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Everything You Need To Know Before Visiting Barbuda

A blonde woman in sunglasses floating in a clear Caribbean sea by a deserted beach

Updated on March 23rd, 2023

Barbuda is home to a Frigate Bird Sanctuary, a 17-mile long pink sand beach & some of the best lobster in the Caribbean. Here is everything you need to know before visiting Barbuda & sampling all this for yourself.”


A close up map of Antigua and Barbuda with an avatar of blonde woman

Antigua and Barbuda, West Indies


Exploring Barbuda (Sister Island of Antigua) - Caribbean
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SWWW and the welcome to Barbuda Sign

I spent the first 6 months of 2019 making a base for myself in gorgeous Antigua. Antigua and Barbuda are a twin-island state, 60 kilometres apart. Antigua has a population of 100,000 people, 365 beaches (one for every day of the year), a deep harbour which takes 4 cruise ships a day & numerous luxurious all-inclusive resorts. You can read my post for the top 20 reasons to visit. I also have an Insider’s Guide if you prefer to hear it from a true local!

By contrast, Barbuda island has a population of just 2000 or it did until the island was devastated by Hurricane Irma in 2017. Everybody had to leave & with the help of numerous charities, the islanders are slowly rebuilding. However, only 900 of its inhabitants have so far returned. You can read more about Barbuda after Hurricane Irma in this article.

Barbuda is home to a Frigate Bird Sanctuary, a 17-mile long pink sand beach & some of the best lobster in the Caribbean. Here is everything you need to know before visiting Barbuda & sampling all this for yourself.”

Barbuda has just one settlement, the village of Codrington. It was named after the British family who owned the island over 300 years ago (more on them later). Codrington remains the only place where running water & electricity are supplied, therefore, it is home to all but a few residents. Despite its natural wealth, the island remains virtually untouched by tourism. For me, this was enough reason to plan a visit. I finally got there in my last week & here is my account of why you should make the effort to visit as well.

Where to stay?
Deserted ruined buildings on the beach, A Day Trip To Barbuda – Reasons Not To Miss

Unfortunately, Hurricane Irma took its toll on the hotels & guesthouses here too. Barbudaful is a great website for all things Barbuda & has more up to date details on the guesthouses which are now open for business. Currently, there are no resorts in Barbuda. In terms of Barbuda hotels, only 2 are currently open (Barbuda Belle & Barbuda Cottages). For something a little more rustic you can also try Frangipani Glamping.

SWWW in the turquoise sea off Princess Diana beach. Everything You Need To Know Before Visiting Barbuda

To read more about what to expect when you visit after a hurricane, please read my previous post.

Despite the initial presence of several charities, offering aid to the islanders in rebuilding their homes, many places still have no access to electricity & running water.”

The charities have now left but the evidence of their activities can still be seen everywhere. Our guide informed us that unless residents have returned to the island, there is no progress on their homes. Some are just too traumatised by the experience to return. He lived in a tent for 8 months but is now putting the slow finishing touches to his property. The relationship between the twin islands is not an overly friendly or supportive one.

What do you need to know?

How Do You Get There?
By Ferry
Rocks on Two Foot Bay, A Day Trip To Barbuda – Reasons Not To Miss

From Antigua to Barbuda, you take the Barbuda Express Ferry service from the dock in St Johns, Antigua. The journey there is 90 minutes via ferry (US$85). A return trip with a tour (recommended as it’s hard to organise once you arrive) is US$164 per person. You can book ahead of time, but we turned up early at the ferry dock & booked from there. The tour includes the return ferry journey, a taxi trip around the island, visit to the frigate bird sanctuary, the pink sand beach & a lobster lunch. If you book at the ferry terminal you can also pay using a credit card (just remember to take ID).

The Barbuda Express ferry leaves at 8.30am on Mon, Tues, Thurs & Fri, returning at 4.30pm. On Wednesdays, it makes 2 journeys. There are tours available every day except Sundays & check the schedule for Saturdays as it says, “Available for charter”. All details are on the website for Barbuda Express.

Flights to Barbuda

SVG offers flights in a small 7-seater plane for US$65. Apparently, the schedules change regularly & the flights are often cancelled so make sure they have your contact details & expect an erratic service.

The Tour
SWWW on the boat to Barbuda, A Day Trip To Barbuda – Reasons Not To Miss

We arrived at 10am to be met on the dockside by Levi, our guide & were the only tourists visiting that day. Getting into his car, we headed north for our first stop. I was surprised by how different the landscape is to Antigua.

