Anguilla’s main attractions are uncrowded white-sand beaches, scuba diving, snorkeling, sailing, windsurfing, fishing, fine restaurants and very friendly people. Spas and art galleries add variety.
Go to Anguilla (pronounced ahn-GWIL-lah) if you want to get away from everything, enjoy the beach and watersports and be pampered in quiet luxury at an elegant hotel. Those who want to leave crowded streets and sprawling shopping malls behind will enjoy the quaint shops scattered amidst the picturesque island setting. Anguilla is close to St. Martin/St. Maarten in size and location but is nearly 90% less populated.
Anguilla is ringed by approximately 33 spectacular beaches, some of the best in the Caribbean, all of them open to the public. There are coral reefs and hidden coves that provide great opportunities for all types of watersports. The island’s white sand is particularly nice; the fine texture makes you feel like you’re walking on talcum powder. Be sure to take a hat or a parasol with you—many of the beaches lack shade. And be aware that waters on the Atlantic side are rougher and may have strong undertows.
Scuba & Snorkeling
Anguilla has established seven marine parks, in order to protect and promote its underwater riches. Popular dive sites include the shipwrecked 18th-century Spanish galleon, El Buen Consejo, part of the Stoney Bay Marine Park, as well as some of the offshore islands—Prickly Pear, Dog Island and Sandy Island.
Dive sites include wreck dives, shore dives, wall dives and ledge dives. Six intact ships are submerged off Sail Reef, north of the island. They were deliberately sunk at ideal scuba depth and now shelter abundant fish, lobsters and stingrays. You must be a certified diver and present your C card to rent equipment and go diving.
Snorkeling equipment is available for rent at the entrance to Shoal Bay. The Shoal Bay reef is fairly barren, but even a barren Caribbean reef is inhabited by a few small, colorful fish and soft corals. Other good snorkeling spots are Pelican Point (at one end of Crocus Bay), Little Bay, the rocks off Barnes Bay, Scilly Cay, Sandy Island and Prickly Pear Cays.
Anguilla doesn’t offer the shopping possibilities of some Caribbean islands, but visitors should be able to find some worthwhile mementos. You can find good quality local crafts such as needlework, straw items, pottery, hand-carved model ships and other wooden items. Stamp collectors will want to buy Anguillan stamps, and some liquor is cheap.
Interesting boutiques can be found both inside and outside the luxury hotels: They have a selection of attractive gifts and resort wear. If these fail to satisfy you, take the 20-minute ferry ride to Marigot, St. Martin. There, you’ll find lots of shops featuring French designer clothes for men and women, as well as china, electronics, jewelry and perfume.
Anguilla’s arts scene is growing, with dozens of art galleries and studios displaying pastels, watercolors, glass blowing, photography, sculpture and digital art. Galleries and studios feature the work of talented Anguillan artists—including Cheddie Richardson, the pride of Anguilla—as well as artists from other Caribbean islands. Also look for works by the late Lucia Butler, known as the Grandma Moses of the Caribbean, whose unusual paintings and wooden Anguillan house plaques are still for sale in a few places around the island.
Shopping Hours: Monday-Saturday 9 am-5 pm. Some grocery stores are open until 9 pm, and a few are also open on Sunday.
An unusual tour, of interest to foodies, gardeners and sustainability fans, takes place at CuisinArt’s organic and hydroponic gardens on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at 11 am. The system of ponds, buckets, plant towers and raised beds provides a model for food production in dry, remote places. You might want to stay and eat some of the results.
Day By Day
You can see the major sights of Anguilla in a day or two. But if your intent is to get away from it all and do nothing, well, it takes some time to do nothing properly: We recommend five days. Given the small size of the island, a structured schedule isn’t necessary. During the five days, visitors will have plenty of time to see all the sights, meet a few residents and discover some of the subtle charms of the island.
Most cruise ships spend a day in Anguilla. To help you make the most of your time in port, we’ve designed three different itineraries specifically for cruise-ship visitors. For more Shore Excursions, click here.
PLAN A: Diving and Shopping
- First, reserve a table for dinner at the restaurant of your choice. Then begin your outing with a morning dive. After your plunge (maybe down to one of the wrecks), relax with a rum punch and a freshly caught lobster at Johnno’s Beach Stop.
- After lunch, catch a cab to The Cove, West End, to see the exhibits at Cheddie’s Carving Studio and Asian gifts at the nearby The Galleria. Then head to The Valley and shop for clothing, arts and crafts, spices and books at the Arts and Crafts Centre. When you’ve drained your budget, head back to the ship to freshen up for dinner.
PLAN B: Some History, Some Sun
- If you’ve arranged a tour in advance, you can go see the ancient petroglyphs at Big Spring Cave. The bus tour generally starts at 9 am, so plan on doing this first. Another good place to get a sense of Anguilla’s history is in East End at the Heritage Collection, assembled by historian Colville Petty—it’s a fascinating collection of Anguillan artifacts. The museum is near the bird sanctuary. Also check out the Art Cafe and its gallery, and have an espresso to restore your energy.
- Following that, go out to the end of the Island Harbour jetty and hail the outboard for Scilly Cay, a tiny island just two minutes away with a restaurant that serves the best lobster on Anguilla. (Note: It’s closed in September and October.) After lunch, enjoy the ultimate in relaxation: a rum punch and a good book under one of Scilly Cay’s shady thatch gazebos. If you have the energy, go snorkeling off the beach before returning to the ship just before sunset.
PLAN C: A Picnic, a Pond
- Pack your beach gear, some sturdy shoes and your paperback novel, and rent a four-wheel-drive vehicle or a scooter. (You can also hire a cab for the day at about US$20 per hour.) Stop at a market for picnic supplies or get some food to take with you (try Fat Cat Gourmet To Go, next to Albert’s Market on Stoney Ground Road). Then head toward Rendezvous Bay, where you can view the island of St. Martin/St. Maarten as you swim. Be sure to check out the Dune Preserve, a funky and very popular beach bar and live music venue constructed of found materials and old boats.
- Then cross the island to the secluded shores of Meads Bay and linger over your lunch. Spend the afternoon reading, swimming and napping. Take the main road east, then turn back in the direction of Sandy Ground at the roundabout. After it’s cooled off a bit, stroll around the Salt Pond and see if you can spot any unusual birds. Afterward, if there’s still time, stop at Jacquie’s Ripples for a drink at the lively bar or for a bite to eat on the porch.
How would you like to explore Anguilla?
Zemi Beach House, Resort & Spa [Offer ID: 1256031]
5-Nights Cap Juluca [Offer ID: 1239952]
5-Nights CuisinArt Resort & Spa [Offer ID: 1239961]
[Cover Photo: Perfect Caribbean beach on Anguilla island. Photo: © Can Stock Photo / shalamov]
[SOURCE: Pocket Travel Guide App]
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