Natural beauty and historical landmarks serve as a source of inspiration for many hikers and the trails of Antigua and Barbuda offer both in large quantities.
While the beaches and aquatic activities are the primary reasons tourists flock to Antigua and Barbuda, the islands’ trails allow guests to see historic, colonial-period landmarks and observe the islands’ natural beauty.
Monks Hill and Fort George Trail
The Monks Hill and Fort George Trail is one of Antigua’s points of interest that combine the island’s historic and natural aspects. A major plus about this trail is it does not receive as much attention from outdoor enthusiasts, which makes Monks Hill ideal for trekkers who prefer peace and quiet on their hike. The trail runs less than a half-mile up Monks Hill and allows you to see much of Antigua from the hilltop.
Upon reaching the top of Monks Hill, hikers will see the remains of Fort George, a 18th century British overlooking Antigua Bay. Fort George was built for Britain’s attempt to prevent the French from invading Antigua. The Brits’ painstaking work now benefits modern-day travelers since the fort’s dilapidated walls provide you with a place to sit while they enjoy the hill’s breathtaking views.
Credit: Ken Lund
Frigate Bird Sanctuary
Located on Barbuda, the Frigate Bird Sanctuary is a primarily wetlands area with over 170 bird species who inhabit the reserve throughout the year. Frigate is only accessible by a boat ride from Antigua, but the ride only lasts about 10 minutes. The keynote bird at the Sanctuary is the frigatebird, a sea-dwelling bird with black feathers on its entire body except for the bright red plumage on its chest. One unique aspect of the frigatebird is that its 85- to 91-inch wingspan is longer than its entire body.
The trails in Frigate Bird Sanctuary also afford tourists the opportunity to stroll along Barbuda’s beautiful and largely undeveloped pink sand beaches. Other trails pass through the Sanctuary’s scrublands area, where you can see the Barbuda warbler, a bird only found on Barbuda. The most optimal time to visit Frigate is from December to April; this is when migratory birds are usually found on the island.
English Harbor is one of Antigua’s most visited historical locations, providing visitors with views of Freeman’s Bay and the renowned Nelson’s Dockyard. Named after the British admiral, Horatio Nelson, the Dockyard features Georgian-period architecture and docks stretching into the bay – an inspiring starting point for your English Harbor trek.
One trail in particular, the Middle Ground Trail, runs along the Bay’s shoreline from Nelson’s Dockyard to historic destinations such as Fort Berkeley and Fort Culyer. Both forts are still intact since English Harbor did not witness any major battles during Antigua’s colonial period. The trail leading to Fort Berkeley is an uphill path, allowing you to catch scenic views of the Bay and Caribbean Sea.
Credit: Ken Lund
When to Go
Temperatures for hiking are most moderate in Antigua and Barbuda in the late winter and early spring months. Of course, this is when tourism is at its peak at the islands, so the trails may be more crowded than you may prefer.
However, temperatures rarely drop below 60 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit so you never want to wear warm clothing for hiking, even in the winter. During the summer, temperatures can exceed 80 degrees, which may feel sweltering during a hike. Regardless of what time you decide to hike, be sure to drink plenty of fluids before, during and after your trek.
What to wear: breathable shirts and pants, a hat and shoes with tough soles.
Credit: Ken Lund
An obvious opportunity to hike on Antigua and Barbuda’s trails is while vacationing on the island. However, the islands’ capitol, St. Johns, is a frequent stopping place for cruise lines and the ships’ passengers may check out trails as part of their off-shore activities. Many of Antigua’s trails are within a half-hour driving distance of St. Johns, but going to Barbuda requires a 10 to 25 minute boat ride, depending on where you are going.
In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks. – John Muir
When To Go
The late winter and early spring months (December to April) are the best times to attempt hiking in Antigua and Barbuda.
While you do not want to wear shorts while hiking, make sure to dress in breathable clothing. The average year-round temperatures in Antigua and Barbuda range between 65 to 80°F (18 to 27°C), but the climate tends to be cooler in the winter.
Getting There & Around
Travelers from outside the Caribbean almost always arrive at Antigua’s V.C. Bird International Airport on commercial flights. Puddle jumpers from other Caribbean islands have access to Barbuda’s Codrington Airport.
After arriving, tourists can take advantage of taxi services and Antigua’s public transportation vehicles.
- Mid-range accommodations: $15-$40
- Meals: $5-$20
- Beer: $2.50-$3.50
- Wear hiking boots or lightweight walking boots when hitting the trail.
- Wash your hands immediately if you come into contact with manchineel, a tree with poisonous fruit and sap.
- Tip taxi drivers 10-15 percent of the fare if you are using their services to get around.
- Don’t leave for the day before packing fluids such as water or Powerade.
- Don’t enter a vehicle that do not have the letters “HA” or “HB” on their license plates. The plates on all Antigua and Barbuda public transportation vehicles bear these letters.
- Don’t wear revealing clothing while you are on a hike. Revealing clothing is only appropriate on the beach and is culturally offensive in Antigua and Barbuda if worn anywhere else.
- One of the main agricultural crops in Antigua and Barbuda is the sugar cane. Sugarcane stalks are available to suck on, which provides a tasty and healthy treat.
- The national weed is Antigua and Barbuda, widdy widdy, is edible and has a good flavor if cooked.
- Christopher Columbus paid Antigua a visit in 1493 while he was serving Spain.
Feature Image Credit: Ken Lund