WHY WE LOVE IT
No more than three miles wide, Anguilla (pronounced ann-GWEE-la) is all about beaches—33 of them—each one a powder-perfect vision in white.
This British Overseas Territory in the eastern Caribbean’s Leeward Islands is a slice of the old-time Caribbean—no cruise ships, high-rises, all-inclusive resorts or casinos.
The 12,000 residents are warm and friendly—and generally conservative, as people on most English-speaking Caribbean islands tend to be.
Even with the go-slow pace of development, there's an abundance of super-luxury resorts, villas and guesthouses (mostly low-rise and on the intimate side), plus some of the best spas and restaurants in the West Indies. Expect chic but without attitude.
Underwater marvels to explore include the 18th-century Spanish galleon El Buen Consejo and nine ships deliberately sunk to create an artificial reef.
WHEN TO GO
Popularity brings a long high season, from November through April. Look for bargains from May through October, when cooling trade winds keep things comfortable, but bear in mind that peak hurricane season runs from August through October.
WHAT TO PACK
Bathing suits, polarized sunglasses, sunblock, camera, U.S. passport, U.S. dollars in small denominations (accepted along with the East Caribbean dollar), binoculars (if you’re a birder), loose or drawstring pants (after all that food). For evenings, bring "smart casual" clothing.
WHAT TO BUY
Local Pyrat rum; silver replicas of devotional medallions from El Buen Consejo; straw hats from the Old Manse; model boats; paintings and sculptures from more than a dozen galleries.
Contact the Anguilla Tourist Board in the U.S. at 246 Central Ave., White Plains, N.Y. 10606; 914-287-2400 or (toll-free) 877-426-4845. In Canada, it’s at 1875 Old Waterdown Road, Burlington, Ontario L7R 3X5; 905-689-7697 or (toll-free) 866-348-7447. On the Web, go to anguilla-vacation.com
Available on weekdays only, marriage licenses cost US$284 (unless you’ve been on island for two weeks, in which case the price is just $40) and take two working days to process. Official ID is required; if you’re previously divorced, you'll need an original copy of the decree, and if widowed, your previous spouse’s death certificate.
If you're thinking about getting married on Anguilla, contact the wedding coordinator at Cap Juluca (capjuluca.com) or the CuisinArt Resort & Spa ( cuisinartresort.com). See Sleep for more about these resorts.
Melinda and Bob Blanchard have been at the forefront of Anguilla's impressive dining scene since they moved down from Vermont in 1994, and they've written well-received books (among them A Trip to the Beach and Live What You Love: Notes From an Unusual Life) about their experiences here. A lush beachside garden adorned with their son Jesse’s cool abstract paintings fronts one of the island's most sophisticated restaurants, and the views out to sea are breathtaking. The service, fine china, linens, crystal, refined Caribbean fare and award-winning wine list are all impressive enough, but Melinda’s local lobster in a honey-lemon rum glaze is itself worth the trip.
Back Street, South Hill
When Jamaican chef Deon Thomas isn’t sautéing for the swells at Cornerway, his Martha’s Vineyard restaurant, he’s down here from October through early May making sure his long-standing cliffside hangout totally aces the art of romantic dining. During the day Deon's offers a picture-book panorama of Sandy Ground Bay and tasty breakfast and lunch fare; in the evening, it transforms into a pumpkin-hued, candlelit oasis of fine dining. The food is inventive modern Caribbean: garlic-crusted snapper, lobster pancakes, codfish blinis and venison pot roast, along with desserts like the signature Decadent Chocolate Rum Cake with Grand Marnier Chocolate Soup that are worth dieting for.
Back Street, South Hill
A sweet little spot overlooking the Sandy Ground, Flavours bills itself as a "Caribbean steak house," and, holy cow, its Angus beef is done expertly, to a T-bone. But there are other stars as well, deft updates and twists on West Indian cookery. Start with the house tipple, a dark-rum punch with lime juice and amaretto, and then start eating. The fish and the silky curried-pumpkin soups are both winners, as are the pepper pot—a stew of right-off-the-line fish in coconut-ginger sauce—pan-seared grouper and, if you’re feeling adventurous, curried goat. Save room for the warm coconut tart with ice cream. (Indulge yourself, girl. You can always work it off later.)
