Anguilla – The Caribbean’s Quiet Treasure
The ocean stirs the heart, inspires the imagination and brings eternal joy to the soul. ~ Wyland
Have you ever traveled to a place where you felt as though you’d left a piece of yourself behind once you’ve returned home? A place that captured your heart and soul that will stay with you forever? On a recent trip to Anguilla, I fell in love with this enchanting island paradise. Sometimes the biggest surprises are the ones that come in the smallest packages.
Known as an exclusive luxury hideaway and destination for celebrities like Liam Neeson, Meryl Streep, and Robert de Niro, I knew there had to be a reason these famous people return to the island time and time again, so I was excited to see what the hype was about. As I soon discovered, they aren’t the only people who have a lifelong love affair with Anguilla.
An island nation, Anguilla is the northernmost Leeward Island in the Lesser Antilles and British Caribbean. It sits 231 miles east of Puerto Rico and is only 25 minutes by ferry or ten minutes by plane from St. Maarten, which lies to the south. Just 16 miles in length (and with only 6 traffic lights on the entire island), Anguilla is one of the ten smallest countries in the world.
Invited to experience their Festival del Mar, a weekend long seafood festival and one of the largest festivals in the Caribbean, I knew Easter weekend would be filled with fresh local seafood, lots of sun, and stunning views of pristine beaches (there are 33 of them), along with crystal clear waters with their brilliant hues of turquoise blue waters the Caribbean is known for. But what I didn’t expect was this uniquely laid back luxury vibe and genuinely warm people that makes Anguilla so special.
And even on the busiest weekend of the year, the resorts (at capacity) were very quiet and not at all crowded. While there were some people on the beaches and at the pools, it was like I had my own private island getaway. Anguilla is a place where you feel like you can totally unwind, unplug, kick back, and relax. And you should. The scenery, beautiful resorts and villas, and excellent dining options are something to be savored and enjoyed in a slow, refined way.
Anguilla is also a food lover’s paradise with some of the best restaurants in the Caribbean (and ones that have been longtime island favorites), resorts that offer cooking classes, an impressive hydroponic farm that supplies the restaurants at CuisinArt Golf Resort & Spa, and some of the most incredible crayfish that has crossed my lips. Their local crayfish, an Anguillian specialty, is actually a small spotted spiny lobster (not the New Orleans style crayfish that we know in the U.S.). It’s incredibly decadent with a sweet and buttery flavor and can be found on many menus across the island. It’s not always available, so when it is, you should take advantage of this ocean gem.
One of the biggest surprises was the terrain of Anguilla. It was flatter than other islands I’d traveled to and there are no rain forests or mountains. Formed of limestone and coral, the interior of the island is mostly scrub-covered and seems more arid than other destinations in the Caribbean. There are also seventeen salt ponds on the island, which used to be part of the island’s export business with salt production, but they’re now strictly estuarine ecosystems ideal for bird watching. In addition, the nearly constant breezes from the trade winds (sometimes gusty) also keep the temperatures moderated.
And then there are the beaches (all 33 of them). That’s when I fell in love – the velvety soft ivory sands and clear sparking waters with a luxurious, almost indescribable texture. It was silky and felt “heavier” than other Caribbean waters I‘d been swimming in, and the most surprising aspect was that the ocean water did not seem salty, at all. I never felt the dried salt residue after leaving the water; it was completely refreshing.
At Maunday’s Bay (at Cap Juluca), the texture and feel of the water was particularly intriguing as I dipped down beneath the surface just several feet from the shoreline. I remarked that the water felt so different here and other people agreed, but there were no words at the time to describe it, so I just relished in the moment, enjoying the time I had. Which is what you should do when you’re in Anguilla.
What to Do
A guide on the island told me, “We sell a lot of nothing here.” I love that quote and yes, it seems to be true, but while there is plenty of time to relax, do nothing, and just take in all the breathtaking scenery, there are also plenty of places to see and things to do in Anguilla.
Boat racing is the island’s national sport, so you might catch a boat race or two (especially during Festival del Mar). Anguilla is also the perfect place to snorkel, swim, take a horseback ride on the beach, or go fishing. How about a trip to the popular private island of Scilly Cay?
I headed out to Scilly Cay for a lunch of grilled lobster and a tasty pungent “rhum” punch followed by a lazy afternoon of basking in the sun and swimming. The island is located just off the northern shore of Anguilla at Island Harbor. I could see it in the distance, but I wasn’t sure how to get there. So I waited, assuming a boat would travel back and forth with guests to the island. When no boat appeared, I asked several young men on the dock how I would get to the island. They told me to wave like a crazy person and they’d see me from Scilly Cay and come over and pick me up. I was certain they were joking with me because I was a tourist, but I played along. Sure enough, like a Caribbean smoke signal, it worked.
Click on “Continue Reading” to discover where to dine and stay.