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Anguilla

by Camille Pepe Sperrazza

 

If every Caribbean island is just as wonderful as the next, why vacation at the one without a direct flight ?

 

That is what I asked myself. Until I discovered Anguilla.

 

Some of the reasons:

 

Crystal, clear sapphire water. Really.

 

Soft, clean sand. No debris.

 

Fabulous food. They take pride in creating a culinary experience. You won’t find any all-inclusives here.

 

No language barriers, misunderstandings, or miscommunications - the people on this British island speak English better than we Americans do.

 

Low crime rate.

 

And because there are no direct flights, it has an air of exclusivity. Anguilla doesn’t want the crowds as it would spoil the experience. Life here is all about quality over quantity; relaxation, and restoration. It is where the celebrities vacation.

 

If you are looking for nightlife, this isn’t the place. Dinner is eaten late, and people linger over it for hours. If one wants more than that, the local “hot spot” is Elvis’ Beach Bar. And when I say “beach bar,” expect your feet to touch sand. Here, the very tall bartender for whom the place is named, wears lots of bling on top of what may be Anguilla’s idea of formal attire - black pants, black vest, white shirt, and straw black hat. The drink special is a rum punch with amaretto floater; the music is loud; and it stays open until the wee hours.

 

The word Anguilla means “eel” in Spanish, and it is so named because this flat island resembles the shape of that creature. It is about the same size as St. Maarten, and this neighboring island offers the most convenient way to get to Anguilla. Fly nonstop to St. Maarten, then take one of the charter boats that regularly make the half-hour journey across the waters. It is as easy as taking a cruise ship’s tender to shore. But it will likely be on a speedboat - a much smaller vessel. Alternatively, one can fly to Puerto Rico, and catch a tiny plane to Anguilla. But depending on where you are traveling from, St. Maarten may offer the most economical route.

 

Upon arrival at the Blowing Point Ferry Terminal in Anguilla, a taxi will take you to the resort. Be aware taxis accept cash only. There are no provisions for credit cards, but if you pre-plan, some of the more upscale resorts allow payment to be charged to your room. Along the way, expect to see chickens, and maybe even goats, cross the road.

 

Where to stay

 

The Luxury Resorts:

 

Belmond Cap Juluca - The word “gorgeous” doesn’t come close to describing this property.  Every room has its own access to the beach, and each is built around the most stunning sapphire water. An event pavilion overlooks the property, offering insight into its perfect design -- a semi-circle of rooms around that dazzling water. Each room comes with its own butler.  Some of the more luxurious rooms come with their own golf carts so guests can scoot around the property.

 

The difference between a deluxe and a premium room is that the premium offers additional outdoor space. The room size is the same. Standard rooms have sofa beds that open to queen size. Casita rooms are most beachfront. One-bedrooms and larger have huge tables and sitting areas, plenty of room for longer stays. The majority of rooms offer indoor and outdoor showers.

 

Its on-property restaurant, Pimms, is an open-air venue, with many tables overlooking that mesmerizing water, highlighted at night with colorful lighting. If you happen to get one of the few seats that doesn’t offer the beach view, a strategically placed mirror takes care of that. It serves Caribbean and Mediterranean food, and has been called the most romantic restaurant in Anguilla. Upon entering, guests partake in a hand-washing ritual, using a special scrub.

 

Another restaurant, Covina Peruana, offers tapas, amid lovely outdoor seating, near a pool.

 

The property has its own greenhouse where herbs are grown. The manager I met during my visit is arguably the most charismatic hotelier on the island, and his charming personality is no doubt intertwined with the resort’s success. He pays such attention to detail, that as we roamed the property, he played music on his iPhone to enhance our experience.

 

Malliouhana - You know you’re in the tropics when you stay here. Bananas grow on trees. Tropical flowers are everywhere. The decor is comprised of vivid colors, and there’s an abundance of vibrant artwork and cozy pillows everywhere. Eclectic in design, the wall of the lobby displays an assortment of diving helmets. A beautiful outdoor area that doubles as event space has a nautical theme, overlooking the tantalizing beach.

