When it comes to dream getaways, St Lucia and Antigua are two destinations at the top of most people’s lists. Both of these Caribbean paradises can offer amazing experiences, especially if you’re looking for sun, sea, and sand.
However these islands, despite their similar size, are very different.
Choosing whether to visit Antigua or St Lucia for that once-in-a-lifetime holiday or honeymoon destination can therefore be difficult. Having visited both, we compare them below, and show you what each has to offer.
We show you which one is the better beach destination, what sort of activities you can do in each and more. We also give you insight into the culture and food to expect in both as well. So read on to begin your Caribbean paradise adventure!
St Lucia or Antigua: Stunning Natural Scenery
For tourists looking to sunbathe and swim, both St Lucia and Antigua are great options. St Lucia is bigger though, possessing 98 miles of coastline compared to smaller Antigua’s 54 miles.
When it comes to beaches however, Antigua is the better choice. Antigua has many iconic white sand beaches – which St Lucia lacks – making it the picture-perfect image of the Caribbean. It’s also less rainy than St Lucia, which is another positive for sun-seekers.
The scenery in both countries is very different as well. Antigua is mostly flat and is limited when it comes to mountains and rainforest.
St Lucia, on the other hand, is a volcanic island with a lush mountainous inland made up of 19,000 acres of rainforest. That opens up many opportunities for walking, jungle trekking and exploring.
That mountainous terrain does make St Lucia a more difficult island to get around though. And while hiring a car is easy to do, some of the winding roads are tricky. In comparison Antigua is a much easier island to negotiate.
In fact Antigua is definitely more geared towards tourists, so you’ll easily find bars, restaurants and a nightlife that caters mainly towards visitors. There’s also many tourist excursions available for tourists through hotels and resorts.
St Lucia is less tourist orientated than Antigua. You may find you need to explore the island more on your own than as part of a tour. However that also arguably makes the island a better option for someone on the hunt for a more local experience.
Below we look at some of the natural sights and spots you will encounter in both. Before comparing what to expect culturally in each country.
Although St Lucia has some excellent beaches, this Caribbean paradise is a place to enjoy all aspects of nature. It’s rugged, lush, and dramatic, and is perfect for the sun-seeker who wants some adventure too.
It’s an island that feels more cut off from the rest of the world than Antigua, with its winding roads, quaint villages, and less-tourist orientated vibe. When it comes to accommodation options, St Lucia will probably be a much more affordable choice too, than the more tourist-orientated Antigua which has a focus on high-end hotels and therefore tends to be more expensive.
For beaches in St Lucia, head to Rodney Bay where you can find Reduit Beach. This is one of the longest strips of sand on the whole of St Lucia. The golden sand, set against lush green hilly vegetation and the Caribbean Sea, makes it a perfect spot to relax. If you’re looking for white sand, then Anse des Pitons is the place to go.
St Lucia is also home to incredible coral reefs which are teeming with life. For one of the best snorkeling spots in the Caribbean, head to Anse Chastanet. Not only is the snorkeling world class here (and arguably better than Antigua), the backdrop of mountains against the beach is spectacular. This dive map shows the best spots on the island. A great underwater camera – such as this one – is a must.
But the real beauty of St Lucia lies away from the coastline. The phenomenal Pitons – a volcanic mountain range – rise up against the backdrop of blue near the town of Soufrière. This must-visit World Heritage Site is a great place for hiking and jungle treks – many of which lead to waterfalls. There’s also a cable car that provides a view of the jungle from the canopy top. It’s very special.
The Pitons have more to offer than hiking too – they’re home to the world’s only ‘drive-in volcano’. Here you can drive to Soufriere Volcano and experience the sights and smells of this dormant monster. Don’t forget to take a dip in the mud baths on the slopes before you leave. Bathing in volcanic mud baths – that’s St Lucia’s adventurous side for you! And exactly why adventurous tourists may prefer this destination over Antigua.
Beaches are Antigua’s crowning glory, with all 365 beaches on the island – one for every day of the year – accessible to the public. So if beaches are a priority for your vacation, then you’re going to love Antigua!
It is also home to many white sand beaches, the holy grail for sunbathers and beach swimmers the world over. That’s actually one of the reasons Antigua made our list of the best Caribbean islands for couples!
For some of the best white sand and turquoise swimming waters in Antigua – and the Caribbean – head to Dickenson Bay. It’s one of the most popular spots on the island, but the white powder sand is breathtaking.
Another beach we would recommend is Half Moon Bay. The landscape is a bit more rugged and remote here – and there’s no facilities. But that also means there’s very few people. It’s secluded and has that deserted island feel to it.
