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Hiking In Antigua: Take In Breathtaking Views On This Epic Trail

By Jessie Festa. This Antigua hiking guide contains affiliate links to trusted partners!

Interested in hiking in Antigua?

Then you’re in the right place!

The Caribbean island of Antigua is a great place to go if you’re looking to unwind with a tropical fruit-laced cocktail, swim in calm blue Caribbean sea and forget life’s problems.

And while I did a lot of that while there — also check out the full travelogue about my travels to Antigua — I also craved some active adventure.

I’ll admit Antigua made “doing nothing” easier for me than usual, but in between the spa treatments, garden strolls and beach chillin’ I needed to get my legs moving, preferably uphill.

Which is how I came to do one of the most scenic hikes I’ve ever experienced, the 5.4-mile “Pillars of Hercules” loop.

In my opinion, it’s one of the best hikes in the Caribbean — and even one of the best day hikes in the world — thanks to its gorgeous scenery.

The challenging trek was filled with gorgeous aerial views, a mix of Atlantic and Caribbean Sea paths, and even history; while traversing dry jungle and tall cacti-laced grasses we also passed British gravestones dating back to the 18th century, ancient cistern ruins, and a guard house that’s now a tourist attraction (with bar) dating back to 1791.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Read on for full details — with photos — on the experience so you can do it, too. In this Antigua travel guide, I’ll also offer full information on guides, pricing, what to pack and more.

Pro tip: Before going hiking, make sure to download the AllTrails app to have trail guides, maps, photos, and reviews right at your fingertips. You can also sign up for a free trial of AllTrails+ to download offline maps, get alerts for wrong turns, find trails by distance from you, and more!

Getting To The Antigua Hike Trailhead

You’ll head to Galleon Beach.

You’ll see a sign that says “Galleon Beach Club Private Property”; pass this sign and continue on the main road.

A bit farther there are an array of trailheads with small parking areas to choose from.

The “Jones Trail” (white trail markers) trailhead where you begin your journey to the Pillars of Hercules is marked with a sign. You can park right in front of it.

hiking in Antigua
The beginning of the hike

Recommended Antigua Hiking Guide

My awesome guide was a local named Rodney Baltimore, who owns the company Adventurous Hikes.

You can email him at [email protected] if you want to do this hike or another. For instance, you can also do an Antigua rainforest hike or an Antigua mountain trail if you wish.

My Hiking In Antigua Experience

The trek begins with Rodney and I being enveloped in fragrant tamarind trees before beginning our ascent up.

I’m definitely happy to have sturdy shoes on as we maneuver over boulders and rough terrain, sometimes needing to use both hands to safely move forward.

hiking in antigua
There are some big boulders to navigate

It’s also shady in the beginning half of the hike as we’re enveloped in dry jungle, which helps with heat and sunburn.


Antigua is one of the driest Caribbean islands, so you won’t have to worry much about humidity.

In about 20-30 minutes we come to a fork in the trail.

You can honestly take any of the paths you pass as they’ll all lead up to your midway destination of Shirley Heights; however, Rodney takes us toward Whitestone (to the right).

At the next point where there are signs pointing in different directions we opt for “Graves & Cistern.” Not surprisingly, we continue up and quickly come to an enormous gravestone dating back to the 1700s — right in the woods.

Many of the headstones we see are so weathered it’s impossible to make out their inscriptions.

It’s a sad and strange view into the past.

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Walking through the woods
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And then we emerge into the sun
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Cistern ruins along the trail

Finally, we reach our first major viewpoint:

Shirley Heights, a restored military lookout and gun battery offering vistas of the English and Falmouth Harbours from 490 feet!

It’s stunning, and I learn from Rodney that locals drive up here on Sundays for a weekly barbecue party.

From 4pm you can experience steel drum bands, delicious smoked meats and other live entertainment (with a view!).

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Views from Shirley Heights

From there we exit the white marked “Jones Trail” and switch to “Carpenter’s Trail” for amazing views of the Atlantic and otherworldly rocky outcroppings.

The entire time we’re walking along cliffside before descending toward the ocean, zigzagging through yellow cacti-dotted grass.

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This hike is a great place to do some contemplation and soul searching
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Hiking along the Atlantic
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Just breathtaking
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Getting higher
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Gorgeous flora along the trail
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Shot of me walking along the coast

Finally, after bellying over some boulders and wading through ankle-deep water, we reach the secluded spot where most people will never find the Pillars of Hercules.

These limestone rock pillars are naturally carved into the cliffside with Atlantic waves crashing into them for an energetic scene.

