Antigua Diving:

Our Dive Review - Plus Information on Weather, Water Temperatures, Flights, Hotels and More

I have a special place in my heart for Antigua.

Unfortunately, it's not because of Antigua diving.

Antigua was where my boyfriend (now husband) and I got our scuba diving certification. And a few years later, it was where we got married.

So I have very good memories of Antigua. But I don't have great memories of Antigua scuba diving during our first two trips here.

However, we have recently been back and got a chance to dive down by English Harbour which is on the south - southeast side of the island.

We enjoyed our dives much better this time around and saw a fair amount of marine life. We were pleasantly surprised since we weren't expecting much but we wanted to get back in the water.

I am glad we did.

The first two times we dove here our diving was done in the northern part near Dickenson Bay and off the western coast near Jolly Harbour. On these two trips, I thought it was overfished and there was not alot to see. It was also damaged by hurricanes and humans.

Antigua worker on Jolly Beach

Worker with his palm frond hat and bird on Jolly Beach, Antigua. I love the colors.

Of course, like all places, some sites will be better than others, but when I go back again I will make an effort to dive on the S-SE side of the island again.

Looking on the bright side though, no matter where you dive we can just enjoy being underwater and not go with very high expectations. After all, you are scuba diving, so how bad can it be?

At the worst, you can always use your Antigua diving time to work on some your scuba diving skills such as buoyancy control or air consumption.

And Antigua diving is a good break from all that beach lounging and Wadadli (national beer) drinking.

Wadadli beer in Antigua

Nothing tastes better than a nice cold Wadadli when you are done diving. I will say we enjoyed quite a few of these on several different beaches in Antigua.

Besides the diving, Antigua itself is worth a visit IMHO. It lays claim to 365 beaches so if you are a beach lover, this might be the Caribbean island for you. Enjoy the island, its' history and its' beaches and do a dive or two to get back underwater.

No matter what, you are on vacation so have a great time and enjoy the break from the everyday.

Lay of the Land

The nation of Antigua is actually made up of three islands – Antigua, Barbuda and the uninhabited island and nature reserve of Redonda. It has a population of approximately 69,000 people and is the largest English speaking nation of the Caribbean Leeward Islands.

Antigua's capital, St John's can be found on Antigua Island, which is 14 miles long and 11 miles wide and approximately 108 square miles in area.

Antigua is mostly quite flat, unlike other Caribbean islands, but has a range of hills in the south western part of the island which includes Boggy Peak, at a height of 1319 feet.

Street scene in St. John's, Antigua

Street scene in St. Johns, the capital of Antigua. I loved wandering around the city and taking in the sights, sounds and smells (only the good ones of course).

The island is surrounded by coral reefs with the shoreline made of rocky coast and beautiful beaches. In fact, Antigua claims 365 beaches - one for each day of the year. And all are open to the public. Most of the beaches are found on the protected Caribbean side of this island.

As a rough guide, the more developed beaches are generally found on the north-western coast, quieter beaches on the southern coast and great family beaches, protected by reef, on the eastern corner of the island.

Location

Antigua is in the West Indies, in the middle of the Leeward Islands in the Eastern Caribbean. Which pretty much places it right in the middle of the Caribbean.

It is 290 miles southeast of San Juan, Puerto Rico and about 1300 miles southeast from Miami.

Islands nearby include Montserrat, Guadaloupe, St. Kitts and Nevis.

(Check out our page of Antigua maps for more details. We even have a couple of interactive maps of Antigua for you to play with. You might also find our other  Caribbean maps helpful.)

Map of Antigua in the Caribbean

Flights to Antigua

Many airlines and flights serve Antigua so it is fairly easy to get there. You can find which airlines fly to Antigua, which have non stop flights to Antigua, where you can get connections to Antigua and more on our flights to Antigua page.

(You might want to also check out our #1 tip for cheap airfare to the Caribbean as well as our other tips for cheap airfare to help make your trip more affordable.)

Antigua Resorts

Once you decide to go to Antigua, with all it's beautiful beaches, you'll need to decide on a place to stay. And with all the options available, it can be a bit overwhelming.

To help you get started, on our Antigua resorts page you can read about where we stayed while on our vacations in Antigua. We also give you information on where some of our close friend and family stayed - and what their review of the resorts.

You can also read reviews of Antigua hotels on our partner's website (link will open in a new window): Read what other travelers have to say about Antigua hotels

Beach at Jolly Harbour Beach Resort

Beach at Jolly Harbour. We got married at the then Club Antigua. Now it is called Jolly Harbour Beach resort. Had alot of fun times on this beach.

Weather

Antigua has a wonderful tropical climate cooled by the breezes of the north-eastern trade winds. Perfect for when you're done with Antigua diving.

Temperatures on Antigua range from an average low of 73ºF in January and February to an average high of 87ºF between July and September. Minimum night temperatures in the cool season are 60-65ºF.

Antigua is said to be the sunniest island in the Eastern Caribbean, with an average rainfall of only 45 inches. Its dry climate and its lack of natural rivers mean that it is prone to drought but desalination of sea water helps to combat this problem.

