Here’s how to experience Anguilla: from nature to gastronomy

Anguilla is not just about untarnished nature. Discover its adventurous side, vibrant cuisine and exciting festivals too…

If the ultimate reset is a tropical beach trip, then Anguilla can certainly help with that. It has superb, blinding white strands and secluded coves that shelve into radiant turquoise seas and arguably some of the finest beaches in the Caribbean. But this small, laid-back island at the north-eastern tip of the Caribbean is far more than a pretty shoreline.

Anguilla has exquisite restaurants, running the gamut from Michelin-level cuisine to boho-chic beachside dining plus a host of the Caribbean’s most romantic hotels, with matchless spas and without the crowds. Anguilla is also home to a deluge of natural wonders and adventures that range above and below the waterline, so whether it’s a relaxed getaway or an active adventure you’re seeking, Anguilla delivers on all fronts.  

Unwind on pristine beaches

Anguilla has the Caribbean’s finest sea and sand, gin clear shallows that lap and roll onto acres of mounded coral granules as soft as talcum powder. Beware, though, as in places the sand is so sumptuous that a simple early morning walk can turn into an aerobic workout. Anguilla’s 33 beaches range from tiny, secluded coves like Little Bay, which is reached by hand-over-hand rope descent or by boat, to kilometre-long strands that shine bright against a surreal turquoise sea. There are lively beaches, too. At Shoal Bay East, backed by a handful of hotels and beach bars, you can hire a beach umbrella and snorkel gear to explore the reef. Similarly, at Meads Bay settle in at chic Blanchards Beach Shack or Leon’s, Malliouhana hotel’s beach bar. On others you can be completely alone: Rendezvous Bay, Meads Bay and Barnes Bay stretch for a mile apiece, so just walk on if someone’s in your favourite spot.

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For the active, there is always something to do. Anguilla Watersports offers glass-bottom kayaks fore hire and kitesurfing experiences. There are also day sails to Sandy Island and Prickly Pear that include snorkelling, sunbathing and a lobster lunch. Or perhaps choose your beach by its bar. Each has its character; classic West Indian shacks (Gwen’s and Madeariman’s, both on Shoal Bay) serve beer and rum punch, but at Savi’s on Meads Bay and at SandBar, in Sandy Ground, cocktails are the drink of choice. Sandy Ground is where the crowds gravitate in late afternoon, to beach bars that stand shoulder to shoulder, to watch the sun set on a sea horizon.

Taste exquisite Caribbean cuisine

Anguilla stands tall in the Caribbean for its food, making it ideal for foodies on a beach break. A happy coincidence of French chefs from nearby islands and exceptional sources of supply from France and the United States has stimulated superb, creative gastronomy in the island’s beautiful settings. For nearly 30 years, Blanchards, in a pretty white and teal building on Meads Bay, has served the island’s discerning clientele top-notch modern cuisine. Hibernia, overlooking an Asian garden in Island Harbour, offers delectable French fare with Thai, Moroccan and Japanese touches. Veya’s ‘cuisine of the sun’ brings tastes from around the Tropics, on its huge veranda. But there are a host of tastes: Jacala for elegant French, Picante for Mexican and Trattoria Tramonto for Italian fare with your toes in the sand. In fact, many restaurants make the best of their seafront setting: Mango’s, Straw Hat and Arawak Beach Club’s Taverna for Mediterranean tapas.

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Don’t miss the wave of Anguillian chefs who have created a new West Indian cuisine, reworking traditional recipes and local ingredients via foreign culinary techniques. Try Tasty’s Point of View, which overlooks Sandy Ground. Or go for a traditional West Indian platter, grilled fish with rice ‘n peas, at Sharky’s, on the road to West End Village. Finally, don’t resist the roadside aroma of a barbecue; the Anguillians grill up a storm. The Anguilla Culinary Experience, held each May, draws it all together in four days of chef’s dinners, beach barbecues and cooking competitions.

Get adventurous in unspoiled nature

If the urge strikes, leave your lounger and venture forth; Anguilla has plenty to explore. On land the Anguilla National Trust leads guided nature hikes and historical walks around the island, visiting the island’s reserves and wetlands for birding. In September and October, they arrange a nightly Turtle Patrol, aiming to see turtles burying their eggs on the remote beaches. You can also hike to Goat Cave, home to natural sunroofs and plunge pools. After a horse ride with Seaside Stables, you and your horse can cool off by riding into the sea.

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Definitely take the time to swim and see the island’s vibrant underwater life at Little Bay and Shoal Bay. You’ll snorkel over angel fish and parrot fish (which eat the reef and create the sand), striped sergeant majors and grunts that patrol corals like brain hemispheres.

Early in the year, fish fry school in their thousands off the cliffs at Malliouhana where you can descend through a plughole of silvery fish. Scuba divers can explore deeper reefs and a handful of intentionally sunk wrecks. The hotels also have kayaks, windsurfers and sailing dinghies, and you can try out stand up paddle-boarding.

The Anguillians’ national sport is boat racing, and in the summer, they buff up their boats and race around the island. Spectators follow them in cars, but sometimes they need crew, so for an authentic Anguillian experience, ask around in Sandy Ground if there’s a vacancy for a deckhand.

Celebrate at vibrant festivals

Like all West Indians, Anguillians love a ‘lime’, a word which translates roughly as a spontaneous party for anything between two and two hundred people. If you happen across a lime, join in. If not, head down to Sandy Ground, where the beach bars get lively every Saturday.

Or, visit the island during one of its festivals. The liveliest event of the year is the Anguilla Summer Festival, their carnival and Emancipation Day celebration held in early August (1-11 August 2024, which marks 50 years of carnival). There are 10 days of calypso singing, beach parties and local sailboat races, all culminating in the carnival pageant, when costumed revellers dance through the streets at dawn behind trucks stacked with speakers.