When the young woman at the ferry terminal in St. Maarten sold me a ticket to Anguilla she remarked, “It’s a very quiet place.” Later, while disembarking from the ferry , I faced a panoramic view of a cloudless blue sky against an island of blazing white sand floating on an opalescent sea and wondered, was there anything to do here?
Brochures have a formula for this query: “Replenish your body, relax your mind and rejuvenate your spirit. Anguilla’s resorts offer exceptional spas in which to do this. “Take in a few art galleries, make a fascinating excursion to our undersea world, then dance to world- or island beats under the stars.”. I learned that Anguilla is, in fact, full of possibilities and big on song and soul.
The “Anguilla brand,” as it became known, was hailed for what it has (remember those beaches) as opposed to what it doesn’t have – cruise ships, casinos, all-inclusives and shopping malls.
Starting from no more than 33 gorgeous beaches and congenial surroundings in the 1980s, Anguilla rose to become one of the world’s premiere low-volume, high-value luxury destinations for celebrities and the affluent. Over the last 25 years, government administrations have encouraged investors to develop the island.
Plans happened slowly at first and The Malliouhana Hotel and Spa at Meads Bay, with 44 rooms and suites , and Cap Juluca at Maunday’s Bay (recently refurbished), with 70 rooms and suites and six pool villas, are two resorts that led the way. One high-end tourism resort came on the scene during the 1990s. CuisinArt Golf Resort & Spa at Rendezvous Bay opened its doors in 1999, with 98 suites and private villas with poolshttp://www.CuisinArtResort.com. Viceroy Anguilla, an exquisite beachfront resort situated on 35 acres of lush tropical foliage, is the only resort on Anguilla situated on two beaches: Barnes Bay and Meads Bay.
A Fiscally Positive Environment
In 2002, the government instituted a fiscal stabilization plan to stimulate economic activity. Agreements were finalized with private developers for multimillion-dollar investments in tourism projects. Resorts like the intimate, impeccably landscaped, home-away-from-home Paradise Cove, located near Cove Bay Beach, opened with 29 suites. Manoah Boutique Hotel replaced the Ku, the CoveCastles Resort at Shoal Bay West, the Frangipani Beach Resort at Meads Bay, with 18 rooms and suites, the Carimar Beach Club, a condo hotel also at Meads Bay, with 24 apartments for people who want to maintain a “feel” for the island and the Arawak Beach Inn beside Island Harbor, with 17 guestrooms at a reasonable price.
Anguilla’s reputation for fine cuisine is renowned and well-deserved, and there are dozens of restaurants from which to choose. The island is safe, and you can roam about without concern, talk to the nicest people they’ve ever met and sample great fare from beach shacks and roadside and inland stands.
At Ken’s Barbeque stand, next to Brooks & Sons Complex, I sampled excellent barbequed chicken and spare ribs. (Friday and Saturday only). Nearby, every Sunday, Laurel Richardson serves local dishes from her White Van for about $15. Next to Albert’s Market Place on Stoney Ground Road, the Fat Cat offers take-away meals. Lunch at Smokeys (near Paradise Cove) costs about $35 to $50. From Thursday to Saturday B&D’s BBQ serves local dishes for about $20. Mango’s Seaside Grill serves soup and a salad (about $15), snapper (about $40) and jerk chicken (about $20). There’s always live music at the Pumphouse on Road Bay, where entrees range from $15 to about $40.
The view of the Temenos Golf Course is spectacular from Zurra’s on the club’s rooftop, while at the Straw Hat on the waterfront the cuisine and the ambience are well worth the steep price.
Gentle Island Rhythms
There’s no end to the music-makers in Anguilla either. Locals and ex-pats hang out at beach bars like Elodias and Johnno’s (right) and listen to reggae or jazz. Festival Del Mar is a community-based festival scheduled during Easter Weekend. Moonsplash, one of the Caribbean’s best and liveliest music festivals, kicked off on Anguilla’s gorgeous Rendezvous Bay beach from April 21 – 24, 2016. Now in its 26th year, the festival was founded and is still hosted annually by Anguilla’s own Bankie Banx, known as “the Anguillian Bob Dylan,” whose music style combines reggae, folk, R&B and jazz, and who has actually toured with Bob Dylan. The Tranquility Jazz Festival is held annually in November with “straight no chaser.”
Wildlife Encounters on Gentle Watersports
Because there are few if any strong currents, water sports are popular with tourists and locals alike. The island’s seaward edge or fore reef is a natural buttress for the surf, making the fringing reef – corals that have grown on the rocky surfaces of coves – ideal for snorkeling and diving. Cuts in the barrier allow divers to experience the wall beyond.
American Airlines, Continental Airlines, US Airways, United, Delta, Jet Blue, Air Canada, Air Transat (charter), Sky Service, West Jet, Air France, KLM, Copa and Corsair fly to St.Maarten. The main ferry connection to Blowing Point Ferry Terminal in Anguilla is from the Marigot Port on the French side of St. Maarten. The fare is $20, as is the exit fee.
An alternate, less frequented route that leaves from the Blowing Point Ferry Terminal is a charter boat, which docks close to the airport at Philipsburg in St. Maarten.
For more information, contact the Anguilla Tourist Board, at 877-4-ANGUILLA.
All photos © Denise Mattia