The living room of a Pool Villa at Cap Juluca
Travel Agent returned last month from a press trip nearly one year in the making. We were supposed to see this Caribbean jewel back in April 2008, but the property was sold to an investor syndicate led by Adam Aron, the former chairman and CEO of Vail Resorts and former president and CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line, and the trip was postponed. The property closed in September and reopened at the end of the year.
Who can blame Aron for pulling the plug on the trip? After all, why send reporters to see and write about a place that was going to be completely different?
In fact, all of the 98 rooms, spread among 18 villas, were renovated to the tune of about $25 million, including the addition of 40-inch Sony TVs and DVD players, new beds, new bedding from Morocco and custom-made rugs and a dome-shaped roof in the lobby. Other notable upgrades include a widened beach and a new landscape with 40,000 new trees, plants and flowers to add some more color to the property.
The villas, numbered 1–19 (there is no 13 for superstitious reasons), were far enough from each other that we felt like we weren’t sharing the resort with other people until we zipped by them in one of the resort’s golf carts, or saw them dining at one of the fine restaurants.
This adults-only property should be booked primarily for couples of any age. Although it has the facilities for a good family vacation or a guys’ or girls’ getaway, we couldn’t imagine enjoying some of the most breathtaking sunsets and sunrises offered in the Caribbean without a significant other. On this trip we had to, but that didn’t keep us from enjoying walks—or lounging with a cold beer—on the beautiful white-sand Maundays Beach, which is tended to every day to make room for fresh footprints.
Our favorite restaurant was Spice, with its tables set on a deck overlooking Maundays Beach. It was a bit too dark to see anything, but the sound of the waves crashing while we enjoyed our Black Mushroom Wonton, Shrimp Pad Thai and white wine definitely enhanced the digestion process. A close second was Blue, a buffet on the beach where your clients can eat everything from lamb chops to bread pudding (so good!) on the sand. Footwear isn’t required.
A Superior Room at Cap Juluca offers plenty of natural light
The water was perhaps the most beautiful we’ve ever seen in the Caribbean, and it doesn’t take you long to realize it. Cap Juluca provides 20-minute speedboat rides from the Princess Juliana International Airport in St. Maarten, the nearest airport to the resort. Request guides Elvis Ruan and Eddie Webster for your clients. The boat ride gives you a good idea of what to expect in Anguilla as you hop turquoise-colored waves and enjoy views of green mountaintops on the way. (Of course, the cooler full of Heinekens, Red Stripes and the local Carib beers always makes the ride more enjoyable.)
We recommend any of the villas, but numbers 1–9 are all relatively close to the main lobby and the hotel’s two best restaurants. Villas 10–19 are further away, but provide more privacy and seclusion. Fortunately, the resort’s policy is that guests can hop in and operate any golf cart in sight so long as it has a key in it.
We stayed in villa 9-3, a Luxury room with a balcony featuring ocean views and a king bed. The shower, like those in all villas at Cap Juluca, has glass windows so it feels like you’re outside. Keeping with the longstanding, trustworthy tradition at Cap Juluca, no rooms can be locked from the outside, so no keys are provided.
The beach is ideal for water enthusiasts. All water sports are included and are under the supervision of professionals, who were more than willing to explain why we fell flat on our faces while water skiing and how not to do it again. After the thrill of actually getting up on the skis, a sudden plunge into the calm water is quite refreshing. We were actually annoyed at how fast the boat came to pick us back up after we spilled every time.
Off the Resort
If clients want to venture off the resort and enjoy nightlife with the locals, tell them to go the Dunes Preserve. It’s a neat little place that actually feels more like a treehouse than a bar. Musicians often jam here and then have some cold brews with the patrons. If you’re looking for a little something sweeter and stronger, tell clients to sip on a “Duneshine.” We’re not exactly sure what’s in it, but we’d guess fruit juice and a whopping amount of rum. One or maybe two is all patrons will need to inspire them to put on their dancing shoes. The most popular days to go there are Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. From Cap Juluca, it’s about a 20-minute drive and cab fare will run clients about $25 a person.
Luxury Rooms offer direct access to the beach and private terraces
For a great snorkeling excursion, tell clients to visit the Prickly Pear, a little shack-like bar about six miles, or a 20-minute boat ride, from Cap Juluca. The busiest days are Wednesday and Saturday when many big party catamarans come over from St. Maarten. (It’s closed on Sundays.) The bar was empty when we went, but showed potential, and the food was delicious.
The beach by the Prickly Pear is what makes the experience worthwhile. Tell clients not to do what we did: If they are going to snorkel near the gorgeous reefs here, wear flippers. They look and feel goofy and you’re not going to win Coolest Guy on the Island award for wearing them, but without them, you’ll be gasping for air about 10 feet into the swim like we were. Guests are offered a half-day trip to the Prickly Pear that includes lunch and snorkeling for $140 per person.
To learn more about Cap Juluca, agents should contact Charles L. Black, director of sales and marketing, at 305-495-8890 or [email protected].