My first Anguilla experience was over a decade ago. I actually came back to the States with an entirely different perspective about life. (I wanted to find ways of holding onto the peaceful vibe that was keeping me so relaxed and happy!)
When I returned there, all of those feelings came back again. Anguilla still had that same vibe.
Anguilla Experience: What’s NOT to love?
Only 17 miles long, Anguilla has 33 beaches and it’s pretty much an intimate, magical paradise that’s entirely surrounded by the Caribbean sea.
It’s a place to center yourself, ditch your cell phone and just soak up the super laid-back atmosphere. It’s almost like time doesn’t exist there. Anguilla is all about the present moment.
When Hurricane Irma hit Anguilla in September 2017, the damage was brutal, however, the locals didn’t let it break them down. Hotels, villas and restaurants are up and running as of earlier this year, although a handful of places will re-open in fall 2018. You can read the most current updates here.
(For all of you who loved the Pumphouse in Sandy Ground, including me, the tragic news is that this beloved local hangout was sadly destroyed. But the good news is that the owners are re-building it! #anguillastrong)
The people of Anguilla are extremely genuine, kind and they make you feel right at home. If you feel like you’re leaving friends and family behind, it’s because you are. They’ll grab your heart just like they did mine.
Getting there is easy!
I’ve known many people who’ve tried to pass up visiting Anguilla because it’s “too much of a hassle” getting there, but it’s not! The most common way of getting to Anguilla is flying into St Maarten first. (And, yes, the airport is operational again after the Hurricane Irma damage, although it’s a still a work in progress. You can stay up to date by checking out their Facebook page here.)
So, after that, you’ve got several options for getting to Anguilla by air or sea. Which is all part of the Anguilla experience!
The marina is across the street from the airport and shuttles are always available. The cost is included in the price of the boat transfer. And, these boat transfers consist of either a shared sea shuttle or a private boat. (for a fee)
Sharing is less expensive and the max capacity is around 12-20, depending on the company. Keep in mind that the shuttles have scheduled departure times every 45 minutes to an hour.
A private boat has a capacity of 12, except it departs for Anguilla once you board, plus you get VIP treatment during the 30-40 minute trip (including beer and other beverages). Depending on the weather, the trip might be exceptionally bumpy. So, if you get sea sick easily, take that into consideration.
Now, you can opt to take the public ferry, but my opinion is to pass on that. You’ll need to take a taxi to the French side of the island (St Martin) and then wait for the next ferry, which goes back and forth all day with departure every 45 minutes.
You can also fly into Anguilla airport (AXA). If you’re comfortable with smaller planes around 9 seats, a shared air charter or private air charter will get you to Anguilla in about 7 minutes. Because of weight limits regarding luggage capacity, you’ll want to pack light or else ship your luggage beforehand. (Really, you just don’t want to have an excessive, heavy amount of bags)
Anguilla Experience: Exploring
The Valley is located in the middle of the island and it has some beautiful historical buildings and churches, like St. Gerard’s.
There’s also Crocus Bay Beach where you can enjoy some fabulous snorkeling in crystal clear waters. The area isn’t too overcrowded, the sand is soft and waves are calm, although you’ll need to keep an eye out for pebbles and rocks at the shoreline.
And, from Crocus Bay, you can take a boat to Little Bay, which is an incredible secluded cove. Calvin is usually set up under an umbrella waiting to take visitors to and from the bay. (for a small fee)
West End is where you’ll want to visit Meads Bay, Barnes Bay, Long Bay, Rendezvous Bay beaches. And, some of the island’s best and most popular restaurants are there.
East End is where you’ll find Shoal Bay, which has the ultimate, hands-down, most incredible snorkeling! You can snorkel anywhere and have a dreamy, mermaid-type experience, but I really fell for Shoal Bay. Their sunsets are majestic, too.
Anguilla Experience: Things to see and do
If you’re thinking that Anguilla might be boring, and that you should book a short 3 day trip because of it, you’ll most likely feel regretful on the morning of your departure.
Even if you’re a beach bum like me, there’s so many different ones to explore and each one has something unique to offer.
Book a private boat trip to explore Anguilla. The captain will take you on a full or half-day excursion to visit bays, cays, beaches and even stop off somewhere on land for excellent, authentic cuisine. Unless you want to plan a menu to feast on during your boat trip.
You can spend a full day in St. Barth, which is highly recommended for high-end shopping, sight-seeing, and superb dining. A quick flight will get you there in about 10 or 15 minutes, and it will leave early with return before it gets dark.
Sandy Island, Prickly Pear and Little Bay are must-see beaches, especially for snorkeling. Shoal Bay Scuba is my go-to for all diving and snorkeling activities. Matthew is fantastic, fun, friendly and knowledgeable. Plus, he and his team are guaranteed to take you to the best sites for marine life.
There’s also deep sea fishing, a tennis academy, sunset cruises, and glass-bottom boat tours (a shout-out to Junior! He’s the best.).
Cuisinart Golf Club has a Greg Norman Signature Design 18-Hole Championship Course with surreal ocean views. It’s located in the West End of Anguilla, and you can stop by the resort’s restaurant for a nice lunch afterwards, too.
Anguilla Experience: Know Before You Go
*Rent a car while you’re there, even for just a day or two. It’s a small island, but there are a lot of beaches to explore. And since it’s so small, navigating throughout Anguilla is easy. If you’re from the States, just keep in mind that you’ll be driving on the opposite of the road. FUN!
*Anguilla has a nice, big grocery store and a pharmacy. So, it isn’t necessary to ship groceries ahead of your trip, regardless of dietary restrictions. Hotels can accommodate vegan, gluten-free, kosher, etc. They do need an advance notice for kosher dining.
*The best time to visit is between the end of November and early May. The weather is perfect. Lots of sun and less humidity. The hotels offer lower prices and really great promotions between June and September, though.
*St Maarten and Anguilla have mandatory arrival and departure taxes. Cash only!
The best of Anguilla dining and nightlife are coming soon! In the meantime, share your favorite Anguilla experience, day time activities and tips in the comments!