Cap Juluca has two other fab restaurants, but Kemia's intimacy, sexy vibe and bold flavors make it our fave. Awash in romantic Arabian Nights–inspired decor, this chic seafront lounge is perfect for couples interested in chilling out and snuggling down into brocade cushions below a lantern-lit canopy ceiling. No studying long, elaborate menus here: David McCallum serves up a sleek assortment of international tapas (kemia in Moroccan Arabic). Nibble on a tasty U.N.’s worth of satay, sushi, ceviche, tagine, Korean-style ribs and, of course, Spanish-style tapas such as gambas al ajillo (garlic shrimp), a sandwich-style invention involving savory Serrano cured ham, and Spain’s classic vegetable omelet. Olé, for sure!
The decor of this 18th-century plantation house in the island’s main village was recently updated, as was the menu, now nouvelle-Caribbean and international treats rendered with sophisto flair—there’s even an Indian Tandoor oven. But under chef Gwendolyn Smith, the must-try dish remains the chicken for two roasted in the 200-year-old traditional rock oven (you’ll need to order 24 hours ahead). The snapper, mahimahi and other finned favorites are also excellent. Accompany your choice with vino from the 25,000-bottle cellar, and cap it all off with a (free!) rum tasting in the shop downstairs, where you can also browse for art. On Fridays and Saturdays there’s live music.
MICHEL ROSTANG AT MALLIOUHANA
Spectacular for both the eyes and palate, this has to be the most serious culinary experience on Anguilla, if not the entire Caribbean. Heavy-hitter Michel Rostang—he has a Michelin two-star restaurant in Paris—teamed with head chef Alain Laurent on the West Indian–inflected French menu. Don't miss the yellowfin covered with crushed sweet peas and cooked with green tomatoes in a wasabi sauce. As for the atmosphere at the open-sided, palm-fringed dining room, West Indian warmth softens the traditional continental stiffness you might expect. Some say the wine cellar of more than 25,000 bottles is the West Indies' best. And that view!
CuisinArt Resort & Spa
Benefiting deliciously from produce grown in the hydroponic greenhouse right on the CuisinArt premises, this restaurant named after the beloved Greek island continues to soar under globe-trotting executive chef Denise Carr, who began her career in California and was hailed for her work at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas before she headed off to direct the kitchen at Madinat Jumeirah in Dubai. Her reconception of Santorini has already paid off with an AAA four-diamond rating for 2008. With their ingredients grown so close by, it's no surprise that Santorini serves the island's freshest salads, but the fish is also yummy, and we heartily recommend splurging on the tasting menu. Amateur chefs should try the hands-on luncheon, and grape groupies might want to avail themselves of one (or all!) of the twice-weekly wine tastings.
It may lack for views, but this homey, pastel-painted restaurant near the Methodist church compensates with cute beach murals by island artist Susan Croft and, above all, the imaginative Carib-creole creations of owner-chef Dale Carty. He trained at Malliouhana and in Paris under Michel Rostang—and boy does it show. Don't leave without trying his exquisitely marinated conch salad and his coconut-crusted parrot fish with spicy banana-rum sauce. There’s also plenty in the way of chicken, pork, beef and vegetarian dishes (not to mention, this being the Caribbean, curried goat), and folks just rave about the Grand Marnier French toast at breakfast.