 

Every afternoon there is “tea time” - or  what they call “rum tea” - an opportunity that allows one to add rum to tea.  Lunch and tapas are offered from 11 am - 11 pm.

 

There are 40 rooms, 10 of which are in the “main house,” for those who prefer to be near the bars, restaurants, and activities.  One of the most impressive room features is a giant mirror, trimmed with a white tropical design - click the remote and it turns into the television! The huge safe is in a concealed dresser drawer that slides out.

 

The 2-level infinity pool offers yellow-cushioned seating in the water - and there are matching yellow umbrellas, towels, cabanas, and even a water station.  Want news from home? The Times Digest is printed daily.

 

Room categories include garden views, ocean view deluxe, ocean view premium, junior suites, and villas.

 

One can opt for meals to be included at this property - a rare opportunity in Anguilla, and one that needs to be pre-planned. My agency also offers an option that includes breakfast and $100 to spend at the resort.

 

The Four Seasons - Need I say more? It is the Four Seasons. Step up to the welcome station. Drop what looks like a tablet into the water. It magically expands into a scented cold towel so you can refresh yourself. Fruit drinks await. Add some rum, if you like. It is all there for the taking, and this is just the greeting.

 

One-bedroom suites on the  ground floor are conveniently located near the Sunset Bar and stunning infinity pool. It’s all tastefully designed in earth tones. Bathrooms are massive.  There’s an outdoor hot tub; lounge chairs; cushioned couches; a small kitchen with sink, coffee maker, table and chairs; living room; and huge bedroom. 

 

Residences are available for longer stays, and command up to $20,000 per night for peak season. For that you get a full kitchen, counter space galore, tables, chairs, and couches. In short, all the comforts of home plus what you may not have at home - outdoor space with beach views. Some offer up to 3 bedrooms.

Penthouse suites are to die for, with gorgeous beach views, massive kitchens, full living rooms, washers and dryer, plus balconies.

 

Five-bedroom beachfront villas start at $7500 per night plus 22 percent tax in the off-season, which some may call “a steal,” because five couples can split the bill. It’s all relative.

 

Quintessence Boutique Hotel, also known as “Q” - Some of the grand luxury suites include a bar and conference rooms. Huge sculptures of a white rose appear throughout the resort, a signature piece. Decor is mostly dark wood, with eclectic artwork throughout the resort. I enjoyed a lobster lunch at its signature restaurant, Jillian’s, where I received VIP treatment from the chef, an experience not to be missed.

 

Frangipani Beach Resort - This small, 19-room resort is owned by a family from California. It is pretty and quaint, with floor-to-ceiling views of the beach at the upper-level rooms. Up to 8 adults and two children can stay in the 4-bedroom villas, which offer an outdoor shower. Entry-level rooms do not offer beach views. The resort has its own boat which affords guests the opportunity to sail and socialize, for an additional cost. The Straw Hat Restaurant, conveniently located on the premises, gives guests access to on-site breakfast, lunch, and dinner, at all-a-carte pricing. Food is good, and because it is located beachfront, views are quite impressive.

 

Cuisinart Golf Resort and Spa - Greece is the word. Sections of the resort are named after Grecian cities, and the blue rooftops mimic the decor of that country. One of the larger resorts, there are 101 rooms, including 2-bedroom penthouses and villas. The latter have butler service.

The spa is 27,000 square feet, and offers complimentary access to heated indoor spa pool.

 

Sea view jr. suites can accommodate 3 adults or 2 adults and 2 children,  up to age 12.

 

It has the only Kids Splash Pad, where kids can cool off by moving through a colorful water fall/sprinkling system. (Adults sometimes do this too).

 

Villas are spacious. Many of the rooms are minimalistic in design, with much open space. There is an

18-hole golf course on the premises, and discounted pricing for golfers who stay here.  The Mosaic restaurant offers breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Another, Tokyo Bay, offers Japanese fare.

