4 mins

Head to Head: Antigua versus Barbuda

These two Caribbean islands, about 60km apart, are part of the same country. Boats shuttle between them in 90 minutes, but if you could only visit one, which would it be?

St John's, Antigua (Shutterstock)

Antigua

Barbuda

St John's, Antigua (Shutterstock)

St John's, Antigua (Shutterstock)

The Capital Start exploring St John’s at the Museum of Antigua and Barbuda – to discover its colonial past and sugar trade – before touring Antigua Rum Distillery. Cricket fans should visit Sir Vivian Richards Stadium, or attend the annual festival. Alternatively, visit during Antigua Sailing Week (24-30 April ’21) for a nautical-flavoured party.

Caribbean life (Shutterstock)

Caribbean life (Shutterstock)

The Capital Codrington is named after a plantation and slave owner. You can see the remains of his home, a reminder of the island’s dark past. However, much of the town – and the rest of the island – was destroyed by a hurricane in 2017, so visits are low-key affairs. Explore by bike then sample authentic cuisine at Palm Tree Restaurant.

Antigua

Barbuda

Dickenson Bay, Antigua (Shutterstock)

Dickenson Bay, Antigua (Shutterstock)

Beaches Antigua has 365 beaches – one for each day of the year. While all are public, Landing Bay in the north-west is the easiest to access, Darkwood Beach (and the nearby Love Beach) in the south-west is away from the resorts, while Eden Beach is popular with nudists.

Pink Sand Beach, Barbuda (Shutterstock)

Pink Sand Beach, Barbuda (Shutterstock)

Beaches There’s more to these beaches than squidging the sand between your toes. Head to Low Bay to kite surf, or learn to surf at Palmetto Point (left) in the west of the island. Don’t miss Pink Sand Beach nearby; it’s named for its rosy hue, caused by thousands of shards of broken coral.

Antigua

Barbuda

Shirley Heights, Antigua (Shutterstock)

Shirley Heights, Antigua (Shutterstock)

Hiking Boggy Peak, the 402m remnant of a volcanic crater on Antigua, is the islands’ highest point. Antigua’s 5am Hike Club hosts weekend sunrise hikes, but if you’d rather walk alone follow the 1.5-hour loop from Galleon Beach to Shirley Heights (right), for views of English Harbour, or do a three-hour Wallings Dam to Falmouth trek.

A beach on Barbuda (Shutterstock)

A beach on Barbuda (Shutterstock)

Hiking As a former coral reef, Barbuda’s highest point is the 38m Highlands, so Antigua wins when it comes to elevated views. However, the southern section of Route 1 is a worthwhile 90-minute walk as it hugs the coast and is bookended by Pink Sand Beach and Princess Diana Beach – named after the princess who enjoyed holidaying here.

Antigua

Barbuda

A green-throated carib (Shutterstock)

A green-throated carib (Shutterstock)

Birdlife Antigua and Barbuda has 194 bird species. As well as flamingos, you may spot Antillean crested hummingbird (right), purple- and green-throated carib and the ruff, whose elaborate plumage resembles a carnival headdress. Keen twitchers should visit Greencastle Hill National Park and Great Bird Island, 3km off the east coast.

A frigate bird (Shutterstock)

A frigate bird (Shutterstock)

Birdlife Barbuda has the western hemisphere’s largest colony of frigate bird, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that it is the nation’s national bird. The species boasts a 2.4m wingspan, while males attract mates by inflating their scarlet necks like balloons. Look out too for Barbuda warbler and tropicbird in Two Foot Bay.

The verdict

Antigua is larger and livelier than Barbuda, which was evacuated following the 2017 hurricane. Visit the latter to help the island get back on its feet and you’ll be rewarded with authentic Caribbean culture and rare birdwatching opportunities.

St John's Antigua (Shutterstock)

St John's Antigua (Shutterstock)

At a glance

Antigua

Population Around 80,000

Total area 280 sq km

Famous for Antigua Sailing Week, cricket, financial services and the UNESCO World Heritage site Nelson’s Dockyard, built by the British Navy in the 1700s.

Barbuda

Population Around 1,300

Total area 161 sq km

Famous for Cricket (again), rum, 2017’s Hurricane Irma and ducana (sweet potato dumplings).

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