Anguilla’s celebrity magnet status is well-deserved; stars ranging from Paul McCartney to Lady Gaga have spent time on one of the island’s 33 dreamy beaches. Luckily, you don’t have to be an A-lister (or be able to spend money like one) to visit this stunning, laid-back island. Here’s our guide.
Where to Stay
Here, it’s not hard to find resorts that ooze with charm. Located in a garden-like setting about a mile from lively Shoal Bay Beach, the family-run Paradise Cove is known for its oversized pool, big rooms, and mango trees dripping with ripe fruit. Each of the 29 suites (from $320) has a kitchenette and a fully screened patio.
The massive rooms at Carimar Beach Club measure in at 1,100 feet — larger than some New York City apartments — and even have full kitchens. While there’s no restaurant on property, we enjoy meals at nearby Blanchard’s Restaurant and its Beach Shack (more on that later). Summer rates are from $230 in a one-bedroom beach view suite.
The 23-apartment complex at Shoal Bay Villas feels like a true oasis thanks to its prime location on Shoal Bay Beach and amenities like a fitness center, small spa, complimentary WiFi, beach towels, umbrellas and beach chairs, and snorkel gear. Large rooms have full kitchens and pool or ocean views. Nightly rates are from $275 for an oceanfront studio through August 29.
What to Do
Anguilla’s beaches are among the prettiest in the Caribbean, but there’s plenty of action beyond the sunny strands, too. Among the free spring and summer events that festival-lovers will enjoy are the Valley Street Festival, the Anguilla Literary Fest, Anguilla Day, and A Village Ting. To sample history, make a visit to the Wallblake House, the island’s only surviving plantation. It’s fully intact, and open for tours Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 10 a.m. to 2.pm. Tickets are $5.
Round out your itinerary by checking out the local music scene. Located on Rendezvous Bay, Dune Preserve is a great place to start. Owned by Anguilla’s own Bankie Banx — a reggae musician — the venue doesn’t have a cover charge, and you’re in for a real treat if Banx’s son Omari stops in for a set. Or head over to Sandy Ground, which is lined with bars and clubs playing live music every night of the week.
Where to Eat
Eating well without spending a fortune is surprisingly easy on Anguilla: beach shacks, local bars, and casual eateries dish out unfussy but creatively sauced grilled fish, barbecued chicken, conch salad, and burgers in laid-back surroundings. The sister restaurant to Da’Vida Restaurant — a gourmet hangout with a Wine Spectator pedigree — Da’Vida’s Bayside Grill serves burgers, wraps, and pizza that can easily serve two for under $20, all on a shady porch overlooking Crocus Bay.
Craving grilled ribs and fish? Head to Uncle Ernie’s on Shoal Bay Beach. The sherbet-colored cottage serves a rum punch that will set you back just $4. There’s also grilled chicken ($10) and a fish burger ($9), all ready to carry out to tables set right into the sand. Blanchard’s Restaurant put Anguilla on the map as a dining destination when it opened on Meads Bay in 1994. Savvy diners head to the restaurant’s colorful Beach Shack next door for the same bright flavors — think: coconut-curry mussels and curried chicken salad — in a sandy setting.
The Valley’s Corner Bar Pizza is a no-frills bar, but packs a punch nonetheless. The Garbage Pizza — ideal for feeding two — combines all available toppings at a $10 bargain. (Note that the restaurant is closed on Tuesdays.) At Picante, tasty tuna tacos and prawn burritos are $20 each, about as expensive as it gets at this cheerful, open-air cottage in the West End. Tasty fresh-Mex faves like super burritos stuffed with beef or chicken come in at a few dollars less.
We’ve found round-trip flights to Anguilla from New York for around $430 in the spring, but it’s typically cheaper to fly into St. Martin’s Princess Juliana International Airport (from $300, round-trip), then take the ferry from Marigot to Anguilla. You’ll have to get to Marigot using a $20 taxi ride, but at $25 for the Marigot ferry, this is still cheaper than the $70 airport ferry.