Anguilla for its laid-back vibe and powder-fine sand
By Tab Hauser
Anguilla is an upscale “beachy” kind of Caribbean Island. On Anguilla, ask any three people what their favorite beach is, and you will get five answers.
The beaches here are as good as it gets. Anguilla derives its name from the Spanish word for eel. This is because it is 15 miles long by three miles wide and is flat. It sits seven miles north of St. Martin and has a population of 15,000 people.
While the island’s travel guides list 33 beaches, most tourists frequent the top five or six. Here you will find powder-perfect sand and calm surf. Anguilla has good beaches on both the north and south. This means if the winds are blowing on one side, you can always drive a short distance to the leeward side.
During our ten-day stay in February, we had 15 mph winds for a few days from the north. On those days we picked a calm south shore beach to “lime” as the locals say. We never had a crowd at any beach unless it was at a popular beach club where loungers can be a little closer than I care for.
When visiting a beach club, check the rental rate for umbrellas and chairs. Some places may not charge if you buy food. All beaches in Anguilla are open to the public so bring your cooler, chairs, or blanket.
Meade Bay Beach
Much of our time was spent on Meade Bay Beach because the resort condo, Turtle Nest Beach Resort was located there.
This stretch of fine powder and the aqua marine-colored sea is about a half mile long. Blanchards Beach Shack on the east side is a good place to park yourself for the day if you want to be near reasonably priced food, drinks, and ice cream.
On Shoal Bay you will find over half a mile of powder-white sand with a pinkish hue.
While there are a few beach bars you can spend the day at, I recommend Gwen’s Reggae Bar and Grill on Sunday when they have their Scratch Band playing. The music, food, drinks, and vibe here is what a Caribbean vacation is about. Before heading to Shoal, check out the wind and seaweed conditions.
Sitting on the south shore, this large crescent-shaped beach was our place to avoid the northern breezes. Two places to hang out here are the Sunshine Shack and Bankie Banx Dune Preserve for beach chairs, umbrellas food, and drinks.
Sandy Ground is a circular beach with boats in the bay. The beach is near the main road of the town and has several places to have lunch on the water. This is a good beach if the winds are blowing from the north and east because it is very protected.
Anguilla Off The Beach
Visitors that want to get off the sand and see the island should arrange a tour with Accelyn of Premier Taxi and Tours.
He will show you a few island highlights and get you acclimated as to where the different beaches are. This should take about two hours. email@example.com
If you rent a car, drive to the west end and park by the arch over the water. After viewing it, take a 20-minute walk following your phone’s GPS to the scenic tip of the island. It is very natural and quiet here.
Sunset Cruise off Anguilla
For a tranquil sunset cruise, we recommend boarding the sailing sloop Tradition. The Tradition is a wooden boat built in 1978 and is 50 feet long.
In the past, it was used as an island trader and smuggler. Today it takes up to 12 guests on sunset and island picnic cruises.
Once out of the bay, the sails were set for a cruise along the coast. Guests with a little boating experience should ask to take a turn at the tiller.
At the cliffs near Little Bay, the sails were dropped. Here we motored to view the unusual rock and cavern formations that glowed from the setting sun.
Tasty hors-d’oeuvres were served here. During our cruise, guests’ glasses were constantly filled with refreshing rum punches or drinks to order. The cruise ended with the boat motoring back into a sunset and the colors of changing sky. https://tradition-sailing.com/
An Island Off an Island
The people that run Sandy Island call themselves “a beautiful little speck of sand in the ocean”. Sandy Island is 300 feet long and about 100 feet wide.
It is reached for a $40 round trip by small boat ferry taking 10 minutes from Sandy Ground. On Sandy Island, you will find a bar and restaurant next to a white sandy beach.
A lunch reservation should be called in advance when reserving a place on the ferry. When you get to the island, place your food order and tell them what time you wish to eat. Then order a creative tropical cocktail, find a lounge chair, and just relax.
Floating off the beach is nice here. At your set lunchtime, simply go to a table. Their system beats maximizes beach time. The last ferry leaves at about 5 PM https://www.mysandyisland.com
Anguilla Under Water
To experience Anguilla’s submerged life, we dove with Special “D” Diving. What is nice about going with Dive Master Dougie and crew is that they are close to the dive sites and there is plenty of sea life, soft coral, and wrecks
We spotted lobsters, turtles, eagle rays, and stingrays, along with the pretty tropical fish you would expect here.
Special “D” Diving’s boat was spacious and his rental equipment was in excellent condition.
Music Abounds on Anguilla
Anguilla is a musical island. The website, lists each week who is playing where. On most nights there is music in at least half a dozen restaurants and bars. On weekends many of the beach clubs have entertainment.