Road to Sandy Ground
Culinary Institute of America grad Carrie Bogar and her husband Jerry escaped to Anguilla from Pennsylvania in 2006 and opened this soothing dining spot the following year. The far-flung inspiration for the duo's inventive "cuisine of the sun" is not merely the Caribbean (grilled jerk tuna with a rum-coffee glaze) but also places like North Africa (Moroccan spiced shrimp and New York strip) and Vietnam (crispy calamari). The desserts include liberal use of tropical ingredients like mango, coconut, ginger and passion fruit. The award-winning wine list may not be the biggest around, but it spans four continents and is well chosen indeed. Breakfast and lunch will be served in a garden-level cafe starting in May 2008.
ALLAMANDA BEACH CLUB
Shoal Bay East
Starting alphabetically means the top slot goes to a resort that’s atypical for Anguilla: moderate in price. The 16 white-tile-floored rooms are simple but clean and cheerful, with phones, TVs, kitchens and balconies or terraces. The on-premises amenities pretty much consist of a pool and hot-tub area and a pair of worthy eateries, Zara’s Gourmet (with a singing chef!) and Gwen’s Reggae Grill. But what you’re really here for is a two-minute stroll down a path through coconut palms and sea grapes: one of the most breathtaking beaches in the Caribbean. There's good snorkeling around the rocks. Allamanda’s not fancy, but for the right kind of honeymooners it’s a low-key slice of the Caribbean of days gone by.
Shoal Bay West
Tel: 264-498-4000 or 888-652-6888
Set on a half-dozen beachfront acres, Altamer's three shining-white villas, designed by Myron Goldfinger (he also did Covecastles, below), are minimalist-chic showpieces. But the amenities and service we'd have to call maximalist. Amid the rattan-mod decor and dramatic artwork you’ll find things like a hundred-foot-wide movie screen; game rooms with pool tables; fitness centers; 45-foot-long pools; tennis and volleyball courts; a snorkeling pond with waterfall; and rooftop hot tubs you could do the backstroke in. All this plus a full staff and the high-profile eponymous restaurant (see Eat). If you want to kick off married life in mind-blowing style, consider staying in one of the 20 rooms at these fantasy villas.
ANGUILLA GREAT HOUSE BEACH RESORT
Tel: 264-497-6061 or 800-583-9247
A friendly local family runs this affordable 35-room member of the Charming Escapes Collection, whose winning attributes include the unpretentious, old-time West Indian feel and a prime location just off one of the island's best beaches. A fine open-air Caribbean restaurant, the Old Caribe, and a rectangular pool that overlooks a stretch of beach are the main amenities. The spacious living quarters—seven of which are bungalows—are decked out in a homey, traditional style (lots of mahogany and chintz); some have private porches where you can hang out on a chaise longue, mesmerized by that blue, blue water.
ARAWAK BEACH INN
Tel: 264-497-4888 or 877-427-2925
Cute and colorful, here’s another mom-and-pop oasis that’s reasonably priced and intimate, its distinctive octagonal, conical-roofed buildings housing just 15 units, all phoneless and furnished in rattan or mahogany, with air-conditioning and kitchens available upon request. The accommodations fall into two categories. Upstairs are the deluxe rooms with the views, along with lots of teak and mahogany, balconies and TVs with international channels. The beach-level rooms have terraces, are a little simpler and have no boob tube. There’s a charming pool area and a great little cafe, and your hosts Maria and Maurice are as genial as the day is long. If you’re a stickler for hop-to service, though, this may not be the spot for you.
Tel: 264-497-6666 or 888-858-5822
The 18 extravagant Moorish-style villas at Cap Juluca, strung along a white, mile-long stretch of beach, are just as striking inside as out. Their decor is soft, cool and posh, with sexy touches that include marble bathrooms (with tubs for two in the junior suites) and lounging beds on lovely terraces. The top-of-the-line villas have their own pools and butlers. The quartet of restaurants and the other amenities—including three tennis courts and a huge pool—are all excellent, and the service is impeccable. The New Agey spa and gym are a dream, and there’s a great 18-hole golf course right next door. Some people use the word "magical" to describe Cap Juluca. What more could you want for your honeymoon?
