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Antigua Archives - Air Canada Vacations

23 Feb


All Antigua, All the Time

February 23, 2018 | By |

365 beaches for 365 days of sun? It sounds like a fairy tale, but feels oh-so-real the second you land on the sunny shores of Antigua. Named by Columbus, colonized by Brits, inhabited by Oprah, this small Caribbean island shines with a rich and complex history that permeates through its colourful villages and harbours. From kicking back on a beach to kicking around with the kids, here are our top picks for when to go, where to stay and what to do in Antigua.

When to go

Antigua Sailing Week

A major maritime hub centuries ago, the Caribbean country harkens back to its nautical roots with the Antigua Sailing Week, its annual yacht regatta. Join the festivities from April 28 to May 4, when sailors from around the world take on the turquoise waters of the Caribbean for five days of yacht racing. Little ones will love seeing the boats zip past, while grown-ups might prefer the infamous after-parties.

Antigua Carnival

Looking to soak in real Caribbean culture? Better pencil in July 27 to August 7, when the Antigua Carnival amplifies the island’s good-time vibes. With a tagline claiming it as “The Caribbean’s Greatest Summer Festival,” expect calypso dance parties, costumed parades and beating steel drums that keep you moving till morning. Designed for all ages, kids even get a parade of their own, the Children’s Carnival, where they strut in vibrant frocks, evoking the cutest, mini versions of Caribbean icons.


We weren’t kidding about everyday sunshine. Antigua’s constantly balmy climate makes it a year-round destination for beach getaways. Whichever week you book, make sure to save your Sunday for the afternoon BBQ at Shirley Heights Lookout, overlooking the English Harbour on the southern tip of the island. An Antiguan institution ideal for friends and family, it’s the place to be to take in the glorious sunset views, while a reggae band provides the soundtrack.

What to do

Dive In

Coral reefs bursting with exotic fish surround Antigua, making it popular for diving and snorkelling. The biggest reef, Cades Reef, off the southwestern coast, hosts an eclectic variety of marine wildlife, from parrotfish to (friendly!) sharks. On the island’s opposite end, wade into Stingray City to swim with the most gentle underwater creatures. If you’re travelling with tots, they’re bound to love these unique close encounters with stingrays! For the more adventurous, the mysterious waters of Deep Bay beckon you to discover the shipwreck of The Andes, a merchant ship lying at the bottom of the bay since 1905.

See the Sights

Once a formidable naval base under the command of the British Admiral Nelson, Nelson’s Dockyard delivers a dose of history in a gorgeous setting surrounded by blooming, green hills and turquoise waves. A UNESCO World Heritage site, the 18th-century marina now houses restaurants and shops for you to indulge in. Experience local island life in the capital city of St. John’s where colonial architecture meets modern buildings coloured in vibrant, tropical shades. Head to the Public Market on Saturdays for the best home-grown produce (tiny pineapples!) and authentic arts and crafts.

Where to stay

For Families

Family fun awaits at the Verandah Resort & Spa, one of our faves from our Play collection. Kids’ pool? Supervised clubs? Tons of activities? You name it, they’ve got it. Whether you’re joining in on playtime or focusing on me-time, you’ll be doing it in an idyllic, waterfront setting. Imagine a sprawling family resort surrounding a private and peaceful blue cove. Your very own paradise oasis? We think so!

Great for Grown-Ups

A quarter-mile of fine, white sand and acres of diverse, lush gardens make the Pineapple Beach Club, part of our Spotlight collection, our ideal tropical hideaway. Pamper yourself at the spa or take on the sea with complimentary kayaking, windsurfing or snorkeling. If romance is in the cards, honeymooners could do worse than this blissful beach backdrop. Oh, and did we mention happy hour? It lasts all day, served up chilled like your cocktail of choice, at one of the beachfront bars.

What’s next

Start planning! Oh, and maybe swimsuit shopping? Hot travel tip: check Air Canada Vacations for the best prices on Antigua vacation packages (trust us!).