Antigua is also home to some fantastic snorkeling spots. One is just off Galley Bay, were you can see teeming sea-life amid the coral thanks to fantastic clear blue waters. This dive map shows the best spots on the island.
Some of the best snorkeling spots in Antigua are far from shore though. One of those is snorkeling at the shipwreck off Deep Bay. One tip is to hire a small boat from Reef Riders in nearby Jolly Harbour, and join them on an accompanied trip to the shipwreck.
While St Lucia is a lot more lush and wild than Antigua, there’s still some forest in Antigua that can be explored. Head to Fig Tree Drive, a road which takes you up into the forest and wild vegetation. This is probably Antigua’s most scenic road, and it shouldn’t be missed. But if you’re looking to do more hiking than sunbathing then St Lucia may be a better choice for you.
St Lucia or Antigua: Explore the Sights and Experience the Tropics
Along with the natural scenery on offer, both Antigua and St Lucia have a wealth of attractions and cultural experiences worth checking out.
When it comes to exploring these islands, more tourist-orientated Antigua has infrastructure that’s a little better than St Lucia, so it is easier to get around and explore. St Lucia’s roads can be steep, narrow, and sometimes tough going. Adding to the complications of moving around the island yourself.
This island is a melting pot of cultures, most heavily influenced by African, French and English traditions. The colorful homes here are indicative of the vibrant Kreole culture that has emerged from that mix.
As a country that was fought over for years by colonial powers, St Lucia is home to countless relics. In the north-west, Pigeon Island National Park has to be visited. It’s home to many colonial relics left over from when the French and British battled it out for St Lucia.
Staying in the colonial period, head to Diamond Falls Botanical Gardens in Soufrière. Tropical plants and gorgeous colors are everywhere in this garden that’s set on an estate from the 18th century.
For something more local, modern, and lively, then you must join in the Gros Islet Jump Up. This street party is full of food, good conversation between locals (and tourists!), and dancing to Caribbean music that is blasted over speakers. It happens every Friday night.
Around 95% of Antiguans are descendants of African slaves. So the culture has heavy African influences, as well as British influences due to colonialism.
The Antigua Carnival has its roots in the abolition of slavery, and is therefore a happy, fun and colorful festival that takes place during July. Expect street parties, fantastic street food, and parades when Carnival comes to town!
If you want to learn more about the colonial period, then you should visit Betty’s Hope Estate. This was a working sugar plantation that was run by the British during slavery. It’s now been converted into an open-air museum so tourists can learn about that dark period of history.
For those keen to learn more about Antigua’s past, then head to the 18th century Nelson’s Dockyard in Saint Paul Parish. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is home to centuries old colonial buildings, and a maritime museum that documents the turbulent times around Antigua. However it also remains the only continuously working Georgian dockyard on the planet!
A Taste of the Caribbean
Both countries will provide a treat for your taste-buds, with cuisine focused around seafood.
Seafood is a big part of St Lucian cuisine, but in particular shellfish and lobster are favorites here.
When visiting St Lucia, eating freshly caught lobster and lambi (conch) is a must. It’s going to taste great whether from a restaurant or a street vendor.
For a traditional appetizer or side, then baked plantain is the way to go. This is St Lucia’s version of French Fries.
If you want a very local experience, the quaint fishing village of Anse La Raye is for you. Every Friday night this tiny village hosts the ‘Fish Fry’ where street vendors sell grilled and fried fish, lobsters, and much more – all with drinks flowing and music playing!
The national dish of Antigua is the first thing you should try. Called fungie (pronounced foon-jee), this is a typical breakfast dish made out of cornmeal. It’s similar to mashed potato.
For something a bit more filling, then Antigua is famous for it’s pork chops with banana and bacon. It’s exactly what it sounds like, and it’s delicious.
The official fruit of Antigua is also well worth trying – the black pineapple! It’s regarded as one of the sweetest tasting pineapples in the world, and is often had for breakfast.
A popular desert here is Ducana, which is a dumpling made from sweet potato and coconut, then cooked in banana leaves.
St Lucia or Antigua: Which One is the Better Choice?
Both islands have their own unique charm, however if you’re looking for white sand beaches and turquoise swimming waters than Antigua wins hands down. The island is easier to get around than St Lucia too, and tends to be more orientated to tourists.
St Lucia is more rough and ready, however the scenery is breathtaking with the iconic Pitons the star of the show. If you want a holiday with a bit of everything – sunbathing, exploring, snorkeling, and walking – then St Lucia is the best choice.