Shoal Bay West
Tel: 264-497-6801 or 800-223-1108
Myron Goldfinger put Anguilla on the modern-architecture map in 1985 with these 16 futuristic white villas renowned for their distinctive rounded silhouettes. But looks aside, what will really knock you out about the digs at this Small Luxury Hotels of the World member near the island’s southwestern tip is how madly spacious they are. Well, that plus kitchens worthy of the Food Channel and every conceivable electronic doodad. Covecastles provides all the upscale resort amenities, including a tennis court and a superb restaurant. Choose from four categories of units, from standard two-bedroom duplexes to a five-bedroom palace. All have private entrances and verandas with sweeping sea views, but only the upper-end units have pools (then again, with a beach like the one out back, who cares?).
CUISINART RESORT & SPA
At age 8, this 93-room resort is still one of Anguilla's newer kids, with a comely Greek-island-inspired exterior and rooms that are large, if not as distinctive, and done up in French blue and gold on white. As the name implies, the big draw here is the food. On-site hydroponic and organic farms produce many of the ingredients for the fresh and imaginative Mediterranean cuisine served in the resort's trio of restaurants. (If you're really into cooking, there are lunches for which you pick the produce and cook it under the chef’s guidance.) The three-story Med-style Venus Spa is famous for its au courant pampering, and a soon-to-be-finished expansion that will triple the spa's size—additions include a Thalasso pool and a new Pilates and yoga studio in the gym—will only increase its renown.
Shoal Bay East
Tel: 264-497-2011 or 800-869-5827
Straddling a positively gorgeous two-mile stretch of sand amid coconut palms and sea grapes, the former Shoal Bay Hotel aims for laid-back, sexy (South Beach version) and sophisticated—but at far gentler rates than the ones at places like Cap Juluca, and without snooty SoBe attitude. The 27 kitchen-equipped suites (nice and roomy at 775 square feet) occupy five buildings, and there are also a small spa and gym, a beachfront pool and a 75-foot beach bar under a white tent (nice, though it can get in the way of the beach view from the outdoor dining area). A long-awaited beachfront restaurant called Kuyah, which opened in late 2007, serves tropical market-fresh fare overseen by Deon Thomas (see Deon’s Overlook, in Eat).
Tel: 264-497-6111 or 800-835-0796
Who hasn’t heard of this classy classic, set on a seaside cliff amid 25 lushly and meticulously landscaped acres? After nearly a quarter century, one of the Caribbean’s resort superstars is still going strong with its divine mix of 007 glam and European élan, and its 55 huge rooms with multilevel terraces continue to wow a new generation of newlyweds, along with more than a few celebs and plutocrats. Your perks here include three pools, four tennis courts, a four-to-one staff-guest ratio, superlative dining at the haute-cuisine crown jewel overseen by the world-renowned Michel Rostang (see Eat) and a 15,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art spa and fitness center.
Like Altamer, Temenos is a trio of superluxe villas, each a very private compound with four spacious suites, marble soaking tubs, infinity-edge pools, high-tech entertainment centers and the services of a butler. Other on-site amenities include tennis, water sports and a gym with yoga and Pilates. An expansion is under way—the Greg Norman 18-hole golf course is already up and running a short hop away, with a 28,000-square-foot clubhouse that includes the swinging restaurant Zurra (courtesy of Melinda and Bob Blanchard; see Blanchards, in Eat). A hotel, private residences and a David Bouley restaurant are slated to follow in late 2008 or early 2009.
With its 33 gorgeous main strands, there's a beach for every mood. Rendezvous Bay is swell for swimming, while Junks Hole in Savannah Bay makes a beautiful backdrop for catching some rays. Katouche Bay and Forest Bay deliver the goods when it comes to shelling; Shoal Bay East, Little Bay and Crocus Bay are excellent bets for snorkeling, scuba and other water sports. Road Bay and Shoal Bay East top the charts for partying and people-watching; Limestone Bay and Barnes Bay are where you’ll want to head for romantic sunsets. And the beaches of offshore Sandy Island and Prickley Pear Cay are perfect for that unspoiled, castaway feel.
