The Base Of Our Hiking Adventures
Antigua, our base island, offers the best of everything; fantastic beaches (there are said to be 365 so one for each day of the year), historical sites and, of course, great hiking opportunities. Although slightly smaller than the Isle of White you won’t be short of opportunities on the island for relaxation or adventure.
Christopher Columbus is believed to be the first European to have visited Antigua in 1493. He named the island in honour of the Virgin of the Old Cathedral found in the Seville Cathedral in Southern Spain. Like many of the Caribbean islands Antigua became a centre for the slave trade during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and the remains of sugar plantations can still be seen all over the island. Antigua was also the main base for the British Navy under the command of Lord Horatio Nelson and his historic dockyard in English Harbour is now a Unesco World Heritage site.
Antigua today is a thriving hub for the tourist industry as well as increasingly financial services and on-line gaming. The island gained independence from the UK in 1968, but remains a member of the Commonwealth. It has a stable economy and political system although the residents like an animated political discussion almost as much as they love their cricket.
Antigua is also world-renowned for its sailing. It hosts the annual Antigua Sailing week and Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta which are centred on the area around Nelson’s Dockyard known as English Harbour. It is also the finish line for the cross Atlantic rowing race. A popular hideaway for many celebrities who have homes on the island including Eric Clapton and Oprah Winfry.
The capital of Antigua, St Johns, is a bustling town and port and well worth a visit for its markets and museums. St John’s also includes the famous Antigua Recreation Cricket Ground where Antiguan cricketing legends (and National Heroes), Vivian Richards, Curtley Ambrose and Richie Richardson used to routinely put the hapless English team to the sword. The ‘Rec’ is also the pitch where Brian Lara scored the highest ever individual test score of 400, also against England, in 2004, although international cricket on the island is now played at the modern Sir Vivian Richards Stadium just outside St John’s.
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Our recommended accommodation in Antigua Sugar Ridge is Antigua’s newest luxury resort and is the perfect base for your stay on the island. It has a range of accommodation options for you including Deluxe and Premium suites some with individual plunge pools.
Sugar Ridge’s 60 rooms wrap around an exotic tropical hillside providing undisturbed seclusion. The resort contains three pools and two restaurants and lounges. The 2500 sq. ft. Aveda Concept Spa – the only one in Antigua – has plenty of options to keep you pampered, and the Cybex Fitness Centre will ensure you can stay healthy and fit during your stay. Sugar Ridge have also recently added ‘The Shed’ yoga studio at the top of the resort where you can watch the sunset over the Caribbean while exercising. Sugar Ridge also run a complementary shuttle bus to the white sand beaches of Turner’s and Valley Church or you can hire a bike to explore the resort and its surroundings including the beaches, restaurants and shops of Jolly Harbour which adjoin Sugar Ridge.
The fun and activity doesn’t stop when the sun goes down. Five nights a week can enjoy a variety of live entertainment in the Sugar Club lounger, watch movies under the stars on the pool deck or take one a guided evening hike. You can also choose to eat in the Sugar Club, or the fine dining restaurant Carmichael’s or one of the hosts of local restaurants within walking distance of the resort.
Our preferred base in Antigua is Sugar Ridge as it has all the facilities you need for an active holiday, but we have other options on the island to suit different budgets are requirements. At the higher end, Curtain Bluff offers a more traditional Caribbean experience with excellent water sports facilities from its two beaches. At the lower end, Ocean Inn down in English Harbour has excellent access to hikes around that area as well as beautiful views of the historic dockyard.
Short / easy
The 2-hour Nature Walk winds through the colourful Orange Valley with its numerous farms and varieties of plant life. Your guide will point out trees and plants of interest and explain their various uses. This walk ends by hiking along Ffryes and Valley Church Beaches, where you can then relax with a cool drink and a dip in the ocean. He launches this hike every Wednesday starting at 7 am.
Medium length / medium difficulty (a steep section at the top but on tarmac road)
The highest point in Antigua, Mount Obama (although the locals still refer to it by its original name of Boggy Peak). This challenging hike starts in Christian Valley where you can see a variety of local fruit trees, the takes you through a variety of habitats where you can see remnants from Antigua’s colonial past. From the top, you will get unrivalled views over the whole of Antigua as well as neighbouring islands of Montserrat, Guadeloupe, St Kitts and Nevis on a clear day. The return is down towards the coast at Cades Bay past Antigua’s past a Pineapple farm where Antigua’s famous Black Pineapple is grown.
Walling’s Dam to Carlisle Bay
Medium length / easy (mainly downhill)
One of our other favourite hikes in Antigua is from Walling’s Dam in the rainforest, down through a variety of different woodland to Rendezvous Bay, where you can enjoy a swim on a deserted beach and watch the world go by. You then follow a coastal path along to the beautiful Carlisle Bay with its five-star hotel where you will be picked up and taken back to Sugar Ridge.
Shirley Heights and English Harbour
Short / medium difficulty
We also offer hikes in and around the historic Nelson’s dockyard area. Here there are many interlinking routes which take you around the remains of the seventeenth century port and up to Shirley Heights where you will witness unforgettable views of the dockyard, the beautiful harbour and the surrounding island. The hike involves traversing dry jungle where you will see all types of weird and wonderful cacti which grow amongst the relics of the areas sea faring past, including grave stones dating back hundreds of years, and ruins of guard houses.
Shirley Heights, English Harbour and The Pillars of Hercules
Medium length / Medium difficulty
This hike covers the same ground as the previous hike, but you also go back down from Shirley heights to the coast to see the Pillars of Hercules a series of huge limestone pillars which are etched into the cliff face. The hike ends at Galleon beach opposite English Harbour.
There are lots of other opportunities for walking in Antigua whether it be the rugged East Coast, including Devil’s Bridge, the villages and farms in the central part of the islands or the 365 beaches which Antigua prides itself on. In fact, if you fancy refreshment during your visit, Antigua has recently introduced a beach bar tour which includes stop offs at traditional bars and rum shacks.
Away from hiking Antigua has great diving particularly out on the reefs on the Eastern side of the island and is one of the World’s major sailing hubs. For cricket lovers, there is the opportunity to visit some of the islands historic grounds or we can even arrange for you to meet the ex-West Indies captain Richie Richardson. Whatever else you want to do in Antigua we at Hike Caribbean are sure we can arrange it!