Take me to Antigua!

21 Sep


Sandals Grande Antigua Resort & Spa

September 21, 2015 | By |

Two perfect worlds. One grand resort.

All-suite Mediterranean Oceanview Village

Winner of the coveted Six Star Diamond Award, this resort village combines all the grandeur and romance of a Mediterranean hideaway with the exotic charm of a Caribbean island.

Mediterranean 1 Bdrm. Butler Villa Suite with Private Pool Sanctuary

These are true one-storey villas in paradise. Each villa has an expansive private pool deck which leads to the plunge pool and whirlpool. These villas offer an escape to total romantic seclusion and include 24-hour room service as well as a personal butler.

Mediterranean Honeymoon Oceanview Club Level Suite

These spacious suites are the perfect sanctuary for newlyweds with panoramic views and stylish details. You’ll also enjoy the exclusive amenities and extra pampering of Club Sandals, including private check-in and a dedicated lounge.

Caribbean Beachfront Village

This truly is an authentic tropical oasis of secluded, private gardens and meandering seaside pathways. Enjoy gingerbread-trimmed cottages, cozy firepits and romantic hanging love baskets.

Caribbean Honeymoon Butler Rondoval with Private Pool Sanctuary

These gorgeous suites-in-the-round offer a unique romantic experience with private plunge pool (featured on the cover of this insert), mahogany bed, 24-hour room service and a personal butler. And all this just steps from Antigua’s best beach.

Caribbean Honeymoon Grande Luxe Poolside Walkout Room

Intimate moments abound in these stylish rooms. Dine al fresco on your poolside patio before taking a refreshing dip. Or snuggle in close in your four-poster king-sized bed. Then enjoy a relaxing soak with unique Red Lane® Spa bath products.


21 Sep


Antigua is an adventure island

September 21, 2015 | By |

Antigua’s 365 beaches, tropical rainforest, unique marine life and charming culture are the perfect backdrop for your Luxury Included® Vacation at Sandals, where fine dining and pampering are key.

Island Routes

Xtreme Circumnavigation

Get ready for an adventure right around Antigua. Your 45’ yacht sails past North Sound to Stingray City Marine Park for an unforgettable swim. After a buffet lunch at Green Island, cruise around Nelson’s Dockyard and snorkel at the Pillars of Hercules.

Island Routes

Antigua Rainforest Canopy Adventure

Twelve ziplines take the thrill seeker through the lush Antiguan rainforest at Fig Tree Drive. Enjoy an incredible view of the island before taking the “Stairway to Heaven” for a refreshing drink at the Canopy Café.

Gourmet Discovery Dining & Bars

From the authentic island dishes of Barefoot by the Sea and the fresh sushi of Soy, to the heart-warming Italian cuisine of Mario's, passions of the palate are served to absolute perfection at 11 restaurants for every mood. Plus, enjoy unlimited premium spirits at seven bars.

Red Lane® Spa

Reserve a massage on the beach or in the privacy of your room. Relax with a mud mask, unwind with a margarita and manicure at our spa, or do an entire beauty makeover. It's all about you.

*Spa services are additional.


21 Sep


I do, for you

September 21, 2015 | By |

Irose Gerald, Wedding Manager at Sandals Grande Antigua Resort & Spa has helped many couples tie the knot. She shares the ins and outs, tips and tricks of a destination wedding, and the real reason a wedding at Sandals is the best.

How early should I start planning my wedding?

From the moment the other person says yes! It’s fun to have something to look forward to and destination weddings are a lot easier to plan.

How easy is it to customize my ceremony and reception?

It’s very easy to customize everything. We have a wedding planning website that has themed packages with decorations, flowers and reception options. We also have pre-wedding planners who can help you.

Do most people write their own vows?

I’d say about 50%. Many couples stick to the traditional ceremony but have one or two moments that are special to them.

