The Cruising Capital . . .
Sleepy Anguilla is the most northerly of the British Leeward islands. With friendly, laid-back locals and some of the best beaches in the Caribbean, it’s definitely one of THE places to visit
The island is fairly dry and flat, although the beaches more than make up for this. Turquoise-tinged waters lapping at sugar-white, palm-fingered beaches make this destination a true island paradise. What’s more, for diving and snorkelling enthusiasts, Anguilla is hard to beat. The water here is crystal clear, and there are plenty of easy and interesting dive sites to explore – and if you fancy venturing further afield, take a diving trip to nearby islets such as Prickly Pear Caves and Sandy Islands.
If you’re a sun worshipper, you won’t be disappointed. Anguilla boasts a host of beautiful beaches to sunbathe on, while the seas are warm and balmy if you fancy a dip. Sandy Ground and Shoal Bay East both have gorgeous, azure-blue waters, while Meads Bay, Shoal Bay West and Crocus Bay definitely warrant a visit.
Tourism is fairly low-key here; major hotels and tourist facilities were only developed in the 1980’s and as such, it has steadily become one of the hot spots in the Eastern Caribbean. It’s still pretty much a British colony, despite the English attempt to link it with some of the nearby islands in recent years.
Even so, its culture is a blend of British and African influences.
Anguilla is situated 320km east of Puerto Rico, in the north east corner of the Caribbean, just a stone’s throw (8km) from its nearest neighbour, St Martin. The island itself is tiny, measuring just 25km long and 5km wide, so you can pretty much walk round the whole place, if you so wish.
Although the terrain is dry, there’s around 80 species of birds found on the island, with the common black and yellow banana quits and the green-crested hummingbird found on the island year – round. The various salt ponds around Anguilla attract herons, egrets, yellowlegs and white-cheeked pintail ducks, so bring you binoculars if you’re keen on wildlife.
It may be a small island, but to get around it, you have to rely either on Shank’s pony or rent a car – there ‘s no bus service. However, car rental companies abound – you can pick up a car from the airport if you need to (be aware that Anguillans drive on the left, and most of the hire cars are left-hand drive too).
The valley is the only real town on the island; it’s the political centre of Anguilla, even though it’s the rather a rambling space with a handful of shopping centres in it and a definite lack of colonial architecture. However, take a trip to the Anguilla National Trust museum and Wallblake House to see their historical displays if you fancy a bit of culture. Nearby, the adjacent church boasts a decorative stone facade plus open sides-and a ceiling shaped like a ship’s hull.
To get a real view of the island’s sandy beaches, head to Meads Bay where you’ll be greeted with a mile-long stretch of white sand-and what’s more, it’s a great place to swim, too. It’s a relatively quite spot, even though there are one or two large hotels here, but at least they’re not right on the beachfront.
For some of the island’s best beaches, head out to Shoal Bay East – on the north eastern side, you’ll be greeted with more glorious white sand beaches and blue waters, and it’s a great place for swimming and snorkelling. And when you’ve had enough of the sand, sea and sun, take a short trip to the nearby Fountain, Anguilla’s top archaeological site, which is just a stone’s throw away.
If you’re a fan of culture, make a stop at Island Harbour, the island’s working fishing village. Here you’ll see lines of brightly coloured fishing boats and just a handful of hotels, while the main daw is Big Spring, a partially collapsed cave containing Amerindian petro glyphs and an underwater spring.
If you’re a fan of diving, then make sure you leave enough time to visit Prickly Pear Cays, one of Anguilla’s nearby islands. It boasts plenty of caverns and ledges for divers and you might even be lucky enough to spot a few barracudas and sharks while you’re down there, too. It’s easy enough to get to – it’s a short hop on a boat from Sandy Ground, which travel here and back daily.
Wining and dining
Renowned as the cruising capital of the Caribbean, Anguilla boasts a range of culinary delights for the discerning guest. The island has over 70 restaurants, ranging from intimate gourmet spots to beachfront bistros, so take your pick. French Creole and Italian feast, not forgetting the delicious platters of fresh seafood available at most restaurants. And look out for the fantastic crayfish and lobster on offer at Scilly Cay.
It’s true when the locals say that there are as many chef and restaurant cuisine specialities on the island as there are restaurants. International chefs blend their inspired creations with Caribbean tradition and Anguilla spices and herbs to create sumptuous signature dishes. And don’t leave without trying the famous Anguillan breakfast of fried fish and jonny-cakes, either!
For a first-class dining experience, treat yourself to dinner at the Altamer Restaurant, which serves French and Caribbean fusion food. Tempt your taste buds with boned quail flambéed with brandy and Calvados-marinated grapes, or tenderloin of Black Angus beef flambéed with brandy and Dijon mustard-all within the magnificent setting at Shoal Bay West. And for something a little less exclusive but no less tasty, head to E’s Owen in the South Hill area. Housed in an attractive red and yellow building with wooden shutters, the menu includes a wide variety of meals from sandwiches and salads to sirloin steak and more elaborate dishes such as Blue Fish in Basil Cream Sauce, while the bill won’t come to more that around £9.00.
Where to stay
Cap Jaluca Hotel and spa is the perfect retreat to relax and rejuvenate the mind, body and soul. This secluded luxury resort is spread across its own 179-acre private estate on the island paradise of Anguilla. On the gorgeous mile long white sand beach of Maundays Bay, this elegant Moorish style resort will create a feeling of well-being and vitality in even the most stressed or worn out soul. This truly unique hideaway is much more than just a spa. It offers many natural therapies such as tree of life, soul awakening, yoga and group energetics to take an individual on an amazing spiritual journey. Cap Jaluca also has an amazing selection of foods, with a regular appearance of famous guest chefs in the restaurant and specially created delicious meals relating to a guests individual treatment. Rooms from US$345 in summer, US$445 in Spring and Autumn.
Anacaona Boutique Hotel (www.anacaonahotel.com)
Anacaona Boutique Hotel is the ultimate hideaway, overlooking magnificent Meads Bay on the peaceful island of Anguilla. The Mediterranean-style resort with Caribbean touches blends in a unique way. Four Standard rooms and Sixteen Superior individually designed guest rooms and three charming villas are laid out in a tropical garden, just steps from the sugar-white powder sand of Mead’s Bay Beach. Around $170 per night.
Just from the airport and two minutes from Scilly Cay by boat, the Arawak Hotel features a sun terrace, swimming pool and pleasant views of the beach, which are a short walk away. There’s also Arawak’s bar and beach Inn nearby for everyday bits and bobs. Around £60 per room per night.
Language – English
Currency – Eastern Caribbean Dollar
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