Saint John's On a BudgetIf you've been to St. John's, Antigua, you were likely on a cruise Â– which means you likely did not have enough time to truly experience the magic of this tiny island getaway.
St. Johns is the capital of the tiny islands of Antigua and Barbuda. Located on Antigua, this tropical city lives up to its status as a tropical paradise. With 365 beaches on the island, you can enjoy the luxury of lounging in the sand every day of the year.
SightsThe capital's most prominent landmark is notably St. John's Cathedral. After an earthquake destroyed the original 1681 wooden church, the locals quickly built a new one of stone. The pitch-pine interior makes visitors feel like they've stepped into a fortress within a cave. Be sure to call ahead and arrange a tour as the church may be undergoing renovations during your visit.
To learn more about the history and culture of the area, go check out the artifacts in the Museum of Antigua and Barbuda. A 1750 courthouse is the setting as you walk through the collection of pieces including an Arawak canoe and models of the old sugar plantations.
If you decide to venture outside of St John's, you may very well be drawn to the shops and stands meant for the tourists at Nelson's Dockyard or Heritage Quay, and that's great. It's your vacation Â– do what you want. However, if the attractions aren't attracting you anymore, find the trail behind the Copper and Lumber Store and follow it to the ruins of Fort Berkeley. This 15-minute hike to 18th century ruins is sprinkled with spectacular views of coastline and open sea.
Another destination just outside of St. John's includes the ruins of Betty's Hope sugar plantation. It serves as a sobering reminder that this island was once a colonial slave mill for the sugar industry. This sad and desolate area is small, but a perfect testament to the history of brutal slavery in Antigua.
ActivitiesImagine all the activities you've heard of in the Caribbean Â– jet skiing, parasailing, snorkeling, kayaking Â– they're all available to do in St. John's. You can swim with dolphins, simply cycle around and get to know the locals or place some bets at the casino.
Note: if you do decide to visit one of the casinos in town, be wary of casino scams. Some places run a variation on the "Razzle Dazzle" game where a woman will try to lure you into the casino with the promise of free bets. They'll have you winning at first to get your confidence up, and before you know it, you've lost hundreds. Just walk past the pretty girl.
One activity that is quite popular is going out and cheering on the local cricket team. Games are played at Recreation Ground and there's so much more to this experience than just a cricket game. This is Antigua's most popular sport and games also feature calypso dancing and lots of dancing.
And if that money is just burning a hole in your pocket, make sure to take it to the Public Market. Here you'll find fresh fruits like bananas, limes, mangoes and more just lining the stalls. Locals will tell you that Friday and Saturday mornings are the best times to go. Keep your eyes out for rare finds like a black pineapple.
Food and DiningGiven the majority of this town's visitors are tourists from the docking cruise ships, there is no shortage of typical island foods to try. Most menus will reflect the influences of America and Canada with many dishes you'd find there Â– burgers, sandwiches, etc. Stop by the Big Banana for some cheap and delicious pizza Â– and you'll likely catch a glimpse of your ship's crew calling and writing home on the free Internet.
While all your favorite foods are likely available, try to forgo the chicken fingers for some local fruits and seafood. You'll never have a sweeter banana or a more delicious piece of coconut shrimp in your life.
TransportationThe majority of visitors to St. John will use taxis to get around the island. Be sure to set your price before you get in the taxi. Many drivers in the Caribbean are willing and eager to rip off tourists.
Renting a bike to cycle around the island is another option if you plan on staying in St. John. You'll see more of the town and save on money.