Named after the fish eel (for its shape) by a French explorer Pierre Laudonnaire who sailed by the island in 1556, Anguilla is one of the smaller of Leeward Islands with total area of 35 square miles and approximately 15,000 residents. However, it is also considered one of the best Caribbean islands to visit because of its amazing food, stunning beaches as well as great music and night life.
|35 square miles
|15,000 (90.1% Black, 4.6% multiracial, 3.7% European, 1.5% other)
|British overseas territory
|GDP per capita (2014)
|Eastern Caribbean dollar pegged to US dollar
|US standard two-prong
|on the left, local driving license required for renters
Anguilla is a British overseas territory and has been since as far back as 1650 when the island was first colonized by British settlers from St. Kitts who were keen on growing tobacco, sugar and cotton on the island. However, due to poor soil and lack of sweet water sources history of Anguilla took a different turn than that of other surrounding Islands. African workforce brought to the island was not enslaved in the same manner as in other parts of the Caribbean and, they were instead able to become expert boat builders, fishermen and craftsmen. Hence, although tourism is the primary driver of Anguilla’s economy, the island has a relatively diverse industries for its small size and a well skilled population.
Anguilla is less commercial than other Caribbean islands and one important reason for it is that it does not operate an airport capable of hosting large aircrafts. Hence, there are no direct flights to the island from the US, Canada or Europe. Instead, travellers need to use local airlines and change in Puerto Rico, St. Thomas, St.Barth or St. Martin, which also operates a regular ferry (leaving every 45 minutes) from near its airport to Anguilla’s Simpson Bay. Therefore, it may worth to consider combining a visit to Anguilla with a stay in St.Martin, which is slightly larger and supplies Anguilla with key resources and infrastructure arriving through its international airport and ports. The cost of a ferry from Marrigot, St Martin to Blowing Point in Anguilla is $43 one way including a $23 departure tax.
Renting a car is the best option for getting around Anguilla as taxis are very expensive (short trip from the airport to the nearest hotels will come up to $30 for two people) and there is no public bus system on the island. Many first time visitors to Anguilla who want to rent a car are surprised to learn that they can only drive on the island with a local driving license. Luckily, temporary Anguillan licenses can be obtained with an ease at any car rental location for $20 and these are valid for three months.
It is worth noting the quality of roads on Anquilla is poor so a four-wheel drive is a recommended choice. The island is full of roundabouts with right of way and the standard speed limit is 30 mph. If you decide not to rent a car, there are several taxi services available 24/7 like Blowing Point Ferry Taxi and Maurice & Sons Exquisite Taxi Services. Finally, as the island is relatively small, you may be able to get around the island with relative ease on bicycles – rentals are available in many hotels as well as in several locations in the Valley.
Things to explore
If you are looking for quiet walks on secluded beaches, you have come to the right place! Anguilla’s beaches are considered some of the best in the Caribbean with long stretches of clear, turquoise waters and many of them staying empty for most of the year. Here are our three picks for getaway beaches on the island:
- Shoal Bay West – located at the southernmost tip of Anguilla this 1-mile long beach offers tranquillity and beautiful views and is great for swimming and snorkelling. Parking by the beach is free and you can find toilets and a small restaurant by the beach
- Sandy Hill – amazing spot for snorkelling as the beach is surrounded by coral reefs and impressive rocks. There are few amenities around, but the beach is close to a fishing center so you take a swim and then buy fresh fish for a meal.
- Little Bay – this small beach surrounded by cliffs and rocks can only be accessed by a short boat ride from Crocus Bay. Hence, you are sure to be only one of few visitors to this gorgeous spot, where you can, snorkel, climb rocks and explore surrounding caves.
Of course you are interested in more lively beaches with restaurants and music, you will have plenty of options for that too! Your first best bet is Sandy Ground with a big pier where cargo ships and yachts dock and at least 5 restaurants and bars right by the beach. Other options are Island Harbour and Meads Bay where you will also find lively atmosphere and plenty of food and drink choices.
Once you soaked up the sun on many of the lovely beaches, there are a couple local attractions worth considering. Every March the island hosts some of the most well known reggae artists for Moonsplash music festival. In early April you can join in Easter celebrations in Festival del Mar and in May you can witness the annual boat racing in Anguilla Regatta. Besides these seasonal events, check out the beautiful Bethel Methodist Church located near Sandy Ground as well as the Heritage Museum Collection, which tells the history of the island and its people.
