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ANTIGUA & BARBUDA

Antigua and Barbuda are popular vacation spots for well-heeled travelers who could choose to vacation anywhere. In the case of Antigua (pronounced an-TEE-gah), the major attraction is an abundance of sun and immaculate white sand. Add some of the most luxurious villas and exclusive resorts in the Caribbean, and the island is a veritable magnet of attractions for any taste.

Antigua's smaller island dependencies include Barbuda (pronounced bar-byou-dah), about 25 mi north of Antigua (more of a bird sanctuary than a lavish resort) and the uninhabited Redonda, 35 mi to the southwest.

Antigua, however, does have some vacation hotels for travelers who aren't as wealthy (and more, in fact, than its high-end neighbors, Anguilla and St. Barts). Antigua also has excellent golf courses, forested hills and beautiful offshore islands. It's a favorite destination for yachters.

Note: Antigua sustained minimal damage during Hurricane Irma in September 2017, but Barbuda was devastated. Following the storm, the island's entire population was evacuated. Recovery will take years. Travelers should investigate current conditions prior to planning a visit.

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Geography

The Antiguan terrain rises gently from the water and consists of rolling hills that were cleared for sugarcane fields. They still turn emerald green during the rainy season, but at other times the island, which covers 108 sq mi looks rather scruffy.

The vegetation on Antigua isn't boring, however. It consists of many different kinds of cacti, and along the beaches, you'll find coconut, tamarind and sea-grape trees. There are flowering plants, often in profusion—hibiscus, oleander, bougainvillea and the bright red poinciana tree, also known as the flamboyant. The vegetation provides cover for crested hummingbirds and the yellow-breasted bananaquit.

The highest point on Antigua is Mount Obama (1,319 ft high). It serves as the focal point of Mount Obama National Park, named in tribute to former U.S. President Obama.

Barbuda, a flat coral island of 62 sq mile with a large lagoon on one side, has a tiny population and a slower pace. But it also has miles of beautiful pink- and white-sand beaches and excellent places for snorkeling.

History

The Siboney Indians originally inhabited Antigua and Barbuda and were succeeded by the Arawak. The Arawak, in turn, were forced out by the aggressive (and possibly cannibalistic) Caribs. Christopher Columbus named Antigua in 1493, but attempts by the Spanish and French to colonize the islands failed. They remained unsettled by Europeans until the 1630s, when the British established a colony on Antigua. Soon, sugar plantations powered by African slaves covered Antigua, and Barbuda was largely used to grow food for the workforce.

Unlike many Caribbean islands, Antigua and Barbuda were not subjected to numerous changes of government in the colonial period. Except for a brief period of French rule, the English held control of the islands from the early 1600s until they achieved independence in 1981.

With the decline of the sugar market and the abolition of slavery in 1834, the islands went into an economic decline. Though unproductive, the large plantations were not redistributed after slavery ended, as they were on many Caribbean islands. This helped create desperate conditions for the former slaves, which led to unrest in the early 1900s.

Today, descendants of slaves are the primary inhabitants of the island nation, and tourism has helped ease the economic hardships of some residents. Antigua and Barbuda remain part of the British Commonwealth.

For many years, the Bird family dominated the country's politics. Vere Bird Sr. (known as "Papa Bird"), a powerful figure from the 1940s onward, was prime minister from 1981 until 1993, when his son, Lester Bird, succeeded him. The Bird family dynasty came to an end with the election of Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer and his "Sunshine Government" in 2004.

 
 

Dos & Don'ts

Do book far in advance if you're visiting during Carnival in late July or during Sailing Week in April.

Do ask whether a price is being quoted in U.S. or Eastern Caribbean dollars: Both are widely accepted, but they are not equal in value.

Do be aware that, at 17 degrees above the equator, the sun is very strong—even on cloudy days. Always wear sunscreen and a hat.

Don't wear camouflage clothing in Antigua and Barbuda—it's illegal, and you could face a hefty fine.

Do try to see a cricket match at the Recreation Grounds in St. John's or one of the fields outside of the city (games are often held on weekends, January-July). Cricket is big on Antigua. Viv Richards, a world-famous Antiguan player, even has a street named after him in St. John's and was named a national hero—not to mention a title: He is now Sir Vivian.

Do try Wadadli, the local beer (it's brewed under German guidelines). Also try the local light rum, Cavalier.

Don't waste water. Antigua lacks groundwater, so drinking water is either collected from rainfall or processed through a desalination plant at Crabbs. Many hotels have desalination plants.

Geostats

Passport/Visa Requirements: All U.S. citizens must have a passport when traveling by air

Proof of return or onward passage and sufficient funds may be required. A US$26 departure tax is included in all ticket prices. Reconfirm travel document requirements with your carrier before departure.

Population: 103,050.

Languages: English, often spoken with a Caribbean patois.

Predominant Religions: Christian (Anglican).

Time Zone: 4 hours behind Greenwich Mean Time (-4 GMT). Daylight Saving Time is not observed.

Voltage Requirements: 110 volts in some hotels and 220 volts everywhere else; 60 cycles. Ask when you book whether you'll need to take a converter.

Telephone Codes: 268, country code;

WEATHER

Temperatures are usually warm in Antigua and Barbuda. Daytime readings range 75-80 F/25-30 C and nights about 10 degrees F/5 degrees C cooler. It's often sunny and arid with a pleasant breeze blowing.

The island is the driest in the eastern Caribbean, with an average annual rainfall of about 45 in/114 cm. During the dry season (roughly January-April), brown is the predominant landscape color. Residents might suffer from the droughts, but for visitors, the low rainfall and constant easterly breezes create one of the most pleasant climates in the West Indies. An exception is hurricane season (July-November), when it's cloudier, hotter and more humid. However, unless there's actually a hurricane in the neighborhood, even that season can be pleasant, and prices are more reasonable then.

Travel 42

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Courtesy of: Darla Logsdon

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