Get Happy in the Eastern Caribbean: The Allure of Anguilla
By Melanie Reffes
Recognized by his laid-back vibe and cowboy hat, Bankie Banx (left) is one of Anguilla’s national treasures. Delighting crowds with his rockin’ reggae for nearly three decades, this musical maestro is also the heart and soul of Moonsplash—the longest running independent music festival in the Eastern Caribbean—held each year under the full moon in March. “Moonsplash is an intimate festival because our stage is a traditional Anguillan wooden boat,“ says Bankie.
With a roster of international reggae performers set to take the stage, Moonsplash 2011 will be held from March 17th to 20th. “Visitors to our shores are warmed up by the explosive rhythms of Bankie Banx and with bated breath they return each year,” says Marie Walker, tourism director, North America. “While Anguilla continues to encourage the traveler in search of true respite, occasionally she throws in something extra spicy like our Moonsplash to get the juices going.“
Graced with sea grape trees, sun-dappled skies and sandy stretches, Anguilla packs a big punch for a small island. Mother Nature unplugged, the eel-shaped sliver is a ferry away from St. Maarten and the A-list choice for those who covet the fine art of getting away. “My prime objectives will be to increase visitor arrival figures from the major markets, increase tourism revenues and create new avenues for fiscal growth; by expanding the existing niche markets,” says Candis Niles, newly appointed director of tourism.
Honoring the aviation pioneer, Wallblake Airport has been renamed the Clayton J. Lloyd International Airport, although the airport code (AXA) remains the same. “For an island that is thirty-five square miles of magic,“ adds Marie Walker, “we have 100 restaurants, thirty-three beaches, mix of accommodations and 15,000 Anguillians to greet you.“
The Big Sleep
With one click (www.anguilla-vacation.com/accommodations/ charming-escapes) the Charming Escapes Collection affords travelers an array of accommodations, attractions and restaurants. Aimed at attracting a more diverse clientele, the website is user-friendly and updated regularly.
Between Meads and Barnes bays, Viceroy Anguilla (www.viceroyhotelsandresorts.com), recently bought by the Starwood Capital Group, impresses with objet d’art crafted of stone and wood and a lobby outfitted in earth-tone marble. Sea view villas, bluff top suites and a spa that overlooks the Caribbean Sea is the perfect complement to sushi and a chilled “Anguilla-Hattan” made with local Pyrat rum served at the Sunset Lounge.
Opened in October, the 27-room Anacaona Hotel (formerly the Sirena) is offering year round rates starting at $150 per room, double occupancy. En-suite kitchens, gratis Wi-fi and 71-channel TV’s are a bonanza for fiscally-minded families. “We plan to turn our hotel into the cultural entertainment center of Anguilla featuring musicians and dancers, carnival evenings and dinner theater,” said Delroy Lake, general manager. Visit www.anacaonahotel.com
Also wooing the winter weary, Malliouhana Hotel (www.malliouhana.com) is offering the 7th night free, generous food and beverage credits and a snorkeling excursion with bookings through March 31st. A sleek $10-million expansion to the Venus Spa adds to the razzle-dazzle that is the CuisinArt Resort (www.cuisinartresort.com). Through December 17th, a $100 per room, per night food and beverage credit is given to those who book an “Autumn Getaway” or “Stay Seven, Pay Five” package.
At Cap Juluca (www.capjuluca.com), Chef René Bajeux adds his culinary wizardry to three restaurants while the Maundays Club is Caribbean chic for an apple martini as the sun sets over the sea.
Opening in January on the south coast, the 80-room Royal Caribbean Resort (www.choicehotels.com), a member of Choice Hotels’ Ascend Collection, will have one of the largest convention halls in the Caribbean with 28,000 square feet of meeting space. “This is very important to us because Royale Caribbean will emerge not only as a leader in the hospitality industry in Anguilla, but an emerging brand in the Eastern Caribbean,“ said Quincy Gumbs, owner. Note to agents; Clients can earn points at Choice brand hotels worldwide through the Choice Privileges rewards program.
