Whenever we visit Antigua, whether staying on the island or on a cruise stop, our path usually seems to lead to OJ’s. And why not? If you were conjuring up the perfect image of a beach bar that combines casual comfort with a nicely weathered beach bum authenticity, OJ’s would fit the bill.
First there’s the beach. A great stretch of powdery white sand that stretches off in both directions. OJ’s stands out on its section of the beach, not crowded by its neighbours. That sense of space also permeates throughout OJ’s. You can choose from tables inside, on the deck or in the sand. Or you can climb the few stairs to the breezy second floor for an even better view of the spectacular shoreline.
Then there’s the décor. The place is liberally festooned with the appropriate flotsam and jetsam: old fishing nets, battered buoys, shells, strings of coral, driftwood and the like. There’s absolutely no doubting that you are in a beach bar.
To round things off, they play a good mix of music – island beats, soul, R&B and 70’s soft rock on our last visit – at a good but unobtrusive volume. Live music is featured on weekends.
Best of all, OJ’s seems to just sail along at its own, unhurried pace. The staff are always friendly. They are there when needed, but also quite happy to let you do your own thing, even if that means sitting quietly, gazing at the sea and sipping on a Wadadli for an hour or two. Sure, it’s bigger than the first time we visited, and the offerings are a bit more ‘gentrified’, but the feel hasn’t changed. A trip to OJ’s is like visiting an old friend.
What will you have?
Beer: Wadadli is Antigua’s own beer and dominates here. In fact, it’s rare to see anyone drinking anything else. But Carib, Heineken, Red Stripe and Guinness Stout are also available.
Rum/Cocktails: Antiguan Cavalier rum is the go-to mixer, with another local rum, English Harbour 5-year-old, a step up. I’m told the English Harbour 10-year-old is very good, but it always seemed to be sold out. There’s a good choice of favourite island cocktails, and I have it on good authority that the signature OJ’s Knock-Out Rum Punch lives up to its name. There’s also a decent wine list.
Food: There’s a good menu, with emphasis on tasty grilled island staples, such as fresh fish, lobster, chicken and burgers. Salads, with adds on such as fresh lobster, tuna and chicken are also available.
The crowd is a mix of visitors, locals, ex-pats, etc., and that killer beach is good for families. OJ’s doesn’t seem to chase the tour buses or cruise ship excursion crowds the way one or two of its neighbours do. And that’s a good thing.
The west coast of Antigua is blessed with a series of great little beaches, many of which are home to a selection of establishments, ranging from ramshackle to chic. But if it’s a “real” Antiguan beach bar experience you’re looking for, you would have to go a long way to beat OJ’s. It’s become one of our favourites.
OJ’s Beach Bar & Restaurant
Valley Road, Crabb Hill Village