by Denise Mattia
When the young woman at the ferry terminal in St. Maarten sold me a ticket to Anguilla she remarked, “It’s a very quiet place.” Later, while disembarking from the ferry , I faced a panoramic view of a cloudless blue sky against an island of blazing white sand floating on an opalescent sea and wondered, was there anything to do here?
Brochures have a formula for this query: “Replenish your body, relax your mind and rejuvenate your spirit, adding that Anguilla’s resorts offer exceptional spas in which to do this. “Take in a few art galleries, make a fascinating excursion to our undersea world, then dance to world- or island beats under the stars.”. I learned that Anguilla is, in fact, full of possibilities and big on song and soul.
The “Anguilla brand,” as it became known, was hailed for what it has (remember those beaches) as opposed to what it doesn’t have – cruise ships, casinos, all-inclusives and shopping malls.
Starting from no more than 33 gorgeous beaches and congenial surroundings in the 1980s, Anguilla rose to become one of the world’s premiere low-volume, high-value luxury destinations for celebrities and the affluent. Over the last 25 years, government administrations have encouraged investors to develop the island.
Plans happened slowly at first and The Malliouhana Hotel and Spa at Meads Bay, with 44 rooms and suites (www.malliouhana.com), and Cap Juluca at Maunday’s Bay (recently refurbished under new ownership), with 70 rooms and suites and six pool villas (www.capjuluca.com), are two resorts that led the way. One new high-end tourism resort came on the scene during the 1990s. CuisinArt Golf Resort & Spa at Rendezvous Bay opened its doors in 1999, with 98 suites and private villas with pools, (www.CuisinArtResort.com). Viceroy Anguilla, an exquisite beachfront resort situated on 35 acres of lush tropical foliage, is the only resort on Anguilla situated on two beaches: Barnes Bay and Meads Bay.
A Fiscally Positive Environment
In 2002, the government instituted a fiscal stabilization plan to stimulate economic activity. Agreements were finalized with private developers for multimillion-dollar investments in tourism projects. Resorts like the intimate, impeccably landscaped, home-away-from-home Paradise Cove, located near Cove Bay Beach, opened with 29 suites (www.paradise.ai). Other openings included the “affordably chic” Ku (formerly the Shoal Bay Beach Hotel), with 27 suites (www.KuAnguilla.com), the Cove Castles Resort at Shoal Bay West (www.covecastles.com), the Frangipani Beach Resort at Meads Bay, with 18 rooms and suites (visit www.frangipaniresort.com), the Carimar Beach Club, a condo hotel also at Meads Bay, with 24 apartments for people who want to maintain a “feel” for the island (www.carimar.com) and the Arawak Beach Inn beside Island Harbor, with 17 guestrooms at a reasonable price (www.arawakbeach.com).
Specials Worth Noting
The Allamanda Beach Club is offering a 25% discount on its rate for two guests staying five nights. Included are a continental breakfast, a one-day car rental and a one-hour massage for two. The rate applies through December 14, 2008 (www.allamanda.ai). The escape package at the stunning Ku includes four nights’ accommodation for two, continental breakfast daily, two dinners, a massage for two, a bottle of wine upon arrival, taxi transfers and use of the Petit Spa and Gym. Rates begin at $1,392 per night based on double occupancy (www.KuAnguilla.com).
Through November, a four-night special for two at the gracious Paradise Cove Resort is being offered at a gracious price – $720 and a one-day car rental plus wine and a picnic basket are part of the bargain (www.paradise.ai). In addition to the “Suite Escape 2008,” CuisinArt Resort & Spa is also offering a “Friends and Family” special, valid through Nov. 16th (www.CuisinArtResort.com)
Intimate and private are keywords for Anguilla’s villas, and the Bayberry Villa & Chinaberry Villa (www.beachbum.ai), the Desert Rose Estate (www.desertroseestate.com), The Sandcastle at Limestone Bay (www.sandcastlevilla.com) and Villa Paradise (www.villaparadise.com) are offering specials through mid-December.
High Dining Standards from Roadside to Chic
Anguilla’s reputation for fine cuisine is renowned and well-deserved, and there are dozens of restaurants from which to choose. The island is safe, and your clients can roam about without concern, talk to the nicest people they’ve ever met and sample great fare from beach shacks and roadside and inland stands.
At Ken’s Barbeque stand, next to Brooks & Sons Complex, I sampled excellent barbequed chicken and spare ribs. (Friday and Saturday only). Nearby, every Sunday, Laurel Richardson serves local dishes from her White Van for about $15. Next to Albert’s Market Place on Stoney Ground Road, the Fat Cat offers take-away meals. Lunch at Smokeys (near Paradise Cove) costs about $35 to $50. From Thursday to Saturday B&D’s BBQ serves local dishes for about $20. Mango’s Seaside Grill serves soup and a salad (about $15), snapper (about $40) and jerk chicken (about $20). There’s always live music at the Pumphouse on Road Bay, where entrees range from $15 to about $40.
