Our one limited experience with Anguilla was, oh boy, it was pricey.
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I’m always on the lookout for that perfect beach destination! The ideal beach for me is a blue-green ocean that’s calm without waves, a white-sand beach, some water activities and great food! Oh and I also like lounging on a beach chair, flipping through US Weekly for the latest celebrity gossip while sipping on that fruity, pretty looking cocktail! And all this without having to run out at 6am in the morning to reserve a lounge chair or worse, stare at rows of other chairs in front of me because all I could get was the chair in the very back row! I think I found all my tranquillity in a little island called Anguilla, a British Overseas Territory, in the Eastern Caribbean. Here are some practical tips on getting to this destination!
From the West Coast, it’s about 5 hours to New York’s JFK, followed by a 3 hour hop to Puerto Rico and then a quick hour in the air before you land in Anguilla’s tiny airport. Trust me, it’s worth it. From the East Coast, of course it’s a shorter ride over to Puerto Rico and then into Clayton J Lloyd International Airport.
You can also arrive in St. Maarten and then take the 20-minute ferry crossing from Marigot, to the Blowing Point Ferry Terminal in Anguilla. Upon arrival, take a taxi to your hotel; some resorts even offer shuttle services. There are no car rental desks but companies can meet you here if you pre-book (Editor’s Note: Going by ferry via St. Maarteen is probably the cheaper option for most as the flight between San Juan and Anguilla can be expensive).
Visas are not necessary for most nationalities, although citizens of some African, South American and former Soviet countries still require a visa. See Government of Anguilla Visa and Travel site for more info. The local language is English.
Wi-Fi at the hotels are no problem, some restaurants will also have wi-fi but don’t expect connectivity on the beach. Perfect reason to put your devices away and just tune out!
Renting a car is an amazing and easy way to get around this tiny island. Driving is on the left side of the road but there is only one main road — for someone like me who gets confused easily, I managed no problem! The island is also very flat and there is rarely any traffic. Petrol is $3.80 for 1 gallon of gas. Andy’s Auto Rentals has a location right next to the ferry terminal or you can book at your hotel and the car company will meet you with your rental car. You will need a valid driver’s license, along with a $20 local driving permit that will come with the car. The speed limit is 30mph. The rates per day range from $35-$150, with weekly rentals being the cheapest. Please note that taxis are very expensive.
The official currency is the East Caribbean Dollar, with the US Dollar being widely and most commonly accepted. Most businesses on Anguilla accept credit cards, with Visa and MC being the most popular. There are several ATM machines around the island.
Anguilla has a lot of accommodations ranging from luxury to private villas and condos. Check out the well-known and exclusive Cap Jaluca or for a lower-end option the CuisinArt, and then of course there’s the newly refurbished Four Seasons. I didn’t see a whole lot of Mexico type all-inclusive hotels although some hotels I believe offer meal plans for a fee. I for once didn’t miss the all-inclusive option as the island is home to some amazing restaurants with fabulous food!
For my first time in Anguilla, I opted to stay at the Malliouhana, an Auberge Resort with just 44 rooms located at the very end of crescent-shaped Meads Bay. I often wondered where the remaining guests were! This resort falls under luxury and my experience was every bit luxurious from the beautiful pastel colors that flowed through the lobby and rooms to the sea-facing views from many vantage points throughout the hotel. The lobby itself opens into the sea view while the roof covered open-air restaurant also gives way to a sprawling view of the ocean. The ultimate infinity pool from which to watch the sunset will forever remain etched in my mind, while the private self-service beach Turtle Cove reminds one of being marooned on a small island a la Robinson Crusoe.
There’s also a main beach, which is relatively still private and oh get this – you have enough lounge chairs so that you get an unobstructed view of the sea. Stroll through anytime of the day and you’ll get a chair placed wherever you want. Jackpot.
Did you know Anguilla is home to a whopping 33 beaches?! While I wasn’t feeling so ambitious as to explore all 33, here are a few of my favorites!
Mead’s Bay is a sheltered beach, long and wide for early morning or evening strolls. The water is a beautiful sea green that shimmers prettily in the sun, waves nonexistent in the summer. Depending on the season and weather conditions, the water at Mead’s Bay does however tend to get wavy for those who enjoy a bit of boogie boarding. Shacks, such as Blanchards, are perfect for inexpensive yet delicious meals like burgers, rice bowls, jerk chicken, and street tacos.
Shoal Bay East:
Shoal Bay East is for those of us who want a perfectly still ocean no matter the weather. Blindingly white sands beckon to you while beach shacks, like Tropical Sunset, are a perfect spot to rent your chairs and grab a bite to eat. The Caribbean coconut shrimp and a mango colada are all you need to complete your day at the beach here. If you’re not eating here however, chair rentals with umbrellas will cost you $10 for the day. Known as Anguilla’s #1 beach, there are several stretches where you may be the only person around. Don’t miss this beach on your visit to Anguilla.
Mauday’s Bay Beach:
Maunday’s Bay beach in the West End is gorgeous and an absolute must while visiting Anguilla. The water is a sparkling green, still and perfect for swimming. The only resort that adorns this beach is the famed Cap Jaluca so there are never too many people at any given time on the beach. The Cap also has a stunning restaurant that enjoys a premium position on the beach, making it the perfect spot to grab a drink or indulge in some wicked lobster rolls. The beach did have some seaweed when I went recently this November, but it’s wide and long to walk on. The water is actually quite clear and devoid of seaweed. While the beach is public, the chairs are not for rent for non-Cap Jaluca visitors. There is however a portion of the beach where you can find shade under some trees to spread out your towels when you’re not frolicking in the ocean.
Rendezvous Bay is probably my least favorite beach in Anguilla simply because of the amount of seaweed in the water and on the shore, otherwise the water is extremely gentle and wonderful to be in. You will find long stretches of the beach where you will be the only person around. If you plan on visiting this beach, depending on the season, check for seaweed if that plays a factor in beach selection. This beach is a mere 10 minute drive from Cap Jaluca so you can cover both these beaches in one day depending on how much time you wish to spend at each location of course.
Anguilla’s cuisine may be typical of all Caribbean food but I found myself enjoying the flavors more than some of the other islands I’ve visited in the recent past. Smokey’s at the Cove offers a delicious coconut coriander grilled Mahi and a lovely lobster pasta, while Ocean Echo has an even more scrumptious take on the lobster pasta and a wonderful setting right on the beach. Lots of Cajun, Creole, and Jerk spices are used in many of the foods and the types of hot sauces each restaurant has is mouth-watering if you like spicy food like I do. And don’t miss Blanchards on Mead’s Bay – casual and delicious!
About the Author:
Preethi Chandrasekhar is a freelance travel writer/influencer with a passion for sharing her travel stories to inspire people to explore more of this beautiful world. She’s interested in experiential travel and writes frequently about off the beaten path destinations. Follow her on Instagram and her blog, The Eager Traveler, for more of her travel pics and stories!