About Antigua and Barbuda
365 Beautiful Beaches. Fascinating History. Sailing and Stingrays.
Antigua (pronounced an-TEE-ga) and Barbuda are the main islands, among a bevy of smaller ones including uninhabitable Redonda (the rugged, rock remnant of a volcanic caldera) that comprise a sovereign state lying between the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea. This multi-island nation is situated slightly south of midway in the Leeways Island chain and part of the Lesser Antilles. Antigua and Barbuda is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary form of government, headed by a prime minister. Antigua, with a population of just under 100,000, is home to the capital of St. John's which serves as the country's largest port.
With its shallow, crystal-clear water, Antigua is a popular sailing and yachting destination, and the ideal Caribbean retreat for those appreciating a more luxurious experience. As such, Antigua is a popular choice when it comes to selecting the perfect villa destination as there are many exceptional properties that are either part of a resort with top-shelf services or stand-alone private residences and estates.
Barbuda is a great place for day-tripping (there are tours) to meander along the virgin beaches (such as Princess Diana Beach, Pink Sand Beach, Coco Point and 17-Mile Beach), snorkel in the Palaster Reef Marine Reserve which has old shipwrecks in addition to reefs, explore caves and - most popular - bird watching at the Frigate Bird Sanctuary (a photographer's delight!).
A little history and geography ...
Antigua was discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1493 whereby he named the island for the Church of Santa Maria La Antigua. Antigua was colonized by Britain in 1632. British influence holds a strong presence throughout the island. Antigua's 108 square miles features an irregular coastline that is peppered with beaches (365 - one for every day of the year), some quite spectacular with pristine white sand, hidden bays, and offshore reefs and shoals making for excellent swimming, snorkeling, and diving conditions. Several inlets - including the world-famous English Harbour (favorite of sailors and yachtsmen) and Parham - provide anchorage. St. John's has a deepwater harbor which can accommodate cruise ships. Unlike other Leeward Islands, Antigua has an absence of mountains and forests; there are no rivers, and with an average rainfall of about 40", the island is quite arid.
Barbuda, a 62 square-mile, flat and well-wooded, coral island - whose largest town is Codrington (the island's only settlement) - was first colonized in 1678. It is even dryer than Antigua, with less rainfall and no streams or lakes, with a climate similar to Antigua.
Redonda - valued for its wealth of phosphate found in the plethora of bird guano that covered the rock- was first landed in 1687. Mining of the guano began in the 1860s, and in 1869, Redondo was annexed to Antigua thus becoming a dependency.
Antigua (including Redonda) and Barbuda became part of the West Indies Federation in 1958 and, with the dissolution of the federation, became one of the West Indies Associated States in 1967.
Currently, there are no direct flights to Beef Island Airport on Tortola, the main international port of entry, so you must pass through another Caribbean island airport. Depending on where you are coming from, these include Antigua, St. Thomas, Puerto Rico, St. Kitts and St. Maarten. From there, visitors have a choice of utilizing a network of private charter flights (plus some helicopter flights) or water taxis (called ferries) to transfer to the islands. Flight times to Beef Island International Airport are as follows:
2 hours from Miami
3 hours from New York
8 hours from London
What To Expect
Overall, the BVIs are known for their magnificent, calm, azure sea which provides the perfect conditions for sailing and yachting. Steeped in the history of the British Navy, the islands are ringed by shipwrecks; the most famous of these - The RMS Rhone - is now a national marine park, and a favorite scuba diving point. Outside of the country's capital, Road Town, and save for a few upscale hotels on Virgin Gorda, the islands are quiet ... an early to bed, early to rise, play by day kind of destination ... with, perhaps, the rare exception of the Full Moon Party at the Bomba Shack on Tortola - not to be missed if you are staying in the area.
There is water taxi service from Road Town and Trellis Bay on Beef Island (right around the corner from the airport) to the other islands, making it convenient to visit several of the islands during your stay.
