the best beaches of the island that’s an absolute must – especially with a delicious lunch provided and an open bar. Sound like a bit of you? We thought so.

To find out more on the best stretches of Antiguan sand.

Antigua isn’t alone in being home to crystal-clear waters and silky sands – Barbados certainly provides some stiff competition. One step on the beaches here will send you dizzy with pleasure and the views will certainly evoke postcard images of paradise. Amongst the best stretches of sands in the island is Enterprise Beach, situated in Christ Church and locally known as Miami Beach. With a cove on the north side and big surfer waves on the south, this popular landmark is ideal for beach-goers of every kind and is even lined with picnic tables and an on-duty lifeguard for families. If you want something a little closer to your hotel, you can’t go wrong with Mullins Beach. Located on the famous platinum West Coast of the island, here you’ll find a lively beach bar and restaurant as well as plenty of jet skis available to rent for the day so you can ride across the island in style. 

A Caribbean Palace

Jumby Bay Island
Jumby Bay Island, Antigua
Sandy Lane
Sandy Lane Hotel, Barbados

When it comes to the Caribbean, paradise is extended throughout every nook and cranny and the incredible hotels and resorts are certainly no exception. In Antigua, five-stars simply are not enough and Carlisle Bay is proof of this. Located on the south coast of the island and within perfect distance to the best bits of the country, guests can expect top-notch service, world-class accommodation and one of the 365 beautiful beaches just steps away from the property. Carlisle Bay is stunning in every way possible and even neighbours the beautiful Curtain Bluff hotel which is equally as incredible and known throughout the island for its delicious on-site restaurant, The Tamarind Tree. Fancy something a little more secluded? You can’t go wrong with Jumby Bay Island. Only accessible by speedboat approximately seven minutes away from the mainland, this luxuriously quaint resort offers a selection of just 40 rooms, suites and villas for maximum privacy and relaxation. Offered on an all-inclusive basis, Jumby Bay Island has everything you could possibly need and so much more – think complimentary bicycles to cycle around the resort, brilliant cuisine ranging from authentic West Indian to classic Italian and an out-of-this-world spa providing a plethora of heavenly treatments. It’s close proximity to the mainland means that you have the best of both worlds – just minutes away from the bustling hub of the St. Johns capital but also secluded enough that you can have a holiday full of as much serenity that tickles your fancy. 

Discover more stunning properties in Antigua.

If you’re thinking of visiting Barbados, we’re sure that one place probably springs to mind – Sandy Lane. This oasis of pure tranquillity boasts a colour palette of golds, pinks and blues that will immediately bring a smile to your face as soon as you walk through the front doors. This elegant beachfront hotel is perfect for families, couples and honeymooners alike, world-famous for its incredible golf courses and top-notch facilities that have to be seen to be believed. Oh, and did we mention that you’ll be spoilt for choice with the four award-winning on-site restaurants? From casual dining to a fine-dining affair, every palate is catered for without any hesitation. Other notable resorts located on Barbados’ legendary platinum west coast include The House by Elegant Hotels, an adults-only resort that’s ideal for those on a romantic getaway – the complimentary champagne breakfast surely doesn’t hurt either. Lone Star Boutique Hotel and Restaurant is perfect for foodies due to its famed eatery while the likes of Saint Peter’s Bay hosts a plethora of facilities that ensures thrilling holiday fun for every party. 

Explore more home-away-from-homes in Barbados.

Let’s Get in Formation

Waves crashing into cliffs in Antigua
Barbados’ Harrison’s Cave

Don’t be fooled into thinking that the beaches in the Caribbean are the only natural wonders in the West Indies. In Antigua, the crashing coast of the ocean has eroded the edge of the island to create Devil’s Bridge, a rugged terrain and a natural formation of limestone rock which is the stunning result of millions of years of ancient reef build-up. This incredible landmark got its daunting name due to the high number of slaves from neighbouring estates who would throw themselves over the edge into the rough waters below. The ferocious waters at Devil’s Bridge are best to be avoided during hurricane season but when it’s a bit calmer, you can’t go wrong with enjoying the gentle spray of seawater while enjoying the picturesque views overlooking the endless stretch of sparkling sapphire at the edge of the island. Speaking of edges, Shirley Heights is another Antiguan landmark that needs to be seen to be believed. This sky-high restored military lookout offers mind-blowing vistas of stunning English Harbour as well as a heart-pumping hiking trail. This cliff-side formation is a must-see attraction while on the beautiful island but Sunday evenings is when Shirley Heights truly comes to life. Locals and visitors are invited to party the night away as the sun goes down and the harbour lights up, the barbecues are fired and the steel drum bands and live musicians provide hours full of rhythm and calypso. Trust us when we say that it’ll be a night you’ll never forget. 

