The British West Indies island of Anguilla boasts a peaceful rhythm of sun and surf, creating a blissfully relaxing travel experience. By Sandra Eagle, July/August 2008
A trip to the tiny island of Anguilla, in the British West Indies, is a sure-fire stress reliever for the chronically time-strapped, overworked über-achiever. About 20 minutes by powerboat (or a seven-minute plane ride) from St. Maarten, this vibrant island jewel, nestled in the Caribbean Sea, is irresistible because of its simple, yet stunningly sophisticated take on island life. About eight years ago, the Anguillan government made a conscious decision to preserve the island vibe and decided to forgo the income and daily hassle from cruise-ship port chaos and casinos. You know you’re in a different headspace when you find out that the island only installed electricity in 1987, followed by the first of six traffic lights, in 1988.
It’s actually quite easy to melt into a peaceful rhythm of sun and surf, as the three-mile-wide by 16-mile-long island boasts 33 jaw-droppingly beautiful sugar-sand beaches surrounding the coastline. Watersports, boating, cycling, golf, fishing, snorkelling and scuba sum up the daytime activities on Anguilla. The Greg Norman-designed Temenos Golf Club is currently the only course on the island, providing challenging golf with the visually stunning views of St. Maarten and the sea. Rates for 18 holes vary from $300 per round during high season (January to April) to $150 from July to October.
But after each dramatic Caribbean sunset, a sophisticated gourmet restaurant scene jumps to life each evening. The CuisinArt Resort & Spa prides itself on an expansive wine list and a 6,000-sq.-ft. hydroponic greenhouse to supply the kitchen with fresh-picked salad ingredients. Groups from 50 to 150 can be accommodated in 10 white, Mediterranean-style villas located directly on the beachfront. The villas house 80 suites, which start at over 900 sq. ft. All suites have views and verandas facing the Caribbean. In the main building, there are nine oversized luxury rooms and two penthouse suites overlooking the Caribbean and the infinity pool. At certain times of the year, a resort buyout is possible. Furthermore, the property has almost finished renovations that have tripled the size of its spa, featuring an exclusive Thalasso treatment pool.
For an island of only 16,000 people, the dining experience on Anguilla is surprisingly diverse and ranges from island-centric to high-end gourmet. During the day, scores of food vans traverse the island with such offerings as oxtail curry, lobster quesadillas, fish and dumplings, conch soup, pumpkin soup and papaya salad. Look out for Hungry’s Food Van, a local favourite. If tastes run a little more upscale, make reservations at Veya Restaurant, for the eastern-inspired, island-tweaked fare of chef Carrie Bogar and her husband Jerry, transplanted Americans who moved to Anguilla to practice their “cuisine of the sun.” Open for lunch and dinner, the restaurant features open-air balconies and a great room, which can be taken over by groups. House favourites include grilled crayfish with ginger beurre blanc and chocolate-hazelnut mousse bars with chocolate-malt ice cream.
Recent developments promise to bring this island gem further into the spotlight. On the west end, between Meads and Barnes Bay, the luxurious Viceroy Resort and Villas is currently under construction. In addition, the Fairmont Anguilla is about to break ground on Sandy Point Beach, featuring a 120-room resort, an 18-hole, Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course and club and a Willow Stream Spa, scheduled for completion in 2010. For very small groups, many other villa options, such as Meads Bay Villas, Sheriva Estates or Bird of Paradise, abound, for those ready to kick back and totally unwind in an unspoiled lap of luxury.