They say the best way to really experience a place is to get out, see it on your own two feet and live how the locals live. It can be challenging to seek out an “authentic” experience, and sometimes, you just have to listen to your gut, say “YES” instead of “no,” and get a little bit lucky.
That’s exactly what happened to me on my recent trip to Antigua.
I visited Antigua for the Run in Paradise Half Marathon, a local event now in its second year. The course took us alongside the crystal clear blue-green ocean, up and down rolling hills, and through neighborhoods of all colors, sights and sounds.
Although I didn’t know it when I crossed the finish line at Fort James Beach, 20 of my new best friends were already there! The Wadadli Trail Blazers, a local hiking group, had walked the 5K together that morning and were already partying on the beach in their matching pink shirts, but I didn’t know that at the time.
I mentioned to my hotel, the Antigua Yacht Club and Marina Resort, that I’d like to go hiking in the afternoon after the race, and word passed from the hotel manager to the race director to, somehow, the leader of the Wadadli Trail Blazers. I was told that a guide would pick me up around 3:00 to take me hiking. What I didn’t know was that I was actually getting about 20 guides, and they were the members of this fantastic group!
As we pulled up to the meeting place, I realized everyone was wearing matching pink shirts. “Had I known, I would have worn pink!” I said laughing.
“Oh no – we’ve got you covered,” Jason, the group leader said as he pulled out a bright pink Wadadli Trail Blazers shirt of my very own.
Beaming, I pulled it on over my head and joined the group, which was continuing to grow in size. After learning everyone’s nicknames (many of which are not appropriate to repeat here – that’s how you know it’s a fun group!) and taking a quick group photo, we set off towards the cliffs on the eastern side of the island.
I couldn’t believe how friendly, open, and warm everyone was, although I shouldn’t have been surprised. This is Antigua, after all, where the smiles are as plentiful as the rum and the people are as sunny as the skies.
It was like I had been part of the group forever, and I couldn’t believe my luck; not only was I getting to hike in an unbelievable place, I was getting to hang out with local people who couldn’t have been happier to hang out with me and tell me everything I wanted to know about what life on Antigua was like.
I had no idea how far we were going, and aside from the thick, humid air, I couldn’t have cared less. Despite the 13.1 hilly miles on my legs from just a few hours before, I had plenty of pep in my step as we bounded along the cliffs and up and over gentle rolling hills.
Antigua’s trails are wild, and there are plenty of spots to climb around and explore or just take in the view. A little creativity and some sturdy legs can help you snag some amazing photo opportunities if you’re brave enough to climb over a rock and along a cliff edge or two.
After wandering along the ocean cliffs for a while, it was time to head back towards the cars – this time, going up and over a mountain! It seemed like we were headed straight up as the ocean got farther and farther away and the views got even more magical. Ok, now I was feeling that earlier half marathon for sure!
The trail on the other side of the mountain took us down through a thick jungle, and by this point, my bright pink Wadadli Trail Blazers shirt and my KUHL KENDRA shorts were soaked through. There is only so much moisture wicking that can be done when there’s 100% humidity, you know? It was all worth it though, because this part of the trail took us past one of the best views to be found on the island – one that you’ll find on any website or magazine advertising Antigua!
As the hike came to a close, everyone started asking me when I was coming back to hike with them again. Then, as if they hadn’t given me enough in the form of an incredible experience (and a really sweet women’s t-shirt), they presented me with an embroidered oven mitt and dish towel! I almost fell over.
I promised to come back for the race again next year, but I have to say – next year doesn’t quite seem soon enough. With a ton more mountains to explore, the friendliest people around and 365 beaches, Antigua truly has it all.