It is hard to believe that a place like Antigua still exists. With its hundreds of beaches for relaxing and hiking trails when feeling energetic, it is small, welcoming, and striving to ensure it stays environmentally sustainable.
A thousand miles east of Jamaica lies the twin-island nation of Antigua and Barbuda. Antigua means ancient in Spanish, though who gave the island its name remains a mystery. Created by a volcano eruption 30 million years ago, there are reefs full of tropical fish, ancient lagoons created by rising ocean waters, a lush rainforest, and an abundance of wildlife. Today, the island of Antigua is recognized as a true getaway location for people looking for a quiet, restful place, and for ecotourists it is both a place of rest and a chance to contribute to environmental sustainability at the same time. Antigua launched The Green Corridor in 1977, where natural sites are preserved and where businesses agree to a set of principles guiding respect for community, culture, economic viability, and environmental stewardship. From nature reserves to beach bars, environmentally-minded visitors find Antigua somewhere past, present, and future seamlessly blend.
STAY LOW ON WHITE BEACHES AND ENJOY WARM WATER AND TRADE WINDS<>/p>
Antigua is 108 square miles in size and only 13 miles across, which may perhaps be one reason why it has successfully maintained its culture even while welcoming tourists from around the world. Antigua has developed a reputation for offering a truly stress-free island experience, meaning you can enjoy mental and physical self-care while supporting Antigua’s devotion to environmental sustainability.
Ringed by coral reefs and separated from Barbuda by a lagoon, you will find plenty to see and do. Amazingly, the small island has 365 beaches, with sand so white you will need to keep your sunglasses on, and the blue water sparkle puts sapphire diamonds to shame. If this sounds poetic, it is because it is nearly impossible to not gush about the beauty. With so many beaches, how do you know which ones are the best to visit? You should decide what you want in a beach first. For example, if you want a beach off the beaten path, Hawksbill Bay and Landing Bay in the north, and Carlisle Bay in the south fit the bill. Some beaches have nearby amenities or are fairly isolated, and some are attached to resorts. The point is that you can always find a beach with the traits that make ipersonally ideal.
GO HIGH BY HIKING THROUGH THE RAINFOREST
There are lots of hiking opportunities around the island, but visiting a rainforest is a true pleasure for the eco-traveler. Once called Boggy Peak, Mount Obama in The Green Corridor is the highest point in Antigua at 1,319 feet. You can hike through bamboo and tropical forest to the panoramic views once you reach the top.
If you enjoy nature reserves, Antigua will not disappoint. In the Wallings Nature Reserve, the first community-managed National Park in the twin-island state, you have many choices to make. Some visitors choose the Wallings Eco tour because of its focus on the area’s history, flora, fauna, and birds. There are numerous hikes of varying difficulties to choose from, like the 2.82-mile hike through the rainforest or the five-mile hike to secluded Rendezvous Bay. You can hike with a guide or unassisted.
Besides the Wallings Nature Reserve, the Body Ponds Nature Park closer to the center of the island and the Wadadli Animal Nature Park in the east are good options. Body Ponds is a cultural and environmentally historical area, where some of the island’s rarest plants are found. The nature park is like an arboretum, with lush vegetation and interpretive signs indicating the name of the trees and shrubs and their history and characteristics. This park is a major effort to restore and preserve the natural environment and will be expanded at some point. It gives visitors a very different near-wilderness experience of woods and ponds, compared to the beach. It is a place of the type of tranquility that is getting infinitely harder to find anywhere you go.
The Wadadli Animal Nature Park is close to St. John’s, the capital city and a key port. The park is a small zoo filled with indigenous plants, animals, and exotic birds and is a fun place to learn about the island’s wildlife and habitat. The Wadadli Animal Nature Park is also a very colorful visit with its peacocks, cockatoos, and parakeets, in addition to turtles, monkeys, Fallow Deer, and iguanas. It even has a restaurant where you can enjoy local fare, giving you an immersive island experience.
STAY CONNECTED THROUGH CULTURE
As an eco-traveler, you may also want to learn more about Antigua’s past as well as enjoying its cultural present. Nelson’s Dockyard National Park is the largest Antigua National Park and is still used today. It is 15 square miles long on the south coastline and holds many of Antigua’s cultural treasures. The Antigua Naval Dockyard and Related Archeological Site is a World Heritage Site. It was born out of an offer by sugar planters to the British Crown in 1725 to use it for ships of war, with the hope it would inspire Navy investments in the island. It did not work out that way at the time, but it did trigger a long history of usage as wars were fought throughout history.
Nelson’s Dockyard National Park has beaches, hiking trails, and historic forts, such as Fort Berkeley and Fort Barrington. The park has some of the most scenic views of the island, ocean, and Nelson’s Dock. Shirley Heights Lookout is called THE VIEW of English Harbour and the Dockyard.
WEST-AFRICAN SPIRIT PREVAILS
Most Antiguans are descendants of African slaves originally brought to the island by English settlers. The West-African vibrancy and spirit are alive and well, and you will meet people who are friendly, casual, and welcoming. English is the official language, so for Americans there is no language barrier, except maybe when they encounter a Creole patois that emerged way back when former slaves imitated English plantation owners.
Eco-travelers looking for a laid-back place to relax while contributing to environmental sustainability should definitely look to Antigua. Though we have focused on Antigua, Barbuda also offers white-sand beaches, lagoons, and the Frigate Bird Sanctuary. Barbuda is only a lagoon away. Choose a resort or a secluded cabin near the beach, and you will discover what relaxing was meant to feel like.