by James Henderson, The Telegraph, November 5, 2018
Anguilla has the finest sea and sand in the Caribbean, secluded coves, bays with electric blue water and strands of sand so thick that simple walking becomes aerobic exercise.
An English-speaking British overseas territory just 16 miles long, Anguilla is pretty expensive but laid back to the horizontal, with unexpectedly fine restaurants, excellent beach bars and a handful of shops.
Only small, luxury cruise lines call in to Anguilla, but it is also possible to visit the island and its offshore cays from ships that dock in St Martin next door.
Cruise port location
Ships mostly anchor in Road Bay/Sandy Ground, a huge, shallow bay on the island’s north shore. There are no cruise ship berths, so tenders run you ashore to the dock and the superb beach. Occasionally ships will anchor off Blowing Point, the main ferry port on the southern shore.
Can I walk to any places of interest?
Sandy Ground is an excellent beach and there are several beach bars and restaurants right there in a line, next to the dock.
There is no public transport on Anguilla, so to explore the island you will depend on a taxi or organised transportation, possibly an island tour (often the same thing here anyway).
If you want to travel independently, you can contact taxi drivers Harold Vanterpool (+1264 235 8673) or Glennis Connor (+1264 476 7828). They will happily drop you at a beach for the day and collect you. Hire cars are also readily available and companies will deliver to Sandy Ground or Blowing Point.
What to see and do
It doesn’t take long to get around Anguilla and there are only a few things to see – and you might be visiting Anguilla for its beaches anyway. There is a fairly standard island tour, which can be pre-booked on board ship, but which is equally available through the taxi drivers or Blue Sea Anguilla.
What can I do in four hours or less?
The standard island tour, offered by all cruise lines visiting the island, lasts three or four hours and takes in Sandy Ground and its old buildings, the West End and its futuristic hotels, the Valley (the island capital, blink and you’ll miss it) including Wall Bake House, the island’s only surviving plantation house and the quaint buildings of Crocus Hill.
There are several "overlooks" along the way – superb views over Anguilla’s bays and their electric blue sea. Heading east of the town is the East End Pond conservation area (a bird sanctuary) and the delightful Anguilla Museum, the collection of Dr Colville Petty, which covers the story of Anguilla through geology and history, including the "invasion" in 1969. The Anguilla National Trust offers a variety of tours.
It is also possible to hike on Anguilla, including to Katouche cave. This hike includes a walk through the thicker greenery of the north coast and then a descent into the limestone cavern with its flowstones and stalactites.
Dolphin Discovery (which attracted many visitors from ships docked in St Martin too) offer a tour, close to the ferry at Blowing Point, that involves swimming and other interaction with dolphins. Other tours are a bit more in keeping with the island’s interest in the good things in life; Seabourn and Silversea both offer a day out with a wine expert, with rum and cheese tasting and cigar sampling in Anguilla’s Cigar Café.
Perhaps though, you have nothing more in mind than the beach… and of course Anguilla has sand in spades. All cruise companies offer tours to the main beaches. Shoal Bay East is the most popular, but there is plenty of choice: Meads Bay, Cove Bay and Rendezvous Bay are superb. Some companies, including Seabourn, arrange trips to a "private" beach (beaches on Anguilla are all public, but they set up a section just for you). Watersports can also be included in beach days, including clear-bottom kayaking and SUP. Anguilla has sunk a number of wrecks around its shores, which are ideal for scuba diving.
Or you may wish to spend the time in a beach bar. Anguilla offers a good variety of fare, from burgers and beer to elegant dining with your toes in the sand. See Eat and Drink below for more information.
What can I do in eight hours or less?
One of the most popular excursions in Anguilla is a trip to an offshore island. Palm Island and Prickly Pear Island – both not really much more than a sand-bar – offer a day’s sunbathing, snorkelling and then drinks and a barbecue lunch on a tiny, idyllic tropical island. Boats pick you up at the main dock in Sandy Ground. It is also possible to join a tour to these islands from St Martin next door.
Eat and drink
The restaurants in Anguilla are excellent. Local cuisine is quite simple, though there is good grilled food in the beach bars – for local fare try Gwen’s on Shoal Bay East and the SunShine Shack on Rendezvous Bay – but there is also top quality cuisine. Go smarter at Blanchard’s Beach Shack on Meads Bay (light bistro food) or Trattoria Tramonto on Shoal Bay West for Italian. The local speciality is lobster and crayfish, best served lightly grilled with flavoured butter.
Don’t leave Anguilla without…
Irie Life (in Sandy Ground and South Hill above it) and Limin’ Boutique in the West End offer beachwear and tropical shirts, wraps and sarongs as well as jewellery and trinkets, lotions and soaps. Anguilla Bijoux in Sandy Ground takes it more up market with elegant tropical wear and jewellery.
Need to know
There is no home-porting in Anguilla, but the island is reached via Antigua (just over eight hours from the UK) and then an onward flight of an hour.
There is very little issue with crime in Anguilla. Obviously don’t offer temptation by exposing money or jewellery thoughtlessly, but otherwise Anguilla is a place where one can genuinely relax.
Best time to go
Anguilla is at its loveliest from early December into the middle of the year. From July it can get very hot, though there is often a sea breeze. The hurricane season is from September into October and November can be rainy.
Shops can sometimes take a long lunch hour in Anguilla, although generally this won’t happen on a day when the cruise ships are in.