Although Anguilla restricts tourist development to limit impact on its environment, you will be able to find plenty of good hotel, villas and condo options throughout the island. In fact, Anguilla is home to several very well-known luxury hotels: Four Seasons Resort, Cap Juluca, Meads Bay Beach Villas and Malliouhana are just four examples. If you are looking for something more low key and away from the crowds check out Serenity Cottages, Paradise Cove or Sheriva Villa Hotel. Keep in mind all hotels in Anguilla charge a 10% tax and a tourism marketing levy of $1 per day. Overall, no matter what kind of accommodations you want or need, with a bit of research you should have no problems finding it here.
Food & restaurants
Food is a great strength of Anguilla. The number of highly rated restaurants for the small size of the island is impressive and their quality is recognized well beyond the Caribbean. There are approximately 70 restaurants throughout the island with as many as half of them located on or by a beach. In fact, there is a very good chance that if you walk into any restaurant in Anguilla, you will be able to get a table on a terrace overlooking water. You will also likely be greeted by owner(s), who actively engage with their guests and aim to build true relationships rather than simply serve food. Prices range widely between different restaurants, but you should be prepared to spend a minimum of $30 for lunch and $50 for dinner. There are so many great restaurants on the island it would be hard to list them all, but here are several of our own favorites:
- Blanchards – restaurant owned by an American couple with a creative and upscale menu and prices to match it. If you are looking for a true culinary experience rather than just a meal, this is one place to find it
- Hibernia Restaurant and Art Gallery – as the name suggest you will find art throughout this beautiful restaurant with a garden, fountain and overlooking the water. Menu is very rich with flavours from Asia, Africa and Europe
- Jacala Beach Restaurant – visited by celebrities, it offers a French menu prepapred by one of the best chefs in all of Caribbean. Tables are outside so you can stare at the stars, while enjoying a glass of wine and a steak tartare
If restaurants are not big on your agenda, you can always try Anguilla’s famous roadside barbecue grills – a local version of “fast food”. You can also generally buy all key cooking ingredients in island’s shops and small supermarkets where you will often find popular local produce: crayfish, lobsters, conch and goat.
Anguilla’s nightlife centers around Sandy Ground where you can find several bars with a DJ or live music, but if you are looking for large nightclubs and all night raving, you won’t find that in Anguilla. Most of the nightlife activity kicks in after 11pm and goes on until early morning hours. Prices are generally reasonable and cover fees are up to $20. Taxi service late at night is spotty so you may want to book a taxi service several hours in advance. If you are into reggae you can often find music star Bankie Banx perform at Dune Preserve located in Rendezvous Bay.
Sports & adventure
Anguilla is a snorkelling paradise! You will find coral reefs in waters of many (if not most) beaches and the turquoise waters guarantee incredible, clear views of marine life and reefs, There are also several sunken ships to explore – the most famous one is a Spanish galleon from the 18th century located in Stoney Bay Marine Park. If you are a proper diver, Shoal Bay Scuba and Watersports is a professional dicing center offering diving trips and training. For those with kids, you will definitely want to check out Dolphin Discovery, which is a new attraction offering swimming with dolphins and shows.
Golfers will also find Anguilla to be their own paradise. CuisinArt Golf Resort includes a new Greg Norman course considered one of top 3 in the Caribbean and most of the holes are right by the beach. For horse lovers, there is Seaside Stables, which offers rides on the beach and group rides with no prior experience necessary. Finally, there are a number of tours offered around the island, which showcase its beaches, nature and history. These are on average around $50 per person and last for 2-4 hours.
Safety and security
Anguilla is generally considered safe and its crime rate is low compared to the rest of the Caribbean. Part of it has to do with the fact that the island is relatively rich and its population well off (it has a GDP of $29,493.3 per person). Anguillan people are warm and will be glad to help you if lost or in need of assistance. However, you should remain vigilant. Be especially careful with rental cars and avoid leaving your important belongings in them when parking in an unmarked location or even overnight at your hotel parking. Theft of belongings left in cars is not unusual and you may even find warnings about it in local leaflets. From health perspective and like on other Caribbean islands it is important to wear an insect repellent to protect yourself against diseases such as zika and dengue.
Island hopping around the Caribbean is definitely one of the best kinds of vacations one…