Last updated: 10:00 AM ET, Mon August 17 2015

Dispatch: A Brief But Bountiful Week In Anguilla

Features & Advice | Brian Major | August 17, 2015

Dispatch: A Brief But Bountiful Week In Anguilla

PHOTO: Magnificent beaches are an Anguillan staple. (Photos by Brian Major)

Last week I visited Anguilla, and today it feels like the time I spent there passed very quickly. Yet strangely, while I was there everything seemed to progress in a relaxed, unhurried manner. And it was great.

I should briefly explain that Anguilla is all about small. The tiny eastern Caribbean island encompasses only 35 square miles. There are approximately 13,500 residents. Anguilla has no chain stores or restaurants, no casinos, and (for the most part) no crowds. As one local pointed out, there aren’t even any loud noises anywhere around the island.

Naturally, things tend to unfold slowly on such a small island. Yet within a week I’d seen much of what makes Anguilla special. I traversed scenic cliff-side areas, visited upscale and luxury resorts and villas, and sampled some of the island’s surprisingly numerous fine dining options.

And then there are the beaches. In a region characterized by beautiful beaches, Anguilla’s might offer the Caribbean’s most spectacular examples. The waters are a mesmerizing ribbon of blue spanning shades from cobalt to indigo to turquoise. The soft white sands fall from the touch in a powdery sprinkle, and visitors will invariably find only a handful of other beach-goers at nearly every turn.

Travelers to Anguilla are drawn mainly from the U.S. East Coast, and it’s easy to see why, because the trip is an easy one. After a direct JetBlue flight from New York to St. Maarten, I hopped onto one of the private motorboats offering service directly to Anguilla. After a 25-minute ride, I was passing through the small terminal and customs and immigration desk.

The process took only a few minutes, and from there I embarked directly to Tasty’s via a 15-minute drive from the dock. One of the island’s signature eateries, the family-run restaurant is owned by an Anguillan chef, Dale Carty, who trained under chefs at the Malliouhana Hotel, one of Anguilla’s signature upscale properties. Since then Tasty’s has been featured in Bon Apetit and Gourmet magazines.

Carty’s marinated conch salad and coconut-crusted fish are his specialties, but the chef prides himself on secret sauces and seasonings. I settled down to my personal Caribbean favorite, baked chicken with peas and rice, this time topped by one of the special sauces. Color me satisfied.

From there, I checked into villa number four at Ce Blue Villas. Built on the crest of a hill overlooking Crocus Bay, the property offers magnificent daytime and sunset views of Anguilla’s northwestern coast.

One of a handful of luxury villa properties on Anguilla, Ce Blue is easily among the best. The property’s “hybrid-luxury experience” combines the intimate service and seclusion of a private villa vacation with activities, dining and options affiliated with full-service resorts.

PHOTO:  Ce Blue Villas accommodations overlook Crocus Bay.

Each villa offers up to eight rooms finished in sleek contemporary style. The accommodations feature two-level decks with private sitting areas, lounge chairs and outdoor sofas, private pools and outdoor showers.

Guests can reserve a chef to cook meals in the villa’s modern, fully equipped kitchens. A concierge service is available each day from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., while a security team remains on duty throughout the night. Complimentary Wi-Fi service is available across the property. Ce Blue’s open-air Blue Bar and Brick Oven Restaurant offers breakfast and dinner, plus stunning views of Crocus Bay.

Otherwise, I spent most of the week going about a quiet sort of fun. The weather was continually warm and sunny, enhancing my visits to places like the beautiful beach at Mead’s Bay. It was here I encountered the only crowd I ever saw on the island.

It turns out my visit coincided with the Anguilla holidays of August Monday, August Thursday and Constitution Day, all of which occur during the same week. Predictably, the entire week is dedicated to celebration, with parades, partying and high revelry, which in this country means boat racing.

PHOTO: It seemed everyone in Anguilla had turned out for Thursday’s race. 

Anguilla has a strong boat-building legacy. The tradition remains alive today in the form of annual boat races that accompany the week of holidays.

So it seemed everyone on the island, tourists and locals, young and old, was somewhere on Mead’s Bay beach on Thursday. Amid whoops and cheers from the excited but well-behaved crowd, I watched as the racing yacht Real Deal edge out its single-hulled competitors, including last year’s champion, the Sonic, to claim that day’s event. I spent a couple of hours on that beautiful beach, watching the people and enjoying the white sands and blue water.

Before week’s end I’d spent a few days that way – taking in the sights of sounds of the magnificent beaches across Cove Bay, Maundays Bay, Rendezvous Bay and Shoal Bay. There are 33 beaches on Anguilla and while I didn’t see all of them, each one I did see was tremendous. The sunsets at several were beyond description.

Another afternoon I hopped onto a powerboat at Road Bay in the Sandy Ground district for a trip to Sandy Island, a small sliver of white-sand beach eight minutes from the shore.

A small shack on Sandy Island sells savory local food and beverages, including the local rum punch. I spent a lot of time wading in the surf and gazing out into the blue sea around us. 

In between, I enjoyed some truly excellent meals at Smokey’s at the Cove, a beachside eatery on the island’s West End section, and at Veya, a top-shelf fine dining restaurant near George Village in the island’s center.

That’s it. Before I knew it, the week was over and I was in a small 10-seat plane for the eight-minute flight back to St. Maarten, and ultimately New York’s JFK International Airport. It had all passed by very quickly. And it was all very good.

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