The island is very flat as much of it sits below sea level. Most of Barbuda is taken over by wild bush, making it one of the most unspoilt islands in the world. In 2016 Conde Nast Traveller named it as one of their ’top destinations to watch’.”

The bush creates a habitat where you can find deer, wild boar, land turtles & guinea fowl. On our journey, we passed through Codrington seeing sheep, donkeys & horses roaming along the route. Evidence of the hurricane is still obvious, with properties in disarray along the road. It has clearly been a long & traumatic journey to get this far with the rebuild.

Barbuda History
Deserted sandy beach, Everything You Need To Know Before Visiting Barbuda

The Codrington family were major landowners across the West Indies, developing plantations in Barbados & Antigua. In 1685 they were granted the first 50-year lease for Barbuda. They were rewarded for their efforts in maintaining English supremacy across the region. In 1705, the family were gifted an extension for a further 99 years.

The first stop on our tour was the national park in Two Foot Bay. Levi told us the story of how the Codrington family had initially been busy clearing the land. The plan was to cultivate it for farming. During the clearance process, however, Codrington changed his mind & came up with a more controversial idea.

He decided to breed slaves. There then started a 30-year business, taking slaves from neighbouring islands & breeding them to sell back into a life of slavery elsewhere.”

Two Foot Bay Old Watch Tower, A Day Trip To Barbuda – Reasons Not To Miss
SWWW with Two Foot Bay's wild beauty, A Day Trip To Barbuda – Reasons Not To Miss

In Two Foot Bay, there are the remains of a watchtower, built for use in another questionable plan. Codrington set up a fire on the high ground in the north. He would instruct the slaves to go to the watchtower & when they saw a ship approaching, alert the men to light the fire. This would trick the crew onboard the ship into thinking they had reached a safe haven. As they headed for safety, the boats would hit the reefs, wrecking the vessels & leaving the crew no choice but to abandon ship. At this point the inhabitants of Barbuda would go & steal all the contents, creating a highly lucrative enterprise for their master. Apparently, they would save the sailors but as all the stealing happened on his land, it was all perfectly legal.

Two Foot Bay
Cave on the beach at Two Foot Bay, Everything You Need To Know Before Visiting Barbuda

Now, this is a stunning area & national park in the north of the island, with no other discerning evidence that it was ever the site of such horrific history. Now, you can walk along a perfect white sand beach & by climbing a little way, end up in a large cave overlooking the water. Again, I reiterate, when I visited, we were the only ones there, apart from the tracks left by the soldier crabs in the sand. It really did feel like I had found my own private paradise.

Two Foot Bay Fossils, A Day Trip To Barbuda – Reasons Not To Miss

Through to the back of the cave, we climbed up the rocks to re-emerge on the high ground, looking down past cactus & along the cliffs. The view of the Atlantic Coast was truly breath-taking! We were in no rush to leave but then heard that our next stop was the Magnificent Frigate Bird Sanctuary.

Frigate Bird Sanctuary
Frigate Bird Sanctuary, Barbuda, A Day Trip To Barbuda – Reasons Not To Miss

We climbed into Levi’s boat & headed off into the Codrington Lagoon. Here lives one of the worlds largest colonies of frigate birds. The lagoon is home to approximately 2500 individuals.

I visited in June when the male birds had migrated to the Florida Keys to mate with females in the US. The males can take your breath away, especially when they are trying to attract a mate.

The sight of these creatures puffing up their bright red chests while cawing loudly & ruffling the feathers on their wings is a sight to behold.”

I was lucky to have seen this during my recent trip to the Galápagos Islands (the photos below are from there).

Male Frigate Birds nesting, Barbuda, A Day Trip To Barbuda – Reasons Not To Miss

The males are present on the island between October to April, however, on our visit we were treated to hundreds of females. They are not as colourful but when you see the sheer size of the wingspan it’s difficult not to be in awe. With them, were the very cute, white fluffy chicks & juveniles. In our small boat, we were able to get very close without causing any interest at all from the birds. However, we were slightly concerned when we got grounded a couple of times as the water here is so shallow.

What was interesting to hear was how the bird colony survived the hurricane. They all left beforehand & although there was a concern that the creatures may never return, the area was thriving again a month later. They clearly love Barbuda & I have to say that I don’t blame them!