High above a crescent beach, the Bird of Paradise (www.anguillabird.com) is, indeed, aptly named. Three pools, a nine-speaker sound system and a hundred movies in a DVD library keep the kids happy while spa treatments appeal to the grown-ups. “We have four living and dining areas where a family can savor time together,” says owner Melody Brooks Dill. “Each of the suites has an equal view of the Caribbean Sea so there are no squabbles.” A 20% commission is offered for bookings.
On the south coast, Alcyon (www.alcyonvilla.com) is a five-bedroom stunner with views all the way to St. Kitts. The imposing villa can be rented in its entirety by families or groups of pals who vacation together.
Par for the Course
A nine-hole pitch and putt course is at Sandy Ground while a miniature golf course is in South Hill. For those hankering for a full 18 holes, Temenos Golf Course, aka ‘Caribbean’s answer to the 18th at Pebble Beach’ is managed by Cap Juluca and played for its tight fairways, dramatic water holes and brilliant views of the sea.
A Blue Streak
With hues somewhere between ripe blueberries and just-blooming irises, the sea is a feast of blue, lapping twelve miles of sugary white beaches. Although no beach is ever crowded, you will find tourists at Shoal Bay East, Rendezvous Bay and Cove Bay.
One of the longest stretches, Mead’s Bay, is de rigueur for morning runs and evening strolls, especially when the leatherback turtles are nesting. On the west end, Barnes Bay dishes up gentle surf and is accessible only by sea kayak, Anguillita is a rocky spit, ideal for a meet and greet with the barracudas and stingrays. On the Atlantic side, Captain’s Bay is trendy with photographers who crave an awesome sunset.
Every Saturday across from the National Trust Building, Mable the Corn Soup Lady brings in two pots of her homemade soup and by noon, most of it is spoken for. She also dishes up chicken, Johnny cakes (cornmeal flatbread) and a sweet potato pudding that won’t break the bank.
Oozing beach bistro perfection, Jacala on Meads Bay Beach is the new kid on the culinary block. Billed as ‘intuitive’ cuisine, the menu is more than an intellectual forkful, with signature plates from a savory lobster club to creamy calamari risotto.
Visit www.anguilla-vacation.com or call 877-4-ANGUILLA. For information about Moonsplash 2011, visit www.bankiebanx.net
Anguilla: A Sliver of Shangri-La
By Melanie Reffes
For a small island, Anguilla rivals the best in the Caribbean with cosmopolitan restaurants, grand resorts, championship golf courses and endless strands of sandy beaches. A swank forty square mile tract of sea grape trees with a gentle British vibe, Anguilla is a seashell away from St. Martin and a coveted playground for privacy seekers who come to perfect the fine art of the Caribbean chill-out. Its highest point, Crocus Hill, rises 213 feet above sea level while the capital, The Valley, sits in the middle of the coral limestone island.
According to the Anguilla Tourist Board (ATB), tour operators reported brisk business for the last quarter of 2009. This came as welcome news to Victor Banks, Minister of Tourism, who commented: “As we prepare to host our visitors for the 2010 winter season, we are committed through our product enhancement initiatives and customer service programs to ensuring this up tick in bookings continues throughout the season.” Said Marie Walker, Director of Tourism North America: “We look forward to a steady flow of business as we move forward in 2010. Anguilla will be assertively going after her lion share of the business this year.”
Posh Properties & Vivacious Villas
The first resort to open in nine years, Viceroy boasts 166 beachfront and bluff top units, a spa by the waters edge and a lounge carved out of the cliff. “The opening is the perfect setting for Viceroy’s first international expansion,” said Brad Korzen, CEO, Kor Hotels. Visit www.viceroyhotelsandresorts.com.
Unapologetically sinful, Cap Juluca is fresh from a major renovation that made refinements to their guestrooms and Flights wine bar, which shines with three two-ounce pours. This upscale resort with whitewashed villas ala Arabian Nights is adjacent to the new Temenos golf course designed by Greg Norman. With their Shark Golf package guests can enjoy a free round that includes a golf cart and sorbet served on the beach with every three-night stay. Temenos is a 7,063-yard championship golf course with dramatic elevation changes and a spectacular vista of St. Maarten at the 390-yard starting hole. Sand dunes and a saltwater pond frame the perilous drive on the 440-yard 16th hole that ends with an elevated green surrounded by water. Fees are discounted for twilight play. Visit www.capjuluca.com.
