Many thanks to Anguilla Tourist Board for inviting me to the fantastic press trip.
Anguilla has everything one would want in an ideal beach wedding. Fine white sandy beaches, clear blue waters that varies in its varying tones of vibrant turquoise to dark blue depending how the sunlight strikes it, old clapboard buildings meets tony resorts (old/something borrowed and something new), and the island’s style of unfussy chic, barefoot elegance.
This Caribbean island, a British overseas territory about seven miles north of St. Maarten/St. Martin, is a tiny island — a mere 35 square miles with just six traffic lights. It’s dry and flat, and its tourism scene took off only some 20 years ago, until the 1960s, after all, much of the island lacked electricity and telephone service. Yet fabulous Anguilla is home to some of the region’s toniest resorts, epicurean eateries and breathtaking beaches. There are no cruise ships, casinos or high-rise hotels, but there is a thriving local music scene, headed by notable up-and-coming singer-songwriters like Omari Banks (whose father is Bankie Banx, Anguilla’s famous reggae songwriter and singer) showcased at Moonsplash, the island’s annual reggae festival that just passed when I arrived.
Anguilla is, however, no shoestring destination – authenticity comes at a premium here. Far from being St. Barth’s stunt double, Anguilla actually flaunts its down-to-earth charms to the jetset people who crave a vacation off the radar.
Most of us arrived to Anguilla by ferrying over from St. Maarten. The ferry is a small motor boat that could fit about a dozen people and two crew members. Keeping in tune with the islands, drinks are always available; ranging from a few Caribbean brands of beer, rum punch to bottled water, while taking in the changing views for 20 minutes.
Paradise Cove: Partial view of the balcony at my Penthouse Suite; Night time view of one of the buildings of Paradise Cove; Pool area at night; Living area at my Penthouse Suite; My bedroom at the Penthouse Suite
On our first two nights in Anguilla, we stayed at one of Charming Escapes® hotels and villas available on the island, Paradise Cove. (Charming Escapes is a collection of small, affordable vacation properties, where everyday folks can feel like pampered royalty on vacation.)
Paradise Cove is a family-friendly hotel that is owned and run by an Anguillan family. Everyone is very friendly yet professional.
I stayed at their spacious, comfortable penthouse suite where it can easily fit in a family of four. It has an open-floor plan for the living area and kitchenette, two balconies facing opposite sides of the property. A large en suite bathroom with double sinks and a soft Queen sized bed.
The best part is, the hotel is a five-minute walk from one of Anguilla’s 33 beaches.
VEYA Restaurant is run by a husband (front of the house manager and head bartender) and wife (chef) hailing from Virginia. They chose to move down to the island (with their very young sons) over a decade ago after falling in love with Anguilla.
VEYA is a very stylish restaurant that has a bar area downstairs set up like a lavish stage inspired by Morocco with its separate food and cocktail menu.
Upstairs, where we had dinner, has live jazz music (our performer of the evening did very good covers of Frank Sinatra) and the minimalist decor.
The Captain’s cocktail ($14) I had was a mix of Bacardi rum, Coco Lopez, mint, and fresh lime juice served in a tall, bamboo glass. Refreshing and not too sweet. The food was very delicious. Must order the huge plate of grilled local lobster ($60) served in a pool of passion fruit mustard sauce and sides of gingered sweet potato and toasted garlic spinach. The sweet lobster melded beautifully with the sweet-tart passion fruit with a gentle heat of the mustard. If you have a sweet tooth, desserts were excellent. My table adored the key lime pie in a jar, a deconstructed version of key lime pie with a sweet-tart key lime cream with graham cracker crumble on top and the warm chocolate cake with chili, and caramelized bananas.
If you want a relaxed beach side lunch, Smokey’s at The Cove (or simply called, Smokey’s) is your best bet. It’s a simple but nice beach shack. The broad lunch menu can appease any appetite and craving ranging from chicken fingers to salads, sandwiches and wraps to heartier plates of cooked food.
Their house rum punches (the red-pink drink) are not light handed on the rum and bottles of Carib beer (a Trinidad and Tobago-based beer brand) are served ice-cold and refreshing from the humid heat.