We certainly can’t miss out Barbados’ Harrison’s Cave when it comes to beautiful natural formations. The island’s most popular attraction is located in the central uplands of the island and is easily accessible from all major hotels. This crystallised limestone underground cave is utterly jaw-dropping, characterised by towering columns, shards of shiny stalactites and stalagmites and deep pools of clear water which visitors journey through by tram. The natural climate of the cave can be a little chilly so bringing along a light hooded jacket might be wise – the hood will come in handy as the cave can drop a little water from the ceiling occasionally. Barbados’ beauty certainly doesn’t stop there. The island is home to a variety of stunning marine life including the majestic Hawksbill turtle that can be found in the depths of the Bajan south coast. We recommend embarking on the Barbados Turtle Feed and Swim Tour where you’ll board a boat in Bridgetown, sail to Carlisle Bay and dive head-first into the water to come up close and personal with your new best friends.  

Feast Your Eyes

Delicious juicy pineapples
Oistin’s Fish Fry, Barbados

Caribbean cuisine is one of life’s luxuries – rich in flavour, succulently tasty and highly indulgent which is exactly what you need on holiday. One thing you won’t be served in Antigua is disappointment as every mouthful you eat on this glorious island is guaranteed to send you to heaven. The national dish of Antigua is pepperpot, a stew of pig’s trotters and spinach that gets its name from the fiery kick of the scotch bonnet, a chilli that’s at least 10 times hotter than a jalapeno. If that’s too exotic for your liking, Caribbean favourites such as jerk chicken, curried roti, fried plantain and oxtail are found around every corner whether it be casual eateries or fine-dining affairs. Oh, and you can’t visit Antigua without a taste of the juicy black pineapple. A bite of this plantation-grown national fruit is akin to sampling a morsel of pure sunshine as the sugary-sweet juices explode on your taste buds and you lick pineapple flakes from your lips in delight. One of the highlights of the island’s shenanigans is the annual Seafood Festival held at Urlings Wharf and with the entirety of the Caribbean Sea directly at the coastline, guests can expect a plethora of fresh fish and shellfish delved right from the depths. Crabs, conchs, fish and lobster are cooked to perfection in front of you while family-friendly festivities such as bouncy castles, a mango eating competition and a boat ride around Carlisle Bay take place. 

We told you the Caribbean is crazy about seafood! In the UK, Fridays mean a few pints down the pub while Fridays in Dubai mean a decadent brunch – but Friday’s in Barbados mean Fish Fry! Oistin’s Fish Fry is a weekly occurrence whereby locals and visitors come together in the name of good food and lively entertainment to sample the island’s freshest seafood and other Bajan delights including flying fish, the national dish. Grilled, fried, steamed – you name it, the fish will be delicious! Oh, and we all know the best way to wash down the seafood feast is with a glass or two of rum punch (punch being the operative word). Barbados is the original birthplace of rum, producing the golden elixir in the Mount Gay distillery that is essentially the essence of this island’s rich culture. If you’re looking for a meal to soak up the delicious spirit, expect to be utterly spoiled for choice by the abundance of top-notch eateries found throughout the nation. From authentic Caribbean cuisine to international favourites such as sushi, pasta and curries, the flavours from this island are guaranteed to put some rhythm on your taste buds and send you dizzy with pleasure. 

Find out more about Barbados’ divine culinary experiences.

An Island For Everyone

Family on a banana boat in Antigua
One of Barbados' tranquil golf courses

There’s no limit to Antigua’s brilliance as there is truly something for everyone. Honeymooners and couples celebrating special occasions will be in their element with the romantic restaurants and special touches from hotel hospitality that make all the difference. The thriving nightlife in the St. Johns capital and carnival during summer time will keep rum lovers and music adorers as happy as can be, whereas culture vultures can’t go wrong with a trip to Nelson’s Dockyard and the Antiguan National Museum. Travelling with little ones? No problem. The abundance of beaches – 365 to be exact – and the hotel kids’ clubs will keep children entertained for hours on end, not to mention the brilliant Stingray City where families can get up close and personal with friendly marine life. Oh, and did we mention that Antigua is home to the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium? Built for the purpose of the exhilarating 2007 Cricket World Cup, sports lovers will adore the atmosphere at this modern location where many a test match and friendly game are played throughout the summer months. 

Barbados knows no boundaries when it comes to the ultimate summer holiday escape. Known as the gem of the Caribbean, newly-weds will sparkle their way into married life with the likes of beachfront sunset dinners, spa treatments and infinity pools at the island’s top resorts. Don’t be fooled into thinking that Barbados is nothing but a couples’ paradise – everyone from the very young to the young at heart are seamlessly catered for from touchdown to departure. Kids will adore the likes of the island safari and the arts and crafts at Oistins Fish Fry whereas those a little bit older will get their fill of excitement from the abundance of watersports on the island. Golfers will also be in their element here thanks to the lush fairways and the immaculate greenery found throughout the island, knocking the likes of Florida and Portugal way out of the park when it comes to putting in paradise. 

Caribbean cuisine is one of life’s luxuries – rich in flavour, succulently tasty and highly indulgent which is exactly what you need on holiday

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