little_girl_1. [main photo]Anguilla Tourist Board

By Melanie Reffes

Nature gets a standing ovation in Anguilla. Graced with sea grape trees, sun-dappled skies and endless strands of sandy beaches, the tiny island in the Eastern Caribbean rivals the best in the tropics. A seashell away from St. Maarten, eel-shaped Anguilla is the A-list choice for Canadians who covet the fine art of a winter holiday.

The island’s highest point, Crocus Hill, towers above the sea while the capital, The Valley, sits in the middle of the coral limestone island. “We look forward to a steady flow of business as we move forward in 2010,” said Marie Walker, director of tourism, North America, Anguilla Tourist Board (ATB), “Anguilla will be assertively going after her lion’s share this year.”

Honouring the island’s most celebrated aviation pioneer, Wallblake Airport has been renamed the Clayton J. Lloyd International Airport although the airport code (AXA) remains the same. Easily accessible via Air Canada and WestJet to St. Maarten, frequent ferries make the 20-minute trip to Anguilla from both the French and Dutch sides of the bigger island.

Rooms With A View
With an easy click – www.anguilla-vacation.com/accommodations/charming-escapes – travellers on a budget will delight in the affordable array of accommodations, attractions and restaurants. An initiative aimed at attracting a more diverse traveller, the website is user-friendly and updated regularly.

The first resort to open in nearly a decade, Viceroy Anguilla showcases 166 beachfront and bluff top units, spa by the water’s edge and a lounge carved out of the cliff. Stretching along Barnes and Mead Bays, the swank resort with private pools in all the rooms is home to the Coba restaurant, a favourite amongst foodies-in-the-know with its signature grilled lobster and Kobe beef.

Also new on the hotel horizon, Anacaona Hotel (formerly the Sirena) opened in October with 27 rooms and introductory rates starting at US $150 per night, per room. En-suite kitchens, gratis Wi-fi and nightly shows are a bonanza for fiscally-minded families. “We plan to turn our hotel into the cultural entertainment centre of Anguilla featuring musicians and dancers, carnival evenings and dinner theatre,” said Delroy Lake, general manager.

The undisputed gold standard, Cap Juluca is fresh from an expensive renovation that bought refinements to guestrooms, 60,000 multi-hued blooms and the Flights wine bar that shines with three two-ounce pours. Adjacent to the Temenos golf course, the upscale resort with whitewashed villas a la Arabian Nights still serves sorbet on the beach every afternoon.

Not a typical B&B, La Vue is a short stroll from picturesque Road Bay beach and a bargain-hunter’s dream with studio units starting at US $90 per room, per night. “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.”
Opening in January on the south coast, Royal Caribbean Resort & Spa – member of Choice Hotels’ Ascend Collection – will offer 80 rooms, three restaurants, conch shell-shaped pool and one of the largest convention halls in the Caribbean.

Cerulean VillaCerulean VillaVivacious Villas
Affectionately called “The Bird”, the Bird of Paradise sits high above a crescent beach ideal for swimming and snorkeling. Three pools, nine-speaker sound system, more than a hundred movies in a DVD library and wireless internet keep the kids happy while 24-hour concierge services and spa treatments appeal to the grown-ups. For travel through December 14, the Golf package for eight includes breakfast, daily rounds of golf and spa treatments. “We have four living and dining areas where a family can savour time together,” says owner Melody Brooks Dill, “but also it’s nice to be able to get away from the group to read a book, have a quiet cup of coffee in the morning or a glass of wine at night. Each of the suites has an equal view of the Caribbean, so no squabbles.”

From the Latin word for heaven, Cerulean on Barnes Bay is a seven-bedroom villa that comes with a staff of 15 including a breakfast chef. Designed to take advantage of the spectacular views, bedrooms have louvered doors facing the sea.

On Shoal Bay Beach, Ku is less pricey than the opulent resorts with its 27 suites, restaurant and spa. A short stroll to the beach, the friendly hotel feels like a home away from home.

Perched on the ridge at North Hill, Spyglass Hill is a four-bedroom gated estate guaranteeing privacy and grand views of the sea. Five minutes from the airport, US $2500 per night – from December 20 to January 5 – buys the entire villa that easily sleeps eight.

ap020Anguilla Tourist BoardPlay Time
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.

For archaeology-minded landlubbers, The Fountain is a cave filled with Arawak-carved petroglyphs and for history buffs, Heritage Collection Museum on the outskirts of The Valley has an impressive collection of island relics and memorabilia.

Whet Your Appetite
A short boat ride from Island Harbour, Scilly Cay hosts a Sunday brunch that is a treasured family tradition. Revered for plates piled high with spiny lobster and crayfish, it’s the potent homemade rum punch that keeps folks happy all afternoon.

Roadside chefs’ dish up a cache of treats from the succulent pork at Ken’s near the Peoples Market to Mable the Corn Soup Lady who sets up shop across from the National Trust Building every Saturday morning. She brings in two large pots of her homemade soup and by noon, most of it is already spoken for. She also dishes up grilled chicken, Johnny cakes (cornmeal flatbread) and a sweet potato pudding that won’t break the bank.

Bankie BanxBill BoydMoonsplash
Delighting crowds with his rockin’ reggae for nearly three decades, Bankie Banx is also the heart and soul of Moonsplash – the longest running independent music festival in the Eastern Caribbean held every year under the full moon in March. “Moonsplash is an intimate festival because our stage is a traditional Anguillan wooden boat.” Bankie says enjoying breakfast at the CuisinArt Resort, a festival sponsor next to his Dune Bar. “I like to call our crowd a ‘salt and pepper’ audience because we get a great mix of locals and tourists of all ages who book early and come back every year.”

For more than two decades, Moonsplash has attracted superstars like Jimmy Buffett who played to thousands during Moonsplash 2007. “While Anguilla continues to encourage the traveller in search of true respite, “says Marie Walker, tourism director, North America, ”she occasionally throws in something extra spicy like our Moonsplash event to get the juices going.”
 
For more information, visit www.anguilla-vacation.com
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