With nearly three dozen beaches packed into just 91 square kilometres, Anguilla offers all the soft sand and there’s-no-way-that’s-not-an-Instagram-filter water you’re undoubtedly dreaming of for your next sun getaway. “Say where?” you probably just wondered. If you’ve never heard of tiny Anguilla, you’re not alone. With no big all-inclusive resorts and an airport too small to accommodate international jetliners, this Caribbean gem has evaded most of the attention compared to its neighbours. But that’s also just another reason why it might be the best island for your next vacation. And here are 14 reasons more.
1. It’s easier to pronounce than you think it is.
The name looks like it’ll trip you up – silent “u?” Are those double “l”s meant to sound like a “y?” But really, Anguilla’s pronounced just the way it looks: Ann-gwilla — rhymes with vanilla.
2. It’s easier to get to, also.
If you balked at the “no international airport” reference in the intro, know that as easy as Anguilla is to pronounce, it’s almost as easy to get to. Though you can transfer to Anguilla by boat or air from several Caribbean islands, the easiest way is to fly to neighbouring St. Martin – about 15 kilometres away – and ride a ferry across the Anguilla Channel. Still sound like a lot of schlepping? The ferry terminal is mere steps from Princess Juliana International Airport (both Air Canada and WestJet offer direct services); then it’s just a 20-minute cruise north to Anguilla. Charters like Funtime are stocked up with rum punch, so you’ll be able to start your vacation long before you would have even reached your resort on a larger island.
3. Because you could spend Monday morning at Shoal Bay Beach:
4. Midday at Rendezvous Bay:
5. And the afternoon at Crocus Bay:
6. Rinse, lather, repeat for a week and still not see all the beaches.
With a total of 33 beaches and shades of sand ranging from sugar white through deepening pinks, Anguilla offers more than enough beach for your buck. Since you’re on vacation, we’ll do the math for you: in a week-long visit, you could hit four different beaches per day and still save more to discover on your next trip.
7. With this much sand, barefoot lunching is the norm.
And by barefoot lunching, we also mean wade into the warm, calm water while your food is being prepared, then dine in your bikini for lunch. Forget “no shirt, no shoes, no service” mandates – the opposite holds at Scilly Cay, a daytime-only restaurant on a sandbar seconds from Island Harbour (and no, you don’t have to swim for your lunch; just wave from the beach and they’ll dispatch a dinghy to pick you up). Scilly Cay also offers a break from the decision fatigue you’re undoubtedly feeling after the challenge of picking a beach — the menu consists only of grilled chicken, lobster, crayfish and fish (and if you still can’t decide, you can order a combo, which includes your pick of two from the four options).
Tip: whatever you order will go down even easier with owner Eudoxie’s famous rum punch.
8. And speaking of rum…
While rum production was never a big thing on Anguilla – the island’s one producer, Pyrat, shuttered in 2009 — a visit to Zemi Beach House, one of the island’s newest hotels, is a must for serious aficionados. The hotel’s Rhum Room stocks more than 100 small batch rums from around the Caribbean, handpicked by a staff “rummelier,” along with a tapas menu specifically designed to be paired with the spirits on offer.
9. Anguilla isn’t all liquid calories either.
If you thought Anguilla’s beaches were abundant, wait till you check out its restaurant scene (in fact, counting roadside barbecues and food trucks, there are reportedly more than 100 restaurants on the island). While you had your eye on better-known islands such as Barbados and St. Bart’s, Anguilla has been building up a food scene that’s becoming known as one of the best in the Caribbean. Among the top picks: Blanchards, a relaxing spot on Meads Bay Beach where self-taught chef Miranda cooks up Caribbean classics such as lobster bisque and jerk chicken; Blanchards’ Beach Shack for more casual fare like tacos and barbecue; the uber-romantic setting of Pimms at Cap Juluca Hotel and grilled seafood with jaw-dropping views at the Four Seasons’ Coba.
10. The street food rocks, too.
Though the upscale restaurants here are fab, Anguilla isn’t all high-end hotel food. On weekends, the savoury scent of barbecue floats through the warm, tropical air as roadside barbecues set up shop all over the island. Smokey ribs and chicken are the staples here, and the prices tend to be a steal.
11. While you’re at it, improve your own cooking skills.
Home chefs are likely familiar with the brand name CuisinArt. But what you may not know is that the appliance masters have a whole resort on Anguilla, complete with an organic, hydroponic farm and a cooking school where you can perfect your sushi-rolling and pizza-making skills.
12. Celebs love it here.
Whether it’s the low key, off-the-radar vibe or everything else we’ve mentioned, Anguilla has long been a favoured hideaway for celebs like Beyonce and Jay-Z, Paul McCartney and more. Justin Timberlake even name-dropped the island in his song “My Love.”
13. Sports Illustrated swimsuit models like it too.
That’s right – this stunning island was the backdrop for this year’s iconic swimsuit issue.
14. This ain’t no one-note island.
While beaches and a killer food scene make for excellent reasons for a visit, Anguilla’s musical side is legendary. Largely fostered by an island-born reggae singer named Bankie Banx – owner of the famed Dune Preserve, one of the best spots to catch a show, and founder of the annual Moonsplash festival – the island boasts terrific live performances every night of the week. On Sunday afternoons, restaurants across the island are packed with locals and visitors seeking a side of reggae for their brunch.
15. Yep, it’s even got an artistic side.
Still not enough? Anguilla’s quaint west end has a handful of galleries, and it makes up for its diminutive size with some true creativity on display. At Cheddie’s Carving Studio, Anguilla native Cheddie Richardson makes magic with salvaged driftwood, carving up animals and other works. One of his sculptures was even presented to Queen Elizabeth on a visit to the island — it now has a place in the Royal Collection.