Antigua has always enjoyed a reputation for stellar resorts — think Curtain Bluff, Galley Bay, Jumby Bay, and Hermitage Bay, and, most recently, Hammock Cove, to name just a few — but now smaller sister island Barbuda is getting some star power of its own, with Hollywood star Robert De Niro part of the team behind the new Nobu Beach Inn luxury resort. The property now taking shape on Barbuda’s Princess Diana Beach is just one reason why Antigua and Barbuda should be on your short list of Caribbean islands to visit this year.
Nobu Barbuda … and More to Come
The island of Barbuda got particularly hit hard by Hurricane Irma in 2017, and a key piece of the island’s revitalization effort is a high-profile resort project backed by actor Robert De Niro, celebrity chef Nobu Matsuhisa, and film producer Meir Teper. The first piece of the project is now a reality: in 2021, the Nobu Barbuda restaurant debuted on the island’s southwest coast, and in May 2022 an affiliated beach club debuted. Billed as an all-day experience, the Asian/Caribbean restaurant is now paired with five beach cabanas with personal hosts offering food service as well as amenities like towels and massages. The club also has a beach bar where you can raise a toast to the memory of Princess Diana, who considered the K Club located on the beach now named in her honor a special hideaway. Still to come: the Nobu Beach Inn, a resort hotel, spa, and wellness retreat with private residences and an organic farm, could open as soon as next year.
Carnival is Back!
After a two-year hiatus, the party billed as the “Caribbean’s Greatest Summer Festival” is returning to Antigua. Antigua Carnival will be celebrated July 27 to Aug. 2, 2022; unlike other Caribbean Carnival celebrations, which take place around Lent, Antigua Carnival has long been a summer event. But it still includes all of the classic elements of Carnival, including road marches, music competitions, elaborate costumes, and the wild night party known as J’ourvert.
Tour Laviscount Island
A new eco-tour from Adventure Antigua makes it easier to visit Laviscount Island, a nature preserve off the coast of Antigua that is home to a rare colony of Giant Aldabra Tortoises, considered the world’s oldest living animal. Tours, which can be taken in combination with the far better known Stingray City, also include hiking to see Lesser Antilles Iguanas and parrots and snorkeling off the beach.
Vaccinated Travelers Don’t Need COVID-19 Tests
Fully vaccinated against COVID-19? You don’t need to take a test to get into Antigua and Barbuda; in fact, you don’t even have to bring along proof of vaccination. If you’re unvaccinated or partially vaccinated, however, you will be required to produce a negative certified PCR result taken no more than three days before arrival, or a Rapid Antigen Test taken no more than 24 hours prior to arrival. (Alternatively, you can submit to an RT-PCR test upon arrival at your own expense.) You can find more on the destination’s travel protocols here.
Check Out the Upgrades at the Verandah Resort
The all-inclusive Verandah Resort is a classic address for Antigua visitors, but the resort has kept up with the times by investing in a wide range of renovations. All 80 of its Waterfront Suites at the Elite Island Resorts property, for example, have been upgraded with new furniture, bathrooms, flooring and artwork; the resort also has added a new pool at Rasta Beach, a new coffee shop and gift shop, freshened up the decor at Nicole’s restaurant and renovated its fitness center.
It’s Easier to Get to Antigua
High demand is driving increased air access to Antigua, with several airlines adding more flights to VC Bird International Airport. Perhaps most notably, American Airlines announced in June that it is increasing service between New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport and Antigua through at least the end of 2022, offering daily flights to the island into fall and winter. United Airlines, Frontier Airways, and WestJet also have added flights to Antigua as post-COVID tourism has picked up on the island.
Try Your Luck at Antigua’s First Resort Casino
Antigua has long taken a liberal view of gambling, and the island has several standalone casinos. For the first time, however, travelers can now roll the dice at a resort-style casino in Antigua. Debuting in December 2021, the Casino Royale at the Royalton Antigua resort has 80 slot machines and six table games spread out over 4,305 square feet of casino floor, as well as a sports bar. Gambling aside, the Royalton Antigua is part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection and bills itself as a “family friendly all-inclusive resort.” Even better? It’s also home to the country’s first-ever overwater suites.
Sneak Away to the New Ocean-View Suites at Tamarind Hills
The Tamarind Hills residential resort on Antigua’s West Coast has made a major expansion with the addition of 43 new ocean-view suites spread along the top of an ocean bluff between Darkwood and Ffryes beaches. Some of the suites have jetted tubs on their terraces; all have kitchenettes, four-poster beds, and oversized bathrooms. It’s a bit of a stroll to the sand, but the walk is made delightful by an elevated boardwalk that runs in front of the new suites and connects the resort’s two beaches.
Raise a Toast on Shirley Heights
It’s the opposite of “new,” but the tradition of sunset drinks on the Shirley Heights Lookout while drinking in the views of historic Nelson’s Dockyard and the Caribbean Sea, is an essential part of any Antigua experience. And don’t forget to tour the Dockyard itself, once a major base for the British Navy and now home to shops, restaurants, hotels and museums.