No cruise ships. No high rises. No highways. You won’t find any of those things on the tiny island of Anguilla, but you will find tranquil beaches, great food, and gorgeous sunsets. For such a tiny island, it’s earned a big reputation with travelers in search of privacy (Jay-Z and Beyonce are fans). On a recent visit, I discovered what keeps drawing travelers back to this destination year after year.
Only 16 miles long and three miles wide, Anguilla is a relatively tiny island, and for some, it may be one you haven’t heard of before, which is part of the appeal. The British territory is located just southeast of the British Virgin Islands and directly north of St. Martin. In the past, to get to Anguilla, travelers would have to fly into St. Martin and ferry over to the tiny island (or arrive on a private jet). But with the recent addition of American Airlines’ daily nonstop flights from Miami, the island just got a lot more accessible for travelers who want a quick getaway to this beautiful, low-key island.
Where to Stay
If you’re looking for top-notch customer service and fantastic food, the Four Seasons Anguilla is going to meet your requirements. The property is a splurge, but there’s a reason the hotel chain is one of the most sought-after. After a quick three-hour flight from Miami and a smooth 20-minute drive, I arrived at the resort. I was greeted with a complimentary spiced rum shot and settled into my room: a one-bedroom oceanfront suite that included an oversized deck with ocean views and a plunge pool that was heated to a perfect 90 degrees.
My driver told me that Anguilla has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, and he wasn’t wrong. Conveniently, the resort is located between two of the best beaches on the island: Meads Bay and Barnes Bay. The first is a classic Caribbean white sand beach with crystal clear water, while Barnes Bay has picturesque rocks and palm trees dotting the shoreline. On my first afternoon on Meads Bay, I sprawled out on a lounge chair and was greeted by a beach attendant with complimentary rum shots on tap (a genius idea if you ask me). I also spent one of my afternoons at Barnes Bay perched at the resort’s Half Shell beach bar, drinking coconut water straight from a coconut that had been hanging from a tree just a few minutes prior.
As expected, the food at the resort was superb. Dinner at SALT, the restaurant’s flagship restaurant, included a mix of local and international fare like Johnny cakes, an island staple of dough that’s fried golden brown, and fusion dishes like oxtail croquettes and soursop cheesecake. The aptly named restaurant also incorporated Anguilla’s history of salt production with a custom blend of herb-infused salt served alongside the dishes. Some of my favorite meals included the saltfish cakes, crayfish risotto, and a pumpkin soup topped with coconut foam that I’m still thinking about.
What to Do
Besides lying out on one of Anguilla’s 33 beaches, the island is also great for hiking, cave exploring, scuba diving, and fishing. If you’d like to experience the local fare, you can sign up for classes to make ceviche, Johnny cakes or to taste the local rum. Anguilla also has a unique geological feature on the island: salt ponds. There are 17 of them. While other islands were exporting sugar, salt was Anguilla’s top export for hundreds of years.
I wanted to find out more about Anguilla’s salt ponds, so I signed up for a tour with a local company, Quest Experiences, which was offered through the resort. We headed out near sunrise clad in water shoes and gloves and waded out into the middle of Anguilla’s largest salt pond, Road Salt Pond. Using a metal rod, we loosened the sheet of salt that built up on the pond floor. After it was broken up, we were able to scoop up the chunks of salt crystals with our hands. My tour leader, Leeford Gumbs, explained the importance of salt to the island and how enslaved Africans were forced to harvest it during the island’s early days, making European colonizers wealthy. The activity was enlightening and taught me about the history of the country.
When to Go
With year-round warm weather, Anguilla is a great destination any time, but if you’re looking to save a bit of money, consider visiting during the low season, which is during the summer months of May through August. Anguilla’s high season runs from November through March when travelers look to escape cold winter weather and hotels charge a premium. September through October is when the beaches are less crowded as kids head back to school.
Anguilla also hosts a number of festivals throughout the year. In May, the island celebrates its national sport of boat racing with the Anguilla Regatta, a three-day event that features beach parties and sailboat races. The Anguilla Summer Festival takes place in late July and the small-scale Carnival event includes music, dancing, and a street parade. But you don’t really need a festival or event to make a visit to Anguilla worthwhile. The easy access to electric blue water, soft white sand beaches and mouth-watering cuisine are all enough to book a visit.