We arrived at St John’s, Antigua without much of a plan. The Fodor’s guide suggested that if we didn’t want to travel too far to a beach to go to Dickenson Bay (10-minute taxi ride). Gambit and I decided that we didn’t want to travel too far from the ship so both agreed to go to Dickenson Bay.
I didn’t know what to expect at the port of St John’s. It was part built up and organized, and part under developed – quite similar to other island ports I’d seen before.
We walked into the center of the port shopping area and it wasn’t long until we were approached by a tour person asking us if we’d be interested in going to Valley Church Beach. When at port, it is not hard for locals to tell we are from the ship for several reasons: a) Gambit is white, b) I am Asian, and c) I am almost always carrying a Celebrity Cruises bag or towel. Our lack of disguise makes us sitting ducks for locals to sell us things, whether it be tours, taxis, or tat.
I asked the man that approached us what the difference would be between that and Dickenson Bay and was told Valley Church Beach was a very lovely beach and 20 minutes away.
I was slightly hesitant because the beach was an extra 10 minutes further than Dickenson Bay, and the cost was $16 per person, return, instead of it being $8 to Dickenson Bay.
However, having no concrete plans and seeing that the man already had a van full of passengers ready to go (also from the cruise), we decided to give it a go and we all piled into the van and headed to Valley Church Beach.
Valley Church Beach – paradise – LOVE LOVE LOVE
When we arrived at Valley Church Beach, I was absolutely blown away. And if that could be an understatement, it would be. The beach was absolutely glorious.
Gambit and I still didn’t have a lot of cash on us so we couldn’t really ‘afford’ beach chairs, umbrellas and drinks.
We instead found a bit of sand under the shade of a tree and bunkered down for a couple of hours.
The water was a beautiful turquoise color, crystal clear, and perfect temperature.
The first thing that came to mind was that it reminded me of a beach in Bora Bora that we went to and that was the best beach I had ever gone to.
The difference between going to Bora Bora and Antigua is that Antigua is much easier, and much much less expensive to get to.
Gambit and I spent a lot of time in the water. When he popped out to sit in the shade, I made friends with some other cruise passengers who had also made their way to the beach.
We met our taxi / tour driver at our designated meeting point and piled back into the van to head back to the port. We walked around trying to find aloe vera gel to calm the sunburn on our backs. We went into three shops before we finally realized that the first two stores had prices marked in Antigua/Caribbean dollars – not USD! We were originally shocked to find that a small bottle of aloe was $20-30! I started to wonder how locals could afford to buy things, and then figured that perhaps they didn’t need aloe vera as they didn’t get sunburnt… But the most logical explanation was when we popped into the third store and everything was priced in Caribbean dollars AND USD. The penny dropped then.
After we bought the aloe we headed to the bank where Gambit tried to withdraw cash for us but the combination of being out in the sun for hours, dehydration, starvation, and old age caused him to temporarily forget his PIN – so we sat outside the ATM for almost an hour while he tried to remember his code before giving up and we went back onto the ship to eat lunch.
Once we were in the air con and Gambit had a bit of food and water into him, the PIN came back to him – AND he pointed out that it was lucky we didn’t withdraw from the ATM because we could have gotten Caribbean dollars and not USD! So perhaps it was good that he forgot at the time.
I loved Valley Church Beach and spoiler alert: it was the best beach we went to on our whole trip (so if you were reading this to find out which port had the best beach, you don’t need to read anymore of my dribble).
Next time we go to Antigua we will tour the rest of the island and definitely make sure to have a couple of hours spare to go to Valley Church Beach again.