Tortola, the largest of the four main islands, is home to the low-key capital, Road Town (where you will find a wide variety of restaurants, shops and markets), Sage Mountain National Park, a verdant rainforest and the destination's only major airport: the international Beef Island Airport (EIS), which is on Tortola's adjoining Beef Island.
Main Street in Road Town features everything from local spices, jams, rums and soaps to handcrafted jewelry, silk-screened fabrics and local art. The destination's rich cultural mix (as outlined in the information above about the BVI's history) offers up some of the most interesting cuisine to be found in the Caribbean, including fresh lobster, conch, goat curries, Johnny Cakes and West Indian roti.
Apple Bay Beach is known for having some of the best surfing conditions in the Caribbean. Brewer's Bay Beach is home to some spectacular ruins, and has some of the best snorkeling on the island. Beautiful Elizabeth Beach (Lambert Bay) has soft white sand and sheltering palm groves. The western end of Long Bay offers peaceful solitude and ideal swimming. At the western-most end of Tortola, Smuggler's Cove - while hard to reach - is secluded, sheltered and serene. Accessible by an unpaved yet passable road, those "in the know" are drawn to its warm, clear water, adventurous snorkeling, and sea turtle sightings.
The history buff will be delighted with a full menu of cultural and historical attractions, including the 1780 Lower Estate Sugar Works Museum, Fort Burt, Mount Healthy WIndmill, Callwood's Rum Distillers, J.R. O'Neil Botanical Gardens, and Old Government House Museum.
Jost Van Dyke is named for an early Dutch settler and former pirate. Rugged scenery and colorful folklore make up Jost Van Dyke. With fewer than 300 inhabitants, it measures just four miles by three, with the highest point at 1,054 feet and has been home to Arawak Indians, Caribs, Dutch, Africans and the British. Notable inhabitants have included William Thornton, architect of the U.S. Capitol Building, and John Lettsome, founder of the London Medical Society.
As a point of interest, William Thornton was born on
May 20, 1759 on Jost Van Dyke and died on March 28, 1828 in Washington, D.C.. He was educated in Scotland as a physician, but rarely practiced his profession. As an architect, Thornton was self-taught. He also was a painter, and an inventor. William Thornton's plantation on Tortola was located in the Pleasant Valley area near Nanny Cay. A few entrepreneurs named a party ship - the William Thornton or Willy-T - after him and, if you enjoy the scene, a visit to the Willy-T (off Norman Island) is a heck of a lot of fun.
Virgin Gorda attracts travelers with its protected harbor and anchorages, quiet coves, luxury resorts and villas. The Baths (a labyrinth of boulders on the water's edge) on Virgin Gorda - the third largest island in the BVI chain - is one of the most photographed places in the Caribbean. This eight and a half square mile island is home to a bevy of beautiful unspoiled beaches - such as Savannah Bay, Pond Bay, Devil's Bay, Maho Bay and Spring Bay - for swimming, snorkeling and enjoying spectacular sunsets.
Virgin Gorda's indigenous flora are well displayed on trails, in nature sanctuaries and Gorda Peak, a 260-acre national park donated by Lawrence Rockefellar in 1974. Other points of interest include Devil's Bay National Park; Spring Bay National Park (great for families - has a picnic area and swings); Little Fort National Park with its Spanish ruins; Valey Trunk Bay (for turtle watching); and The Baths, a collection of massive granite boulders as large as 40 feet in diameter, with white sand beaches and mysterious rock pools - not to be missed!
Also on Virgin Gorda is the Copper Mine, which has an intriguing history starting with the AmerIndians who used the metal to devise tools, and the Cornish laborers and their 1800s settlement.