What do most people worry about, but shouldn’t?

Definitely the weather! We have many back up locations throughout the resort. But here in the Caribbean, rain is good luck. A sprinkle of blessings.

What’s the one thing people most often forget?

Music, especially a song for the first dance. But don’t worry, we have a lot of music on hand and reliable Internet service so you can get to your iTunes account.

Can you help organize activities for guests?

Of course. For today’s weddings, a big part of the experience is for friends and families to have fun. It’s their vacation too. Here in Antigua, we have adventurous activities like zip-lining and ATVs, or more low-key catamaran cruises.

Why is a Sandals wedding the best?

It’s unique, seamless and personal. We have the most picturesque locations, with everything included even your honeymoon, at the most romantic destinations throughout the Caribbean.


21 Sep


Discover the World’s Most Romantic Resort

September 21, 2015 | By |

Welcome to Sandals Grande Antigua Resort & Spa set on Dickenson Bay, Antigua’s most famous and beautiful beach.

This graceful resort offers you two perfect worlds in one. The Caribbean Beachfront Village is a charming seaside garden oasis, while the all-suite Mediterranean Oceanview Village combines the best of a sophisticated, chic European resort with a laid-back Caribbean atmosphere. Enjoy both, because here, everything is included, including Gourmet Discovery Dining at 11 restaurants, endless activities, and spectacular accommodations.

Air Canada Vacations loves Antigua and a Sandals vacation is the perfect way to experience this island of rainforests and quiet roads, long history and special moments, and enough sun and sand to fill every day of the year.


28 May


10 Reasons You Need to Visit the Lesser Antilles

May 28, 2015 | By |

If you find Venezuela on a map, you’ll also find a string of tiny islands going north. These are the Lesser Antilles and they ring the outer edge of the Caribbean Sea. They are small and unique, and places most people have never visited. Here are 10 reasons you should go.

1) English Harbour in Antigua

English Harbour Antigua

Antigua was an important part of the British presence in the Caribbean. The old fortifications make for a change of pace from the beach (if you need one). Nelson’s Dockyard has been nicely restored and Shirley Heights is a good walk with a rewarding view over the bay.

2) Rendezvous Bay in Antigua

Rendezvous Bay is the definition of idyllic. It’s the kind of beautiful that should only exist in art or the imagination. It’s long and soft and virtually empty. You can only get there by boat or a 90-minute walk through the rainforest. But it is more than worth it.

3) Arikok National Wildlife Park in Aruba

Arikok National Wildlife Park

20% of Aruba is dedicated to this protected area. You can rent a car and drive its 11 km of roads, but the best way to experience it is on a guided tour with a park ranger. You’ll see divi-divi trees, cacti, aloe and any number of birds and reptiles. The Arikok National Park conservation fee is $11 per adult (children under 17 are free of charge). The tours are free; they only need to be booked at least one day in advance.

4) Screaming Eagle Restaurant in Aruba

Food is huge in Aruba, and, as you might expect, seafood is top of the menu. The Screaming Eagle near Eagle Beach has a French fusion vibe and serves creations like tuna tartar with fried soft shell crab, and wakame salad with spicy papaya mayonnaise. They also have a nicely stocked wine cellar and a bartender who knows what he’s doing. Check out their menu and make a reservation in advance.

5) Seafood Friday in Saint Lucia

For most of the week Sant Lucia’s Anse La Raye is a tiny and endearing fishing village that makes for a relaxing afternoon of browsing the few stores and chatting over cool drinks. But come Friday night, locals from all over the island follow the coast road to the weekly fish fry. Street vendors roll out and the music gets loud. It’s a lot of fun but a bit wild later in the night.

6) Hot Springs in Saint Lucia

Hot Springs in Saint Lucia

Around Soufriere [su • frer], there are two popular places for a hot dip. The Sulphur Springs are known as the world’s only drive-in volcano and for their naturally hot swimming pool. The other place is the Diamond Falls Botanical Gardens & Mineral Baths. It’s a Napoleon-era estate, and the European-style baths and gardens are very tranquil and open to the public.

