Best of Barbuda
With just three proper resorts (and a handful more guesthouses), Barbuda remains an undiscovered Caribbean hideaway, perfect for an off-the-beaten track holiday. Antigua’s sister island lies just 27-miles to the north, but feels worlds away. Barbuda’s major export is sand, which despite shipping out by the ton, it still has plenty of, in silky pink and white, fronting its gin-clear, aquamarine sea. It’s also home to a thriving reef system providing excellent snorkeling and amazing birdlife.
Since Barbuda is so isolated, and transport can be tricky, one great way to explore the island is with the Barbuda Express Day Tour. The trip, which costs around $160, takes in all the island’s major sites. These include a boat ride through the frigate bird sanctuary, exploring the east-coast caves that’s walls are covered in ancient Arawak drawings, and a fresh lobster lunch on one of Barbuda’s famed and secluded pink sand beaches. This same company also runs a once-daily catamaran ferry between Antigua and Barbuda. The trip takes 90-minutes. Boat trips depart from the ferry landing in the harbor in Codrington, the only village on the island. Also in the vicinity of the ferry landing is the 56ft-high Martello Tower, which is a former fortified looking out station that resembles an old sugar mill from a distance, and makes for a classic Barbuda photograph.
Beginning at Palmetto Point, at the southeastern most tip of the island, and separating the rough Atlantic waters from the quiet tranquility that is Codrington Lagoon, is a narrow swath of barrier land that runs north for 11-miles, and on one side includes one of the most stunning and isolated beaches in the Caribbean. A strip of pillow soft pink sand runs parallel to the calm turquoise, crystal-clear lagoon and apart from the Lighthouse Bay Resort, there is nothing here but sand and sea. No other hotels, or bars, or restaurants or evening a fishing shanty interrupt the natural landscape. And the remoteness of Barbuda, and this beach in particular, make it perfect for meditation, solitude or romance as it’s often void of other people too.
Barbuda’s most accessible beaches are located on its equally stunning southern shore. Here you’ll find the gorgeous Coral Group Bay and Access Beach, located about a half-mile north of Coco Point, which is where to head for excellent just offshore DIY snorkeling amid untouched coral reefs. There is more fantastic snorkeling in the unpolluted waters of Gravenor Bay, which is located between Coco and Spanish Points, and is home to thriving reef formations. Coco Point is where Barbuda’s leeward and windward sides meet. Make sure to walk out to this tip – it feels like walking the end of the world. The uninhabited peninsula that leads down to Spanish Point is also of note, as archaeologists believe it was once the location of a major Arawak settlement and today tours are offered to the caves where walls are adorned with ancient drawings. This area is also home to one of the island’s three resorts, the Coco Point Lodge.
With just nine suites in the middle of untouched and wildly gorgeous, pink-sand wonder of 11 Mile Beach, Lighthouse Bay Resort is Barbuda’s most exclusive lodging option and the ultimate spot to just unplug from digital reality for a few days. On a spit of land between the untamed Atlantic and a calm, shallow and picture-perfect lagoon, Lighthouse Bay is beyond secluded. There isn’t much to do beyond just being Zen, although boat tours to the famed Frigate Bird Sanctuary can be arranged, as can massage therapy or horseback riding along the sand. Also make sure to rise at least once for sunrise: it is an utterly stupendous experience. Because there is literally no other businesses anywhere near this property, prices are all-inclusive for meals and drinks. And the food served in the al fresco air restaurant is quite good – don’t skip the lobster salad. The beachfront bar is open until 11:30pm and makes all the classic island cocktail concoctions plus a mean fresh fruit smoothie.
Barbuda is a birders paradise, home to some 170 avian species, including one of the largest frigate bird colonies on the plant. Located in the vast Codrington Lagoon, which also hosts dozens of other species, off the island’s northwest coast, is the Frigate Bird Sanctuary, which is home to more than 5,000 of these black-feathered birds that like to roost amid the scrubby mangroves found here. Visit the sanctuary during mating season (September to April) if possible. The birds have a fascinating ritual. While the female birds circle above, the male frigates line up in the bushes with their heads arched and chests puffed, and try to attract he attention of a potential mate. When a female frigate sees a male that she fancies she lands at his feet and begins the mating ritual. The lagoon can only be accessed by licensed sea taxi from the jetty in Codrington – boat drivers act as tour guides. Arrangements can be made through your hotel. The taxi tour costs about $70 for up to four people, and admission to the park is just $2 per person.
On the southwest coast around Coral Group, Uncle Roddy’s is a fabulous solar-powered beach bar and restaurant that makes for a great spot to spend a lazy afternoon or come for sunset cocktails and dinner. If you want to eat – and you should, the grilled lobster and other seafood they cook up beachside is fresh and delicious – then you need to reserve 24 hours in advance, as they only buy enough ingredients for confirmed guests. The bar serves all the usual tropical cocktails including Roddy’s signature drink, the Barbuda Smash. Roddy’s does lunch and dinner (again only with reservations). Look for Roddy’s right next to the Barbuda Cottages, which is a locally run guesthouse. It is a 15-minute taxi ride from the main village.
Antigua and Barbuda
When it comes to sleeping options in Barbuda, private guesthouses are a popular option. One excellent choice is Barbuda Cottages. On a calm and gorgeous sweep of isolated beach at Coral Group, on the south coast, are four traditional wooden Caribbean cottages built right on the sand, next to one of the best beach bars in Barbuda, Uncle Roddy’s. The water in front of these chic, upscale self-catering cottages is also awesome for swimming as it is very safe and calm and there are rock pools to explore. A good family option, the newly constructed, eco-friendly beach houses are owned and run by Barbudans and offer one or three bedroom options. The cottages are located a 15-minute taxi ride from the village where the ferry pier and airport are – if you’re going to cook for yourself (recommended for most meals) stock up in town before heading to the southwest coast.
On a private island just off the west coast of Barbuda that is home to gorgeous Palm Beach, is the Outback restaurant. Open for lunch only, it does fresh grilled dishes – mostly fish and seafood including lobster, but they also do a good chicken – and meal prices include free pick-up by water taxi from the Codrington pier. Full of island ambiance, it’s very casual spot located just a few feet from a deserted white sand beach, and a classic Barbuda experience. Just make sure to book in advance and bring your swimsuit and a towel so you can relax on the beach with a cocktail after dining.
Antigua and Barbuda
Barbuda is famous for its mysterious caves, many of which are hidden so well that a guide is necessary to find them. But in Two Foot Bay National Park, on Barbuda’s wild northeastern coast, a visit to Indian Cave does not require any outside help. The entrance is at the top of a small bluff to the opposite of a stone ruin in the national park. Carved into the cliffs, the three-chambered cave features Arawak petroglyphs and a bat chamber, as well as stunning views of the ocean as you climb up through the cave to its “roof.” The caves can also seen as part of a day-trip run by the Barbuda Express ferry company.