Antigua: a Caribbean gem
Known as the ‘Romance Capital of the Caribbean’, Antigua and Barbuda are a match made in heaven for honeymooners, and couples wanting to marry in paradise
As the plane comes in to land in Antigua, you will have no doubt that you have arrived in paradise – the tranquil Caribbean Sea shimmers below in a magnificent shade of turquoise that takes your breath away, whilst the tropical vegetation is dotted with pretty Caribbean-style houses painted in equally vibrant colours. No wonder Antigua is a firm favourite for weddings and honeymoons.
Perhaps the most outstanding thing about Antigua is the friendly welcome from the islanders, who are one of the happiest races of people you will ever meet.
Antigua and Barbuda is a twin-island nation and was named the Caribbean’s Leading Honeymoon Destination by the World Travel Awards in 2013, and it’s easy to see why – it boasts a rich heritage, plenty of culture and is renowned for its warm hospitality, charm and sophistication, as well as offering an abundance of exciting and relaxing pursuits and sightseeing opportunities to suit everyone.
The islands also boasts some of the best beaches in the world – with a choice of 365 white sandy beaches, so you can relax on a different beach every day of the year, should you want to! Antigua and Barbuda also has some of the world’s best accommodation to suit your individual style – from luxurious hotels and villas to charming cottages and boutique hotels.
While your time away floating in pristine turquoise waters and relaxing on the beach, or have an adventure with energetic activities on land and sea. Indulge in watersports – from sailing and snorkeling among the coral reefs to a kayak tour, hire a boat or swim with friendly stingrays. Discover some of the best beaches on the island, including Jolly Beach, Half Moon Bay, Turner’s Beach and Darkwood Beach, in fact you can find gorgeous beaches at every turn – Antigua’s main claim to fame is the quality of its white sand beaches!
Alternatively go zip-lining through the rainforests (www.antiguarainforest.com), hike to the summit of Mount Obama and discover the famous sightseeing on the island. We highly recommend you rent a car for a day – it’s the best way to see the sights at your own pace. However there are a number of organized island tours available, including Safari Discovery Tour (www.tropicalad.com).
For shopping, a trip to Heritage Quay at the port of St John’ is essential, with its duty-free shops, bars and restaurants. There are usually a number of super-sized cruise ships docked in the port, so it’s always a thriving hub of activity.
Another absolute must is a visit to English Harbour, with its world-famous Nelson’s Dockyard named after Admiral Horatio Nelson. This is Antigua’s most prized historical site, and is not only a monument to the past, but also a focus of activity with museums, shops and restaurants, housed in historical old buildings, plus the legendary Admiral’s Inn – no visit to the Dockyard is complete without lunch on the terrace of this graceful old building that is now a hotel and restaurant. English Harbour is a year-round mooring for yachts and Gin Palaces of the rich and famous.
After visiting Nelson’s Dockyard, take a trip up to Shirley Heights, 492 ft above sea level, to view the magnificent sunset. Once a military look-out point, it is now a place to relax and toast the sunset with a couple of drinks at The Lookout bar and restaurant and admire the panoramic views of English Harbour below. If you want to party, climb up to Shirley Heights at sunset any Sunday evening, when the crowds gather for a BBQ, drinks and plenty of fun and merriment! www.shirleyheightslookout.com
For breathtaking splendor, visit Devil’s Bridge on the east coast of Antigua. This is a gigantic limestone arch, which forms a ‘bridge’ at the head of Indian Creek where the Caribbean meets the Atlantic, with blow-holes and spouting surf. Legend says that if you throw two eggs into the water to boil, the devil (who is said to be down there) would keep one and return the other!
If you are an animal lover, be sure to visit Antigua’s Donkey Sanctuary, home to more than 150 donkeys. Here, the neglected, roaming donkeys find a safe haven where they will receive food, care and plenty of love! You can adopt a donkey too and have a certificate to prove it!
Take a boat trip out to Antigua’s offshore islands with a picnic – a ferry service operates to Great Bird island from Shell Beach Marina – depending on when you visit you can often have the entire island to yourselves! The nearby Guoiana Island also has a wide sandy beach and further along the coast, Green Island is particularly attractive, as is Prickley Pear island. All are easily accessible by boat and make a great day trip.
Barbuda, however, is a must! This back-to-nature island is blessed with miles of deserted and secluded pink sand beaches and boasts the famous Codrington Lagoon National Park – its lagoon supports one of the world’s largest colonies of frigate birds, which are spectacular to see with their wingspans of up to nearly three metres! Getting there is easy. Barbuda is just a short boat trip from Antigua with the Barbuda Express Ferry or take a Tropical Adventures Tour by fast-powered catamaran. Or, if you prefer you can fly there in less than 20-minutes by plane.
5 things to do
- Adopt a donkey at the Donkey Sanctuary near St John’s. Have your photo taken with your donkey and receive an official adoption certificate. antiguaanimals.com
- Visit the market in St John’s – a colourful covered market with an abundance of Caribbean fruit and vegetables as well as souvenirs to take home.
- Drive down Fig Tree Drive – a road just outside the town of Liberta. This area of green rainforest is like the Garden of Eden and is lined with tropical fruit trees – guavas, mangoes, pineapple, oranges and coconuts.
- Take a day trip to Barbuda – Tropical Adventures offer a ‘Barbuda by Sea’ tour that includes a 90-minute trip on a power catamaran, lunch and Frigate Bird Sanctuary tour. tropicalad.com
- Swim with the Stingrays at Stingray City where you can pet and feed the world’s most friendly Stingrays in their natural environment and snorkel on the colourful coral reefs. stingraycityantigua.com
Marry in Antigua
All the ingredients for romance can be found in Antigua and Barbuda, and getting married here is a breeze. With no residency requirements, you can be exchanging your vows on a beautiful palm-fringed beach within the hour…
Thanks to the island’s worthy reputation as a lover’s paradise, almost all hotels in Antigua offer wedding and honeymoon packages and many have their own dedicated wedding team to take care of all the arrangements. Some hotels even offer free wedding packages.
You will have no difficulty in finding your perfect wedding venue – from sun-kissed beaches to lush tropical gardens. Most people choose to marry in their hotel grounds, villa gardens or on the beach. Your wedding reception can be anything from Champagne and canapes round the pool to a romantic wedding breakfast on the sands.
However, if you prefer traditional nuptials with a Caribbean twist, Antigua can cater for religious ceremonies too, offering a choice of gorgeous Anglican churches in picture-perfect settings. To marry in a church you will need to allow additional time and fulfill certain church formalities, which include permission from the individual church authority – some may ask that the couple attend pre-nuptial consultations too.
Your wedding coordinator or tour operator will help to ensure that you have the right documentation and paperwork so that your marriage is legally recognized back home.
You will need:
- Valid passports for both parties
- Divorce decree if divorced
- Original marriage and death certificates if widowed
- Both parties to be 16 and over, if under 18, written parental consent is required
- Original documents, not copies
- Two or more witnesses
You also need to pay a registration fee of US$ 40 (approx. £25) to the courthouse in the new government buildings in St John’s. Plus an application fee for a special marriage license of US$ 150 (approx. £97.50) and the Marriage Officer’s fee of US$ 50 (approx. £26)