My fella and I are taking a week in Anguilla to eat, sleep, snorkel, read, and generally laze around. I plan on coming back rosier-cheeked, brighter-eyed, and about 20 pounds heavier.
CuisinArt Resort & Spa, Anguilla
Tel: 264 498 2000
This beachfront hotel brings the Greek islands to the Caribbean with blue-domed, stark white villas cloaked in award-winning botanical gardens with more than 37,000 plants. CuisinArt joined the island's uber-luxury hotels (including Malliouhana and Cap Juluca) in 2000, and it's the one that has best withstood the test of time. Although its 93 generously proportioned rooms and suites are furnished in uninspired rattan and wood furniture, the marble bathrooms are grand, and the restaurants are known for their innovative healthy cuisine. The hotel grows its own vegetables, herbs, and edible flowers in the world's first resort-based hydroponic farm. The Santorini Restaurant has a Chef's Table for up to 16 guests offering regular culinary demonstrations, tastings, and wine pairings with Executive Chef Denise Carr. The poolside Cafe Mediterraneo offers an informal al fresco alternative, and spa dishes are found on all of the resort's menus. The resort is tripling the size of the full-service spa by July 2008 as well as adding six new private pool villas by the end of the year. However, a soundproof wall should minimize any unwelcome noise.
Closed September through October.
And the Stars Fell on Anguilla
It's flat and scrubby, dotted with scrawny goats and salt ponds. But Anguilla has unrivaled beaches, a history of good race relations, and restrained development (at least for now), all of which have transformed it into the Caribbean getaway of choice. Susan Hack swims with the stars
See + Do
Live Music, Anguilla
For a small island—only sixteen miles long and three miles wide—Anguilla has an amazingly active music scene. Don't miss the island's own reggae star Bankie Banx (www.bankiebanx.net), who has played with such legends as Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff, and Jimmy Buffett. When Buffett turned up last year at Banx's funky bar/restaurant Dune Preserve on Rendezvous Bay a week before the Moonsplash Annual Music Festival (usually held in March), thousands swarmed the beach. Banx regularly draws his own crowds several nights a week and Sunday afternoons, especially since the addition of a restaurant by talented local chef Dale Carty of Tasty's. Saturdays there is usually music at Smokey's at the Cove on Cove Bay or Nat's Palm Grove Bar & Grill on Savannah Bay at Junks Hole. On Sundays, locals and tourists alike bar hop from Johnno's Sunday jazz lunch in Sandy Ground or Scilly Cay's lunch and punch with local scratch band Happy Hits, to Shoal Bay East for afternoon reggae at Gwen's, Elodia's, and Uncle Ernie's. Ask around to find out when local favorites like Sprocka, Keith Gumbs, the Mussingtons, and Asher & Shyrone are playing. In season you'll find live music somewhere daily, and inescapably everywhere during Carnival the first week of August.
See + Do
Beaches of Anguilla, Anguilla
There are at least 33 talcum white beaches encircling the 35 square miles of Anguilla, but even at the height of the tourist season, you'll find dozens of deserted strands and a beach for every mood: long for walking, calm for snorkeling, secluded for snuggling, quiet for meditating. Others are bustling with bistros, beach bars, live music, and water sports facilities. Mercifully though, jet skis are not allowed. The most popular beach is Shoal Bay on the northeast coast, two miles of gently sloping white sand and turquoise waters with a coral reef sprouting from one end, numerous beach bars and several reasonably priced hotels. Although large cruise ships are banned, Shoal Bay East is the busiest of Anguilla s beaches, as day trippers from St. Martin often fill the chairs, mainly around Uncle Ernie's and Madeariman restaurants next to the Ku hotel and watersports center. But take a leisurely walk east to discover more quiet shores beyond Elodia's Bar & Grill and the point as far as Gwen's. Center island on the east coast, Road Bay hosts the busy commercial port and village of Sandy Ground, especially lively weekends with its string of beach bars and casual restaurants from Johnno's and Elvis', to Roy's and the Barrel Stay, and for night owls the Pumphouse across the road. On the southwest coast is the long, wide stretch of Maundays Bay with calm waters perfect for water skiing and smooth sails. Although it's home to luxury resort Cap Juluca, Anguillan law requires all beaches to have public access. Also along the southwest coast with views of St. Martin are Rendezvous Bay (the island's longest), Merrywing, and Shoal Bay West, the last two busily undergoing construction. Along the northwest coast is Meads Bay, another long silky strand. Sandy Hill, on the west coast above The Valley, and Little Bay, to the east, are small coves good for snorkeling, the first easily reached by road, the latter only accessible by boat or down a steep cliff at the road's edge. The crashing waves, karst rock, and wild frangipani at the far eastern end of the island make Captain's Bay and Windward Point dramatic and scenic, but dangerous for swimming.
