The undulating coast of Antigua contains a multitude of tucked-away coves and quiet beaches – rumor has it there's one for every day of the year.

Travelers flock to the Caribbean because of its reputation for impeccable stretches of sand but Antigua is on another level. You're never more than a few miles from a beautiful white-gold shoreline at any time.

From full-scale resort beaches sporting all the facilities, bays offering the best surfing or snorkeling action, and lonesome desert island coves that you have all to yourself, these are the nine best beaches in Antigua.

1. Dickenson Bay

For travelers in search of a full-on, full-facility island beach, head 5km (3 miles) north of the cruise terminal to Dickenson Bay. Antigua does not provide a more developed beach package than this, where jam-packed resorts jostle with some of the island’s best restaurants, bars, cafes, food trucks and water sports for a bit of prime beachfront.

It is certainly the most packed strip of sand, especially when the fun seekers from the biggest of the Sandals Antigua resorts descend.

But because the bay stretches to over a mile in length, there is invariably space to separate yourself from the masses, and the tradeoff for the crowds is the excellent array of activities for when you tire of moving between your beach towel and the azure ocean.

Have a leisurely lunch at a distinguished restaurant or try a Jet Ski session, wakeboarding, parasailing or tubing.

Planning tip: The calm, shallow waters at Dickenson Bay are perfect for tiny travelers new to splashing around in the sea.

2. Fort James Beach

If you're visiting Antigua as part of a Caribbean cruise, this is the beach for you. It is the closest quality beach to the cruise port in St John, a mere 3.5km (2.2-mile) drive away (or, for those with time and inclination, a nice walk).

Yet despite sporting a long, lovely fringe of white-blonde sand and the intriguingly moody ruins of the 18th-century Fort James at the headland on the southern end, it sees far fewer visitors than the perennially popular Runaway Bay and Dickenson Bay just to the north.

It is a much-frequented spot by locals, however, who create a wonderful atmosphere with their spirited games of volleyball and beach cricket, and there are a couple of low-key but very good eateries near the fort.

Caribbean beach - Hawksbill, Antigua & Barbuda
Hawksbill Bay has four connected beaches to suit every kind of visitor © Getty Images / iStockphoto

3. Hawksbill beaches

To the west of St John’s sprawl, the peninsula containing Five Islands Village buts into the ocean in a shape resembling a goat’s head. It's especially beach-rich, even by Antigua’s exemplary standards, and the Hawksbill Bay quartet of strands at the western end is simply stunning.

The Hawksbill by Rex resort complex straddles much of the shore here; to reach beaches two, three and four, visitors have to pass through the resort entrance and security post – it is fully permitted yet a deterrent for many.

The first sands are just before the resort and the second and third are mostly for resort guests. The fourth, Eden Beach, is the most spectacular of all – though it's the only clothing-optional beach in Antigua.

A long slice of sand the color of banana cream, this is the point from which you can enjoy exquisite views out to the craggy Hawksbill Rock from which the beaches get their name.

You're more than welcome to keep your swimsuit on if you'd prefer and it's a pleasantly quiet beach experience on most days.

4. Ffryes Beach

Partly cut off from the rest of Antigua by a lagoon, the serene sea grape-shaded Ffryes Beach is a happy compromise between busyness and balminess.

This low-key locale attracts families but seldom becomes overly crowded, while barbecue facilities and one of the greatest places for Antiguan food on the island, Dennis Cocktail Bar & Restaurant, give you reasons aplenty to linger.

Planning tip: This is the West Coast’s best-known beach, but if you'd like to snorkel, head to Darkwood Bay with its alluringly iridescent waters and secret section of reef just south of Ffryes.

Rendezvous Bay, Antigua
Rendezvous Bay may be hard to reach but it's always worth the effort © Michael Utech / Getty Images

5. Rendezvous Bay Beach

Which side of Antigua has the best beaches? If Robinson Crusoe–esque remoteness is what you crave, it has to be the south side.

Part of the thrill is arriving at the flaxen arc of Rendezvous Bay: it is among Antigua’s most isolated beaches, stashed along a delightfully undeveloped chunk of coast, and the only way in is on foot along a rough track or trail (or, if you have one, a private yacht).

The easiest land approach is from Falmouth Bay: follow signs for Spring Hill Riding Club, park up nearby and follow the track through scrub and forest for a couple of miles.

If you want to be even more intense with your approach, try coming on the longer trail through the rainforest from Wallings Nature Reserve.

Either is the perfect rugged build-up to the lonesome rainforest-backed beach itself, spreading either side of a deep lagoon – you may have the beautiful stretch of sand to yourself.

6. Pigeon Point Beach

A curl of neem tree-flanked sand on the peninsula between the south coast’s two most significant natural harbors, Falmouth Harbour and English Harbour, Pigeon Point Beach attracts visiting vessels aplenty.

With its gently shelving shore, it’s also inviting for a family splash-around. And don’t miss sitting down to eat at Catherine’s Cafe Plage, where French-meets-Caribbean cuisine is served in a divine, sequestered-away setting with sun-shielding back-of-beach foliage.

Planning tip: Nearby is Antigua’s blockbuster sight, the UNESCO-listed 18th-century nautical complex of Nelson’s Dockyard. This is among the world’s oldest marinas, continuously used since 1745 and worth a visit. It was the British Navy’s base during their colonization of Antigua and Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson lived here between 1784 and 1787.   

7. Half Moon Bay

What’s in a name? Sometimes a moniker is way off the mark but not in this case. This far-reaching sandy crescent has an almost lunar-like whiteness, especially when contrasted with surrounding water the color of blue curaçao. On purely aesthetic grounds, Half Moon Bay is the best beach in Antigua.

Bodysurfers gravitate to the south while snorkelers make a beeline for the more placid sea at the northern end. Later in the day, everyone convenes in the middle for a lunch of grilled fish.

Explore around the headland to the north and enjoy cracking views that open out to uninhabited Smith Island. 

Multi colored wood cottages and tourist souvenir shops, Long Bay Beach, Antigua
Pick up some new beach accessories at the colorful kiosks along Long Bay Beach  © Getty Images

8. Long Bay Beach

If Long Bay Beach had nothing to offer besides its apostrophe of sand as soft and white as icing sugar, we still wouldn't hesitate to include it on any list of top island beaches. But rest assured it has lots more.

Visitors here are coaxed instantly out into the teal shallows by the reef that shelters the bay, which makes this one of the finest snorkeling beaches on the island.

Spy the likes of sponges, blue-headed wrasse and parrotfish, then venture east to the gangly peninsula of Indian Point.

Here beckons another of the island’s best natural features, Devil’s Bridge, where waves have battered Antigua’s craggy easternmost point into geological wonders such as a rock arch and blowholes.

Beach-side facilities are decent with a small resort, an Italian-Caribbean restaurant and several kiosks selling wares.

9. Jabberwock Beach

In the northeasternmost nook of the island, the sickle-shaped yellow-white strand of Jabberwock Beach spans over a mile between Cedar Grove and Camp Blizzard and is the most consistently dependable spot for windsurfing and kiteboarding.

Trade winds hit the north of the island first, and here sea breezes blast straight toward the shore – if the surf’s up anywhere on Antigua, it’s at Jabberwock. 

There is a kiteboarding school at the southern end. This is one of the closest beaches to the V.C. Bird International Airport if you can't wait to wriggle your toes in Antiguan sand.

This article was first published Mar 22, 2021 and updated Feb 29, 2024.

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