Author: Jesson & Co / MNI Media | Date: 06 May 2021
In the midst of a pandemic keeping travellers at home and away from the beaches, we wouldn’t fault you for thinking that some tropical destinations may be in the midst of an identity crisis. Not so.... at least in the case of the beautiful sister islands of Antigua and Barbuda! The Caribbean’s capital for beautiful beaches (365, but who’s counting?) and incredible rainforests has undergone something of a hiking renaissance as locals and travellers alike flock to the social-but-still-socially-distanced activity. Antigua and Barbuda is embracing its new reputation as a hiking haven and it isn’t hard to see why: the destination is a verdant wonderland boasting stunning biodiversity.
The transition to hiking as a premier activity in the destination is being led from the top: the Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority team has been using the activity to build stronger bonds and deepen their connection with the destination. For families, friends, and business associates, hiking can be a fun and healthy way to experience the incredible nature of Antigua and Barbuda while getting to enjoy some sorely missed social dynamics.
In this edition of the newsletter, we proudly present a hiking primer for Antigua and Barbuda, spotlighting some of the best locales on the island(s) for hikers of all stripes.
Before You Go
The team from the Antigua & Barbuda Tourism Authority on one of their weekly hikes
As with any outdoor activity, planning ahead is important both for maximizing your fun and ensuring your safety, even in a Caribbean paradise like Antigua and Barbuda. To get the inside scoop, we asked Colin James; CEO of the ABTA, for some of his top tips. Mr. James has recently reignited his love of hiking in the wake of COVID and is sharing that passion with the rest of the team at the Antigua & Barbuda Tourism Authority, leading them on regular weekend team building excursions to some of the islands’ most stunning vistas. On the Do’s and Don’ts, Mr. James had this to say:
Dress for the occasion. Leave the sandals on the beach and opt for a comfortable pair of runners. Wear light, breathable clothing with long sleeves and pants. Antigua and Barbuda is a green and leafy destination and no one enjoys branch scratches!
Pack lots of water and sunscreen. Soak up as much of that Caribbean sun as you can but keep your skin healthy and your body hydrated.
Choose to hike with a trusted, knowledgeable guide. There is no shortage of local experts happy to not only show you the trails, but also share their story and history with you.
Forget the bug spray, especially if you hike at dawn and dusk. The bugs have a taste for foreign cuisine!
Bite off more than you can chew. Start slow, opting for gentle trails as you acclimatize to the destination. Start with a hike of no longer than an hour before stretching it out into something longer.
Forget to pack a bathing suit. Nothing beats jumping into the cool waters of the Caribbean after going up and down a mountain. It’s a bonus that so many of the destination’s trails border the sea!
Where to Go
With those helpful tips out of the way, we’re free to jump right into the hiking hotspots you won’t want to miss. There are options here for every experience level, reflecting the incredible diversity of the destination’s natural offerings. We’ve even included some of the ABTA’s personal recommendations!
Jones Valley Trail
This 3km stretch of shady hills is reachable from either Galleon Bay or the famously breathtaking Shirley Heights. An hour-long hike on a well-marked path encircled by Acacia trees eventually gives way to the photogenic ruins of a colonial barracks. Jones Valley Trail is an ideal starting hike due to its easily accessible location, captivating sea views, and desirable connectivity to the well-regarded Lookout Trail and Carpenter Rock Trail.
Sleeping Indian Hills. Photo courtesy of the Antigua & Barbuda Tourism Authority
Sleeping Indian Hills
The personal favourite of Colin James, singled out for acclaim due to its incredible view of nearby hub Jolly Harbour and the unspoilt Seaforth Beach. You can expect elevation, but the hills are rather gentle and the presence of dirt trails means you won’t have to do very much bushwhacking. Natural, tranquil, and unbelievably memorable. One of the very best places to watch the sun rise on either island.
Walling’s Nature Reserve. Photo courtesy of the Antigua & Barbuda Tourism Authority
Difficulty: Beginner to Moderate
Another locale loved by the ABTA team, Walling’s Dam is a hub for trails that run to some of the most beloved locations on the island, including Signal Hill, Falmouth Harbour, and Rendezvous Bay. This forested area in the heart of Old Road is a primo picnic and photography venue, with moderate elevation offering desirable views of land and sea. Block out a few hours to do all the trails in one go or come back again and again to enjoy everything on offer here.
Renamed in honour of the 44th President of the United States, the mountain formerly known as Boggy Peak is the highest on the island(s). Likely the most demanding hike on this list but still very manageable, you’ll want to block out about 2 hours to cover the 1,300 ft elevation both ways. The southside trail offers a cement road, while the northside trails are a little wilder. This is a true tropical rainforest hike offering incredible views of the sea (and even Montserrat!) on a clear day.
The caves of Barbuda, photo courtesy of Simply Antigua Barbuda
Two Foot Bay Cave
We couldn’t wrap things up without mentioning the beautiful Barbuda! Antigua’s lush sister is known for its many natural cave formations. The oceanside caves at Two Foot Bay contain authentic Arawak petroglyphs and all manner of endemic wildlife, including iguanas and bats. While getting to the highlands at the top involves a little bit of climbing through the interconnected tunnels, it’s possible to remain almost completely horizontal by staying in the lower caves.