7) Bean to Bar in Grenada

One of the hottest trends in Grenada is chocolate. The rich volcanic soil produces a unique bean. The current food trend of organic, ethical and authentic has also touched the island, giving rise to Grenada Chocolate Co. and the bean to bar philosophy. You can tour their farm and check out their blog.

8) Diving in Grenada

Diving Grenada

All of the islands of the Lesser Antilles have great beaches, clear water and spectacular scuba diving. Grenada has more than 50 dive sites, with something for all levels of experience. They also have a number of shipwrecks and a unique underwater sculpture park, which make for great photos.

9) Willemstad in Curaçao

Willemstad, Curaçao

The primary European influence in Curaçao is not English or Spanish, it’s Dutch, and you’ll find this distinction everywhere you look. Willemstad, the capital, is a lively port and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s full of colourful European architecture, an intriguing patois, and Dutch/Caribbean food creations you’ve never seen before, like keshi yená (stuffed Gouda cheese), and funchi (delicious fried corn bread), all available at Marshe Bieuw, the old market downtown.

10) Klein Curaçao

Klein, Curaçao

Curaçao has some great beaches, like Boka St. Michiel in a small fishing village, or Blue Bay not far from Willemstad. But by far the best is Klein Curaçao. It’s a tiny island two hours by boat from Curaçao. A day trip here is all about soft sand, snorkelling, scuba diving and beach barbecues.


20 Mar


10 Things You Didn’t Know About Antigua

March 20, 2015 | By |

Itching to travel to a new Caribbean island? While the Caribbean offers all-around stunning beaches and warm weather, each island is unique and has its own distinct personality. Allow us to introduce you to Antigua, a small island in the West Indies, in the Leeward Islands. Here are 10 things you probably didn’t know about Antigua:

1) Antigua, meaning “ancient” in Spanish, was named by Christopher Columbus after an icon in Seville Cathedral called Santa Maria de la Antigua (St. Mary of the Old Cathedral).

2) Approximately 80,000 people inhabit the island, with over 31,000 people living in the capital city of St. John’s.

St. John's, Antigua

St. John’s – photo by Ron Kroetz (Flickr)

3) Antigua is home to 365 beaches, one for each day of the year.

Antigua Rendez-Vous Beach

4) Shirley Heights is where you can get one of the best views of Antigua. It is also the spot where party-goers converge every Sunday evening to witness a beautiful sunset, while enjoying the aromas of barbecue and moving to the soca, reggae and calypso beats of a live steel drum band.

Antigua Harbour

5) Stingray City, a popular site on the island, is home to – you guessed it – stingrays. Here you can swim with stingrays, feed them and learn about their natural habitat.

Stingray City

6) Goat water is one of the island’s specialty dishes. While its name may suggest otherwise, the dish is actually a thick, hearty stew made with mutton, cloves, cinnamon and hot peppers.

7) Ziplining through the jungle and mountain hiking are popular outdoor activities on the island.


8) Devil’s Bridge is a natural bridge located in a remote area on the northeastern part of the island. Due to the harsh waters that surround the bridge, legend has it that it is home to the devil.

Devil's Bridge

9) Great Bird Island is a small islet situated 3 km from Antigua that measures only 20 acres (smaller than the average city park!) A variety of endangered species live here, including brown pelicans, red-billed tropicbirds, the Ameiva griswoldi lizard and the Antiguan racer (a type of snake).

Brown Pelican

Brown pelican – photo by M. Dolly (Flickr)

10) Antigua Sailing Week is one of the top sailing events in the world and takes place every April at Nelson’s Dockyard in St. John’s. Even if you are no sailing expert, it is a great opportunity to see a variety of yachts and boats.  