Princess Diana Beach
SWWW, Princess Diana Beach, Barbuda, Everything You Need To Know Before Visiting Barbuda

From the sanctuary, we headed to the other side of the lagoon, where we disembarked the boat for a bit of time on this 17-mile-long beach. Again, we were the only people there. As I walked across the sand, I literally took a sharp intake of breath & yelped as I saw the sheer beauty of the clear blue water on the other side. Then, on closer inspection, realised that the beach was actually comprised of coral which gives it a pink hue, especially when it’s wet.

Broken shells making up the pink Beach, Barbuda, Everything You Need To Know Before Visiting Barbuda

It was easy to get carried away taking photos of this pink sand beauty, but Levi had given us a time limit. We still had to get lunch & make it back to the ferry in time! I was straight in the water, all the while pinching myself.

In this time of over-tourism, how I could have this natural beauty all to myself? It was one of those moments when you can only feel grateful for the opportunities to experience these things.”

Lobster Lunch
Lobster Lunch, Barbuda, A Day Trip To Barbuda – Reasons Not To Miss

True to our word, regretfully we had to leave & head back to the boat. Levi returned across the lagoon, before depositing us in another slice of paradise for lunch. We ended up in a true, no-frills beach shack. Lobster season is between July – April (I visited in June). I had been looking forward to sampling Barbuda lobster for 6 months, but ended up missing out! It wasn’t a problem. Today had been so perfect that I always like to find a reason to return!

SWWW at the Lobster Lunch bar, Barbuda, A Day Trip To Barbuda – Reasons Not To Miss

Instead of the “best lobster in the Caribbean”, we tucked into conch curry & local fish, with green & potato salad, all washed down with a couple of cold beers.

It was a delicious, rustic & truly authentic experience.”

Again, we were the only diners. The beach outside was magnificent too, broad, white powder sand.

After lunch, I took it all in. This had been a unique & amazing day. Levi had been an excellent guide & even managed to track down a friend who had a spare lobster which we could take home with us! True to his word, he deposited us back to the wharf for our 4.30pm ferry back to Antigua.

A Nesting Frigate Bird at the Sanctaury, Barbuda, A Day Trip To Barbuda – Reasons Not To Miss

I hope I have now given you everything you need to know before visiting Barbuda. I had nearly been put off a trip by the price but fuelled by a determination to try everything I could, I bit the bullet. I’m so pleased I did. After all, how often do you really find yourself alone in paradise?

If you would like to see more on Antigua and Barbuda then please check out my video below.

Antigua, Beaches, Excursions & Beyond - Caribbean

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Everything You Need To Know Before Visiting Barbuda

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  1. Oh wow, I have never even heard of that island! My wallet thanks you now that I have added another destination to my bucketlist 😛

    Cheers from Sweden 🙂

  2. What an absolutely beautiful place. It sounds as if your day was really magical. It reminded me of a day we visited an island off the coast of Cuba – same beautiful beach and clear water, but hundreds of iguanas and hutias!

    1. That sounds amazing – which island in Cuba? I’m always looking for recommendations & love Cuba! Had to look up hutia – look like an interesting animal 🙂

  3. I’ve never seen pink sand like that before … it looks a little like pink himalayan salt. I don’t think you’d get me out of that water … I have had to wave Levi goodbye and just stayed there!! 😉

  4. I was lucky enough to be able to visit Barbuda a few years back, I will always remember how blue the sea was and how pink the sand was! We did a boat trip to see all the birds which was great. Thanks for sharing your photos and bringing back happy memories.

    1. Thank you so much for getting in touch Claire. I loved Barbuda & would also love to return & stay for longer next time. How are things going on the island? I also have a video which I believe showcases your beautiful island too. It’s actually one of the most viewed on my YouTube channel. Please get in touch if you would like to work together in the future. I will definitely be back to Antigua. Sue x

  5. We have visited Antigua several times but have not yet made it over to Barbuda. I guess we need another longer visit! It would be great to see this island that is untouched by tourism. So sad that Hurricane Irma wrecked such damage to the island. I hope the locals return and rebuild. It would be great to stay on the island and enjoy the beaches and national park at our leisure and not be tied to a ferry schedule.

    1. Thank you, Linda, & you would need a little more time to enjoy Barbuda. I wish I’d stayed overnight but think much more would be open there by now so you can when you visit. Sue x

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