Anguilla was mapped as a tourist spot in the mid-1980s and has become an island known among the glitterati for luxe resorts, private villas and pristine beaches all sans paparazzi. For the rest of us, we find resorts so close to the sea that you can have your morning coffee with your feet in the sand. It’s a place where you can ride a horse into the surf, dine like a gourmand and sail off into the sunset.
1 Strands of Sand
Considered to have the world’s best collection of beaches, Anguilla is blessed with 33. Each strand varies in degrees of intensity from blinding white sand cast against electric blue water to shades of beige rimmed by turquoise shallows.
2 Ultra-Lux Digs
Anguilla boasts some of the most luxurious resorts in the region, and when money is no object it’s blissful to stay at top-drawer elegance. It’s tough to choose from the lavish seaside settings—all are relatively small and intimate, even the larger glitzy and trendy properties have their share of cozy spots. If you find that your stay takes you to one of the charming and more affordable alternatives, then enjoy a meal or cocktail at one of the swanking top-dollar hot spots and soak up the atmosphere for the evening.
3 Spiny Pleasure
Another touted treasure on Anguilla is the local lobster prepared simply on the grill, dusted with herbs de Provence or the local favorite, marinated in a sweet curry sauce. Restaurants serve delectable presentations of both the common spiny lobster known as “lobster” and the smaller spotted spiny lobster known on Anguilla as “crayfish.” Most restaurants will have at least one if not four lobster-themed entrees on the menu. For appetizers there’s the lobster-and-shrimp cakes at Blanchards, pumpkin-and- lemongrass soup with Thai lobster dumplings at Hibernia or the long-standing lobster spring roll at Straw Hat that comes with lobster, crayfish and other local seafood.
4 Maritime Passion
Island regattas turn into island parties as the time-honored cultural tradition of boat racing is celebrated at every occasion. Wooden and epoxy boats with single sails ply the waters beginning Easter week. The highpoint is the Anguilla Day Regatta, which takes place on May 30, but races run through August, when national holidays begin to wane. Boat racing is Anguilla’s national sport, and a race will manifest on any holiday or for just about any reason.
5 Music on the Move
Chase the island’s music scene, which travels from bar to bar, beach to beach and runs from day to night. Melodic reggae or soothing jazz can be heard at most any beachside bar or resort. Like many Caribbean islands music pulses through the veins of Anguilla.
6 Island Hopping
Whether it’s a day of snorkeling or a break for lunch, the sandy spits of land at Scilly Cay, Sandy Island and Prickly Pear Cay are just a short boat ride from the main island. Scilly Cay can pack a crowd and serves grilled lobster, fish or chicken while Sandy Island’s lean-to of a kitchen will throw out a few plates of lobster. At Prickly Pear Bar & Restaurant (aka Agatha’s) folks satisfy their cravings at its tiki bar—most visits here last the full day unless you come on a private boat.
7 No Wake Zone
Tranquility is the island’s mantra and the absence of jet skis and casinos helps to maintain a calm and peaceful environment, which places Anguilla in a league of its own.
8 Weekend Barbecue
Each weekend, the grills heat up in one of the Island’s favorite traditions. What started out as a family meal has turned into a small enterprise as cooks set up shop on Friday and Saturday evenings to sell chicken and ribs slathered with secret sauces and accompanied by island staples like mac ’n’ cheese, rice ’n’ peas and coleslaw. Once you lock in on your spot (ask around to see who is cooking when you are there), you’ll want to arrive early for a take-away plate of fixings.
9 Get Pampered
Anguilla has some of the best spas in the Caribbean. Whether it’s a relaxing massage at Malakh Day Spa under a gazebo on the sands of Shoal Bay East or a hydroponic cucumber and aloe wrap, a signature treatment at the Venus Spa at the CuisinArt Golf Resort & Spa, the pampering teams are always on hand.
10 Moonsplash Time
Time your visit to take in Moonsplash, an annual weekend of music, when local legend Bankie Banx hosts musicians from all parts. Music crosses all genres from reggae to blues and soul. The atmosphere is cool, beachy and absolutely magical. Performances take place under the stars and moonlight at his indoor/outdoor bar and restaurant, where an island driftwood décor sets the mood. The party happens during the full moon every March.