CuisinArt Resort has expanded their Venus Spa, which includes a healing pool for salt-water massages, added six villas and brought in Chef Daniel Le Guenan to spice up the menu at the acclaimed Santorini restaurant. Visit www.cuisinartresort.com.
On Shoal Bay Beach, Ku tempts with twenty-seven suites, restaurant and spa. Less expensive than the more opulent resorts, the property excels with a friendly ambience and beachfront location. Visit www.ku-anguilla.com.
Overlooking Road Bay Harbour, La Vue is a bed & breakfast with rates starting at $130 for an oceanfront suite. “If you’re looking for perfection, this is not the place,” says Kirk Hughes, owner, “But if you want a comfortable, welcoming feeling, we have a place for you.” Visit www.lavueanguilla.com
Construction has started on a 200-room property on Rendevous Bay between CuisinArt and Anguilla Great House. Expected to open in two years, Etesian Resort will have a spa and tennis courts.
From the Latin word for heaven, Cerulean on Barnes Bay is a seven-bedroom villa that comes with a staff of fifteen including a breakfast chef. Designed to take advantage of the spectacular views, bedrooms have louvered doors facing the sea. Rates through May 2nd start at $53,000 per week. Visit www.ceruleanvilla.com
Aptly named, Paradise is a seven-bedroom oceanfront villa with a freshwater pool and adjacent coral reef. Rates through April 5th start at $4,013 nightly for the entire villa and private dock. Visit www.villaparadise.com
Overlooking the yacht-dotted bay, Spyglass Hill caters to the romance market with ensuite Jacuzzis and concierge service. $6,000 buys the villa, champagne and chef for a week. Visit www.spyglasshillanguilla.com
Play Time and Relaxing Moments
Thirty-three beaches include the most popular Shoal Bay East, Rendezvous Bay, Cove Bay and Mead’s Bay with long curved strands of sand. Pocket beaches include Limestone Bay, revered for snorkeling and reef-ringed Prickly Pear Cays.
Cyclist Ronnie Bryan has added road bike tours at his Bryan’s Car Rental including an escorted island-wide cycling trip. Horseback riding and bird watching are also popular, and archaeology-minded landlubbers will find the Fountain cave filled with Arawak-carved petroglyphs.
Blanchard’s restaurant offers dining par excellence. It is as legendary for celebrity spotting as it is for its menu (Robert De Niro likes the 1994 Domaine Bouchard Pere & fils Grand Cru burgundy wine). The American owners have also opened Zurra, a new restaurant in the Temenos Golf Club. Visit www.blanchardsrestaurant.com
Supervised by two-star Michelin chef Michel Rostang, Malliouhana tempts with a fine French menu and wine selection. The Barbecue Buffet at CuisinArt is an outdoor extravaganza and Ripples in Sandy Ground attracts the ex-pat crowd who chow down on heaping platters of fish and chips and cottage pie.
An afternoon at Scilly Cay where the spiny lobster reigns supreme and the rum punch is a potent chaser is a Sunday family tradition while roadside chefs dish up a bevy of specialties from grilled pork at Ken’s across from the Peoples Market to the legendary Corn Soup Lady who sets up shop near the National Trust Building.
Sixteen galleries showcase woodcarving, hand-blown glass and fine art. At Irie Life, rainbow-hued clothing is de rigueur while the new ZaZAA Boutique in Shoal Bay is a miniature souk with Malian jewelry, Kenyan fabrics and bikinis from Brazil. Art Café in Little Harbour is an eclectic gallery designed by owner Jan Pavluk, a Polish ex-pat who invites artists to paint in the studio which also includes a shop that sells eco-friendly Danish clothing.
Getting There & Mark Your Calendar
American Eagle flies non-stop from San Juan. From St. Maarten, Winair makes the seven-minute flight daily with ferry service from Marigot also available.
March 25-28, MoonSplash Music Festival at Dune Preserve at Rendezvous Bay; Beginning August 2nd, The 11-day Summer Festival; November - Tranquility Jazz Festival.
For more information, visit www.anguilla-vacation.com