Think Antigua could be a contender for your next Caribbean escape? Find out more about the island here.


21 Apr


ANTIGUA’S Best Beaches by Amanda Urcullu

April 21, 2014 | By |

A full mile of soft sugar-white sand that gently clung to my toes I could have stayed in Antigua an entire year. With 365 beaches speckled across its shimmering coastline, I’d never have tired of the magnificent scenery. Though each stretch of sand has its charms, I was on the quest for the perfect beach one that was truly spellbinding.

After landing in Antigua, I immediately began my mission. I flung my bags into the back of my taxi and I asked the driver to head straight to the northwest coast. Along this section of the island’s resort-laden stretches of paradise are two of Antigua’s top beaches: Dickenson Bay and Runaway Bay. Runaway Bay is a seemingly endless expanse of soft white sand, and home to many popular resorts, restaurants and bars. It’s a romantic couples’ destination, but I took the opportunity to test out some water sports, like water-skiing and kayaking, before stretching out to relax, suntan and watch other vacationers enjoy the sunshine. A quick stop at nearby Dickenson Bay revealed to me a wide strip of powder-soft sand and tranquil turquoise waters, attracting many young families. I frolicked in the warm waters as the sun set, then dipped into a casual bar for a drink and a snack.

The next morning I arose with the sun, determined to continue my search for Antigua’s best beach. With so many options, I took the logical route of driving west along the coastline, dipping into the bays to investigate popular spots and undiscovered gems. The popular west-coast surf spot of Galley Bay attracts surfers of all levels, and joggers love to comb its sandy shore on warm evenings. A popular nesting hub for turtles, I was lucky enough to witness a rare and wondrous moment as baby sea turtles hatched along the bay’s soft shore. I’d heard the four crescent beaches at Hawksbill are also highly esteemed, so I popped by before dark. I left my bathing suit behind this time; one of these beaches is nudist.

Next up was one of my favourite stops along the west coast Jolly Beach, nestled into Jolly Harbour. It offered me a full mile of soft sugar-white sand that gently clung to my toes after I dipped them in the tranquil waters of the Caribbean Sea. I love the idyllic seaside here, but with plenty of restaurants, water sports, and shopping nearby, I also found it to be a great spot to spend a week. I could have stayed, but I was on a mission and had to keep driving south.

As the car dipped and climbed its way along the hilly southwest pocket of Antigua, I discovered less developed, but equally enjoyable, stretches of sand. Despite the windy roads I had to take to get there, it was entirely worth it to reach Darkwood Bay, where I set my gaze upon the deserted patch of sand and serene crystal blue waters. With its abundant aquatic life for snorkelling and calm, cooling breezes, I grabbed my flippers and mask and set out to discover a stunning underwater world, dense with schools of rainbow-coloured tropical fish. After a quick dip, I towelled off and headed over to Fryes Bay. I was so grateful for the clear weather; there was an idyllic view on the horizon of the island of Monteserrat and its looming volcano.

The next morning, I left the twists and turns of the less-travelled southwest roads, to enjoy a leisurely brunch in the quaint village of Old Road. The real treat was ahead of me, however, and as I approached, I just knew Carlisle Bay was the gem of Antigua’s southern coast. I spent a full day soaking up the sunshine on this expansive beach that boasts velvet sand, coconut groves and a wide variety of fish that swam with me in the clear waters off the coast. I was in a tropical paradise.

After all the beautiful Antiguan beaches I’d seen so far, I was certain no other spot could top the beauty I’d seen, but I’d been told the best was yet to come. I had to see it for myself to believe it. Everything I’d heard was true Half Moon Bay, on the southeast corner of the island, is possibly the most picturesque beach I’d ever laid eyes on (and by this point, I’d become quite the expert!). With its pink sand and active surf, this national park is a treasure. The Atlantic tide can be rough at times, but that didn’t deter me and a constant stream of windsurfers, skimming the water as our colourful sails flapped in the warm Caribbean breeze. What a perfect day. I was at the end of my journey and had a tough decision to make. Which beach was best? What would I recommend? With so many choices, Antigua is really the ultimate beach lover’s opportunity, and the only real response is this: Antigua is a real-life choose-your-ownadventure, and the best beach is the one that best matches your dreams. Dive in and discover it for yourself.

