It’s been a few years since I have visited the tiny, visually stunning island of Anguilla. Out of the 28 island nations that comprise the Caribbean, Anguilla has to be the dreamiest.
Anguilla is a pristine island known to be frequented by Oprah, Denzel Washington, Jay-Z and Jennifer Aniston – just to purposefully name drop a few. It’s the paparazzi-free environment that draws them there to relax, unwind and leave behind the complications of celebrity life. For folks like you and I who look to escape the monotony of everyday life (and maybe even the North American winters), it’s the white sand beaches, friendly locals and unique eateries that will entice you to visit and count the days until you can return again!
Let’s be clear that flying to Anguilla is not the shortest travel day you will experience, but it is well worth it. Depending on the day, you will be sure to make a stop in the US, re-board a flight to Puerto Rico, wait a few hours and then finally you will arrive in Anguilla’s capital, The Valley. A popular route these days is to fly direct into St. Maarten and ferry across to Anguilla – it’s only a 20 minute ride!
I had the good fortune to stay with a close friend both times I visited and I wouldn’t trade her hospitality to stay at a hotel but if I had to stay on a resort the top accommodations are CuisinArt Golf Resort and Spa, Viceroy Anguilla and Cap Juluca – all are rated as luxury hotels.
We celebrated a friend’s birthday at CuisinArt one year with dinner, champagne and of course a cake! It was fine dining at it’s best with impeccable service. For a more personalized dinner, make reservations for the latest sitting possible. Since my visit, CuisinArt had added two new restaurants to their brand, Tokyo Bay for Japanese Cuisine and Italia for a classic Italian menu.
If you feel like dressing up for dessert and a night cap, visit hidden gem Blanchards Restaurant on Meads Bay. My best memory with the girls on a night at Blanchards is having a seat at the front bar and having a unique drink created for each of us by amazing staff member Lowell. You will be lucky if served by either Miguel or Lowell, warm staff and always entertaining!
For those of you who enjoy leaving the resort one in a while and mingling with locals for a real experience of the island, let your first night out be well spent at Pumphouse. This is the place to be and be seen on the weekend. Live bands are featured each week and it is definitely not a tap-your-toes, easy listening atmosphere. Be ready to get on your feet and join the jam session. See Anguilla’s most popular soca-calypso band The Musical Brothers on a Thursday night – a prelude to the weekend hype.
Another great thing about visiting Anguilla is its close proximity to the island of St. Maarten. Midweek through your vacation if you would like to do some shopping you may want to board the ferry at Blowing Point Terminal and take a 20 minute ride across to the French side of St. Maarten. The pace of life on both islands is polar opposites so it is worth your time to take the day and see for yourself.
Top breakfast spots have to be Mary’s Bakery (in The Quarter) for her Johnny Cakes and Le Bon Pain (Island Harbour) run by Bernard. Authentic French patisserie is enjoyed here surrounded by lush gardens and unique art work. Sunday morning after a late night out, head to Johno’s for late brunch/lunch. Enjoy eating and listening to live music all outdoors under a gorgeous sun and beside the water. If you are bold enough, have your turn at the mic and sing along with the band.
Finally, what can I NOT say about Anguilla’s main event – the beaches. There are over 30 public, white sand beaches to explore. My favourites (slightly biased as these were the only ones I visited J) were Shoal Bay, Sandy Ground and Meads Bay.
Anguilla really is a gem. The island is not commercialized like many other Caribbean islands with massive chain resorts along the beaches and it’s small enough to venture out and discover its many treasures while mingling with the locals. It would only take you about 30-45 minutes to drive across the entire island!
The next time you long for white sand between your toes, salt water in the air, warmth and sunshine for days on end…close your eyes and dream Anguilla.