SAIL AWAY, SAIL AWAY, SAIL AWAY
On this boating-bonkers isle, have your hotel pack a picnic (or get one together from a deli or restaurant), charter a yacht with crew and let them spirit you off to your own deserted cay for a Robinson Crusoe–style afternoon you won’t soon forget. Charter outfits include Footprints Charters (264-729-5179; footprintscharters.com), Little Bay Boat Service (264-497-3939) and Sandy Island Enterprises (264-772-0542). If you’re lucky enough to be here for an event in the national sport of boat racing (especially Easter Monday, May 30, and the first week in August), don't pass it up.
PLUMB THE DEPTHS
Anguilla is blessed with six marine parks and not one but two major reefs—an innie and an outie—with spectacular soft and hard corals, critters from angelfish all the way up to sharks and gentle underwater currents. Plus, not for nothing is the island known as the Caribbean’s wreck-diving capital—there are also nine artificial offshore reefs (intentionally sunk ships) to explore. Still, we prefer the real McCoy: the 990-ton Spanish galleon El Buen Consejo, which ended its final voyage here in 1772 and is outfitted with cannons, anchors—one 15 feet long—and a bevy of bronze medallions. At present, divers can't visit this protected site because of a lawsuit; for updates contact Shoal Bay Scuba (264-235-1482; shoalbayscuba.com), which also offers PADI certification courses.
With such a flat landscape and so many beaches, there's almost nowhere on this 35 square miles a horse can't go. El Rancho del Blues (264-497-6164) down in Blowing Point and Seaside Stables (264-235-3667) on Cove Road will trot you out à deux, either Western- or English-style, along scenic trails and the sands. If you’re total newbies, you can take lessons, and if it's a steamy day, you may even be allowed to swim with your mounts.
HANG AT THE DUNE PRESERVE
There’s not much to it, but this watering hole on a beautiful stretch of Rendezvous Bay beach next to CuisinArt just might be the reggae beach bar of your dreams. A funky amalgam of driftwood and paraphernalia centered around a bar made from a fishing boat, the preserve is named after the 40-foot-high dunes that lined the shore here before dredging and hurricanes did them in. It’s the domain of the renowned Bankie Banx, who may be among the artists performing four nights a week. Order the jerk chicken and the Dune Shine cocktail, which Bankie calls his "enlightening aphrodisiac."
GROOVE AT THE MOONSPLASH MUSIC FESTIVAL
The Dune Preserve
Caribbean legend Bankie Banx has been hosting his three-day annual full-moon party for nearly two decades—and if you've got an ear for reggae, you might consider a March wedding in order to attend, mon. Artists appearing on the stage—it's shaped like a fishing boat and flanked by funky, colorful, totem-like masks—have included Jimmy Buffett, Toots and the Maytals, Culture, Black Uhuru, Freddie McGregor, Marcia Griffiths and Kevin Bacon. The party's an unforgettable experience.
BUST LOOSE AT CARNIVAL
Dating back to the freeing of the island’s slaves in 1834, Anguilla's colorful carnival starts the weekend before the first Monday in August with a fireworks display and lets rip for a full week of partying, pageantry and regattas. The highlights include the Miss Anguilla Pageant; the Heineken Cup Boat Race; a kids’ parade; a calypso competition; J’ouvert, when everyone dances and parties in the streets from dawn till noon; the Thursday Boat Race, with homemade boats and (of course) a party; and the big Friday parade. So watch out—if you were thinking of a quiet, laid-back honeymoon, jumping into all these festivities could leave you heading home more pooped than you left.