Read More

07 Jan


Things to know about Antigua

January 7, 2014 | By |

Brighter GETAWAYS Antigua

A few things for you to think about while you’re planning your trip to Antigua.

What to experience at Sandals Grande Antigua Resort & Spa

Discovery Dining

Eleven distinct restaurants serve specialties from around the world, around the clock, including Asian, British Pub Fare, French, Caribbean, Italian and Southwestern.

Your wedding in paradise

Book your wedding at Sandals Resorts and take advantage of your very own personal wedding coordinator to help with all the details.

Candlelight dinner

Indulge in a romantic, private candlelight dinner on the beach, by the pool or in a cabana. Just ask your butler to arrange  it. (available for a charge in non-butler rooms and suites)

Two unique villages at one resort

The Caribbean Village boasts a strong Jamaican influence and lush foliage whereas the Mediterranean Village is inspired by Europe’s elegant coastal cities.

Experience your Luxury Included® Vacation for two people in love at 15 Sandals Resorts in the most beautiful destinations across the Caribbean.

Where to stay at Sandals Grande Antigua Resort & Spa

Mediterranean One Bedroom Butler Villa Suite with Private Pool Sanctuary

These spacious villa suites offer total romantic seclusion with private plunge pools and whirlpools, and the finest amenities. Enjoy butler and 24-hour room service.

Caribbean Honeymoon Butler Rondoval with Private Pool Sanctuary

These exotic suites are in individual circular buildings with cone-shaped roofs, featuring patios, private plunge pools, mahogany beds, butler and 24-hour room service.

What not to miss in Antigua

Antigua Rainforest Canopy Adventure

Zip line across the glorious gorge at Fig Tree Drive, then take the “Stairway to Heaven” to the Canopy Café for views of the rushing zipliners.

Circumnavigation Cruise

Cruise Antigua’s coastline. Stop for snorkelling and swimming at a deserted beach on Green Island and enjoy a delicious local lunch.

FUN facts

• Some of the world’s best cricketers hail from Antigua, including Viv Richards, Richie Richardson, Andy Roberts and Curtly Ambrose, many of whom still reside on the island.

• Antigua has 365 beaches, a new one for every day of the year!

Need to know

English is the official language. Antiguan Creole is widely spoken.

East Caribbean dollar (XCD). The US dollar is also generally accepted.

Within minutes from the airport, complimentary resort transfer included.

110 or 220 Volts.

Devil’s Bridge, a natural limestone arch formation.

Non-stop flights from Toronto aboard Air Canada, 4.5 hours.

You only need to be in Antigua for 48 hours before you can get married.

The Caribbean’s Leading Honeymoon Resort

Book today

07 Jan


The best of Antigua

January 7, 2014 | By |

Love is in the air in Antigua. Stroll the colourful capital of Saint John’s or browse the flowers, fruits and crafts at its Saturday Morning Market. Discover romance by the sea as you snorkel or scuba the spectacular reefs before enjoying an intimate picnic on the beach. Afterwards from Shirley Heights Lookout, share an unforgettable Southern Caribbean sunset over historic English Harbour.

While in Antigua, stay at the all-inclusive Sandals Grande Antigua Resort & Spa. Indulge in incredible suites, like “Suites-in-the-Round” Rondovals; and delight in delicious dining, impeccable service and endless activities at the Caribbean’s Leading Honeymoon Resort. It’s the perfect place for your romantic getaway, honeymoon or sparkling tropical wedding.

That’s Air Canada Vacations. That’s your brighter Antigua!


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