Anguilla – The Caribbean’s Tiny Island Jewel
By Richard Jones
With its pristine pearl-white beaches and crystal-clear turquoise waters, the enticing island of Anguilla is one of the Caribbean’s many jewels.
Described by its tourist board as “Beyond Extraordinary”, it has long been one the travel world’s best-kept secrets.
However, interest in the British Overseas Territory spiked somewhat last month when the destination was included on the UK Government’s fabled Green list of places that it deems are safe to visit.
So, if you too are seeking a safe long-haul break, does the 16-mile-long speck of paradise in the northern Caribbean, fit the bill?
Where is it?
The 35-square-mile island of Anguilla (pronounced “An-gwi-lla”) is situated between the British Virgin Islands and St Kitts and Nevis.
With “a shy beauty with a warm smile”, the slender length of coral and limestone fringed with green is ringed with 33 beaches, considered by many travel experts to be the most beautiful in the world.
They range from long sandy stretches like Rendezvous Bay, overlooking neighbouring Saint Martin island, to secluded coves reachable by boat, such as Little Bay.
With only 15,000 residents, much of the island’s economy is based on tourism, with Hollywood celebrities and the rich and famous falling for its fantastic culinary scene, friendly accommodations, host of attractions and exciting calendar of festivals.
Is it safe?
Anguilla has an enviable record of low coronavirus rates and a speedy vaccination rollout.
Throughout the pandemic, the island has recorded very few Covid cases (there are none currently active), and since January 2021 has implemented a successful vaccination programme.
All arrivals to the island are now tested on arrival, free of charge, but must stay in place while awaiting results (which is usually within 12 hours).
How do I get there?
The fact that Anguilla is just off the beaten path, means it has retained its charming Caribbean character and appeal.
Nevertheless, it is conveniently reachable for Brits from two gateways.
You can simply fly to Antigua direct from London with Virgin Atlantic or British Airways and catch an inter-island transfer to Anguilla’s Clayton J Lloyd airport from there.
Once you arrive at the airport, there are plenty of taxis that are part of the island’s approved transportation programme, or you can rent a car from $40 per day with Bass Car Rentals.
Alternatively, you can fly from a regional airport to Amsterdam using KLM’s Cityhopper network.
Then, fly with KLM/Air France out to St Maarten, from where you pick up a small boat to speed 30 minutes across the water (those travelling via St Maarten also need to apply for entry via their online portal, which is different to Anguilla’s).
Food and drink
Anguilla has long had a reputation as a culinary destination – which, let’s face it, is not always the case in the Caribbean.
The island has a surplus of talented cooks and offers a wealth of dining experiences, from toes-in-the-sand beach bars to fine dining in some of the region’s top restaurants.
Luxury resort Malliouhana’s open-air Celeste, features unique takes on Caribbean-inspired classics such as Grilled Mahi with blackened spice, corn relish and spicy mango coulis, Conch Curry with coconut dumplings, cauliflower and sweet peppers and Pyrat Rum Baba with papaya ice cream and crystallised lime.
Meanwhile, Bar Soleil is one of the best places from which to enjoy the picturesque Anguillan sunset.
Check out the schedule at Tasty’s to catch live music while enjoying classic island dishes served up by chef Dale Carty and his team in a welcoming setting just off Sandy Ground.
What is there to do?
Anguilla’s crystal-clear waters are a true spectacle, so don’t forget to take your snorkelling gear.
There are also many festivals taking place throughout the year, including the famous Tranquillity Jazz, Golf & Wine Festival in November.
Heritage Collection in East End Village is an amazing little museum, and history buffs might want to check out Wallblake House, one of the oldest buildings on Anguilla
Nature lovers can explore the island with the Early Bird Nature Walk around Belmond Cap Juluca.
Guests can expect to spot a wide variety of species including land, water and seabirds including bananaquit, white-cheeked pintail, plovers, stilts and egrets.
Depending on the time of year, eagle-eyed walkers may also spot overwintering osprey, peregrine falcons and blue heron.
For wellness, Malliouhana has a newly opened spa offering a wide range of treatments within a tropical garden setting.
The complex includes six treatment rooms, an infinity pool overlooking Meads Bay and the Caribbean Sea, a full hair and beauty salon and private fitness training rooms.
Where to stay?
With luxury resorts, boutique hotels, villas, apartments and beach clubs there is something to suit every taste and budget on Anguilla.
The luxury resort has created several new packages, which include sea fishing experiences with a special dinner using guests’ catch of the day, transparent paddleboards to try, and sport and wellness activities including yoga, pilates, and beach volleyball. The resort has also opened a new two-bedroom beachfront suite on Turtle Cove, boasting views of the crystal-clear waters, a lush, landscaped portico, garden patio and private plunge pool.
Aurora Anguilla Resort & Golf Club
This award-winning oasis (previously Resorts and Residences by CuisinArt) is set to open under new ownership from November 2021. Nestled in the crescent curve of Rendezvous Bay, it is home to the island’s only golf course (Greg Norman is also designing a shorter nine-hole course to accompany the 18 holes already available). The resort has seven world-class dining options and a redesigned rejuvenating spa.
Carimar Beach Club
This world-renowned Caribbean beachfront resort on the majestic Meads Bay’s sandy shores was dreamt up by author Francine Jacobs, and “the hotel with the feel of a condo” has long been considered one of the best hotels in Anguilla. As well as relaxing on the beach, guests can enjoy a game of tennis, or allow the Carimar Caring Concierge Services to arrange for golf, water sports, fine dining and island excursions.
For those seeking more intimate accommodation, the island is home to apartments and villas to suit groups of all sizes. Hummingbird apartment, just minutes from Meads Bay in the island’s West End, is a charming studio space within a traditional Caribbean house. Welcoming host Trudy will not only serve up a delicious dinner but also give plenty of insider tips for where to go and what to do.
The Cottage at Meads Bay
Situated on the beautiful Meads Bay, newly opened The Cottage is a luxurious private villa perfect for relaxing and reconnecting with friends and family. The villa features a spacious gourmet kitchen, living areas and four elegant bedrooms, while the concierge Kathryne Connor will take care of all your on-island needs. After outdoor dining on a veranda overlooking the white sandy beach, you can take a stroll down the front to the best bars and restaurants on the island.
Kenwood Travel offers seven nights room only at Carimar Beach Club £1,435 per person. Price is based on dates in November and includes return scheduled flights with Virgin Atlantic from London Heathrow to Antigua then inter-island transfers with TransAnguilla Airways. On-island transfers to the hotel not included. Go to: kenwoodtravel.co.uk or call 0207 749 9220
Alternatively, return flights from UK regional airports to St Maarten via Amsterdam or Paris with KLM/Air France, from £915 per person. Go to klm.co.uk.