As far as hurricanes are concerned, like the rest of the Caribbean, hurricane season is from June 1st to November 30th. The riskiest times for hurricanes in Antigua is August to mid October.

Statistics show that Antigua is affected by hurricanes or tropical storms every 2.6 years but only suffers from a direct hurricane hit every 12.5 years.

The last major hurricane to affect Antigua was Hurrican Jose in 1999 with 100 mph winds. It does get brushed by tropical storms, the last being Maria in September 2011.

Antigua license plate

Antigua license plate. It says it all.

Water Temperatures

The water temperature around Antigua averages approximately 80ºF year round with a range of about 78ºF to 84ºF.

For most people a 2-3mm wetsuit should be sufficient for this temperature. However, if you get cold easily or are doing alot of Antigua diving, you might want to use a full wetsuit.

Underwater visibility usually ranges from 50 to 100+ feet. Unfortunately, when we were there our first time our average visibility was only around 20 feet. Hopefully your visibility will be much better.

However, our last time doing some Antigua diving we had much better visibility - ranging from about 45' on one dive to about 75' on another dive.

Reefs and Rides

Antigua is pretty much surrounded by a barrier reef so there are lots of shallower dive sites. Most dive operators take you to do some Antigua diving off of the southern and western coasts.

Ride times to the site depends, of course, on where you are diving. There are quite a few sites close to shore so your boat ride will be in the 5-15 minute range. Sites further out can take from 30-45 minutes.

If you go with a dive operator that takes cruise ship passengers, you will most likely be diving closer in to shore.

PIllar of Herules dive site

We are approaching the Pillar of Hercules dive site outside of English Harbour. There were some wonderful formations here as you approached the point.

Antigua Diving

As you may have figured out, Antigua is not exactly a hot spot for its' diving. Rather it is more popular as a topside destination with its 365 beaches and many historical sites. So it is a good place to go with non-divers.

But while you are there, I would say do some Antigua scuba diving anyway. It's always good to get some bottom time.

Sign up for a dive, see what you think and go from there. Who knows, maybe you will be pleasantly surprised by Antigua diving. As I said before, we were during our last trip there. I will definitely be diving again next time I go to Antigua.

It would be an appropriate spot for beginner divers since there are many shallower dives and usually no current.

We did our certification in Antigua and weren't very impressed, despite these being our first open water dives. Visibility was also poor - averaging about 20 feet. We dove at Sandy Island (including the barge there) and Boon's Reef.

However, I will say that since we were doing our certification dives they took us to shallower sites that see alot of scuba traffic. Other sites are probably somewhat better for Antigua diving.

After our initial trip, we went back to Antigua and did some more scuba diving a few years later. Ufortunately, we came away with the same impression. Although we did see a nurse shark and a couple of lobsters.

Sandals dive boat in Antigua

A dive boat from Sandals, a popular all-inclusive resort for couples, anchored off of Dickenson Bay in Antigua.

I had heard that the south/south eastern sides were reputed to have the more impressive dive sites. However, many dive operators dive the western/southwestern coasts since those are closest to most of the hotels.

The  last time we were there, we were staying on a sailboat and later, an apartment, in the English/Falmouth Harbour area. So we got the opportunity to dive on the south eastern side of the island.

And, as I have stated, we enjoyed our diving much better this time around. We saw quite a bit of marine life including rays, lobster, arrow crab, blue shrimp, big jacks, garden eels, spotted drums, yellow tails and more.

The formations at the Pillar of Hercules dive site was also a highlight.

I am not going to say Antigua diving is spectacular but diving this part of the island was enjoyable.

You might want to check out the dive shops that dive in this area for your best chance of a good dive.

Topside

One of the more popular things to do (after your Antigua diving) if you are in a party mood is to go to Shirley Heights on Sunday afternoon for some reggae music, BBQ, rum and beer (not necessarily in that order). There are gorgeous views from up top and it is a fun afternoon.

We've had a great time at Shirley Heights and will be going back. Take heed though, it can get crowded and just be aware of what's happening around you.

Enjoying Shirley Heights in Antigua

Enjoying the view and some refreshments on Shirley Heights in Antigua. Sunday afternoon/evening there is good music to keep you going.

If you can't bear to leave the water, you can always opt for the Pirate Ship - another rum and beer soaked party. Have fun dancing, doing the limbo, jumping off the rope swing and pretty much anything you want. (The ship we went on, the Jolly Roger washed up in a storm, but there is another one that has taken its place.)

If you want a more relaxed day, you can always enjoy lazing on one of its 365 white beaches (yes, it'll take you a year to get round them!), while being cooled by a trade wind (hopefully).

You can get even more information on visiting Antigua from our partner. (Link will open in a new window.)

Give Antigua diving a shot - we'd love to hear what you think!

For more information, you can take a look at our other pages on Antigua:

Antigua maps//Antigua Hotels//Getting to Antigua



 Want to stay down longer and improve your buoyancy control and other diving skills? Our free report "Increase Your Bottom Time" along with our practical, weekly actionable tips will have you looking like a seasoned diver in no time. So come join us and see improvement on your very next dive!
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