Anguilla is the quintessential Caribbean paradise: chalk-white beaches with turquoise shallows, palm-fringed beach bars and rum punches spilling from ice-packed coconut shells.
Impossibly perfect beaches such as Rendezvous Bay and Shoal Bay mean Anguilla sets the standard for beauty across the Caribbean. This paradise island has a character that’s all its own, from fun beach bars to fine dining and opportunities to dive shipwrecks, you can snorkel alongside turtles or paddle your own route in glass-bottomed kayaks under a starry sky.
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Anguilla’s extraordinary, idyllic beaches are the stuff of screensavers. The big-hitter is Rendevous Bay, a sweeping crescent of white sand and turquoise Caribbean Sea on the west side of the island, with views of St Martin (Anguilla’s eastern beaches are on the Atlantic Ocean). Shoal Bay is another local icon that offers yet more of Anguilla’s hyperreal palette of dazzling white sand and cobalt waters. Year-round fair weather makes enjoying any of the island’s 33 public beaches effortless.
Ever had a Johnny Cake? The carb source of choice on Anguilla, it’s a savoury accompaniment you’ll find on your plate with barbecued meat or even lobster – with lobster bisque being another island favourite. Day-to-day, you’ll find yourself snacking at the plentiful beach bars, but Anguilla also has fine-dining options which are among the very best in the Caribbean. Meads Bay is home to some of the highest-regarded restaurants, such as Blanchard’s and Jacala, where starters like conch ceviche are followed by seared teriyaki tuna loin with caramelised, sauteed plantain.
Anguilla’s beaches are not over-developed, yet they offer all the watersports you’d want, with kiteboarding, stand-up paddleboarding and windsurfing on offer (December to March being prime windsurfing months). Don’t miss night kayaking, in glass-bottomed kayaks with lights to illuminate the ocean floor. Scuba diving or snorkelling in waters teeming with tropical fish, rays and sea turtles is a magical way to spend a day – or have a Little Mermaid moment and take guided dives to the shipwrecks, the largest of which is named Sarah.
Take a break from lying supine on a beach and give your day some direction, by walking the self-guided Anguilla Heritage Trail. This map guides visitors to sites of historic and cultural importance and offers a welcome layer of social context that you might otherwise miss. The route takes in a former courthouse and the ruins of what must have been a very humid jail, as well as salt ponds and natural caves, not to mention the island’s National Heritage Museum.
A passion for live sports is easily indulged in Anguilla. Cricket is, naturally, the game of choice, with local team Anguilla XI based at James Ronald Webster Park in the capital. There’s also a strong boat racing culture, with buzzing sailing regattas that you definitely don’t need to be a sailor to get into the swing of. Back on dry land, the island’s flat terrain has seen a competitive road cycling scene spring up. Rugby is a growing sport, with Anguilla Eels RFC the local team to cheer on.
The highest point on Anguilla, at 240ft (73m), Crocus Hill is among the most popular of the island’s hiking destinations and is within convenient reach of the capital, The Valley. Even at lesser heights, there are a variety of rugged hikes and beach walks to be enjoyed here, such as the 4.5mi (7.2km) Limestone Bay trail. To get the most from your experience, look to the Anguilla National Trust, which offers guided hikes and trails for all abilities, from £36 per adult.
Take a fishing boat from Crocus Bay to reach the romantic cover of Little Bay, a prime snorkelling spot where rocky outcrops offer the chance to swim with sea turtles equipped with just a mask and flippers. Alternatively, sit and soak up the view in the relative solitude that a beach reached only by a dedicated boat trip can afford. Meanwhile, a short boat trip from Sandy Ground will deliver you to the arrestingly beautiful, uninhabited islands of Prickly Pear Cays or Sandy Island Cay. These are the sorts of desert islands one wouldn’t mind being stuck on for quite some time, particularly given that even with no overnight residents, you can still find a cold drink and a grill to hand.
Anguilla’s nightlife is as good value as you’d hope in a community of fun beach bars in the Caribbean. Saturated in reggae, calypso and soca sounds, high-profile favourites for a night out include the simple Sunshine Shack on Rendezvous Bay, topped by a surfboard and with a smattering of white plastic chairs. Otherwise, there’s the larger Gwen’s Reggae Grill, a bright yellow building right on Shoal Bay, or live-music spot Johnno’s Beach Stop in The Valley. The owner of the funky Dune Preserve bar, Bankie Banx, is a local nightlife legend who is also the founder of the island’s hugely successful annual reggae festival, Moonsplash.
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