Anegada's claim to fame is the lobster caught off the island's shores, said to be the best in the Caribbean. Named Anegada or the “Drowned Land” by the Spanish, Anegada is the only coral island in the Virgin Islands’s volcanic chain. Measuring 11 miles by three, its highest point is just 28 feet above sea level. Striking coral reefs surround the island, including the Eastern Caribbean’s third largest continuous reef, Horseshoe Reef. Secluded, white sandy beaches protected by the sheltering reef make for ideal swimming conditions and include: Cow Wreck Beach, Flash of Beauty, Bones Bight and Windlass Bight.
Snorkelers and scuba divers will delight in the reef’s mazes, tunnels and dropoffs, which are rich in needle fish, mojarra, stingrays, parrot fish and other marine life, while those with sea legs will enjoy watersports, sport fishing and bonefishing. You can also explore the wreckages of numerous Spanish galleons, American privateers and British warships.
Discover the island’s history through a maze of stone walls that surround the Main Town’s Settlement, or through the Arawak’s ancient conch burial mounds in the East End.
Anegada can be reached via the ferry or charter aircraft.
Enjoy protected anchorages and unspoiled beaches shaded with coconut palms and seagrape trees at Great Harbour, Little Harbour and White Bay. Indulge in Jost Van Dyke’s favored cuisine, such as barbecues, West Indian rotis, flying fish sandwiches, grilled fresh fish and lobster. Club Paradise is famous for its conch stew and barbecued ribs, while the Caribbean’s most famous cocktail, “The Painkiller,” was invented at The Soggy Dollar Bar. Great Harbour is world-famous for its yacht-filled parties on Halloween and New Year’s Eve.
What You Won't Find
There are no high-rise hotels, fast food restaurants, pushy beach peddlers, aggressive shopkeepers, timeshares or gambling.
What To Do
Take full advantage of the water taxis (ferries) that run among the islands, or charter a captained boat (we can help you) and do a private tour. Have lunch at a different place each day, or pack a picnic lunch (cheese, bread, fruit and champagne or wine) and explore any of the beautiful beaches (as mentioned above) that the destination boasts. Whether swimming from shore or a boat, the snorkeling is amazing in some of the clearest water in the Caribbean.
Why People Come Here
The beauty of the BVIs draws a wide sweep of visitors. Honeymooners desiring privacy and seclusion. Families wanting to explore the culture and history of the island to augment their beach time. Snorkelers and scuba divers attracted by the abundant reefs and numerous wrecks. Over-stressed friends bent on having a fun-filled, active vacation that includes hitting some of the most interesting bars in the Caribbean. Because these islands benefit from a healthy economy, you won't find the same amount of poverty that you might in other Caribbean destinations.
Other BVIs Norman Island is one of several islands in the BVI that reputedly inspired Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel Treasure Island. Norman Island has so many caves, hidden bays and wrecks that explorers still hope to find treasure. Cooper Island lies adjacent to ‘wreck alley’ where vessels have been deliberately sunk to create dive sites. This is a popular spot for divers who can also rent tanks and equipment from a local store. Peter Island, Necker Island and Guana Island are among the few remaining privately-owned islands. Guana Island boasts powder-soft, sandy white beaches, acres of tropical forest, hills and valleys and reputedly more flora and fauna than any island of its size in the Caribbean and possibly the world.
VHR, WORLDWIDE has been offering a selection of the finest private homes, villa resorts and private islands in the BVIs for more than three decades. We know the destination well because we have worked for hotels and private islands there - and we travel to the island regularly. We are personally acquainted with a sizable selection of lovely vacation homes and villa resorts throughout the islands, some of which may be found on this site.
VHR, WORLDWIDE's properties are generally staffed with a housekeeper. While a few villas have a cook, most do not but with ample advance notice we may be able to arrange the services of a chef or cook for you. Arrangements for services not provided can be made upon request, at extra cost, including a car rental which is a must on Tortola and Virgin Gorda to take in all that these islands have to offer.
"Our honeymoon could not have been nicer or more romantic. The villa was perfect! Thank you for
making our special trip a memorable experience. We will book with you again, and have already
recommended you to friends who are planning their family reunion in the Caribbean!"
- Cathy and Steve