 

Zemi Beach House - It is known for its Zen spa and infinity serenity pool. All rooms are attractive and large enough, with two- and three-bedroom villas offering an abundance of space. The property has two restaurants.  One opens on weekends only, and the other - 20 Knots - offers breakfast, lunch, and dinner. A breakfast buffet is included in most rates. At press time, the resort was sold to Hilton, so changes may be in store.

 

The Villas

 

Just about all of the resorts listed above offer villas, but there are some properties that specialize in villas only. The space is impressive, as are the views, and because there are so many bedrooms, it may provide an affordable option for several families to chip in and stay in luxury.

 

Plan ahead and have the property pre-stock the kitchen with items you desire. A fully equipped kitchen means you can prepare your own meals, saving families a bundle. Or, arrangements can be made for a chef to cook your dinner and do your shopping, once you arrive.

 

Long Bay Villas - When you want to live it up, rent one of these babies. They are gorgeous, and views are magnificent. A six-bedroom Sea Villa can sleep 11 people. In the low season, a villa decorated with a nautical theme, may start at $3,300 per night. Bathrooms are more spacious than some New York City apartments. A Sky villa starts at $2,900 in off-season. Rent the Sun, Sea, and Sky Villas, and up to 33 guests can be accommodated.

 

Santosha Villas - These range in price from $5,000 - $16,000, and include 8-hour daily butler service. Some have nine bedrooms, indoor and outdoor showers, two tennis courts, and a basketball court, plus offer your own little beachfront oasis in a cove-like structure made of natural rock formation. A sleep section for the kids offers bedding for six, and a reading nook.

 

More cost-effective:

 

Bella Blu - It is called your “home away from home.” Every unit is different in design, but they all have access to the beach and pool. Most offer panoramic views. A one-bedroom can accommodate 4 people because the couch converts. Each unit has a washer and dryer. Climbing steps may be involved. Anguilla has not quite embraced the concept of “handicapped accessible,” but you can ask to be put on the first floor.

 

Paradise Cove Resort - It is not on the beach, but they do offer transportation to take you there.  The property is fully air conditioned, and has a pool. Units include kitchens, and arrangements can be made to stock them.  Nothing fancy. Simple bathroom. A washer and dryer are available to guests, and the owner is on the premises.

 

Carimar Beach Club - If economical, Jersey shore bungalow-type accommodations are what you seek, this is probably one of the better ones. The plus is that is beachfront. The minus is that not all rooms offer air conditioning in the living room. While the bedroom is air conditioned, it only worked when the door was shut, which means the living room was always hot. Some kitchens and bathrooms were in the process of being renovated. There are no restaurants or stores on the premises, but there are some restaurants within walking distance. Maybe you will get a television in your bedroom. Maybe not.

 

Shoal Bay Villas - Likewise, there are no restaurants or stores at the resort, and the office closes at around 6 pm. This property is also beachfront, and has a pool. Some rooms are better than others, but still evoke a Jersey-shore bungalow vibe. Nothing fancy or modern. Within walking distance of restaurants. No television in the bedroom.

 

Attractions

 

Catch an excursion with Calypso Charters to sail to Anguilla’s famous arch, and see some of its beautiful caves and rock formations. They are sites to behold, and picture-taking opportunities abound. See some of the unique birds that hang out by the caves. I managed to get an amazing photo of a bird in flight.

 

Sail to Prickly Pear, an isolated patch of beach, with only a small beach bar. Swim in crystal clear waters. When I visited, there were very few people, so it was like having a private beach.

 

Or,  head to Sandy Island, a larger patch of paradise with the same breath-taking waters, plus a restaurant that serves surprisingly good food and drinks, including lobster. The latter does offer beach chairs and umbrellas.

 

Insider’s tip: Pack your own toilet paper and hand sanitizer for these excursions. Facilities are very basic.

 

Interested in traveling here or learning more?  Contact me today. 

 

This article was accurate when it was written, but everything in life changes. Enjoy the journey! 

 

Copyright: Camille Pepe Sperrazza