Exploring Barbuda’s West & South Coasts
It’s rare to find an untrodden tropical paradise these days, and especially one so close to the U.S. mainland, but Antigua’s sister island of Barbuda is just that. While Barbuda’s east coast is comprised of rocky beaches and soaring limestone cliffs that get battered by rough Atlantic Ocean surf, the east and west coasts are sheltered and home to some truly gorgeous stretches of pink and white sand beaches plus calm, gin-clear water and undamaged coral reefs for spectacular snorkeling.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Antigua and Barbuda
At the end of a secluded peninsula, right on Coco Point, which is Barbuda’s southernmost tip, Coco Point Lodge is one of only a few modern hotel resorts on the island. Although not five-star fancy, this all-inclusive property, is plenty comfortable offering a mix of rooms and private cottage rentals in small buildings scattered across the grounds. Bordered by some 2.5 miles of gorgeous white sand beach and safe, reef-protected swimming in the clear turquoise waters of Cocoa Bay, it is a good choice for active types as included activities feature everything from sailing to snorkeling, waterskiing to windsurfing and sea kayaking. Deep-sea, reef or bone fishing expeditions can also be arranged, as can day trips to the Frigate Island Sanctuary for birds.
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.
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.
The Green Door Tavern right in the center Codington village is a one-stop shop for food, drinks and adventure. Serving three meals a day, the food is very local and includes such favorites as liver and tripe, as well as red herring or lingfish for breakfast. If you can’t stomach much of the menu, just come for a drink. They do a full bar and at night the tavern turns into Barbuda’s only real dance club – the Red Hot Nightclub -- with music playing until at least midnight. Activities and island tours can be organized through the Green Door, including horseback riding along the beach and snorkeling trips. Just check with owner Byron Askie if you’re interested.
Grace Bay Beach, Princess Dr, TKCA 1ZZ, Turks & Caicos Islands
Sitting steps from the sand, the 72-suite Palms, with its large rooms, larger infinity pool, and dedicated kid’s club, is one of the more family-friendly among Grace Bay’s luxury resorts. Yet it is still sophisticated enough to please gourmet diners and dedicated spa-goers. The open-display kitchen of the Parallel23 restaurant, with its wood-burning oven, makes meals enough of a visual performance that guests from other resorts come to experience it. The 25,000 square foot stand-alone spa, is arguably the best in Provo. The serpentine-shaped pool wanders past wooden decks and sun pods, white parasols, an in-pool hot tub, and Plunge Bar and Restaurant, where in-water banquettes make it possible to dine without even getting out of the pool. All accommodations are in one- to three-bedroom suites in five stone-clad buildings, two of them on the oceanfront; all have private balconies.
Grace Bay Road
To satisfy your shopping itch on Providenciales, make a stop at the Salt Mills Plaza, centrally located in Grace Bay. The shopping center has art galleries, restaurants, souvenir shops, and a bank. Also to be found there is Potcake Place, where visitor can take rescued puppies for a romp on the beach. Whether browsing jewelry or beachwear, local art or knickknacks, Salt Mills is the best place to go. You can also grab a coffee or ice cream there while you’re at it.