As you can see below, one pillar recently broke off, though luckily nobody was hurt.

Because of this, though, you’re not supposed to walk past them.

If you bring your snorkel gear, you’ll be also able to see gorgeous coral reefs and tropical fish like stingrays, trumpet fish, and blue tangs.

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It takes a bit of work to get to the Pillars of Hercules
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Pillars of Hercules with the light bouncing off the top
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Pillars of Hercules

From the pillars we turn back, meaning more ocean wading and boulder bellying.

I honestly can’t say I mind though, as from Shirley Heights on there’s barely a moment where my jaw isn’t hanging open in delighted shock at the beauty surrounding me.

Finally, we reach what must be one of Antigua’s most beautiful beaches, a small plot of shell-lined coast meeting the tranquil clear English Harbour.

We walk along the beach in silence, taking in a Bob Ross-esque vista bordered by a bright blue sky and bold white clouds.

Some people come to Antigua and never leave their hotels; and while serene properties make that easy, I highly recommend you complement your stay with some local adventures that take you across this gorgeous island.

There’s also something about working hard for your reward that makes it so much sweeter.

This hike helped me truly feel like I deserved my afternoon Mojito, too!

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Crystal clear

What To Bring When Hiking In Antigua

  • To get to the Pillars of Hercules you’ll likely get your sneakers and socks soaked if it’s high tide (I did!). Either deal with it or bring water shoes for this part. You won’t want to walk this barefoot as you might get cut.
  • The trail gets hot and you’ll have opportunities to swim! Bring a bathing suit, snorkel gear and an underwater camera/GoPro.
  • Fellow glasses-wearers: wear your contacts! Even though I hiked in Antigua’s “winter” (it’s still hot) my glasses were slipping off my face from sweat and sunscreen the entire time.
  • There are a lot of prickly plants on the trail, so think about wearing lightweight pants and long sleeves.
  • A backpack is essential. Luckily, there are some great affordable hiking backpacks for under $100!
  • Know what to wear when you go hiking, like moisture-wicking clothing!

Guide or No Guide?

Personally I loved this trail in particular and would have been completely lost without Rodney.

It’s marked, but there were many times when the trails were confusing or we were in wide open spaces and it seemed Rodney was choosing the adventure as we went along.

Not only that, but there are many steep parts and areas where you’ll need to climb over giant boulders or navigate rough terrain. For the best — and safest — experience I recommend a guide.

Furthermore, if you’re like me and love solo travel in the Caribbean, it’s a safe move to hire a guide. I appreciated having one when traveling solo in Antigua.

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Taking in the view from Shirley Heights

Antigua Trail Highlights

  • The aerial water and coastline views. Breathtaking!
  • Walking along the sandy shell-filled beaches hugging English Harbour and feeling total Caribbean calm
  • The Pillars of Hercules are very impressive!
  • Spending the day with a local. Rodney was great!

Fitness Level:


It took me two hours total as a loop. Anyone with decent fitness can complete the trail, but just be ready for some technical sections, some steep ascents, and descents (which can be slippery), and climbing over rocks.

Hike Distance:

5.4 miles total

Choosing A Hiking Trail:

This isn’t your only option for trails; but out of the various trails in the Galleon Beach network of trails this provides the most diversity of landscapes and views, according to Rodney.

Other Antigua Adventure Tours:

You can also read this guide to adventures in Antigua, which shares an epic suggestion if you want to do an Antigua rainforest hike.

Best Places To Stay In Antigua

Looking for hotels in Antigua & Barbuda?

Click here for a list of local hotels!

Prefer self-contained stays? 

Click here to check out unique local rentals!

You can also use this map to search for local stays:

Antigua Travel Insurance

While you hope everything runs smoothly, sometimes travel just doesn’t go according to plan.

This is why I recommend always purchasing travel insurance. The scary truth is it only takes one bad accident to lose everything — or be thankful you were covered.

Personally, I use SafetyWing, as they’ve got a large network, offer both short-term and long-term coverage (including limited coverage in your home country), are budget-friendly, and offer $250,000 worth of coverage with just one low overall deductible of $250.

Click here to price out travel insurance for your trip in just a few clicks.

Things To Do In Antigua [Trip Video]

Discover this beautiful and fun-filled Caribbean destination through video:

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Have you gone hiking in Antigua? Please share your experiences in the comments below! 