Michel Rostang at Malliouhana, Anguilla
Meads Bay, Anguilla
Tel: 264 497 6111
This fancy resort's cliff-top open-air restaurant, over Meads Bay, set the standard early on for Anguilla's culinary reputation. It certainly has distinguished origins: Its first menus were devised by Michelin three-star chef Jo Rostang. After his death, consulting duties were taken over by his son, Michel, who has two Michelin stars at his eponymous Parisian restaurant, and longtime Head Chef Alain Laurent. The menu is changed seasonally to include French and Mediterranean classics re-imagined with local touches. Try the roasted whole lobster with basil butter sauce or the mahi-mahi with eggplant caviar in a tomato vinaigrette. Oenophiles will be impressed by owner Leon Roydon's 25,000-bottle wine cellar, which focuses on marquee-name Burgundies and Bordeaux. In keeping with the resort's elegantly casual style, no jackets or ties are required in this, the most formal of all Anguillan restaurants. The hotel's informal beachfront Le Bistro Restaurant, with its extensive Children's Menu, tends to keep them out of the main restaurant during lunch.
Open daily 7 to 11 am. Closed September through October.
Tel: 264 497 4290
The 11 tables in this open-air, brightly painted West Indian house overlook the fishing village of Island Harbour and distant Scilly Cay. Though the setting is distinctly Anguillan, the menu namechecks a world of culinary influences. French chef Raoul Rodriguez trained at the Ecole Hoteliere in Strasbourg and at cooking schools across Asia, and he and wife/hostess Mary Pat O'Hanlon spend two months every year traveling to exotic destinations, returning with art for the gallery and ideas for the kitchen. The resulting French/Indochine specialties make this one of the island's top gastronomic treasures (so book early). Staples include a selection of freshly smoked mahi-mahi, tuna, and kingfish served with a ginger/horseradish cream; naked crayfish sautéed with coconut and Balinese spices; and pan-grilled Perigord duck breast with a tamarind jus. Desserts include several unusual flavors of homemade ice cream—including one made of the smelly durian fruit—and an innovative prune dish cooked in chocolate and Armagnac. A recently expanded wine cellar brims with an ever-growing mainly French selection. Although the cuisine is haute, the ambience is fairly informal, and O'Hanlon meets your every need with her Irish charm.
Open Tuesday through Saturdays noon to 1:30 pm and 6 to 9 pm. Closed mid-August through October.
Tel: 264 497 6100
In 1994, Bob and Melinda Blanchard opened this charming open-air pavilion set in a garden overlooking the sea, and tables have been consistently full ever since. The secret is Chef Blanchard's ever-changing menu, which blends Caribbean, Cajun, Californian, and Asian flavors in a way that everyone from Janet Jackson and Robert De Niro to Susan Sarandon and Michael Douglas seem to like. Popular staples include the lobster cakes; a trio of mahi-mahi with coconut, lime, and ginger; and jerk shrimp with cinnamon rum bananas. The tropical dining room, which wraps around an award-winning wine collection, is beach chic, its candlelit tables set with fine china and cooled by the sea breezes blowing through the louvered windows. Though some say it's overpriced, we think the setting and service are well worth it. Be sure to book well in advance.
Open daily 6 to 9:30 pm. Closed September and October.