BOP OVER TO ST. MARTIN
If at any point you’re finding things a little too languid and need a dose of the bright lights of casinos and clubs—or duty-free shops—it's a cinch to hop an 11-mile, 18-minute ferry ride to St. Martin's very French-feeling capital, Marigot. The ferry heaves ho about every 30 minutes from Blowing Point on Anguilla’s lower south shore (don’t forget your Anguilla immigration form and U.S. passport). You can rent a car right on the Marigot dock to reach the casinos and stores in town. If you want even more action, head south to more typically Caribbean-flavored Philipsburg on the Dutch (St. Maarten) side of this island. For more details, check out our St. Martin–St. Maarten guide.
ANGUILLA RUMS LTD.
Sandy Ground, Road Bay
Anguilla turns out some mighty fine rums—though these days it doesn’t grow cane or distill but rather blends raw booze from elsewhere—and they’re sold in various stores across the island. But we suggest coming to the source, an old peach-color building where you’ll find the full range of Pyrat products. Why bother? One word: tastings. OK, and another word: tours (but for those you have to luck out or call ahead). Yo, ho, ho and a …
Sandy Ground Roundabout
Shopkeepers Lynn and her husband, Calvin, are crafty ones, those two. This cute, colorful pastel-painted shack makes a pretty good one-stop shop for a lot of Anguilliana—not just Pyrat rum (or St. Maarten’s Guavaberry rum) but handicrafts, foods and art from a wide variety of islanders. Just a sampling: Rowena Carty’s hot sauce; Darlene DeStephen’s prints of underwater scenes; Lindsay Lawrence’s tea towels; Vivienne Fleming’s cloth dolls and ceramic houses; and JoAnn Mason’s books. Or you can buy a T-shirt to benefit the local animal-rescue group.
CHEDDIE’S CARVING STUDIO
West End Main Road
Driftwood Haven, The Cove
Handsome local wood sculptor Cheddie Richardson has built an international reputation selling the sinuous, sensuous pieces he crafts at his blue-and-green studio and showroom on the road to Cap Juluca and other resorts. What this guy can do with mahogany, walnut, coral, stone, bronze and even garden-variety driftwood will just floor you: dolphins, birds, fish, people, you name it. He also does custom commissions; if yours isn't too complicated, he might even have it ready before you leave the island. Bring one home, and you’ll end up with an awesome heirloom to remind you of your tropical Anguilla honeymoon. Cheddie also sells the works of other local artists and craftspeople.
DEVONISH ART GALLERY
West End Road, The Cove
Courtney and Carrolle Devonish, one of the Caribbean's top "power couples," artistically speaking, have been running their hibiscus-swathed gallery for two decades now. Their own works—his elegant modern wood and clay sculpture and pottery, her bead jewelry—hold center stage, but they also sell the paintings, prints, pottery and jewelry of other artists, along with quality repros of cool antique maps. Their gallery is also a high-quality gift shop, with something for just about everyone, from Caribbean rums and cigars to quilts and swimsuits. Heads-up: At some point in 2008 the couple will be moving into bigger digs, so call ahead.
Water Swamp Road, George Hill
Tel: 264-497-2299 or 800-515-3935
In an area between the airport and the West End, where many of the resorts are clustered, this familiar name throughout the Caribbean recently opened the first shop in Anguilla that has truly top-of-the-line merchandise and expert sales help. Run by Californian Greg Winegar in an 1,800-square-foot shop in a new mall next to El Dorado mall, it’s all here, from the expected (diamonds, pearls, topaz, amethyst, etc.) to the exotic (blue-violet tanzanite, volcanic green peridot). Even if you thought your wedding ring was the end of the story, pop in for a browse—who knows, you might just strike it rich again.
At his gallery on the road to Crocus Bay, Frank Costin, who hails from Toronto but has a dozen years on-island under his belt, displays an outstanding selection of fine art from Anguilla and at least nine other spots around the Caribbean basin. Noteworthy items from neighboring St. Martin include Paul Elliott Thuleau’s stoic architectural portraits. From Haiti, Costin's got both fine art (check out the cool metal cutout sculptures made from oil drums) and striking flags that evolved out of the country’s African-derived voodoo religion.