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Jessie Festa standing in front of grafitti wall

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  1. Barb on at 2:12 pm

    I really wanted to hike on Antigua and used your post as a guide. We did the same route (after wandering around a bit at the top by the cemetery, trying to figure out where the path was to the Pillars. Yeah, we’re dumb.) But we made it all the way to the Pillars and even snorkelled in the bay. Then next dumb moment, we reversed our route and walked ALL the way back, not realizing that the car was parked at the other end of that beach! But we had a good time and a great walk. Thanks for your help!

    • Jessie Festa on at 11:21 pm

      @Barb: So glad you enjoyed it! I loved the diversity of the scenery. And you’re not dumb. I probably would have gotten turned around myself had I not had the local guide 😉

  2. Sarah Peet on at 10:52 am

    Jessie, I can’t thank you enough for your fabulous blog post! We just returned from a week in the Caribbean and this hike was by far my favorite part of our trip. We would have been lost without your photos and detailed descriptions as we went without a guide. The vistas just kept getting more amazing with each section of the hike and it was so peaceful since most tourists wouldn’t know to venture through these trails. The taxi driver who dropped us off even thought we were nuts and kept begging, “Please, PLEASE don’t get lost!” I’m so glad to have found your post. Thanks for helping to make our trip so memorable!

    • Jessie Festa on at 3:40 pm

      @Sarah: YAY!!!!! That makes me so happy 🙂 Glad you enjoyed!

  3. Maya on at 11:12 am

    Next time you’re there, try to attend a Hash House Harriers event! The event is completely free and it includes a whole big group of adventurous people either jogging or walking around the prettiest locations in Antigua. Drinks and food are not included but you can buy it for extremely cheap after the walk/run is done. It’s a good way to meet people and see the views because you won’t be hiking alone 🙂

  4. Lee DeVary on at 9:28 am

    Hi Jessie, I came across this post when searching for hiking on the island for an upcoming trip to Antigua with some family. We are here now and I did the hike yesterday and all I can say is, THANK YOU! I did it by myself, which I was a little nervous about, but the views, the skill-level, everything was totally amazing and I was grateful for your details about it to know where to go! I’ve never seen anything like this place and that hike made me feel like a local. What an incredible discovery. Thank you!!!

  5. Michael on at 1:12 pm

    Took the hike, wasnt all that impressive. If you have been to other islands, the views you have from this vantage point are not bad, but in reality they arent worth the effort. We have been to many other islands with incredible views that we just drove up to and walked 100 yards.

    The pillars of hercules were kind of a let down. One thing you will quickly notice is despite being right at the ocean there is no breeze. So be ready to sweat like a hog and make sure to have at least 1 gallon of water.

    Overall opinion…NOT worth the time.

    • Brad Collins on at 12:09 am

      The ‘Pillars of Hercules’ are unfortunately best enjoyed and viewed from the sea both above and particularly below the water. I got to experience such, an under the water wickedly cool snorkeling experience.

  6. Casey on at 10:05 am

    My mom lives in Galleon and I’ve been coming here for 23 years. I’ve been looking for other hikes across the island to try out, but know that the ones around Galleon/Shirley heights are the best on the island. Yes, it is a dry island so don’t expect a jungle. But for anyone who stumbles upon this article and wants to shorten that hike/have an easier and I think more impressive path up, take the path up marked “Lookout trail” (1/2 mile up) and you’ll arrive directly at Shirley Heights, admire view, then walk out of the old fort on the road behind it, until you see a path in the grass to the right which will lead you down Carpenter’s rock (what the author did), which has these great views. No need for a guide, the trails are marked – I live in NYC and there are trails that are marked less than this one an hour outside of the city. Once you head down the face of Carpenter’s Rock and are on more or less flat ground, there will be a slight detour to the right offered to you which only saves a few minutes, stay left here on the volcanic rock for better views/the large cacti in the photo. No need to walk around to the pillars and get your shoes wet, just walk out the path, on the road and out the gate of the neighborhood. You are allowed to park outside of the neighborhood gate (there’s a little section) and all beaches are open to public. You could also get a water taxi from the beach there to English Harbour for $10 EC too. Instead of walking to pillars of Hercules, I would recommend snorkeling there, its the best place on the island. There is a guy who has people use motorized jet things if you aren’t that strong of a swimmer. But there are a lot of sea turtles that live here in the bay so if you just want to jump into the water and put some goggles on, you have the chance of seeing them right off the beach (not all the way to the pillars).

  7. Raven on at 7:54 am

    Amazing article also superb informative and images are nice.

  8. aniket on at 2:54 am

    The content of this blog good and very much ligit the view culture of these places are so amazing after reading this blog i would really like to go there some day and feel it my self and explore it and have fun

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