Many students know relatively little about Barbuda, an island just 36 miles north of Antigua. That’s understandable, given its smaller size (about 62 square miles compared to Antigua’s 108) and population (approximately 1,700 residents compared to Antigua’s 80,000).
If you’re looking to visit, now would be the perfect time. Known as an unspoiled beach destination by its frequent visitors, including the late Princess Diana whom islanders named a beach after, the island is about to undergo a giant makeover. Though not everyone on the island is thrilled about plans for a celebrity-backed development, Robert DeNiro and developer James Packer will call their massive resort Paradise Found.
It’s thought that the Ciboney, Barbuda’s earliest inhabitants, came to the island from Mexico’s Yucatan by canoe 3000-4000 years ago. They were followed by the Arawaks between 500-280 B.C., who hailed from Guyana and Venezuela. The Arawaks, or sub-Tainos, were great farmers and left behind sophisticated pottery called Saladoid. The Caribs, known as warriors, are believed to have replaced the Arawaks, and were only seasonal inhabitants of Barbuda. They spent much of their time in mountainous Dominica and St. Kitts. Britain annexed Barbuda in 1628, and in 1680, Charles II gave control of Barbuda to the Codrington family, who held it until 1860, when the island was annexed to Antigua. By the time the Codringtons, after whom the main residential area is named, were running the island, tobacco farming had given way to sugar planting. Slaves who had been harvesting both crops revolted for the first time in 1741. Barbuda both gained independence and joined the Commonwealth of Nations in 1981. A political party called the Barbuda People’s Movement has advocated for a Barbuda independent of Antigua, but has never really gained traction.
Things to do/see
Take a trip to the highest point of the island to see “Willy Bob,” or Highland House as it’s known locally. You’ll get not only a beautiful vantage point for taking in most of Barbuda’s coastline, but also several windows into Barbuda’s colonial history, including the Castle, the Martello Tower (or River Fort), the Government House, and the Ginnery. Most locals live in Codrington Village, the capital. Barbuda does offer a handful of venues for live music, food, and drink, but mostly it’s a place for taking it easy.
There are plenty of opportunities to dive, fish, and camp on Barbuda. Lobster is only one of the specialties the local waters are known for. Bone fishing is popular too, and visitors have been known to come back to shore with barracuda, shark, and tuna. It’s worth noting that fishing is allowed from Barbudan boats only, and the fines for fishing in sanctuary zones are stiff. Divers can enjoy Spanish, French, and British wrecks that hearken back to colonial battles for control of the region.
Frigate Bird Sanctuary
Head to Barbuda’s west coast to visit Codrington Lagoon National Park, where you’ll find one of the biggest colonies of frigate birds in the world. Mating season runs from September through April, but December is peak time.
How to Get There
Take the Barbuda Express ferry, or fly in from Antigua. (There are no direct flights to Barbuda from outside Antigua.)