If you want true Anguillan fare, their take on the national dish of rice and peas and fish is very good. The pan seared fillet of snapper with lemon butter sauce ($18) is perfectly moist and flaky. The sides of rice and peas and cole slaw were tasty. (There’s a smattering of bottles of local hot sauces you can spike up the heat if you like your food spicy.)
The curry goat ($24) with rice and peas was amazing. It was everything what I have imagined in an authentic Caribbean goat stew. Succulent, well-seasoned bits of goat meat barely hanging on the bone from the low and slow braising. The rice and peas were a perfect pairing with the goat. If I weren’t going to take a dip in the ocean (or be in a bikini), I would eat buckets of that curry goat!
One of the options to dine in and live in high style with a stunning beach on the property, the luxurious, 5-star resort Cap Juluca is it. The Moorish architecture blends with lush landscaped grounds that feature 60,000 flowering plants. (It makes for a great magazine spread shoot. Almost like impromptu one I had.) The Moroccan inspiration continues in the interiors of guest rooms, all just steps from the beach.
Sixty-nine spacious guest quarters are housed in two-story oceanfront villas. All units feature marble baths and louvered doors that open onto covered oceanfront terraces; 1,100-square-foot Junior Suites offer large verandas and oversize baths with private garden solariums. Limitless recreational options include tennis and water sports, a fitness center with yoga and Pilates classes, and a nearby Greg Norman designed golf course. Visitors may start or end a stay with a cruise aboard the resort’s 32-foot boat.
We had excellent pre-dinner cocktails and bar snacks at Maunday’s Bay Lounge. The spiced rum punch had a nice kick from the spiced rim and the rum was quite prevalent. The martini (I have not tried) was told it was delicious, served in a cute two-piece glass with its bottom filled with ice to keep it cold.
Just a five-minute stroll from the lounge, we headed over to Cap Juluca’s two open-air restaurants, Spice and Pimms. Pimms is Cap Juluca’s premier restaurant and considered by many travel books and people one of the most romantic restaurants in Anguilla. Pimms’ menu is a fusion of European, Asian, and Caribbean flavors. The interior has a whiff of the Moorish architecture but toned down and sophisticated compared to its adjacent restaurant Spice.
The food is overall lovely. The creamy, incredibly flavorful lobster bisque ($24) was delicious. The lobster ravioli was good bit I was hoping for something crunchy to contrast all things soft and liquid. My table companion’s tuna tartare “Niçoise way” ($24) was a silky delight with a touch of herbaceousness from the fresh basil and finely diced onion made it enticing to eat.
When it comes to main courses, the Grilled Anguilla crayfish with basil butter sauce ($52) served with side of Basmati rice was a stunner. 1.5 pounds of crayfish, halved and piled in its buttered glory got our attention. The crayfish has a distinctive difference from lobster for being much more succulent and tender compared to its cousin the lobster, and it’s not because of it being basted in butter.
The lighter alternative to the crayfish was the popular dish of Big Eye Snapper, Asian style ($38). Pan seared fillets of snapper perched on top of fragrant jasmine rice; topped with julienned lemon grass, ginger, scallions, and carrots. The sesame oil-soy sauce jus mimicked the idea of the hot oil and soy sauce treatment of what Chinese steamed fish is finished off but it needed a little bit more of soy sauce to get that salty, pungent kick I love from that type of sauce. It’s a very good dish but that little tweak would make it amazing.
We shared desserts since we’re pretty stuffed. The rum raisin ice cream is a fail-safe ice cream flavor on this island. It’s not too sweet, nicely creamy without being too dense.
I should insert the disclaimer that I am not a fan of rice pudding due to its texture. I tried it out of hoping of having my mind changed but it was decent but has not swayed me yet. In other words, the flavors were good but the texture was still not my cup of tea.
Service at Pimms was friendly, very pleasant and professional. We couldn’t ask for more.
There’s more to this beautiful island and I will write more on my next post.
To view more photos of this visit, please CLICK HERE for the full photo set or view the gallery (of some photos) on the bottom of this post.
Places Visited and Useful Information:
Anguilla Tourist Board
PO Box 135
West End Village
Tel. +1-264-264-497-6603 or 6959
Smokey’s at The Cove
The Cove Bay
Maundays Bay, AI-2640
Anguilla, British West Indies
Toll-free U.S. Reservations: 1-888-858-5822