Caribbean: Anguilla, an Overview
The island of Anguilla (pronounced "an-gwil-lah") combines mellow Caribbean life with exotic Mediterranean style. Everywhere you look, you see blue and white: Turquoise sea tickling white-sand beaches or blue sky framing stark white resorts. Don't come here for rainforest hikes, flashy casinos, or thumping nightlife. (If you need a nightlife fix, St. Martin is just a 20-minute ferry ride away.) The focus here is on lingering meals, silky sand, and star-lit strolls. You may pay a higher price to visit Anguilla than other tourist-trampled islands, but you'll be rewarded with top-class resorts on one of the Caribbean's safest and most friendly islands.
In a Word: Food
Nearly 70 restaurants dot this 35-square-mile island. Best bets: For a festive vibe, head straight to Ripples, (264) 497-3380, where you'll swoon over the island's best coconut shrimp and fruity guava berry, mango, and strawberry coladas. Foodies should save a special night for the romantic KoalKeel Restaurant, (264) 497-2930, built on the site of an 18th-century sugar and cotton plantation. If the inviting bed you pass on your way in doesn't put you in the mood for love, the six-course Le Degustation menu where each course is paired with a glass of wine from the 25,000-bottle wine cellar or old-fashioned rum-tasting room, will.
Why We'd Go: 4 Features You'll Never Forget
- Scilly Cay: You'll see why the name of this island is pronounced "silly" after you've downed a few deceptively lethal rum punches. Couple them with pricey but succulent marinated grilled chicken or lobster, and you're one happy and heavily soused honeymooner. Open for lunch only, this private island is just a short boat ride away from Island Harbour and features conch shell walls, phallic "prickly pope" cacti, live music three days a week, and lounge chairs for napping.
- Island Relics: If you think history is a snore, come to the homey Heritage Collection Museum, (264) 497-4440, lovingly curated by island history buff Colville Petty. You won't find red velvet ropes, glass-encased statues, or snooty guards here. Instead, you'll discover a fascinating assembly of artifacts, tools, newspaper clippings, and photo albums (that you can flip through!) for an engaging journey through the history of the island, from the early days of Arawak Indians to recent hurricanes and carnivals.
- Life is Art: Anguilla is a beautiful island that inspires a bevy of art galleries. Two highlights of many include the Devonish Art Gallery, where you'll find vibrant island-life paintings, sublime wood carvings, photographs, jewelry, and ceramics; and Cheddie's Carving Studio, filled with sculpture pulled from and inspired by pieces of driftwood. A partial list of galleries can also be found at www.anguillaart.com.
- Nightlife: Love to dance? Head to the popular beach dance party at Johnno's or to the nearby Pump House. Salt was once the island's main export and this island watering hole, where the warm and friendly owners know how to have a good time and pour a stiff drink, has the pump to prove it! Everyone must have a Pump House rum punch or one of many frozen vodka shots to sip or shoot as they sway to the music; the brave (or crazy) few should try an oversized Binger's Flaming Blue Lamborghini shot. One per customer! Another island original is Dune Preserve, a beach bar made from driftwood, boats, and sails that hosts reggae-star Bankie Banx on weekends and during the full moon.
Pucker Up: Best Place to Smooch
To set the mood for happy kissing, warm candlelight and lots of cushy pillows can be found in the exotic and sexy Kemia, a dim sum and sushi hors d'oeuvrerie at hotel hotspot Cap Juluca, and in the "dream living room" lounge at Malliouhana.
Where We'd Stay: 4 Romantic Rooms
- Best Serene Escape: Malliouhana
Blissful quiet and outstanding cuisine are two of the many reasons people come to this airy hotel on a bluff off mellow Meads Bay Beach. Soaring ceilings, chunky terra-cotta floor tiles, and oversized paintings make Malliouhana, whose name means "arrow-shaped sea serpent" and is what Arawak Indians first called Anguilla, a warm and relaxing retreat. The spacious rooms have equally roomy marble bathrooms and balconies -- and no TVs to drown out the ocean's lullaby. Candle-lit tables at the breezy restaurant gaze at the sea and promise a meal you won't soon forget, thanks to a 25,000-bottle wine cellar and the magic touch of Parisian chef Michael Rostang. Bonus: Four tennis courts, three pools, and a beach bar/restaurant. $. (Note: Credit cards are not accepted and the hotel is closed during the months of September and October.) (800) 835-0796
- Best Movie Set: Sonesta Beach Resort
Fantasy interior design and a dreamy view conspire to make the Sonesta a honeymooners' palace. The view that unfolds at the entrance is indeed entrancing: A fountain, to a dramatic lobby of hand-crafted Mediterranean mosaics, to a swimming pool, to Rendezvous Bay, to the ocean, and beyond to the mountains of St. Martin. After a set of tennis on one of two courts and a swim, sip a Pimms Cup cocktail at the Aladdinesque Casablanca Bar, and retire to your lovely room's balcony to watch the stars' evening debut. $ (800) SONESTA
- Best Ultra Indulgence: Altamer
Wow. If you want to live like royalty for a week, no holds barred, no whims denied, this is the sunny, blue-sky filled villa for your wedding and/or honeymoon. At 12,000 square feet, this 4-story, 5-bedroom, 6-bath, 8-staff pleasure playpen includes a roof terrace with telescope, private gym, and game room with billiards table and 500 DVDs. Outside, a pool and tennis court beckon blue and green, and the beach is a short stroll away. The space can accommodate up to 100 for a dinner, 200 for a wedding, or 300 for a cocktail party. The pool's lights can be set to match your bridal palette and a skywalk suspended near the sea is perfect for a small band or the bouquet toss. $ (888) 652-6888.
- Best Budget Love Nest: Madeariman Beach Club
Don't sacrifice an oceanfront room to save your budget: This lovely little hotel is located on Shoal Bay Beach and offers rooms and suites with king-sized beds, private verandas, and a kitchenette (coffee maker, mini fridge, and microwave) to save even more money! Best of all? You're steps away from the silky soft sand and clear, calm water of Shoal Bay Beach, where you can easily swim or snorkel to a nearby reef, and a bevy of beachfront restaurants. $ (264) 498-3833.
When to Go: Anguilla at its Best
- Best weather: Anguilla receives relatively little rainfall (hence its arid topography) and has a monthly mean temperature of 80 degrees
- Best prices: May to December
- Festival highlights: Anguilla International Arts Festival and Competition occurs biannually during the third week in January; Moonsplash Annual Music Festival begins on the night of the full moon in March; Summer Festival rocks the first week of August with parades, pageants, boat racing, and calypso competitions
- Anguillian holidays: May 1, May 16, May 27, June 14, Aug 4-5, Dec 19
Photo: Anguilla Tourist Board