Don’t miss Bankie Banks Dunes Preserve. Here on different nights, we heard Anguilla’s star Bankie Banks and then his son Omari Banks.
I have not stayed out past midnight two nights in a row in 25 years! The music continues on weekend beach days.
At Gwen’s Reggae Beach Bar don’t miss Sunday’s Scratch Band. Besides a guitar and piano, the band includes classic American folk instruments to give the tunes a fun change. Between the beach, food, drinks, and tunes you will have a perfect day,
Bucket List Rum Experience
Rum is part of the Caribbean culture and the Zemi Beach House keeps that tradition with its Rhum Room. Here you will find one of the most complete and upscale rum bars in the Caribbean having rare and hard-to-find bottles.
Rum here sells between $15 and $650 for a shot (or snifter in this case).
Anyone interested in understanding and tasting the best of the best must make an appointment with Princess Anthony, the “Rhummelier”.
At the bar, I was handed a scroll describing one of six tastes ranging from $80 to $100 for three shots of themed rums such as French, English, or Spanish-influenced islands to $150 for the five “ultra” premium tastings picked by the Rhummelier.
As a rum connoisseur, I had the pleasure to sample five high-end rums from five islands. This included a 25-year Jamaican rum, a 20-year Cuban rum, and a discontinued well-aged blended Barbados rum.
As a bonus, I received a sample of a 50-year rum. These are the smoothest, easiest sipping rums with complex flavors similar to those when describing perhaps a bourbon. It was a splurge experience and an education not to be forgotten.
The Turtle Nest Beach Resort is located in the middle of Meade Bay. They offer fully furnished condos with laundry machines. All units have a partial sea view with front units having a full view.
What I liked about Turtle Nest was that you did not need to get up early to snag lounge chairs. This is because the number of sets of chairs matches the number of units.
A fun thing here was the free generous pour of their rum punch passed out beachside with a big smile around 5 PM. There is also a baby tortoise pen behind the building.
No Elevator, Five Floors
The downside here is that there is no elevator and there are five floors. The staff here is wonderful. https://www.turtlesnestanguilla.com/
Carimar Beach Club is located on Meade Bay’s eastern side. This is a spread-out two-story condo rental in a U-shaped courtyard setting.
The further back the unit is, the less view of the ocean. There are plenty of loungers for guests, along with tennis courts, a gym, and a laundry room.
Zemi’s Hand-Carved Doors
At the five-star Zemi Beach House, the first thing I noticed was its intricate hand-carved main doors. It was the start of seeing a property where a lot of care went into.
This place is all about comfort and service. Suites run from a spacious one-room with a large bathroom and a soaking tub to multi-bedroom units complete with a dining room, kitchen, and plunge pool.
Zemi’s full spa is extraordinary and is set in an authentic Thai house. There are single and couples treatment rooms, large bath areas, and a quiet zone to mellow out. https://www.zemibeach.com/
Recommended Restaurants in Anguilla
We found the food good at most restaurants. Service on average was timely.
Expect to spend no less than $100 per couple for a two-course dinner without drinks or wine at most restaurants. During peak season, reservations need to be made.
Falcon’s Nest in Island Harbor overlooks the fishing boats. It is informal and inexpensive for Anguilla. My simply grilled snapper was very fresh and perfect.
Sharky’s is an upscale restaurant with good flavors. The shared Caesar salad, whole snapper, and lamb chops were excellent. Service timely
Tasty’s is a place to order their hot seafood salad and anything fish related. (We were not impressed with his smoked brisket on a second visit)
Mango’s Seaside Grill felt very upscale. We enjoyed their conch chowder, sesame-seared snapper and Cruzan rum BBQ chicken
In Sandy Ground for fine dining go to Vincy On the Beach. For casual burgers and fish and chips we liked Roy’s Bayside Grill
Picante was very tasty but pricey. For people used to Mexican food being more moderate in cost, our three basic margaritas, guacamole, nachos, and one order of double-shelled tacos were $120.
Anguilla has many takeaway BBQ places. Here you will get chicken, ribs, fish, and stewed turkey along with a dozen delicious side dishes. We recommend Jelly’s BBQ as well as any “pop-up” roadside places you see on the weekend where local grandmothers are serving.
Getting Around the Island
Unless you plan on staying and eating in one place, I recommend renting a car from Junies Car Rental at $45 including insurance. They met us at the ferry dock from St. Martin. For drop-off, we were told to leave the keys under the mat.
Driving is easy in Anguilla as people go slowly and there is only one east-west road. (My tip for British-style driving is to put a “post-it note” on the inside windshield saying “think left” directly under your line of site)