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Antigua vacation: Where to eat, stay and play

If you’re looking for an easy warm-weather escape right about now, getting to the Caribbean island of Antigua has never been easier for New Yorkers.

Direct flights to the tiny West Indies destination are about four hours and are available out of JFK through both American Airlines and, as of last fall, JetBlue, as well as United Airlines out of Newark. Plus, the recently updated international terminal at V.C. Bird International Airport makes arrivals and departures a breeze.

Wondering what to do once you get there? Read on.

WHERE TO STAY

Blue Waters Resort & Spa This elegant but
Photo Credit: Devorah Lev-Tov

Blue Waters Resort & Spa

This elegant but family-friendly resort (pictured above) on the northwest corner of the island underwent a major renovation in 2015, plus there's a new chef on board. Choose from deluxe ocean view rooms, luxurious suites with personal concierges or secluded villas with private pools. Relax on the beach with a cold drink, go kayaking or windsurfing or get a body scrub at the Elemis spa overlooking the ocean. And be sure to dine at Bartley's for Caribbean-style tapas. Soldier's Bay, St. John, 800-557-6536, bluewaters.net

Siboney Beach Club

All the accommodations at this beachfront hotel are spacious suites with a kitchenette, separate living area and balcony -- and it's one of the more budget-friendly options on the island. It's also home to one of the best restaurants in Antigua: Coconut Grove. Make sure to get the coconut shrimp! Dickenson Bay, St. John, 268-462-0806, siboneybeachclub.com

Hermitage Bay

Experience ultimate luxury in your own private oceanfront cottage directly on the sand or nestled on the hillside facing the ocean, where you have a spectacular view from every window. If you somehow tire of the pristine beach, you can take a cooking class, go deep-sea fishing or visit the onsite organic garden. Did we mention the food is incredible? Jennings New Extension, St. Mary, 855-596-2747, hermitagebay.com

WHERE TO GO

Half Moon Bay This beach on the
Photo Credit: Devorah Lev-Tov

Half Moon Bay

This beach on the island's southeastern coast is the definition of secluded. You'll have to leave yourself plenty of time to get here -- it's about a 45-minute drive from English Harbour -- but once you find it, the clear blue water, pink sand and unbridled beauty are totally worth the wait. There are a couple of food stands when you first enter, but otherwise there are no facilities, so come prepared.

Carpenters Rock Trail

While most tourists head up the Lookout Trail to Shirley Heights for a nice view, there's a good chance you'll have this path (pictured at left) all to yourself. Find the trailhead by walking to the end of Galleon Beach at Freeman's Bay in English Harbour, where you'll see a trail sign. Your first incredible view will be at Fort Charlotte, and if you continue along the cliff-side trail you'll be rewarded with a wide expanse of ocean and views of Carpenters Rock and Nanton Point.

Stingray City

Touch and feed gigantic stingrays as you snorkel and swim with them in their natural habitat. You'll take a short speedboat ride to a pontoon in shallow water near a coral reef that's a gathering place for the many (friendly!) rays, and then get to spend some time feeding and petting them. Seaton's Village, St. Philip, 268-562-7297, stingraycityantigua.com

Betty's Hope

For a historical excursion, at this site of a sugar plantation going back to 1651, you can see the restored mill tower and visit the small on-site museum to learn about the history of sugar milling and slavery in Antigua. Pares Village Main Road, Pares, 268-462-1469

WHERE TO EAT

Roti King Adored by locals and visitors
Photo Credit: Devorah Lev-Tov

Roti King

Adored by locals and visitors alike, this joint is famous for its authentic Trinidad-style rotis (pictured) -- delicious pancake-like skins with various curry fillings. Try the conch one for a true Caribbean experience, and be sure to wash it down with a homemade ginger beer. Corner of St. Mary's Street and Corn Alley Street, St. John, 268-462-2328

Papa's by the Sea

This new restaurant from the owners of the well-loved Trappas in English Harbour has an onsite fishing dock so you know the seafood is fresh. Go for lunch and spend the day on their beach, drink in hand, or head there Wednesday evenings for curry and reggae night. Falmouth Harbour, St. Paul, 268-561-7633

Catherine's Cafe Plage

Recently relocated to Pigeon Beach, this beloved restaurant has been serving French specialties for 18 years. It's open for lunch and tapas until sunset, and for dinner on Wednesdays and Fridays, and guests can also dabble in the exclusively French wine list. Pigeon Point Beach, English Harbour, 268-460-5050, catherinescafe.com

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