The view of the Temenos Golf Course is spectacular from Zurra’s on the club’s rooftop, while at the Straw Hat on the waterfront the cuisine and the ambience are well worth the steep price.
Every second week in July, Leon Roydon, sole owner of Malliouhana Hotel and Spa, hosts Epicurean Week, an extravaganza of wining and dining, with guest chefs from the UK, France and the U.S. creating their favorite dishes. JAXFAX visited the spectacular Malliouhana property as Albert Lake, Jr., sommelier at the resort since 1984 conducted a private tour of the wine cellar. With 24,000 bottles of the grape at his disposal (the largest collection in the Caribbean), Lake said, “Wine is like music: there’s no end to it.” Nine wines were being served that evening. Prices during Epicurean Week are $6,300 per couple and include accommodations, breakfast and dinner.
Gentle Island Rhythms
There’s no end to the music-makers in Anguilla either. Locals and ex-pats hang out at beach bars like Elodias and Johnno’s (right) and listen to reggae or jazz. Festival Del Mar is a community-based festival scheduled during Easter Weekend. Moonsplash, one of the Caribbean’s best and liveliest music festivals, kicked off on Anguilla’s gorgeous Rendezvous Bay beach from April 21 – 24, 2016. Now in its 26th year, the festival was founded and is still hosted annually by Anguilla’s own Bankie Banx, known as “the Anguillian Bob Dylan,” whose music style combines reggae, folk, R&B and jazz, and who has actually toured with Bob Dylan. http://ivisitanguilla.com/anguillas-legendary-moonsplash-music-festival-rocks-the-island-april-21-24-2016/#sthash.rfVzyb1G.dpuf The Tranquility Jazz Festival is held annually in November with “straight no chaser.” (www.anguillajazz.org)
Wildlife Encounters on Gentle Watersports
Because there are few if any strong currents, water sports are popular with tourists and locals alike. The island’s seaward edge or fore reef is a natural buttress for the surf, making the fringing reef – corals that have grown on the rocky surfaces of coves – ideal for snorkeling and diving. Cuts in the barrier allow divers to experience the wall beyond. JAXFAX sampled a few of the 40 sites that are minutes from shore by boat, and during one dive was shown an old anchor embedded in coral.
Nurse sharks and turtles are often seen resting beneath overhangs in the reef. Deeper, JAXFAX came across a school of jacks swimming against backdrops of soft and hard corals and sea fans, and discovered a host of lobsters that had claimed a niche in the shipwreck The Commerce for their shelter.
Matthew Billington of Shoal Bay Scuba (Karma Charters) Ltd. (www.shoalbayscuba.com) takes divers to the reef twice daily, at 9 and 11 a.m. Snorkeling trips with lunch ($55 per person) at Prickly Pear Island, a nature preserve, leave at 1 p.m.Matthew offers package rates, and will give a 20% commission to travel agents booking snorkeling excursions, sunset cruises and private charters for dive groups. The commission applies only to funds wired to the company’s bank. The commission is 15% for credit card payments.
Sue Ricketts, owner of ZaZAA’s, the new chic boutique at Ku, offers a 10 percent commission on purchases to agents, or clients who present their agent’s signed business card, through Christmas (www.anguillaluxurycollection.com).
If your clients are looking for local items, suggest a visit to Sylvia Hodge at the Local Arts & Crafts Center, located at Brooks & Sons Complex #7, where artists’ works (pottery, handcrafts, dolls, paintings and sculptures) show a proficiency and sophistication unrivalled throughout many Caribbean islands. Prices range from $20 for a little knitted rainbow handbag to $1,500 for an original painting.
Jet Blue flies to St.Maarten and American flies to San Juan. The main ferry connection to Blowing Point Ferry Terminal in Anguilla is from the Marigot Port on the French side of St. Maarten. The fare is $20, as is the exit fee.
An alternate, less frequented route that leaves from the Blowing Point Ferry Terminal is a charter boat, which docks close to the airport at Philipsburg in St. Maarten. For more information on airservice, visit www.anguillaairservices.com
For more information, contact the Anguilla Tourist Board, at 877-4-ANGUILLA; www.anguilla-vacation.com
As appeared in JAX FAX TRAVEL TRADE PUBLICATION
About Denise Mattia
A writer and photographer, Denise Mattia’s works are published nationally and internationally and include all aspects of leisure travel: art , culture, resorts, spas, food and wine and sports’ activities. She's the founder of the soon to be launched Yum-Yum-Traveler, a site devoted to reviewing restaurants in addition to her travel articles from around the world. She lives and works in Manhattan, where she was born.